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June 2002 Issue
Welcome Summer
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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Summer is on the way . . . Regardless of what the weather actually feels like! June is here, can July and August be far behind????

We've had a strange spring to say the least. There are some here who say the two or three days of good weather we've experienced are about the only ones we'll see. "Summer has been and gone!" they aver.

Never one to "go with the flow", I hold out hope that summer is still to visit us. Sure we've had some good weather AND some not so good. But visions of days baking under the sun still persist in my mind.

And so, with that in mind, I'm thinking of back yard BBQs and all kinds of warm weather food -- big juicy slices of watermelon, ice cream, fruit ices, lots of tall fizzy drinks, lovely garden fresh vegetables on the grill or in salads, and fresh field berries with crème fraiche. I make a pretty close approximation of the European "crème fraiche" this way: Simply blend together equal parts of 35% cream and sour cream till they're well amalgamated. Cover loosely and leave in a warm-ish place for 24 hours (I use my microwave to keep the cats out of it). After the 24 hours, stir again and refrigerate. It keeps well for up to a week and is great as an accompaniment to fresh fruit and many other desserts you would normally use plain whipped cream for. The slightly tangy taste is a great foil for the sweetness of a berry mixture or a summer fresh fruit salad. It's also the secret ingredient in my "killer quiches" … but that's another column.

My all time favourite summer food is salad -- any kind, any time, anywhere. I sometimes make a big garden fresh tomato salad. My favourite way to make it is to cut some ripe tomatoes into rough chunks, add green onion, celery, diced yellow hot banana peppers, fresh basil, salt, pepper and olive oil. I also have lots of fresh crusty bread on hand for dipping.

My other salad choice is a salad of mixed young greens, sometimes topped with grilled chicken or fresh broiled tuna or salmon. Instead of heavy bottled dressings though, I prefer to use a vinaigrette that I make myself. It's basically two parts olive oil to one part red wine vinegar and seasonings. For instance: 150 ml red wine vinegar, 300 ml extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp dry mustard. I usually put it all in a jar, close the lid and shake well. It keeps indefinitely just in the cupboard so make a big jar of it and it'll be ready whenever you are. You can vary the flavour by changing the vinegar or oil that you use. There are so many kinds on the market these days that the possibilities are endless. Add herbs to complement whatever else you add to your salad -- tarragon or rosemary with chicken, or chopped garlic (but if you add this, then refrigerate any leftovers just to be safe).

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