Summer -- the farmers' markets are bursting with fresh fruits, heavenly herbs and vividly colored veg., all ripe and ready to drop into recipes. But the easiest summer food is food you don't have to cook. Instead of turning on the oven, reach inside your fridge for the best fruits and veg. of the summer. Ice Pops It's nice to have something cold and fruity in your hand when it's a scorcher outside, and nothing beats ice pops.
When I was a kid, my lovely Nan and granddad ran a village pub in Essex, England. Every year at the start of summer, they used to send me a huge box of about 200 ice pops. We'd store the pops in a big chest freezer outside the storage shed. This made me quite popular with the local kids -- so much so, in fact, that my supplies would dwindle quickly, so I started to make my own ice pops.
Here's all you need to make some of your own: Buy a couple of those cheap plastic ice pop sets -- you can find them in most kitchen shops. Reach into your fridge, pull out the freshest fruits you have, and squeeze the juice out of them. Easier yet, dip into the ready-made apple juice, orange juice, pineapple juice or lemonade (I find cocktail combinations also work nicely for the adults -- hard cider makes really tasty ice pops!). You can even raid the kid's juice boxes if you want; just use the fruitiest stuff you can find. Now, fill up the pop sets with your chosen juice and put the sticks in before freezing.
But you don't have to run out to the storage shed to get them -- just keep the pops handy in your fridge's freezer section. That's it! You'll be the most popular kid on the block, bar none. For a little variety, throw some fresh strawberries or bananas into your pops before freezing. Or, if you're having a party and want a delicious and attractive treat for your guests, add a few edible flowers such as violets or nasturtiums before freezing. It's a fantastic way to get creative with your pops and impress your mates. The Easiest Salad in the World Apart from being a great combination, this recipe is a constant success due to the common-sense marriage of salty Parma ham, milky buffalo mozzarella and sweet figs, which need to be of superb quality.
The best figs to use are Italian, and the best time to buy them is from June to August, when they're in season. Greek figs are also good; they're in season from September to November. Or, if figs aren't your forte, you can use fresh peaches instead. Choose figs that look like they're about to split their skins.
Use green or black -- it doesn't matter. But do keep them fresh. I store figs and greens in a humidity-controlled Garden Fresh crisper drawer. It's easy for me to see how many figs and greens I have left with the crisper drawers right at eye level.
I use a knife to crisscross the figs, but not quite to the bottom -- one fig per person is always a good start. Then, using your thumbs and forefingers, squeeze the base of the fig to expose the inside. This will allow your dressing to get right into the middle of the fig. Simply place the figs in a dish, wave around one slice of Parma ham or prosciutto per fig, throw in some slices of buffalo mozzarella, rip over some leaves of green or purple basil and drizzle everything with a heavenly dressing. I use a honey and lemon dressing concoction -- just mix six tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, three tablespoons lemon juice, and a tablespoon of honey with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve with some spare bread on the table to mop up the juices.
There you have it -- easy, simple, fresh and seasonal. Always a treat, especially if you top it off with ice pops for dessert.