A July menu to celebrate summer’s bounty – The Denver Post

By David Tanis, The New York Times

Midsummer means the market is brimming with great produce. With such a colorful bounty of goods, we can settle into our summer cooking routines with tasty meals that are bright, casual and best enjoyed outdoors as much as possible.

When green beans come to market, early tomatoes are usually ready, too. I love a big vegetable salad dressed with a perky vinaigrette, always welcome. It can include both raw and cooked elements. For this salad, I combined blanched slender green beans, halved cherry tomatoes and cooked chickpeas. You could also add yellow wax beans or romano beans. If your market already has fresh shelling beans, use those instead of chickpeas. They’ll need 30 minutes of simmering after you shell them.

If you’re a bean nut like I am, plan ahead, and soak dried chickpeas overnight. With a soak, they only take an hour to cook, and their flavor is superior to that of canned ones. I usually cook a pound of chickpeas, using some for salads, some for soups and some for mashing.

Dressed and piled on a platter, this salad is aromatic and tantalizing, with its mingling of juicy tomatoes, garlic, fruity olive oil and feta. It could be a meal in itself. For more heft, add quarters of hard-cooked egg or slices of boiled potato.

Why not take a break from the classic hamburger? Ground lamb makes a great substitute, even if sprinkled only with salt and pepper, or a little chopped parsley and garlic. For this menu, lamb patties are spiced with cumin, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, mint and cilantro. They are inspired by kofta, the dish of seasoned spiced ground meat found throughout the Middle East, and beyond. This larger, burgerlike format works well on home grills.

Folded into a warm pita bread, doused with a kicked-up tahini sauce and topped with fried onions, these may not be standard cookout fare, but everyone loves them.

Summer desserts should be easy, and this one truly is. All that’s required is a box of phyllo pastry, a few pounds of ripe summer stone fruit and some sugar, jam, melted butter and chopped nuts.

Working with phyllo dough is satisfying, especially for cooks who balk at the idea of making dessert. It’s just a matter of painting thin pastry sheets with butter. Then, on goes the jam, chopped pistachios and fruit.

I was thrilled to find apricots at the market — this year’s apricots have been amazing — but you could use plums or nectarines, too. This makes a very large open-faced tart with a very flaky, shattering-crisp crust.

Eat it, cut into small pieces, at room temperature. With luck, you’ll have some left for breakfast.

Recipe: Tomato-Green Bean Salad With Chickpeas, Feta and Dill

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 pound green beans, preferably slender haricots verts, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from 1 small lemon
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, mixed colors, halved
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from 1 cup dried chickpeas or 1 15-ounce can), cooled and drained
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped dill, for serving
  • Pinch of dried oregano, for serving


1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt, then the green beans. Cook until beans are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer beans to a large bowl of cold water. Drain in a colander and blot green beans dry with a kitchen towel.

2. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, put lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, a pinch of salt and some black pepper to taste. Whisk in olive oil.

3. Make the salad: Add cherry tomatoes, green beans and chickpeas to a large salad bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Add dressing and toss to coat. Add feta and toss once more. Let marinate for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

4. To serve, sprinkle generously with dill and oregano.

Recipe: Lamb Burger With Fried Onions and Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 1 1/2 hours


For the Burgers:

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (from 2 garlic cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 large onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • Pita or other flatbread, for serving (optional)

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • Pinch of ground cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • Kosher salt


1. Put lamb in a medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt, some black pepper, the cumin, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, scallions, cilantro, mint and garlic. Mix well with wet hands, kneading the mixture to distribute seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour so the seasoning penetrates. (Alternatively, season meat and refrigerate overnight.)

2. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, put tahini, lemon juice, garlic and cayenne. Stir well to dissolve the tahini. Then stir in yogurt, and mix well. Taste and add salt, to taste.

3. Heat olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high. When oil is wavy, add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and well browned, edging toward burned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Lower heat if browning too quickly. Add a little more oil, if pan looks dry. Season lightly with salt. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Light a charcoal grill for a medium hot bed of coals. (Alternatively, use a medium-hot gas or electric grill, a cast-iron pan or griddle, or a broiler.)

5. With wet hands, knead lamb mixture once more, then form into 4 (8-ounce) oval patties (or 6 5-ounce patties), about 1-inch thick. Set aside until the fire is ready. Place the grill about 1 inch from the coals.

6. Cook patties about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, 130 degrees. After flipping, cook until red juices appear on the top of the patties. For medium, 140 degrees, cook longer, about 5 minutes per side. In either case, let them rest on a warm plate for 5 minutes before serving, to keep in juices. They will continue cooking a bit as they rest.

7. Top each burger with fried onions. Serve with tahini-yogurt sauce and warm pita, if desired.

Recipe: Apricot Tart With Pistachios

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Total time: 1 1/2 hours


  • 1 (16-ounce) package phyllo sheets, thawed (about 18 sheets)
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup/320 grams best-quality apricot jam, or use orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup/50 grams chopped pistachios or walnuts
  • 8 large apricots (1 1/2 pounds/680 grams), halved, pitted and cut into 6 wedges each (about 3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup/67 grams granulated sugar


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a parchment-lined 12-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon butter and brush to coat the entire phyllo sheet.

2. Top with another sheet and butter as above. Repeat with 7 more sheets, for a total of 9, buttering as you go. The final, top layer should also be buttered. (The rest of the phyllo can be wrapped and frozen for future use.)

3. Dot the top sheet with jam by the teaspoon, then, using a spatula, spread the jam to cover the entire sheet, leaving a 2-inch border.

4. Sprinkle a layer of half the chopped pistachios over the jam. Place the apricot wedges, skin-side down, in even rows across the surface, then sprinkle again with remaining pistachios.

5. Carefully fold over the edges on all sides of the tart to make a 10-by-16-inch rectangle. Brush folded sides with butter. Sprinkle sugar generously over apricots and folded edges.

6. Bake until pastry is golden and apricots begin to color, about 1 hour. Cool for 15 minutes, then cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And to Drink …

You could pick almost any red to go with these savory Middle Eastern-style burgers, and you would not go wrong, as long as the wine is dry and without overt oaky flavors. If you wanted to stay in the region, you could try a Lebanese red or maybe a Greek red — both would be delicious. So would an Israeli red. Swing to Italy and try reds from the south, or from Tuscany. Head up to France for a Côtes-du-Rhône or a modest Bordeaux, or Spain for a Rioja Crianza. Maybe a natural wine from Australia? Or a cabernet franc from the Finger Lakes of New York? Intrepid wine lovers might want to take a chance with a retsina. Good versions of these traditional Greek wines go beautifully with meats grilled or roasted with herbs. — Eric Asimov

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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