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.
I look for cookbooks with resource value. And 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.
In alphabetical order here are some wonderful new cookbooks worth reading:
A Change of Appetite: Where Healthy Meets Delicious, by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley; $35). If you're not acquainted with this 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 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.
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.
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.
The accompanying dishes represent the roundup of summer titles. Try them, and see how well they fit into the rest of the season.
If you have become fond of freekeh — cracked green wheat — you'll be looking for good things to make with it. Add these burgers to the list. Adapted from The Freekeh Cookbook: Healthy, Delicious, Easy-to-Prepare Meals With America's Hottest Grain."
Freekeh burgers with chipotle mustard
21/4 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 41/2 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. Makes 8 servings.
Serve on grilled bread, with onion and lettuce and chipotle honey mustard.
Nutrition per serving (with half the chipotle mustard): 280 calories, 12 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar.
In this recipe, sekenjabin, a Persian mint syrup, often spelled sekanjabin, is paired with flavorful lamb. This version is not as sweet and thick as it is traditionally made in Iran. Adapted from A Change of Appetite: Where Healthy Meets Delicious.
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. Eight servings.
Nutrition per serving: 480 calories, 60 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 180 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar.
In this recipe for seviche, the scallops stay soft and creamy. Be sure to use the freshest ones you can find. Diced peaches or nectarines can stand in for the blueberries. Adapted from Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes.
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. Six servings.
NOTE: You might find it easier to slice the scallops if they have spent a quick 10 minutes in the freezer beforehand.
Nutrition per serving: 90 calories, 13 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar