Memorial Day is always the official kickoff to the warm weather season. And there’s only one fashion rule I advocate keeping in mind: maybe think about skipping the white pants around barbecue sauce. The recipes below include a variety of proteins for the grill, as well as some salads and sides that you can delegate to attendees or make for someone else’s party.
Although it’s exciting finally to break out the grill, don’t forget about dessert: I tend to think of Memorial Day as the beginning of rhubarb season. Good thing there’s an extra day in your weekend to tackle leftovers.
by Joyce Goldstein
There’s a soft spot in my heart for summertime ‘salads’: those combinations of carbohydrates, veggies, and flavorful dressings that grace picnic tables and potluck spreads all summer long. This version of the traditional Tuscan panzanella is a favorite.
“The bread should be from a firm Italian or French loaf trimmed of hard crust and may be a day old. In the classic version, the bread is soaked in water and crumbled, then mixed with the tomatoes. I find the texture of cubed bread more to my liking, and I think it looks much more attractive on the plate. Sometimes I even toast the bread lightly to help it retain texture as the tomatoes add their juices to the salad. It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: great tomatoes are essential. Remember to salt the vegetables before adding them to the bread mixture.” – Joyce Goldstein
Living in a one-bedroom New York City apartment, cooking is inevitably a challenge. Around the corner from my galley-kitchen-front-hallway combo sits a standalone butcher cart (its two tiny drawers attempting pathetically to make up for the fact that there isn’t a single drawer in the actual kitchen space), more often covered in unread mail and abandoned change than food. I’ve been known to set a cutting board across the sink as an emergency counter. I simply can’t store a humble five-pound bag of potatoes or onions. These are all minor setbacks, not enough to keep me from getting dinner on the table.
But in the summertime, there are three little words that have the power to send me scavenging for old takeout menus or heading down the block for dinner at a restaurant. Three words that, September through April, I barely even register when reading a recipe: Preheat. The. Oven.
So below we present ten weeknight dinners, most completed between 30 minutes and an hour, that require only stovetop cooking, no ovens whatsoever. Throw the windows open and have dinner finished without breaking a sweat.
by Nigella Lawson
Several years after its release, Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express remains a go-to resource in many kitchens. This simple springtime pasta dish has been a favorite of mine for years: mushrooms are lightly marinated in a dressing of oil, garlic, lemon, and thyme, then tossed with hot pasta and Parmesan cheese. Cremini mushrooms are best, but plain button mushrooms would certainly do the trick. And I have to call out one particular comment on this recipe, submitted on Cookstr by thecrabbycook: “My husband won’t eat mushrooms. My daughter won’t eat pasta. My other daughter won’t eat cheese. I’m going to make this for myself. Can’t wait!”
…Wonton! All joking aside, dumplings are a beloved staple across cultures, from wontons to kreplach to ravioli. For the purposes of this list, we’re defining dumplings as dough wrapped around some sort of filling, with the whole package meant to be consumed in a few bites. So matzo balls and gnocchi are out, for now.
Dumplings of all varieties are something I should make at home all the time but don’t – the process of dough + filling seems more complex than it really is. Here’s hoping the recipes below inspire you towards at-home dumpling greatness.
by Fuchsia Dunlop
In this recipe, you can choose to start by making your own simple dough for wonton wrappers, or use storebought. The wrappers are filled with baby bok choy and ground pork seasoned with sesame oil and rice wine, then the little bundles are steamed for a few minutes before serving. I like these dumplings because the shape is easy to create for even the beginning dumpling-maker, which is why I happily made trays of them during my first dumpling-making experience in college, while my roommate graduated to more complicated shapes.
A remarkable number of people believe that Cinco de Mayo is somehow connected to the Mexican Revolution, Mexican Independence Day, or the Day of the Dead (not naming names, but someone I polled actually said that.), it is in fact a holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over the French in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. It’s celebrated regionally in Mexico, but widely in the U.S. as a celebration of Mexican heritage, cheerfully co-opted by many with no heritage at all but a sincere love of margaritas and guacamole.
