Faced with a choice between updating a beach wardrobe or my cache of cookbooks suited to warm weather, I’ll go with the latter every time. Waves of spring and summer ingredients ebb and flow with such urgent appeal that it’s all too easy to celebrate them simply, and mostly unadorned. But an innovative recipe that involves, say, blueberries will work its way into my gray matter -- the result of which is that twice the usual amount comes home from the farmers market, or half of what’s on hand is held in reserve.
Besides quirks of preparation, I look for cookbooks with resource value. Although I won’t dive into “The Freekeh Cookbook” every other day, I might remember from flipping through it that lasagnas, a shrimp dish and even a spicy meatless burger are among my options. Finding an engaging, thoughtful writer like Sunday Telegraph columnist Diana Henry is a bonus. Her “Change of Appetite” has spent as much time on the bedside table as it has on the kitchen counter.
In alphabetical order:
“A Change of Appetite: Where Healthy Meets Delicious,” by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley; $35). If you’re not acquainted with this London author’s work, this is a fine place to start. She’s smart, detail-oriented, an enthusiast of many cuisines and does her own lovely food styling.
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“The Better Bean Cookbook: More Than 160 Modern Recipes for Beans, Chickpeas and Lentils to Tempt Meat-Eaters and Vegetarians Alike,” by Jenny Chandler (Sterling Epicure; $25). The very long subtitle means there’s meat and seafood in the book. In addition to this trove of unfussy recipes, the cooking instructor and food blogger offers a gemlike glossary and soak/no-soak chart.
“The Freekeh Cookbook: Healthy, Delicious, Easy-to-Prepare Meals With America’s Hottest Grain,” by Bonnie Matthews (Skyhorse Publishing; $18). The former part-time Trader Joe’s demo cook was so taken with freekeh that she partnered with a producer to grow and sell an organic form of the ancient, cracked green wheat.
“Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes,” by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck (Running Press; $27.50). Props go to the farm-savvy authors for offering several gooseberry dishes. Skip ahead to the “Putting Up for Winter” chapter, where more summer fruits are featured.
“International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World,” by Mark Kurlansky and Talia Kurlansky (Bloomsbury; $29). This is an early favorite in the upcoming wave of cookbooks for children, because of its rating system for difficulty, its range and the way in which Talia’s notes are spot-on. Everybody can learn, and everybody will eat.
“Itsu the Cookbook: 100 Low-Calorie Eat Beautiful Recipes for Health and Happiness,” by Julian Metcalfe and Blanche Vaughan, with Angela Dowden (Mitchell Beazley; $20). The man who has planted a Pret A Manger on hundreds of street corners focuses here on clean Asian eating and simple preparations, with a particularly chocablock chapter of sauces and dressings.
Southern Living’s “The Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon,” by Carolyn O’Neil (Oxmoor House; $25). We’ll put aside any debate over whether almond biscotti and migas tacos represent the title material. “Stay-slim secrets” of the successful and Southern, including the Lee Brothers and chef Hugh Acheson, are sprinkled throughout the book; chew on those.
“The Cheesemonger’s Seasons: Recipes for Enjoying Cheeses With Ripe Fruits and Vegetables,” by Chester Hastings (Chronicle; $35). The chef-author’s pairings are unexpected; he understands that cheese can play a key role alongside a well-constructed dish as well as incorporated within it. Chances are good that you’ll be seeking out cheeses you’ve never heard of -- a worthwhile endeavor.
“Treat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today),” by Jennifer Steinhauer (Clarkson Potter; $20). Boomers’ guilty pleasures are writ pure (read: preservative-free) in this clever collection. This is not all Twinkies and Heath Bars -- there are Fritos and Ritz Crackers, too.
“Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes and Colors of Each Season,” by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed Press; $25). Ingredient combinations are as appealing as the photography here: za’atar and pecans on broiled figs; kiwi and grapefruit in parfaits; grilled haloumi cheese with strawberries and herbs.
“Yucatan: Recipes From a Culinary Expedition,” by David Sterling (University of Texas Press; $60). Endorsements from Mexican culinary expert Diana Kennedy come few and far between, so Sterling, the founder of Los Dos Cooking School, must know what he’s doing. At 500-plus pages and coffee-table size, the book is sure to be a long-term, definitive reference guide.
Freekeh Burgers with Chipotle Mustard
2 1/4 cups water
1 cup dried freekeh (may substitute 2 cups cooked freekeh; omit the water above and the cooking step)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)
2 large eggs, beaten
15 ounces cooked or canned no-salt-added black beans (if using canned, rinse and drain them)
1/2 onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or vegetable oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup honey mustard
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped
1 cup whole-wheat flour, plus more for dusting
Combine the water and dried freekeh in a medium saucepan over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook for 1 minute, stirring. Reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until cool.
Combine the chili, onion and chipotle powders and smoked paprika in a mixing bowl, along with the eggs, cooked and cooled freekeh, black beans, onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the honey mustard, 1 tablespoon of the chipotle peppers in adobo, 1 cup of the flour and a good pinch of salt. Use your clean hands to blend well.
Dust a work surface and your clean hands with flour. Use the chilled mixture to form 8 balls (about 4 1/2 ounces each); shape each one into a burger patty and coat it lightly with flour, patting to remove any excess.
