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  • Writer's pictureMona Shah

Cool It Off This Summer With Easy Breezy D’lish Recipes

Summer is the perfect time for some outdoor cooking that’s light on the effort, cool on the body, and heavy on taste

Keep the cooking simple this summer

Summer cooking is all about keeping things light and fresh. It’s about embracing the vibrant produce that the season has to offer and enjoying the process of creating meals. The long, languid days bring with them the perfect occasion to explore the world of outdoor cooking that isn’t complex or time-consuming. Simple ingredients, when combined well, can lead to the most delightful dishes. Fresh fruits, colorful vegetables, and lean proteins can be transformed into sumptuous meals with a few simple techniques and a little creativity.

To help create some easy recipes, I turned to Vasanti, whom I met a year ago when she was teaching a cooking class at my husband’s company. She describes her blog, Signature Concoctions, and her cookbook as a modern take on Indian cuisine using new techniques and fresh ingredients while staying true to its authenticity. Recently, she launched a new product, d’lish Savory Peanut Butter, a sweet, spicy blend. It has a gorgeous orange-red color from Kashmiri red chilies, a wonderful warm flavor from the cumin seeds, and a nice kick of heat from spicy red chilies.

Here I share Vasanti’s recipes for an ideal summer meal that mirrors the light, playful, and relaxed feel of a perfect summer day. And, more often than not, it’s best enjoyed in the open air, surrounded by friends and family.

Ginger & Sesame Peanut Salad Dressing

Ginger & sesame peanut salad dressing using d’lish Savory Peanut Butter (Image courtesy: Signature Concoctions)


1 serving

For the Dressing

  • 2 tbsp d’lish Savory Peanut Butter

  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled, smashed and minced

  • ½ medium lemon/lime, juiced (about 2 tbsp)

  • 2-3 tbsp sesame seed oil or any neutral oil of choice

  • 1 tbsp honey, optional

  • Salt, to taste

  • Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

For the Salad

  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage

  • 1 cup shredded green/Napa cabbage

  • ¾ cup cooked and shelled edamame

  • ¾ cup shredded carrots

  • 2 baby or Persian cucumbers, coined

  • 5-6 fresh baby corn, sliced and bias-cut

  • 1 cup sliced or cubed rotisserie chicken, optional


  1. Start by making the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing (be sure the peanut butter is dissolved). Set aside.

  2. Combine all of the salad veggies in a medium bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss well.

  3. Let the tossed salad sit for at least ten minutes so the vegetables have a chance to soak up the dressing. Adjust seasoning if needed.

  4. Serve cold.

  5. Leftovers stored in an airtight container will keep fresh in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

  6. The dressing can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Chicken Tikka Naan Tacos

The classic Mexican taco dish with a desi twist. (Image courtesy: Signature Concoctions)

Serves 2 dinner portions or 4 small portions

The classic Mexican taco with an Indian spin. It’s a versatile recipe, you can use any kind of protein you like – paneer, tofu, fish, shrimp, or even boiled eggs to make the tikka! They are perfect for summer grilling and entertaining. You can even set a bar with all the fixings and people can help themselves.


  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts, if you prefer), cut into about 1-2 inch pieces big enough to stay on the grill

For the Marinade

  • 3/4th cup yogurt (strained or Greek)

  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (for homemade paste, mince 1-2 garlic cloves and 1-inch piece of ginger)

  • 1/2 a lemon, juiced

  • 1 tbsp Tandoori Chicken Masala

  • Salt (if needed, as the Tandoori Masala has salt in it)

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper or red chili powder (optional, for desired level of heat)

For the Cilantro-Mint Yogurt Dressing

  • 3/4th cup yogurt

  • 1 Thai/bird-eye chili (optional)

  • A handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

  • A handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

  • Salt, to taste

  • Fresh ground black pepper

  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar

For the Tacos

  • 1 small red onion, sliced

  • 1 cup shredded cabbage

  • 1 small green pepper, sliced (optional)

  • Lemon wedges (optional)

  • Tandoori naan (store-bought or frozen)


Marinating the Chicken

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Adjust salt or spice level and then toss in the chicken pieces. Make sure the chicken is coated evenly with the marinade. Seal with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

Preparing the Cilantro-Mint Yogurt Dressing

  1. In a mini food processor, mix the ingredients for the dressing. Adjust seasonings and refrigerate until ready to use.

Grilling the Chicken

  1. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat.

  2. Using a pair of tongs, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, and shake off excess marinade. If you want, you can thread the chicken onto skewers. Grill the chicken on the first side for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and repeat cooking on the second side. Brush the breasts with ghee or oil right after flipping.

  3. Remove the chicken from the grill onto a platter. Let it rest for about 5 mins. You can serve the chicken tikka at this point along with the yogurt dressing as an appetizer.

Assembling the Tacos

  1. Heat the tandoori roti or naan on the grill or in the oven.

  2. Place the roti or naan on a plate. Lay 4-5 chicken tikka pieces over it. Add a splash of lemon juice, if you like. Place onions, cabbage, and green peppers (if using) over the chicken and drizzle the yogurt dressing over it.

Serve immediately.

Roasted Strawberry Gin & Lime Cocktail

Coolest Cocktail Ever: Roasted strawberries in gin & lime. (Image courtesy: Signature Concoctions)

Summertime in a glass – delicious and so refreshing!

The roasting technique for strawberries is a great way to get the most out of their sweet-tart flavor; it also makes for the most amazing purée that has a great depth of color and flavor along with a hint of smokiness that comes from roasting the berries.


For every serving

  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup/59 ml) roasted strawberry purée

  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup/59 ml) gin (rose gin recommended) or you can also use vodka as a substitute

  • 1 oz. (1/8 cup/29.5 ml) lime juice (about 1/2 a juicy lime)

  • Agave nectar, honey, or simple syrup, to taste

  • 1 cup ice

  • Tonic water or club soda

  • Lime slices, for garnish

  • Slit strawberries, for garnish

Making the Roasted Strawberry purée

  • To make the purée, simply quarter a pint (about 2 cups) of strawberries and transfer them to an ovenproof baking dish or tray.

Optional suggestions: Toss strawberries with granulated or brown sugar; drizzle a teaspoon of vanilla extract, balsamic, or any other fruity vinegar. Stir in herbs like thyme or basil, and spices like green cardamom seeds or black peppercorns

  • Roast at 375 °F (190 °C) for 25-30 mins.

  • Cool completely and then purée in a blender/food processor.

  • If you prefer no seeds, you can strain this through a fine mesh sieve, but this is completely optional.

  • Transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Making the Cocktail

  1. Add the roasted strawberry purée, gin, lime juice, agave nectar/honey/simple syrup, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well. Pour mixture into glasses and top with tonic water or club soda.

  2. Garnish with a slice of lime and slit strawberries on the rim of the cocktail glass.


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