Heating up the kitchen is a great deterrent for summer cooking. It is no wonder grilling has enduring appeal when the temperature gets warm. For reasons unknown, I do not own a grill nor am I motivated to get one. I do not like the idea of heating up the kitchen either and it inspires me to turn to dishes requiring little to no cooking. It doesn’t hurt that such dishes tend to be easy to make to take advantage of vibrant summer flavours.
I took at a look at my calendar and realized that I skipped out on making weekend family dinner for almost a month. That is highly unusual and I feel a tinge of guilt to deprive Little Brother of wholesome home cooked meals. I am struggling to get back on my feet. Even though it is small progress, preparing family dinner last Sunday is a clear sign of improvement. It is nothing fancy but I am gradually taking joy in the simple task of cooking once more. With less than five minutes of heating, I prepared a meal of watermelon feta salad on mixed greens with pickled shallots and pesto angel hair pasta with prawns. It is a menu requiring little work yet delivering big flavours.
I started by preparing classic pesto from scratch. A bouquet of fragrant basil, a couple cloves of garlic, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a flurry of grated parmesan cheese, and a steady stream of olive oil mingled together in the food processor. I set aside the bright green sauce in a glass container while I prepared the rest of the meal.
I love the taste of pickled red onion and even more so for milder shallots. The size is just right for dinner for two! I sliced a shallot into thin strips and covered with red wine vinegar and large pinch of salt. It mellowed and softened when it was time to serve.
I never learned the trick to tell good watermelon from bad ones. I can tap every melon in the store and they still sound identical to me. Fortunately, once they are cut open, I do know a few visual cues that lead to sweet juicy fruit. First, it should feel heavy for the size. If the flesh starts to form a crack and looks sandy, that’s a good chance the melon will be sweet. I gravitate to melons with some seeds as oppose to the totally seedless ones. I just like the flavour a bit more. I lucked out with finding a delicious wedge of watermelon at the store and so I chopped it up into small cubes for the salad.
I bought two nests of fresh angel hair pasta and a container of cooked prawns. Here was the only cooking part of my entire meal. I briefly dunked the prawns in boiling water to warm them up. The fresh pasta also took a warm bath for a grand total of two minutes. They all got tossed into a mixing bowl with homemade pesto and quickly plated.
Lastly, I grabbed fistfuls of mixed salad greens into serving bowls and topped with watermelon, crumbled feta cheese, and pickled shallots. I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the salad along with generous turns of freshly ground black pepper.
Just like that, dinner was served.