When it’s this hot outside, it’s tempting to subsist solely on salad leaves and bottled dressing, but that gets boring quickly. These light dishes don’t take much time or effort, and they’re a lot more satisfying than greens.
BAKED TOMATOES WITH MOZZARELLA, PEARL COUSCOUS AND BASIL
For this dish, use meaty tomatoes that aren’t too watery, and try to get a variety of colours. Pearl couscous is also known as Israeli couscous, and it’s similar to fregola. Use whatever type you can find.
If you like anchovies, finely chop two (or more) of the type preserved in olive oil and mix them with the other ingredients before stuffing the mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes.
16 tomatoes, about 75 grams each
150 grams pearl couscous (or fregola)
75 grams shallots, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
The zest of one lemon, finely grated
16 small balls of mozzarella
25 grams freshly grated parmesan
5 grams panko
Fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh Italian basil leaves
Rinse the tomatoes, place them stem-side down on a cutting board and slice off the tops to reveal the pulp. Finely dice the tomato tops and set aside in a colander, to drain off any excess juice. Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop a large cavity in the tomatoes and place the seeds and pulp into the colander to drain.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the pearl couscous and simmer until tender. Drain, then drizzle with about 15ml extra-virgin olive oil and mix to coat the grains. Place the pearl couscous in a bowl and mix in the shallots, garlic, lemon zest, 20 grams of parmesan and 200 grams of the tomato pulp. Add salt to taste.
Stuff the couscous mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes (there will be some left over, which can be eaten on its own). Press a mozzarella ball into the stuffing so it’s almost level with the top of the tomato.
Mix the panko with five grams of parmesan and spread over each tomato. Place the tomatoes in a baking dish and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Place the dish in the oven to bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese softens, the topping turns pale golden and the tomatoes start to shrivel but aren’t collapsing. Garnish with the basil leaves and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
BEETROOT, ARUGULA AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD WITH CITRUS VINAIGRETTE
If you can find it, peeled beetroot makes this dish even easier. If you peel the beetroot yourself, be sure to wear disposable gloves to avoid staining your skin. Store any remaining ingredients separately in the fridge ready to be mixed together just before serving for a quick meal. If you mix them together too soon, the beetroot will stain the other ingredients and the dressing will wilt the arugula.
6 medium-sized beetroot, about 1kg
About 200 grams arugula
The zest of one orange, removed in long fine strands with a citrus zester
150ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
60ml fresh orange juice
20ml fresh lime juice
About 200 grams fresh goat’s cheese
Fine sea salt, salt flakes (such as Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and lightly coat a baking dish with olive oil. Peel and cut each beetroot into six wedges and place in the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven until the beetroot is tender (about 20 minutes).
While the beetroot is cooking, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, orange juice, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Taste the dressing and adjust the quantities, if needed.
Transfer the cooked beetroot to a large bowl and, while hot, add about 60ml of the dressing, mix to coat, then cover tightly with cling-film. Set aside to cool to room temperature, shaking the bowl occasionally.
Just before serving, toss the arugula with the orange zest and the dressing (you might not need it all; it keeps for at least two weeks in the fridge). Divide the arugula between plates then add the beetroot and pieces of goat’s cheese. Sprinkle with salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, and serve immediately.