Let the flavors do the work with these recipes – The Denver Post

By David Tanis, The New York Times

Here we are again at summer’s end, and, if ever there is a time of year to enjoy fresh produce in its glorious prime, it is now. Farmers’ markets are full of gorgeous summer fruits and vegetables — fragrant, ripe and sweet.

It hasn’t been on a refrigerated truck from across the continent. Picked mere hours, not days, ago, it all simply tastes different: brighter, fresher, more flavorful.

So, it’s the time to let the food do the talking. You have permission to do less, and to even do nothing at all. The seasoning needs only to emphasize and support, not overwhelm. A little salt, a splash of oil, no more. Especially now, the cook’s mantra is: Don’t do too much. And that is the approach this meal definitely takes.

You’ll want to capitalize on the ambrosial: incredible tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, green beans and summer squash. Savor the succulence of new crop garlic and onions. Breathe in the heady fragrance of fresh herbs. Linger with tree-ripened figs and the last of the summer’s berries.

All of those ingredients are included in this menu, with the exception of tomatoes, but don’t leave them out. Pass a bowl or two of colorful cherry tomatoes for nibbling or provide a plate of thickly sliced larger tomatoes to accompany the main course.

Roasted Peppers With Capers, Olives and Anchovies

A fresh sweet pepper roasted at home can be revelatory. The flames of an outdoor grill, stovetop burner or broiler add a touch of smokiness, while loosening a pepper’s tough skin. But take care not to overcook: Do not place the pepper in a closed container after roasting, as some suggest. Instead, just leave it to cool uncovered on a plate — the skin will still come off and the flesh will remain firm, not mushy. As counterpoint to the pepper’s sweetness, look to salty capers, olives and anchovy fillets. The combination is simple and enduring. Serve this carpaccio-style on individual plates as a first course or compose the elements on a platter as an antipasto.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 red bell or other large sweet peppers, such as Corno di Toro
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 anchovy fillets, rinsed and blotted
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 12 black olives
  • Basil leaves, for garnish

Preparation

1. Roast the peppers: Place each pepper directly on the flames of a stovetop burner or under the broiler as close to the flames as possible. (Alternatively, place the pepper on a hot charcoal or gas grill.) Turning frequently with tongs, allow the skin to blacken and blister all over; About 10 minutes should suffice. Remove from flames, and leave to rest on a plate until cool enough to handle. Ideally, you should cook all the peppers at once rather than one at a time.

2. Cut the roasted pepper in half lengthwise. Using a small knife, scrape away and discard seeds. Turn over and scrape away the blackened skin. Wipe with a paper towel, if necessary. Do not rinse — a little char is fine. Leave the pepper halves in one piece or cut into strips 3/4-inch wide. Place in a small bowl, toss with salt and pepper, red-pepper flakes, garlic and a little olive oil. Leave to marinate at least 10 minutes.

3. Lay pepper halves or strips flat on a plate and add 3 or 4 anchovy fillets per serving. Garnish with a few capers and olives. Sprinkle with a little more salt and olive oil, and scatter basil leaves over the top.

Lamb Chops With Green Beans, Corn and Zucchini

I like to marinate lamb chops of any sort (loin, rib, shoulder or leg) with lots of chopped rosemary, sage and garlic, then pan-fry them slowly in extra-virgin olive oil. It may seem extravagant, but this technique flavors the chops through and through, and they taste good even at room temperature. A delightful accompaniment is a seasonal stew of fresh green beans, corn and summer squash. For the best marriage of flavors, cook the vegetables until rather soft and juicy. The chops get no sauce, while the vegetables get a bright finish of gremolata, in this case a mixture of parsley, scallions and lemon zest.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds lamb chops (you’ll want 2 or 3 chops per person)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped sage
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound zucchini and summer squash, diced in large cubes
  • 2 cups corn kernels (from 2 large ears)
  • 1/2 pound green beans, or a mix of green beans and Romano beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced, both white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley, leaves and tender stems
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Preparation

1. Generously season lamb chops with salt and pepper, garlic, rosemary and sage. Let marinate for at least 1 hour.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, gently pan-fry the chops in 1/4-inch olive oil, about 5 minutes per side, until lightly browned. For medium-rare, cook just until rising juices are visible on the surface of chops; for medium, cook for 2 minutes more. Remove chops and let rest on a warm platter.

3. Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add zucchini and squash, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt. (This may be done up to several hours in advance.)

4. To finish, raise heat to high. Add corn and beans and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 1/2 cup water, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, until the mixture is soft and juicy. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with the scallions, parsley and lemon zest.

Baked Polenta With Ricotta and Parmesan

To free up space on the stove, this no-stir oven method effortlessly produces a delicious polenta. Ricotta adds lightness and transforms the polenta into an elegant side dish. You could also choose to serve it as a main course paired with the vegetable stew for a meatless meal. The polenta may be baked up to two hours in advance and reheated, if desired.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 1 hour, plus soaking

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarse polenta
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • Black pepper

Preparation

1. Soak polenta in cold water for 1 hour. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Drain polenta, then place in a heavy-bottomed pot or ovenproof baking dish. Add salt and 4 cups water.

2. Place pot in oven, cover, and bake for 45 minutes. (The polenta will begin to simmer and absorb water after a few minutes. No need to stir.)

3. After 45 minutes, uncover and stir in the olive oil, ricotta and Parmesan, but don’t overmix. Some of the ricotta should remain in big blobs. The mixture may be a bit soupy at this point, but will thicken as it continues to cook. Bake, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, until top has browned. Finish with a generous amount of pepper.

Panna Cotta With Figs and Berries

The classic Italian panna cotta — the name means “cooked cream” — is a pure white custard dessert set with gelatin instead of eggs or starch. It is very easy to make and can be prepared up to two days in advance, in individual ramekins or a larger mold. Right now, it’s best served with a compote of figs and berries; other times of year, with whatever is in season, or a simple fruit coulis. Alternatively, a caramel sauce or a bittersweet chocolate sauce drizzled over the panna cotta could be quite nice. Wait until just before serving to unmold.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes, plus cooling and chilling

Ingredients

For the Panna Cotta:

  • 2 cups/240 milliliters half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup/50 grams sugar
  • 2 wide strips lemon peel (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin (1 package)

For the Fig Compote:

  • 1 cup/145 grams blueberries
  • 1 cup/140 grams blackberries
  • 1/2 cup/60 grams raspberries
  • 12 ripe figs, halved
  • 1/4 cup/50 grams sugar
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters kirsch or Calvados, or use water

Preparation

1. In a small saucepan, heat the half-and-half over medium-low until it just begins to simmer. Turn off heat. Add sugar, stir to dissolve, then add lemon peel, salt and almond extract. Turn off heat, and let steep while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

2. Meanwhile, put gelatin in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons cold water. Let dissolve, mashing with a spoon to prevent lumps, about 5 minutes. Add to the half-and-half mixture, and whisk well to incorporate.

3. Using a fine-meshed sieve, strain into a measuring cup with a spout. Pour mixture into 4 (4-ounce) ramekins, tea cups or wineglasses. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. (It is a good idea to make the panna cotta several hours ahead or up to 2 days in advance.)

4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Make the compote: In a small, wide skillet, a gratin dish, or a pie pan, arrange the berries, then the figs cut-side-up. Sprinkle with the sugar and the kirsch or Calvados, and turn heat to medium-high. Roast, uncovered until juicy, with most of the liquid evaporated, about 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

5. To serve panna cotta, run a knife around edge of the ramekins, then invert them over a soup plate or dessert dish. Shake gently to unmold. Surround panna cotta with fruit and roasting juices. (Alternatively, serve in the ramekin or wineglass with fruit on top.)

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