This time of year, my diet turns almost completely plant-based.
I suppose it’s only natural: Height-of-season summer produce is seductive, with tantalizing shapes and colors, and the kind of sweetness that comes from being freshly picked. This is the magic moment when melons, berries, stone fruit, peppers, tomatoes, corn, beans and squashes collide.
This menu celebrates that moment. It’s not difficult to execute, but it makes great use of a market basket that is full to the brim.
For an extremely simple yet spectacularly refreshing salad, grab a melon, a cucumber and a handful of cherry tomatoes. With truly ripe fruit, the only seasoning you need is salt, pepper and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.
The melon mirrors the tomatoes’ sweetness. The cucumber, a relative of melon, lends both crunch and herbaceousness. Handfuls of basil and mint leaves and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, added just before serving, bring it all together. Though perfectly satisfying as a first course or side dish, you could add some crumbled feta and call it lunch.
With so many fetching summer vegetables on display, and a wish to buy and use as many as possible, I prepared a seasonal main-course that was inspired by the sight of beautiful summer squash, tender corn, delicate baby turnips and fresh peas.
This quick-cooking dish, simple and fragrant, employs ginger, cumin, turmeric, hot pepper and garam masala. Substantial but light, and reminiscent of some kormas, it gets its rich, creamy consistency from a mixture of yogurt and almond flour. To accompany, a pot of plain, steamed basmati rice.
Feel free to substitute or add other vegetables, depending on what’s available. Eggplant, green beans, small potatoes or okra would all be welcome.
To finish, a traditional fruit crisp is a lovely, unpretentious dessert. Nothing more than sugared fruit baked with a crumbly topping, it charms most diners. Blackberries alone make a wonderful crisp, but a combination of berries (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries in equal parts) is just as good. The crisp needn’t be served piping hot straight from the oven; it’s delicious served at room temperature or just slightly warm.
You may serve it with a scoop of ice cream or a dab of whipped cream, but it’s well worth making the optional cardamom-perfumed custard sauce. (There’s a touch of ground cardamom in the topping, too.) The warm, musky spice is perfect with berries — and this magic moment.
And to Drink …
Though it might have a touch of heat, this mixed-vegetable dish will go with many different wines, as long as they are not high in alcohol or tannins. You might consider a dry but fruity rosé, possibly a Spanish rosado or an Italian cerasuolo. A moderately sweet German riesling would be delicious, like a kabinett or spätlese. So would a chenin blanc made in the demi-sec style. For that matter, dry rieslings and chenin blancs would be excellent as well. You might try a grüner veltliner from Austria, a silvaner from Alsace or a restrained sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. I probably wouldn’t choose a red, but if you do, look for something lively, like a Sicilian frappato or a moderately priced Ribeira Sacra from Spain. ERIC ASIMOV