Cinco de Mayo is also a good opportunity to start using some early summer produce and to explore the full richness that is Mexican cuisine.
by Christopher Idone
Before there was anything frozen, peach or rimmed in raw sugar, there was this. Christopher Idone’s classic margarita relies on real lime, a dignified splash of triple sec and a chilled cocktail shaker. I’d be proud to serve this to anyone, with only the fresh salsa and tomatillo guacamole below, or as a start to an taco- and pepper-laden feast. Practice this technique of rolling the rim of the glass in a dish filled with salt – the same technique applies to making a michelada, my other favorite summertime beverage.
Warm weather always makes me start to crave seafood. I envision sitting on the sidewalk slurping down fresh oysters with cucumber-related cocktails. Steaming crab meat drenched with butter and eaten by hand, cooked in a giant pot in a rented beach house in New Jersey. Tilapia filets and fresh-made blueberry pie for a late dinner on the back porch. My mother’s favorite dinner for company, shrimp and clams tossed with just-cooked angel hair pasta and fresh tomatoes and good olive oil.
The recipes below can provide inspiration for all sorts of seafood flavor pairings. Meat can serve as a textural counterpoint to flaky light fish, while sweet in-season fruit echoes plump, juicy shellfish. Tell us about your favorites, and enjoy the results!
by Barbara Kafka
This bright springtime stew combines shellfish with cod and seasonal veggies like asparagus and peas for a colorful and healthy meal. Use fresh tarragon here – the flavor intensity of fresh herbs in your finished dish is worth lingering in the produce aisle at the grocery store. If you choose to include the penne or other pasta, it’s recommended to have it alongside when serving, tossed gently with olive oil, rather than adding it to the soup.
I learned that Peter Workman had died while I was at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference in San Francisco, surrounded by cookbook authors, publishers, editors, and agents, who were all devastated to learn about the loss of this beloved publisher and friend. We at Cookstr are especially aware of the indelible contributions Peter made to the worlds of food, publishing, the places those intersect, and far beyond – his daughter Katie is Cookstr’s founding editor-in-chief, and we interact with the incredible library of Workman-published recipe content every day in Cookstr’s recipe library.
But hearing so many passionate tributes and personal memories at IACP and back here in New York demonstrated time and again just how much Peter was loved and how great an effect his work has had on so many. From the legendary authors he worked with, to his publishing colleagues, to the readers who devoured the books he brought into the world, his legacy is immense. Peter Workman changed the world of cookbooks for all of us, and in doing so, he changed our lives.
“We all made him food. Sometimes he wanted to eat it, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he would take a bite, sometimes he would eat a real meal, sometimes he would just smile and shrug.
“The night before Christmas he was back in the hospital and I told him I would bring dinner the next night, and asked him what he wanted. He didn’t know. I suggested chicken soup, noodle pudding – unchallenging, gentle foods. “How about prime rib?” suggested a visiting friend. “Oh, yes, and Yorkshire pudding!” he said. And the next night he ate it, our family sitting in a shitty windowless conference/supply room with hideously bright fluorescent lights and the occasional nurse popping into the room for a fresh bandage or catheter.
“Towards the end when he wasn’t eating much at all, I cut a paper thin sliver of pear and handed it to him. He ate it very slowly. His nurse and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, a silent tiny triumph. I handed him another transparent slice. Then another. One hour later, the pear was eaten. It was the most beautiful core of fruit I have ever seen.”
As the very first stalks of asparagus and fresh green peas begin to appear at the farmers market, it’s a joy to transform them into colorful, nourishing meals that herald the beginning of spring. And while I know we’re still looking mostly at root vegetables in large swaths of the country, I can’t help but start to salivate over bright green produce swirled into bowls of fresh pasta and served alongside simple, hearty proteins.
Fresh herbs, too, make a vast difference in the quality of many of these dishes, so don’t forget to grab a few lush bunches of mint, parsley, cilantro and basil at the market.
by Jamie Oliver
“This is such a simple, clean and delicious risotto. When buying asparagus, have a look around because there are lots of varieties available now – purple-tipped, white, thin straggly Japanese, wild Spanish and dozens of good locally grown English. In this recipe the stalks are finely sliced to an inch below the tips – this will give you lots of flavour from the stalks and you’ll then have those whole beautiful tips as a bit of a prize! There are variations on this risotto that I love to do, like sprinkling in a little picked crab or lobster meat or fresh, peeled prawns or sliced scallops – all of these work particularly well with asparagus if you fancy a little upgrade. (If you do decide to add any of these seafood suggestions then reduce your Parmesan by half.)” – Jamie Oliver