watermelonolivesaladFoodBlogga Etiquette Tip #43: At dinner, never discuss politics, religion, or the issue of fruit on salad.

I was at dinner with friends recently where they served a delightful mesclun salad with fresh strawberries and parmesan cheese. Well, I thought it was delightful; my dinner companions disagreed.

As we were discussing benign topics such as the recent weather, I pointed out to one of my friends that she hadn't eaten any of her strawberries. "Don't you like strawberries?" I asked her. "Oh yes, I love strawberries," she replied, "but not on salad."

What was it she didn't like? Were the berries too sweet? Was it the mixing of vinegar and fruit? Her response: “I just don’t like fruit on salad.”

This sparked a surprisingly intense discussion. I can understand how some people hate cilantro because it tastes like soap to them, but strawberries or apple slices? One friend called diced melon on salad “just wrong,” while another declared, “strawberries belong on cereal not on salad.”

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compote2.jpgStrawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are coming into season and what a good season it is! There is nothing like the freshness of local produce, the best of summer’s offerings, and the memorable taste these fruits create. Unless, though, you can eat pints of fresh berries every day, these delicacies of nature are not long lived on the shelf…YET…there is a way to enjoy their flavor for days in a variety of ways!

A conserve is similar to a jam, yet this method of conserving fruit differs from jam and jelly, since a conserve (con, like a criminal – serve, as in time – ha!) usually contains the whole fruit rather than the juice only. Easy as pie (and delicious on a pie), conserves are a quick fix to a plethora of produce.

Taking the strawberries and blackberries I had left over and just could not finish, I added the berries into a small pot (large pot for larger quantities) set on medium heat. Once the berries hit the heat, they begin to release their juices and natural sugars and your kitchen will begin to smell divine. A dip of water, a splash of sugar, a squeeze of lemon, and a hint of good vanilla are all you need to complete this delicacy. Bring the concoction to a boil for a few minutes, stir around, and remove it from the heat and your conserve is complete.

Now how to eat this treat is probably the toughest part, for it is fabulous on cake and ice cream, zippy as a vinaigrette, or delectable as a seasonal marinade. Of course, in making such a tough decision of how to enjoy your conserve, this Farmer recommends you simply try all the options thus allowing your palette to be your gage.

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Lemonade22240I’ve got this Meyer lemon tree in my yard that is dripping with fruit. With a sudden burst of culinary energy (for some reason I’m channeling Rachael Ray) I am doing a lemon project this week, finally committed to using my harvest for something other than dog toys.

First, of course, I made lemonade. While I have often advised my kids (much to their irritation) to make lemonade out of lemons, I have rarely taken that advice myself, at least not literally. I had no idea how much sugar is in the stuff. No wonder it’s so addictive. Best rush since the Easter egg hunt.

I decided to make a couple of lemonade variations that would cut the sugar and add interest. Voila: Chamomile Arnold Palmers and Cucumber Mint Lemonade. Love that basic Meyer Lemonade, but if the sugar has you bouncing like a pinball, try one of its slightly less sweet cousins.

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picnicwrapWith our year-round temperate San Diego climate, we have picnicked in November, in March, and many months in between. But like chilled watermelon, slushy lemonade, and buttery ears of sweet corn, picnics taste best in the summer months.

That's why last weekend Jeff and I went on our first summertime picnic. I could tell you about the weather (grey skies) or the view (choppy ocean waters), but I think you'd be more interested in the food. I was. 

We brought a bottle of chilled pinot grigio, a salad of heirloom tomatoes, fresh corn kernels, basil, and olives, and eggplant, asparagus, and smoked mozzarella sandwich wraps with red pepper mayo. Dessert was simple: juicy, sweet fresh cherries from the farmers' market.  

When it comes to vegetarian sandwich wraps there's much more than just hummus, tomatoes, and sprouts. With creamy eggplant, crisp asparagus, and smoky mozzarella cheese, these healthy picnic wraps taste like warm rolled up pizzas but without all the fat and calories.

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zucchinibread.jpgJeff meets a lot of interesting people in his dermatology practice, like Mr. Petroni (not his real name). They hit it off instantly – they're both native New Englanders with Italian names and a fondness for meatball sangwiches. (It also helped that Jeff fixed his rash.)

After one of Mr. Petroni's visits, Jeff discovered a small package wrapped in crinkly green cellophane on his desk. A handwritten note was attached; its shaky inscription read: To a great doctor. Thank you for making my husband feel better. I hope you and your wife enjoy the zucchini bread. Sincerely, Mrs. Petroni.

Jeff was touched that this elderly Italian woman, whom he had never met, would bake him a loaf of bread. As he toasted a slice for breakfast the following morning, he offered me one. I declined; I wasn't that hungry. Jeff ate the bread, murmuring contentedly, licking his index finger periodically to pick up the crumbs that fell on to the plate. "Sue, you gotta try this," he persisted.


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