Simply Elegant Summertime Meals

By Norene Gilletz

It’s summertime—so the cooking should be easy. When the weather turns hot and humid, it’s a perfect time to get together with friends and family and gather around the grill.  

Here are some easy, elegant dishes that are perfect as family fare, yet are fancy and fabulous enough for guests. The colorful, nutritious salads and brain-healthy salmon recipes are ideal for the Nine Days. Enjoy!

Crisp Summer Salad
Adapted from The Silver Platter: Simple Elegance by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz (ArtScroll)
Yields 8 servings

There’s something about combining a crunchy fresh vegetable with a sweet summery fruit. This salad is no exception—although it is exceptional!

Crisp Summer Salad
Reproduced from Silver Platter: Simple Elegance by Daniella Silver with Norene Gilletz, with permission from the copyright holders ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, LTD

5 ears corn, husked and cleaned
1 lb snap peas, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add corn; simmer for 5-7 minutes, until tender-crisp. Drain corn; place into ice-cold water for 5 minutes. Drain; pat dry.
2. Shave off corn kernels with a sharp knife, leaving them attached to each other, if possible. Place into a large serving bowl. Add snap peas, mangoes, scallions and basil.
3. Combine dressing ingredients in a glass jar; seal tightly and shake well. Add dressing to salad. Toss gently to combine. Cover; refrigerate until shortly before serving time.

Norene’s Notes:
Variation: Instead of mangoes, use nectarines or peaches. Canned or frozen corn (lightly steamed) will also work well in this salad.
Substitute: No maple syrup? Replace with honey.

 

Tomato Dill Salad
Adapted from The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz (ArtScroll)
Yields 8 servings

Daniella likes to use ripe heirloom tomatoes when they are available, but cherry or grape tomatoes are easier to find. This salad multiplies easily for a crowd and you can make half the recipe for a small family.

3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill

Dressing:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/3 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large serving bowl, combine tomatoes, scallions and dill. Combine dressing ingredients in a glass jar, seal tightly and shake well. Add dressing and mix well. Serve chilled.

Norene’s Notes:
Variation: Add 4 baby cucumbers, diced.
Dairy Variation: Add 1 cup of baby bocconcini balls, halved. An easy alternative is mozzarella cheese sticks, cut into half-inch slices.

 

Cedar-Planked Salmon with Strawberry-Chili Salsa
Adapted from The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz (ArtScroll)
Yields 4-6 servings

Grilling on a cedar plank is a simple way to cook and serve salmon, infusing it with a subtle smokiness. Strawberries make a perfect counterpoint to the salsa’s chili pepper. The plank keeps the fish warm while serving.

Planked Salmon
Reproduced from The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular by Daniella Silver with Norene Gilletz, with permission from the copyright holders, Artscroll/Mesorah Publications, LTD

Special Equipment:
1 or 2 untreated cedar planks (about 12 x 7-inches)

Salsa:
2 cups diced strawberries
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or basil
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)
1 serrano or jalapeño chili pepper, finely diced (remove seeds first for less heat)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Fish:
4-6 salmon fillets
(about 6 oz/180 g each)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Soak 1 or 2 cedar planks in cold water for at least 1 hour. Top planks with two or three unopened cans to keep them submerged while soaking.
Salsa: In a medium bowl, stir together strawberries, onion, mint, oil, lime juice, chili pepper, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. 
Fish: Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove plank(s) from water and place on hot grate over indirect heat for 6-8 minutes, until hot. Using tongs, carefully turn plank(s) over and place salmon fillets on top. Brush fillets with oil; season with salt and pepper.
Cover grill and cook for 12-15 minutes or until salmon flakes when lightly pressed with a fork. It’s not necessary to turn the salmon. 
Remove from grill and spoon salsa over the salmon. Serve salmon directly from the plank(s). 

Norene’s Notes:
Oven Method: Place soaked planks onto a baking sheet. Top with salmon; brush fish with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 12-15 minutes. As the water evaporates from the plank(s), steam will be released, keeping the fish moist and aromatic.
Do not freeze the salsa.

 

Grilled Chicken With Mango Salsa
Adapted from Simple Elegance: Effortless Recipes with Sophisticated Results by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz (ArtScroll)
Yields 6 servings

Everyone loves salsas. They’re fresh in flavor and an easy way to add fruits and vegetables to our diets. This colorful salsa is bursting with bright, refreshing flavors that will liven up any meal.

Mango Salsa:
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
2 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Grilled Chicken:
6 single boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 12 boneless, skinless thighs)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Prepare the salsa: In a medium bowl, combine mango, peaches and red onion. Add oil, lime juice, brown sugar and basil. Mix gently. Cover; refrigerate.
Prepare the chicken: Heat an indoor grill, setting it to medium-high. Sprinkle chicken on all sides with salt, pepper, and basil. Grill chicken for 4-6 minutes per side, until grill marks appear and juices run clear. Transfer chicken to a serving platter; top with salsa.

 

Grilled Skirt Steak
Adapted from Simple Elegance: Effortless Recipes with Sophisticated Results by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz (ArtScroll)
Yields 4-6 servings

With thin, easy-to-chew slices, skirt steak might be the best cut of beef to serve the kids, but it’s not only for little mouths. Skirt steak has an intense, beefy flavor that is enjoyed by eaters of all ages. Threaded onto bamboo skewers, this dish adds rustic charm, whether served as an appetizer or main protein.

1 (about 2 lb/1 kg) skirt steak
1 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (3-4 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp honey
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or basil, plus more for garnish
Skewers (optional)

1. Preheat grill or barbecue, setting it to medium-high.
2. Cut skirt steak into long, thin, narrow pieces.
3. In a medium bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic and mint; mix well.
4. Add skirt steak; marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. Then skewer meat.
5. Grill over indirect heat for 4-5 minutes per side, until grill marks appear and meat reaches desired doneness. (For medium, cook to an internal temperature of 145°F.)
6. Garnish with additional mint leaves.

Norene’s Notes:
No grill? Broil skewers in your oven about 4 inches from the heat for 4-5 minutes per side.
Variation: Add cubed red bell peppers and/or sliced mushrooms on ends of each skewer.
Skirt steak, which comes from the plate, is marbled with fat, which makes it very juicy. Since it is very salty, don’t add salt when seasoning the meat.

Norene Gilletz is a leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2017.