Beat the heat with this quick-cooking skillet of garlicky beans, broccoli and pesto


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 minimize 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 Delicious 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.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

Serve with quinoa, brown rice or bread, if you like.



1/2 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)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste


1 head broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), thick stalk removed

Boiling water

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced

3 cups (from two 15-ounce cans) lima beans (may substitute chickpeas or any white beans), drained and rinsed

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small zucchini (4 ounces), coarsely grated

1 tablespoon pure plain coconut yogurt (optional; may substitute plain dairy yogurt)

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste


Step 1

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.

Step 2

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, 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

Step 3

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broccoli, lima beans and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pesto, zucchini, yogurt (if using), zest and pepper. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve warm.

The nutritional analysis is based on 6 servings.

Adapted from “Deliciously Ella: Quick & Easy” by Ella Mills (Mobius, 2020).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to

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Step 4


Calories: 320; Total Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 569 mg; Carbohydrates: 30 g; Dietary Fiber: 10 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 12 g.