Whisk together the remaining honey mustard and the remaining chipotle peppers in adobo in a small bowl until well combined.
Heat about 1/8 inch of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add 2 or 3 patties and cook for 2 minutes, until browned and crisped on the bottom. Turn the patties over and cook the same way on the second side for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate; sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining patties.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with the chipotle honey mustard. Serve on grilled bread, with onion and lettuce.
Blueberry and Gin Gelatins
1 3/4 cups tonic water
1 cup gin
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
Generous 1/2 ounce gelatin sheets (about 9)
Scant 1 tablespoon Angostura bitters
1 3/4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed well and patted dry
You’ll need eight glasses or cups (each 4 to 6 ounces), preferably clear.
Combine the tonic water, gin, lemon zest and juice, sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar without letting the mixture come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the gelatin sheets in a shallow bowl and cover with cold water; soak for about 3 minutes, just so they soften but do not disintegrate. Drain.
Strain the tonic mixture into a clean glass container; discard the solids. Stir in the Angostura bitters to achieve a uniform pale pink color.
Stir the softened gelatin sheets into the warm tonic-Angostura mixture. Divide one-third of the gelatinized liquid among the glasses or cups; distribute one-third of the blueberries evenly among them. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes or until slightly firm. (Keep the remaining gelatinized liquid at room temperature.)
Distribute half of the remaining blueberries among the glasses or cups and add half of the remaining gelatinized liquid; if necessary, gently reheat that portion of liquid in a saucepan over low heat until it is smooth and pourable, being careful not to warm it too much or the gelatin will fail; remove it from the heat to cool for 5 minutes before adding it to the glasses or cups. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Repeat the heating step, if needed, and distribute the remaining gelatinized liquid and blueberries among the glasses or cups. The fruit should be suspended throughout the gelatins. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set firmly before serving.
Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Sekenjabin
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup packed mint leaves
5-pound boneless, butterflied leg of lamb
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for rubbing the meat
Leaves from 2 heads romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts bubbling, stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved. Add the vinegar and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 15 minutes, then remove the saucepan from the heat. The syrup will thicken a bit as it cools.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the mint leaves; add about a third of the remaining leaves to the syrup to infuse as it cools. Once the sekenjabin has thoroughly cooled, discard the leaves.
Preheat the oven to 435 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Use a small, sharp knife to pierce the lamb in several places.
Combine the garlic, what’s left of the 1/2 cup of mint and a good pinch each of salt and black pepper in a mortar and pestle; grind, adding the 3 tablespoons of oil, to form a coarse paste. (Alternatively, you can use a mini food processor.)
Rub the mixture into the meat all over and especially into the slits. Spread the lamb on the baking sheet, fattier side up. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and roast for 15 minutes (for medium-rare). Remove the lamb from the oven; tent it loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Chop the reserved 1/2 cup of mint and add it to the chilled sekenjabin. Arrange the lettuce leaves in a wide, shallow bowl. Cut the lamb into long, thin slices, reserving the meat juices; serve the sekenjabin alongside the leaves and the lamb. Strain the fat from the meat juices; pass the strained juices at the table. Serve with flatbread or pitas and a vegetable.
Peach and Pine Nut Tarts with Triple-Cream Cheese
2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, beaten
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup pine nuts, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 or 4 medium, ripe peaches
6 ounces Explorateur or other soft-ripened, triple-cream cheese, cut into 6 equal pieces
Makes six 5-inch tarts.
For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a food processor; pulse to blend. Add the butter pieces and pulse just long enough to form a crumbly mix with pieces the size of small peas. Add the egg and egg yolk; pulse just until the dough comes together.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Arrange the tart pans on a baking sheet.
Unwrap the dough. Roll out on the floured work surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch. If the dough is too firm, let it sit for 5 minutes before rolling.) Cut into 6 equal pieces; press each piece into a tart pan, trimming off any excess; the dough can be rerolled once. Prick the bottoms with a fork all over, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the chilled tart shells with parchment paper and ceramic weights, dried beans or raw rice. Bake for 15 minutes or as needed until the tart shells are firm and dry but not browned. Cool while you make the filling.
For the filling: Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low then medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
On low speed, add the flour, pine nuts and vanilla extract; beat until just combined.
Divide all the filling among individual tart shells (still in their pans), smoothing the tops.
Cut the peaches in half; discard the pits. Cut each half into thin slices, then arrange them as you wish, so they mostly cover the filling of each tart. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the center of the filling feels firm and springs back when gently pressed. Transfer the tarts (in the pans) to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then remove the tarts from their pans.
Serve with a piece of the cheese alongside each tart (or tart half).
Scallop and Blueberry Seviche
1 pound sea scallops, patted dry, then cut into 1/4-inch slices (see note)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 to 2 serrano chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
3 strips lime peel (no pith)
Freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Combine the scallops, onion, chilies (to taste), lime peel, a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a large, nonreactive (such as ceramic or glass) bowl. Pour in the lime juice and toss to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate, tossing occasionally, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight (16 hours at most).
Just before serving, add the blueberries and the cilantro, if using, and toss to combine. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the seviche to individual cocktail (martini) glasses or small plates; serve right away.
NOTE: You might find it easier to slice the scallops if they have spent 10 minutes in the freezer beforehand.