I taught a class recently called Simple Seasonal Cooking at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. I wasn’t surprised when it sold out instantly-people love easy dinners. This is of course a great time for simple cooking. When produce is this fresh and delicious, you don’t need to do much to it to transform it into dinner.
Last night I decided to make a big salad nicoise. Rather than serve it with tuna, a bought a gorgeous piece of fresh halibut. I made a quick marinade of grainy mustard, a pinch of ground fennel seed, chopped herbs from my garden (thyme and oregano), a few thinly sliced shallots, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I put the fish in a dish and slathered it with the mixture then parked it in the fridge for about an hour. If your fish is thick and on the dense side, marinating in a non-acidic mixture works fine. If you’ve got thinner fish, and/or a marinade with a lot of acid in it (wine, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.), don’t marinate it for more than 30 minutes or you’ll end up with ceviche.
While the fish was soaking up all those flavors, I blanched some green beans and halved some cherry tomatoes. After the beans were done (I shocked them and patted them dry), I tossed them with the cherry tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. I made a simple red wine vinaigrette with a bit more of that mustard,thyme, and oregano and put a very thin coating of it on the beans and tomatoes. I also boiled some tiny, almost walnut sized, new potatoes. When they were tender they went in their own bowl with a bit of vinaigrette and got a good toss. I cooked the fish at 350 for about 6 minutes then broiled it briefly just to get a nice crust on the top.
To serve it all, I pulled out one big platter and composed the salad-mounds of beans, tomatoes, potatoes, fish, some hard boiled eggs cut into wedges, and some leaves of green leaf lettuce. I forgot the olives and anchovies, a must have for a real nicoise, but no one minded. I’d made a batch of tomato gazpacho and together it was the perfect summer meal.
Now, being that this dinner was so light, I couldn’t resist tipping the scales and trying this Corn Fritter recipe from my recent Fine Cooking. OK, maybe I blew out all the healthful benefits of my meal but, the fritters and charred tomato sauce were well worth it.
When you think simple summer dinners, what comes to mind?