Summer

melonsaladMy mom has been pairing prosciutto with cantaloupe and melons from the time when cordless phones were first introduced (you had to pull out the long telescope antenna, and could hear yourself on your radio if you stood too close).

Lately, it seems everyone is touting melons and savory cured meats as the greatest thing since the iPhone 4G. But this combo is still old skool at our house. You really can't go wrong -- melon's inherent sweetness is always deliciously magnified by the salty, savory prosciutto, no matter how much technology has changed.

This simply chic salad is a send-up to my mom's appetizer: spicy wild arugula is paired with the season's juiciest cantaloupe and watermelon for a refreshingly tangy salad that pairs beautifully with grilled fish, meat, or pasta dishes.

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mozz-onastickI don’t know if I would really call this dish a “recipe”. No need for measuring cups, measuring spoons, tons of ingredients, or chopping. I cannot tell you how many times I have thrown some fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and some basil together to enhance a meal. A little good olive oil, some balsamic, fresh ground pepper, and coarse salt creates a fresh, tasty, savory, and sweet dish.

Sometimes I will make a bruschetta and add a piece of burrata cheese. My motto – you can’t go wrong with anything that includes burrata. Even without the burrata, there is something special about this combination.

When I read that this weeks dish for French Fridays with Dorie was a salad that included a fruit, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed. Generally, I don’t really like fruit in my salad. I can’t get into watermelon with my lettuce and PLEASE, hold the mandarin oranges in my chinese chicken salad.

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squashblossoms.jpgRisotto scared me at first. My son Franklin brought a box home from a trip to Italy and it sat in the pantry for years. I had the same fear of risotto I had about cooking a duck. Both seemed to require a skill set that was beyond me.

After much hesitation, I finally took the plunge and you know what I discovered, making risotto is easy, requiring only a little more skill than making pasta.

In fact, think of risotto and pasta as two sisters. The key to both is what goes on top.

Just about everything you like with pasta will work with risotto. Most vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, and fresh herbs if sauteed first can be added to risotto just the way you'd add them to cooked pasta. And both like a bit of freshly grated cheese on top.

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eggplantbabyThe other day at Sprouts, a local grocery store, a woman saw me selecting baby eggplant.

She asked, "Do you like those?"

"Oh, I adore them," I said. "They're much sweeter and more tender than large eggplants."

"How do you cook them?" she asked.

"Lots of ways," I replied. "You can saute them, stuff them, broil them."

She screwed up her mouth, looked perplexed. "Mmmm... I don't know," she mumbled.

I scanned her shopping cart and noticed she had a bag full of baby eggplants in it. I said, "Well, you must like them too."

"Me? No, I don't really like eggplant," she said. "I only bought these cause they're just too cute to pass up."

Blame it on the cute factor — you know, when you buy something not because you love or need it but because it's too cute to pass up.

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peachpieskilletEarly August is here and the close of peach season in my neck of the woods is drawing nigh. Thankfully 'maters and peas and other summer produce will take us into an Indian Summer and then, thankfully into fall!

I have two sets of iron skillets - one set for savory cooking and one set for sweets. There's hardly anything better than a good iron skillet, but there's hardly anything worse than a peach or apple or berry pie that tastes like onions and gravy! Trust this Farmer, keep a sweet skillet handy so you don't serve onion/gravy flavored peach pie at a dinner party!

Mimi was the source - of course - of any of my iron skillet prowess. She taught me about cooking with them, in them, seasoning them and even bringing a rusty one back to life. She told me that if the house caught on fire, grab the silver and family photos - the skillets will be just fine!

So here is one of my favorite pies in an iron skillet - peach! Followed closely by apple and bringing up the rear would be my pineapple upside cake. The iron gets so hot that the cake or pies cook quickly and give your crust some crunch and substance. Besides tasting absolutely divine, these desserts are beautifully presented in their skillet caches - one less dish to wash and allows for easy reheating!

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