by Chrysa Smith
I know. I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s not officially summer yet, and the official frost date for the Delaware Valley just passed this week. Shh! I’ve had my veggies and flowers planted for weeks. And they don’t seem to mind.

But come on. It’s been a long, snow-laden time coming. To me, by now, it might as well be July. Flip-flops, pedicures and my summer recipes have been front and center since April.

So, while the tomato plants are still growing in the garden, pick up a few of the darkest, juiciest red varieties you can find and make yourself this favorite salad of mine, compliments of Martha Stewart. It really is best on the summer tomato, but is still pretty darn tasty on the almost ripe fruit. If you can, while you’re patiently waiting for the best tomatoes to ripen, get yourself an ‘ugly tomato’–they come in a white netted covering and can be found at better produce outlets and grocery stores. They’re better than the vine ripened variety—at least to me. There’s a bit more true tomato flavor. The Worcestershire sauce and ketchup in Martha’s recpe really gives a nice BBQ kick as a side dish for a nice London Broil or grilled chicken.

And speaking of grilled chicken, it just happens to be another year round favorite, but in the summer, it gets seasoned with Herbs de Provence. If you’re ambitious, here’s a good recipe: If not, go to the local larder or well-stocked grocery and pick some up in the spice aisle. It’s a combo of the old-favorites, combined with a little lavender. If you take your cutlets, brush them with a little olive oil and then add some salt, pepper, lemon juice and a nice coating of herbs de provence, let them sit for an hour or more. It gives a great flavor to the chicken. In fact, great enough flavor to add to a nice pesto dish.

If your basil isn’t large enough yet to yield what’s necessary for pesto, you can always pick some up at the local grocery store—-enough to make delicious pesto in a snap. It’s easy as pie, with a blender or food processor, some pantry staples and a bit of pine nuts. Check out the Barefoot Contessa’s simple and quick recipe. No cooking required—well, not for the pesto; 10 minutes for the pasta. Just blend all of the ingredients and toss with your favorite pasta and topping: chicken, shrimp, salmon, crab, lobster or even veggies (if you’re a protein-purist)—-the sky’s the limit here.

I live on these and salads with steak, chicken, seafood during the summer. A bottle of white, a baguette, some soulful music in the background and dinner on the deck is—–well, it’s warm weather magic. What could be better? Only a dinner on the beach—and I’m not sure what the beach patrol has to say about that.

Next Dish: The Spice of Life