THE WASHINGTON POST – The other day, I was so excited that it was under 80 degrees for my morning walk with my dog – he’s gotten short shrift as the days have gone from hot to hellish – that I didn’t mind the light rain. Neither did he.
It started out as a drizzle, but within 15 minutes the drops got larger and fell faster, and just when I was thinking we should head back home, we just . . . didn’t. We kept walking, it kept raining, and we had a nice, long, refreshing, meditative, wet and, most importantly, cool morning.
Once I was back home, I knew that soon enough it would be sweltering again. My outside activity would be limited to quick trips out to the garden or around the block in the early morning and late evening. In between, I’d continue looking for lunch and dinner ideas that minimise stove-top time and eliminate oven time.
Salads are a big part of the summer strategy, obviously, as are gazpachos and other cold soups. But often I still want to do a little cooking, and I sometimes get a little bored with cold foods.
I found a good option in the new book by Ella Mills, the best-selling British author behind the Deliciously Ella brand. The dish is basically a quick-cooking skillet of beans, broccoli, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, amped up with lots of garlic and bound in a cheeseless pesto sauce and a smidgen of yogurt.
The beans are canned limas, but you can use whatever you like. The zucchini is grated. But it’s the broccoli technique that particularly appealed in the midst of summertime heat.
To make everything go faster in the skillet, you first blanch the broccoli, but not by dealing with a big pot of water first; that would defeat the purpose. Instead, you just cover the florets with boiling water from a tea kettle and let them sit for a couple of minutes. They’re perfectly crisp-tender this way, and your kitchen stays so cool you’ll be dreaming of rain.
GARLICKY BROCCOLI AND BEANS WITH PESTO
Four to six servings
This colourful meal comes together with only a few minutes of cooking, making it just the thing when you want to keep your kitchen cool. Serve with quinoa, brown rice or bread, if you like.
For the pesto
Half cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted almonds (may substitute toasted sunflower seeds)
One tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Two garlic cloves, chopped
One teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)
Half teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
For the broccoli and beans
One head broccoli (about one and half pounds), thick stalk removed
One tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Four garlic cloves, crushed or minced
Three cups (from two 15-ounce cans) lima beans (may substitute chickpeas or any white beans), drained and rinsed
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
One small zucchini (four ounces), coarsely grated
One tablespoon pure plain coconut yoghurt (optional; may substitute plain dairy yoghurt)
Two teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
Make the pesto: In a blender, combine the basil, olive oil, water, almonds, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast (if using) and salt and puree until smooth. (If using a large or less-powerful blender, you may need more olive oil or water to blend easily.) Taste, and season with more salt, if needed.
Make the broccoli and beans: Cut the broccoli into small, bite-size pieces (the smaller, the better). Transfer the broccoli to a heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water (this blanches the broccoli). Let stand until the broccoli is crisp-tender, two to three minutes, then drain.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it softens, about two minutes. Stir in the broccoli, lima beans and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until warmed through, about two minutes. Stir in the pesto, zucchini, yoghurt (if using), zest and pepper.
Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve warm.
Based on six servings | Calories: 320; Total Fat: 19g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 569mg; Carbohydrates: 30g; Dietary Fibre: 10g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 12g.