My my, is time flying by! It’s already August, which means fall is basically around the corner, and before you know it, it’s the start of Q4 and then *BAM* Happy 2018! (Does anyone else fast-forward through time like a crazy person? Being “present” is not really my forte.)
I’ve been all over the place so far this summer, but I currently have two whole, straight, uninterrupted weeks of being at home ahead of me and it feels like heaven. I have a million plans for this NYC time, but I’ll be honest — I’ll probably spend most of it catching up on TV (specifically The Keepers, Master of None and Game of Thrones of course) and hanging out in the kitchen. I’ve missed being home: the ritual of prepping dinner,
possibly usually pouring myself a glass of wine, sitting down to eat. It’s soothing, especially after the insanely busy stressful days that have become the norm for anyone who works in news.
I especially can’t wait to make more of the kind of fresh, bright dinners that I crave this time of year. Produce is popping right now — juicy peaches and giant zucchinis and gorgeous gem-like berries and of course, tomatoes everywhere.
Growing up, I mostly hated tomatoes. They were often mushy and mealy and flavorless, transported God knows when from who knows where. Then I learned about eating seasonally, and tasted a tomato in late summer. It was firm and juicy and sweet, words I didn’t know could even be associated with tomatoes. In short, it was life-changing and I’ve been sneaking tomatoes into everything summer ever since.
In fact, this entire dinner was borne out of a desire to make a really easy salad with tomatoes, olives, mint and lemon juice, and then realizing that I probably need some sort of something to go with that. My internet perusals led me to Smitten Kitchen, as they so often do, and from there, I stumbled onto her recipe for homemade merguez.
Merguez is a kind of sausage eaten across northern Africa and the Middle East, usually made with ground beef or lamb and deeply spiced with harissa, cumin, coriander and paprika. It is fragrant and fiery, perfect with wedges of pita and this snappy tomato-olive salad. Plus the sausage takes about 15 minutes to prepare, which makes it ideal for summer nights. Because while I’d like to spend more time in the kitchen, I definitely don’t plan on slaving away at the stove when there’s so much outdoor time still to be had …
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons harissa
- 1 pound 90% lean ground beef or ground lamb
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, large pieces halved
- 1 cup mixed pitted olives
- handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Make the tomato-olive salad: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Serve immediately.
- Make the merguez: In a large bowl, stir the spices with the harissa. Mix in the ground meat and using your hands, shape the meat into 10-12 loosely packed patties.
- Coat the bottom of a large heavy skillet with olive oil and heat until sizzling. Add a few of the patties, then cook until one side is crisp and browned. Flip, then cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining patties.
- Serve the merguez with the tomato-olive salad and pita wedges.