Every chaat has a little bit of sweetness, a little bit of tartness, a little heat, and a little crunch. That's what makes them so fun to eat. This chaat marries the fleeting succulent sweetness of watermelon with the hearty crunch and saltiness of peanuts. "It's a very Southern combination that I thought should work," Bhatt says. "And it did." Eating watermelon with a sprinkle of salt and a dash of hot sauce is popular in chef Bhatt's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. This sweet-savory chaat recipe marries that inspiration with a sprinkle of chaat masala, a tangy spice blend often used as a seasoning for fruit in India.
Chana daal adds texture, heft, and density to this stew of tender summer squash. Adding the squash at the very end ensures it doesn't completely disintegrate before the daal is softened. "The inspiration for this recipe is doodhi chana, a stew of bottle gourd and dried split chickpeas that I grew up eating in Gujarat," chef Vishwesh Bhatt says. "I always thought it lacked the oomph of other preparations my mother made. Then I discovered ras el hanout, preserved lemons, and pomegranate molasses, which elevated the previously boring gourd to new heights." Here, they do the same for yellow squash. Added at the very end of cooking, ras el hanout, preserved lemon rind, pomegranate molasses, and fresh dill and parsley add beautiful color and flavor to the finished dish.
Sugar, cardamom, and fresh mint are all you need to transform ripe melon into a memorable dessert. Muskmelons, such as cantaloupe and honeydew, are sometimes treated like an afterthought—that's why chef Vishwesh Bhatt sometimes calls this recipe Don't Forget the Melon. "If you have the right melon that's nice and ripe, it's just so good," he says. "Summer is just the perfect time for melons. If you think they're boring, then jazz them up with this recipe. Just a tiny bit of sugar, cardamom, and fresh mint transform ripe melon into something so special you'll want to eat it over and over again." Ripe, peak-season cantaloupe, honeydew, or other muskmelon will all work beautifully here. Serve it over ice cream for an extra-special treat.
"This recipe came about as a happy accident, when my nephew mistook zucchini for cucumbers when we were making a cold cucumber soup," chef Vishwesh Bhatt says of the origins of this dish. More than a decade later, he stands by the result, which has a tangy buttermilk broth that gets subtle vegetal sweetness and a wonderfully smooth, creamy texture from the zucchini. Small, tender zucchini are perfect for this soup. If you're using bigger ones, remove the seeds, which harden a little as the squash matures, Bhatt notes. "It becomes a little less fun if you get those in the soup, as you have to chew on them, or they get stuck in your teeth." Bhatt tops the soup with vaghaar, a garnish of tempered spices and aromatics, for a final burst of aroma and flavor.
"Once the summer starts, there are inevitably big baskets of zucchini and yellow squash that we just don't know what to do with," says Oxford, Mississippi-based chef Vishwesh Bhatt. "This fricassee is a terrific place to use them. It's really light, it's really quick, and it's really easy to cook a big batch of it, making it an ideal centerpiece for summer gatherings." Fricassee is a cross between a quick sauté and a stew. This recipe calls for a habanero chile, which can be very hot but has beautiful floral notes that you can't replicate with other peppers. If you take care to remove the seeds, the heat will be more manageable. "This recipe is inspired by a dish my friend Nina Compton served us for dinner one night at her restaurant, Compere Lapin," Bhatt says. It's a great one to reach for in summer, but because good quality frozen shrimp and yellow squashes can be found year-round in grocery stores, this dish can be thrown together almost any time of the year.
The only reason you think cucumber sandwiches are boring is because you haven't had one that is made right, says chef Vishwesh Bhatt. Benedictine, a creamy spread of cucumber and herbs; along with a spicy and herbaceous peanut pesto with serrano chile, cilantro, and citrus; and chaat masala add verve to these sandwiches. And after layering in the crisp cucumbers, spicy chile slices, and juicy tomatoes, take a bite. "Once you serve this one, it's going to become a fixture at your summer parties," Bhatt says.
This next-level summer salad turns heads with its punchy charred jalapeño–and-herb-spiked dressing and a palate-perking topping of toasted crunchy coriander and cumin seeds.