Photo of barbequed Chicken Kababs

Simple summer suppers

These fuss-free dinners make the most of seasonal ingredients
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Bring family and friends together around a summer table that highlights the finest in-season fruits and vegetables, easy cooking methods, make-ahead tips, fresh flavours — and no sweat on your brow.

Photo of barbequed Chicken Kababs

Ginger and Lemon Glazed Chicken Kebabs

2 tsp (10 mL) coarsely grated lemon peel

1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice

1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil

1 tbsp (15 mL) dark sesame oil

1 tbsp (15 mL) grated fresh ginger

2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard

2 tsp (10 mL) liquid honey

2 tsp (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp crushed dried thyme leaves

1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, about 1 lb (455 g) total

8 green onions, trimmed 

In a large bowl, stir together lemon peel, juice, canola and sesame oil, ginger, mustard, honey, thyme, salt and pepper.

Add the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

Brush the green onions with a little of the marinade. 

Grill green onions and chicken, covered, on greased grill over medium-high heat, turning occasionally until the onions are grill-marked and tender, about 12 minutes, and for the chicken, until no longer pink inside, about 15 minutes. 

Makes 4 servings.

Golden Beet Risotto

3 large or 5 small golden or red beets with leaves

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter

1 cup (250 mL) diced onion or shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) arborio rice

1 tbsp (15 mL) sherry vinegar or lemon juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine or chicken stock

4 cups (1 L) chicken stock, approximate

3/4 cup (175 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Crumbled blue cheese, optional

Trim the beets, reserving the small inner beet leaves. Trim off any coarse stems. Peel the beets; cut into 1/4-inch (.5 cm) dice. You should have about 2 1/2 cups (625 mL).

Shred enough of the tender inner beet leaves to make 1 cup (250 mL); set aside.

In a medium-size shallow saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic, beets and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring often, until beets are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice, aiming to spread this flavourful base through the rice, then stir in the vinegar.

Begin adding the wine and stock to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, stirring after each addition until the rice has absorbed the liquid. This will take about 20 to 25 minutes.

The beets should be fork-tender and the rice creamy.

Don’t worry if the risotto is rather loose; the rice will continue to absorb stock.

Stir in the beet leaves and half of the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt.

Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls with remaining Parmesan and a few nubs of crumbled blue cheese, if desired.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Make it vegetarian: Replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Substitute: White balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar for the sherry vinegar. You can also replace some or all of the butter with good olive oil.

Photo of asparagus

Naan Pizza with Asparagus 

Replace a from-scratch pizza base with a flatbread such as naan or focaccia. Here are two bases and two combos of toppings: one with seasonal asparagus and one with all-season pantry ingredients.

2 naan flatbread, 250 g package 

Olive oil

8 thick asparagus stalks

2 cups (500 mL) shredded and lightly packed mozzarella cheese

1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced roasted red pepper

1/2 cup (125 mL) pitted sun-dried black olives

1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried, crumbled

3/4 cup (175 mL) freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the oven rack in the bottom position; preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

Place the naans on the baking sheet. Brush tops lightly with olive oil.

Meanwhile, snap off the tough ends of the asparagus; slice stalks in half lengthwise. Brush with olive oil; set aside.

Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the oiled naan.

Arrange the asparagus, cut-side down, on the mozzarella.

Lightly press the asparagus, pepper slices and olives into the mozzarella. Top with the oregano, remaining mozzarella and all the Asiago.

Bake until the asparagus is crisp tender, the cheese melty, the edges golden brown and the naan nicely toasted, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Variation: All-Season Artichoke Pizza: Slice a focaccia lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place cut-sides up on the baking sheet. Replace the asparagus with 2 cups (500 mL) thickly sliced marinated artichokes and top with thinly sliced red onion.

Photo of pasta salad

Pantry-Friendly Pasta Salad Bowl

A canny cook keeps a pantry that includes favourite convenience items: canned beans and pasta, for example, and no matter the season, a freezer that holds no-prep frozen corn or peas. Do enjoy fresh vegetables according to season, and up the salad’s ante with extra protein such as quartered hard-boiled eggs, canned salmon or tuna, leftover chicken or shrimp, or firm tofu. An avocado? Why not.

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) small pasta such as farfalle, rotini or orecchiette

1 can (19 oz/425 g) black beans

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup (250 mL) freshly cooked (optional) corn kernels, or thawed frozen corn

2 thinly sliced green onions

1 sweet red pepper, cored and diced

2 inner stalks celery, diced

3/4 cup (175 mL) coarsely crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup (60 mL) minced flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup (60 mL) shredded fresh basil

Classic Dressing:

1 large clove garlic, sliced

3/4 tsp (3 mL) salt 

2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper

1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar

1/3 cup (80 mL) olive oil

In a saucepan of boiling water, cook the pasta until tender but firm to the bite, usually about 8 minutes.

Drain, reserving 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooking liquid to moisten the salad, if needed.

Place pasta in a large bowl or airtight container.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans; add to the pasta with the tomatoes, corn, green onions, red pepper, celery, feta cheese and parsley.

Classic Dressing: With a fork, mash the garlic with the salt. Combine with remaining dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine. Pour over the pasta mixture and toss well.

Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Taste and add a splash of cooking water if the salad looks dry, and then sprinkle the basil over the top. Makes 4 supper “bowls.”

Roasted Tomato Tart

Celebrate the summer harvest with gloriously delicious tomatoes.

5 Roma tomatoes, about 1 1/2 lb (680 g)

2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp dried

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt 

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

1 10-inch (25 cm) square sheet all-butter frozen puff pastry from 450 g package

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard

1 cup (250 mL) shredded aged Cheddar cheese

2 tbsp (30 mL) snipped chives 

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place an oven rack on the bottom position. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Cut tomatoes crosswise into 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) slices; arrange in single layer on 1 of the lined baking sheets.

In a bowl, stir together the oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Brush over both sides of tomato slices.

Roast until tomatoes are somewhat shrivelled and a little charred, about 20 to 30 minutes. 

Place the square of puff pastry on remaining baking sheet; prick all over with fork. Bake until puffed and pale golden, about 12 minutes. 

Brush pastry with egg, then mustard. Sprinkle the Cheddar overtop.

Arrange the tomatoes, overlapping as necessary, over the cheese. Bake until crisp and golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chives. 

Serves 2 generously or 4 modestly.

Variation: Replace the Roma tomatoes with 1 1/2 lb (680 g) heirloom or other large field-grown local tomatoes.

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