etonmessIf you've ever had a meringue, then you know how ethereal it can be. But combine it with cream and ripe strawberries and you have an exquisite dessert. Eton Mess takes these ingredients and jumbles them together in a mess, hence the name. The dessert hails from England's famous Eton College. As the story goes, it was either created by cheeky boys who mixed all their desserts together—and one day it happened to be strawberries, cream, and meringue—or it was invented by a crafty shopkeeper at the local food shop. However the dessert was founded, I'm glad it was invented in the first place.

I'm a big sucker for desserts with whipped cream and I'm a big fan of British desserts like trifle, so Eton Mess is easy for me to adore. The traditional way of making this "mess" is to mix all the ingredients together, but I like to layer the dessert so you can see the berries through the glass. I also tend to use more cream than other recipes specify, making this a very plush dessert. There's nothing like billowy clouds of cream enveloping crunchy cookie bits and sweet, mushy berries in this easiest and most pleasing of desserts.

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nectarinecobblerIt's that time of year again when people everywhere find themselves completely confused about crisps, crumbles, and cobblers, not to mention brown bettys, slumps, and grunts. I think I'm finally starting to remember. How 'bout you? Think you know the difference yet? Let's find out.

(Click here to cue Jeopardy music.)

1. This dessert has a dough-like crust, which can be enclosed or made as a biscuit topping.
What is a ___________.

2. This dessert is made by mixing fruit with sugar and spices and topping it with a streusel, which is a mixture of butter, sugar, flour, and nuts.
What is a ___________.

3. This dessert is made by mixing fruit of your choice with sugar and spices then topping it with a crisp mix made of butter and sugar and a binding agent such as flour or oatmeal.
What is a _____________.

OK, hands off the keyboard, folks. Let's see how you did.

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cappdetail.jpgEveryone has their favorite recipes. Whether they come from dogeared books or handwritten on yellowed paper or even crinkled laser print-outs, these recipes become favorites in the kitchen and almost become a part of us. I have several that I rely on regularly but none as much as this recipe. It’s a key player in my arsenal of recipes that first appeared in the July edition of Gourmet Magazine from 2006. I remember making it three years ago and completely falling in love with it.

A simple pasta dish of angel hair and the best, ripest tomatoes you can find (heirlooms work perfectly!) make for a really simple supper because there’s no cooking involved except for boiling the pasta. And in the dead of summer the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven or stand over a stove cooking for an hour. That’s why this is such a perfect recipe that I’ll usually make weekly from now until the end of August. It tastes like summer.

It’s pretty foolproof and it’s all about technique here. Two-thirds of the super-ripe tomatoes get diced while the rest get grated with a box grater using the large holes. Pulp, juice and chop make the sauce here and the addition of lemon juice and salt give it that zing. I’ve made it with and without the sugar, that’s mostly a matter of personal preference. The recipe also says it can be made 2 hours in advance but that’s about it. It’s meant to be enjoyed relatively quickly.

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From the LA Times

peachgaletteNothing celebrates summer quite like a fresh pie. It's as if we're taking the best the season has to offer — vibrantly colored produce practically bursting with flavor and nurtured to ripeness under a hot sun — and wrapping that bounty in a tender, flaky crust. Like a gift.

It's hard not to get excited at the sight of a great pie, whether piled high in a deep-dish plate or beautifully arranged in a shallow tart pan. Though I have to say, lately I've been leaving out the plates and pans entirely and opting for something a bit more casual with a galette. Because sometimes, or maybe always, simple is best.

Think of a galette as pie's free-form cousin. Roll the dough out, pile in the filling and gently fold up the outer edges of the dough to hold it all together. Some recipes use a type of tart dough — a sweeter, more cookie-like short crust — for the pastry. Me? I stick with a flaky pie dough — rich, buttery and not so sweet — worked a little more to give it the strength to hold the filling without the support of a dish. Rustic yet beautiful, a galette is perfection simplified. Nothing fussy about it.

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watermelonsalsa.jpgHow much watermelon does the average American consume each year? (answer below)

A. 6 pounds
B. 16 pounds
C. 38 pounds
D. 312 pounds

I love eating plain watermelon in its simple, sweet glory, but it’s also fantastic in savory dishes. The key is to pair it with contrasting flavors such as salty cheeses, bitter salad greens, acidic vinegars, or smoky grilled meats to balance the watermelon's sweetness.

In fact, why not try something different for this summer – like my new Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa? For this dish, char-grilled steak is topped with a sweet and tangy watermelon salsa and crumby Mexican cheese. This salsa is so refreshing that you may want to make extra so your guests can dunk their tortilla chips in it while they're waiting for the steak to grill.

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