Beat the heat

4 super-easy dishes highlight summer’s fresh flavours
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Garlic chicken kebabs (souvlaki) with rice
All the work is done ahead, so you’re ready to fire up the barbecue when company arrives.

¼ cup (60 mL) regular mayonnaise
2 tbsp (30 mL) plain 2% Greek yogurt
1 tsp (5 mL) finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup (60 mL) fresh lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, grated
½ tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper

2 lb (900 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 green onions, trimmed
Canola oil
2 tsp (10 mL) zaatar, optional

Presoak bamboo skewers in cold water for at least 1 hour before grilling.

Marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper; set aside.

Trim the chicken, and cut the chicken into 2-inch (5-cm) cubes. Thinner end pieces can be folded later to make the cubes of chicken as close in size as possible. Add to the marinade, stirring to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 12.

Thread the chicken onto the prepared skewers, leaving a small space between pieces. Lightly brush the green onions with oil; cut each into 3- to 4-inch (8- to 10-cm) pieces and skewer them separately from the chicken. Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Preheat the barbecue to medium-high; brush the grill with vegetable oil. Grill the chicken, about 4 or 5 minutes per side, until glossy, nicely marked and the juices run clear. At the same time, grill the onions just until marked. Sprinkle chicken with zaatar, if using. To serve, scoop the rice onto warmed plates or a platter and nestle the chicken and green onions overtop.

Makes 6 servings

Butter lettuce salad with avocado and orange
There’s just enough tanginess in the dressing to highlight the milder lettuce, avocado and orange. Use any lettuce, such as Boston, bibb, butter or hearts of romaine. Or swap out some of the lettuce for spinach. The salad makes a great base for adding other fixings: crisp bacon bits instead of the radishes, or toasted slivered almonds to replace the pepitas.

1 head butter lettuce, about
8 oz/250 g
1 ripe avocado, cubed
1 navel orange, sliced; see below
4 radishes, thinly sliced

Orange vinaigrette
2 tbsp (30 mL) white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp (30 mL) orange juice
¼ cup (60 mL) canola oil
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
¼ tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
2 tbsp (30 mL) sliced chives or green onion
2 tbsp (30 mL) pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

Separate the lettuce leaves; rinse and spin dry. Make-ahead: Wrap the leaves in a clean kitchen towel, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a day. Break larger leaves into bite-size pieces, leaving light-coloured heart in whole cup-like leaves. You should have about 10 cups (2500 mL) of lettuce. Arrange in a large salad bowl, with avocado, orange and radish overtop.

Orange vinaigrette: Meanwhile, in a jar shake together the vinegar, orange juice, oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to a day.

To serve, shake up the dressing and drizzle over the salad. Sprinkle chives and pepitas overtop. Bring to the table so everyone can admire your handiwork, then toss.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Black bean patties with salsa
This is an inexpensive vegetarian entrée, all-season suited. It is lovely with rice, and just as make-worthy with the butter lettuce salad with avocado and orange. Not to forget the lemon squares!

1 can (19 oz/541 mL) black beans or red kidney beans
1 ½ cups (375 mL) panko bread crumbs, divided
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
½ tsp (2 mL) each ground cumin and pepper
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
½ cup (125 mL) thick jarred mild salsa
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil, approximate

¼ cup (60 mL) sour cream
More jarred salsa to taste

Drain and rinse the beans. Pulse in a food processor or mash thoroughly with a potato masher until smooth with plenty of small bits of the beans. Pulse in or mix in 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the panko, mustard, cumin, pepper and salt. Add the ½ cup (125 mL) salsa and mix thoroughly into the bean mixture. (The mixture will be fairly soft.)

Densely spread the remaining panko on a small baking sheet. With wet hands and working with one quarter of the bean mixture at a time, form into 3-inch-wide (8-cm) patties. For 6 patties, divide accordingly. Press both sides of the patties into the breadcrumbs. Make-ahead: Refrigerate, lightly covered, for up to a day.

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the patties, adding oil if necessary, until crusty on both sides and hot through, about 8 minutes. Serve with sour cream and more jarred salsa.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

So-lemony squares
A beloved old-fashioned square, favourite for good reason. The crisp, buttery shortbread base shows off the lusciously smooth puckery filling. You can treat the squares as cookies and set out fancy-pants-size squares on a platter, with teapot and cups. Or serve them for dessert, larger squares this time, arranged in shallow bowls with a medley of summer berries and — why not — an oval of whipped cream.

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) icing sugar
Pinch salt
½ cup (125 mL) cold unsalted butter, diced

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest
1 cup (250 mL) strained fresh lemon juice, at room temperature
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 tbsp (30 mL) icing sugar

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch (20-cm) square metal cake pan with parchment paper, extending the paper 2 inches (5 cm) up two opposite sides; set aside. Arrange an oven rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Base: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is well and evenly blended, with coarse crumbs. Press by handfuls to make sure the ingredients hold together. Press evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Chill for 30 minutes. Bake until base is evenly golden, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Filling: Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and juice until smooth. Beat in the eggs just until smooth, creating as few bubbles as possible. Pour over the hot base and return to the oven. Bake until centre is set, about 20 minutes.

Let the pan cool on a rack. Make-ahead: Cover and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Cut into 16 good-sized squares. Go smaller to suit the occasion. To serve, dust generously with icing sugar.

Makes 16 generous squares.

Tip: To maximize the quantity of lemon juice, roll the lemons, pre-squeezing, on the counter before submerging them in hand-hot water for 2 minutes.

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