Summer

stuffedsummersquash.jpgEveryone loves summer squash and zucchini—they're easy to cook, eat, and grow. But when you don't have the space, the farmers' market is a great place to get your favorite vegetables. I know I always leave with at least a bagful of fresh produce. Everyone recognizes long green zucchini or crook-necked yellow squash, but there are so many more shapes and sizes to choose from. And each size or shape lends itself to different ways of cooking, but one of my favorites is stuffing them.

Squash aren't just for sautéing or steaming. These round summer squash, once roasted, are the perfect vehicle for a number of different fillings. Serve these little packages as appetizers at a summer party or for a family dinner. Meat fillings are always popular, like ground beef or pork. But during summer, when you're not in the mood for a heavy meal, a vegetarian option is always a pleasant respite from all the steaks and hamburgers.

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mattbites_cobbler_2.jpgWith the peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots trickling into the market it’s hard to resist the temptation to eat them everyday–at least for me it is. It’s as if I enter this stone fruit frenzy, forsaking my usual selection of fruits and vegetables in order indulge on insanely delicious peaches 4 or 5 times a day. Can you blame me? What is more pleasurable than a hefty peach enjoyed over the kitchen sink, juicy syrup running down your arms? Nothing I tell you!

(That actually reminds me of a friend I know who takes her peaches and mangos into the shower with her. Kind of clever I think, if not a bit strange. But like I have room to call anyone strange.)

I have a soft spot for all sorts of peach cobblers, pies, crumbles, krumps and slumps. Something about crust, dumpling or biscuit dough and peaches mixed together makes me weak in the knees.

Oh, and I’m kidding about the krump thrown in there to see if you were paying attention. But really, you oughtta see me throw down with a clown suit and some hip hop. Call Mr. LaChapelle now.

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salmontacoTo be honest, I haven't been feeling very inspired in the kitchen lately. I've been busy with lots of things including travel, and when I'm home I've been trying to eat the food in the freezer since it is on the verge of overflowing. But yesterday I was at the store and I found local king salmon on sale and some beautiful white corn. I thought about the mango I had and just like that, a plan came together.

Sometimes ingredients speak to you and the lightbulb goes off. I diced the mango to serve with dessert a few nights before but it was firm and a little too sour. That's not good for dessert but it's excellent for salsa. The salsa can be used with chips, with roast chicken or scallops. It's actually pretty good without the tomatoes too. I was a little undecided as to which way I preferred it, so try it both ways and you tell me which you like better!

This recipe has a lot of parts, but you can make the salsa and the sauce for drizzling ahead of time. You can even use already cooked salmon if that's what you have on hand. Even though it's cooked on the stove and not on the grill, it really tastes like summer--the fresh corn, tomatoes and salmon look like summer too. Here's to a little summery inspiration!

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rhubarbcompoteWhen I was a kid, rhubarb season was usually a couple of months long. You didn't have to buy it at the market because half of your neighbors grew it in their yards.

I remember going to my great aunt's house where those crimson stalks stood at attention along the side of her house. I'd rip one right of the ground and bite into it like it was a carrot. I'd do it till my eyes watered, my lips went numb, and my belly turned sour. Ah, those were good days.

Since my belly isn't as steely as it used to be, I forego raw rhubarb for stewed, sweetened dishes like crumbles, crisps, and compotes. I have made many rhubarb compotes, but this one is special. The rhubarb is tempered by sugar and enhanced by freshly squeezed orange juice, aromatic ginger, and sweet blueberries.

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cherries.jpgFor the last couple of weeks, I have been unusually happy. It's not the weather or exercise or Prozac. It's cherries. Here's the deal with cherries: their season is ridiculously short, their price is ridiculously high, but the flavor is ridiculously delicious. Who can deny the pure pleasure of eating a sweet-tart, fresh, juicy cherry? It is prime cherry pickin' time. So here's what you need to know about selecting, storing, and cooking with cherries.

When is cherry season?
Most cherries are in season from late May through late July. The season is short: typically 4-5 weeks, peaking at about week 3.

Why are cherries so expensive?

For good reasons: Cherries are highly dependent upon good weather; they're also highly susceptible to insect damage and disease and often require protection from netting or cheesecloth, which is time consuming for farm workers. Finally, they must be picked carefully and are highly perishable since they do not ripen once harvested. This all adds up to a labor intensive and expensive fruit to produce, which is why the price is high. Don't wait for a big sale on cherries; it might not come. If you love them – and you know you do – then just splurge.

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