Capers are not just for garnish you know. They have another, secret personality. Fry them. Yes, that’s right. They blossom like little flowers and are delicious. And you can use the cooking oil for a vinaigrette. Take a handful of capers and dry well on paper towels. Let air dry a few minutes while oil is heating. Use whatever oil you like, the little buds aren’t going to cook that long so smoke point isn’t a real issue. When the oil is hot enough(drop a breadcrumb into the oil, if it sizzles, it is hot enough), add a few capers at a time. Don’t add all at once, they will splatter and burn you. Also they will reduce the temperature of the oil too much and you won’t get a nice crunch on your finished product. As they cook, they will open. When they all look opened, scoop them out of the oil with a slotted spoon. Place on paper towels to drain. Repeat until all the capers are done. Serve. They go quick. Any leftovers? There’s always that garnish.

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Sweet, salty, crunchy and three ingredients. Pitted dates, almonds or nut of your choice, prosciutto or bacon slices. Amen. Involves an itty bitty bit of cooking. Preheat oven to 400 or use broiler if you prefer. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Slice dates in half. Place nut in center. Cut lengthwise slices of the prosciutto. Don’t stress if the prosciutto tears, just mend the slices together and wrap tightly around the date and nut as shown. Lay on pan. Can be prepared to this point ahead of time and refrigerated. When ready to serve, cook until prosciutto is crispy. Let cool a bit so that your guests don’t burn their mouths. Enjoy. Pinot Grigio goes well.

Corn Chowder “Caviar”. In August, nothing says farm to table better than corn. But, when it is 80 with a real feel of 90, the last thing you want to eat is chowder of any variety. So, I give you corn chowder caviar minus the chowder. What you need per ear of corn off the cob: 2 slices of prosciutto (or bacon), 1/2 stalk of celery, a scallion, a pinch of paprika, salt and pepper to taste, a splash of olive oil, a splash of heavy cream (optional), a pinch of dried tarragon (optional) and corn chips for serving. Place the prosciutto (or bacon) on a pan and place into a 400 degree oven and cook until crispy. Chop into small bits and add to a bowl with the corn. Finely chop the celery and add to the same bowl. Finely chop the scallion both white and green parts keeping green parts separate for garnish, and rinse in some cold water for a few minutes. Allow to drain and add to corn-prosciutto-celery mix. Add a pinch of paprika, the heavy cream and tarragon if using, and the salt and pepper to taste. Toss with a bit of olive oil. Place on a corn chip to serve. Top with scallion greens. And as it is a “caviar”, serve it with some bubbly or chilled vodka, in a martini glass, with a twist.

Heavenly Halloumi and how to have it. What the heck, you ask, is halloumi? It is a goat-sheep’s milk cheese that has been brined. You can find it at stores that specialize in Middle Eastern products and better cheese markets (think Murray’s or Whole Foods). And it is divine. The best way to eat it is to drain and pat it dry, slice it, brown it on a non stick pan or grill, top it with a pepper jelly or a fig jelly or even honey, slice it into cubes, and skewer. You can even have slices for breakfast topped with syrup and maybe some nuts. Store uncooked leftovers in water until ready to use again. Cyprus is home to this cheese, so for the not so faint of heart, maybe a glass of arak or Pernod to go with it, but I just drink wine. Color optional.

Ricotta Salata. It’s good for more than shaving over watermelon salad. The idea for this little 3 ingredient treat comes from the imagination of my dear friend, Ann Fegan. She thinly slices Ricotta Salata, which in many cases comes in the desired triangular shape, tops with pesto, and adds chopped walnuts. Creamy, salty, with a bit of crunch. Ticks all the boxes. You can make your own pesto which is a very simple thing to do especially with basil very much in season, or purchase a small jar of ready made. You can use whatever nuts you have on hand, or chop a mixture. Here I am using pignoli, but use whatever you like. If you don’t like pesto or you don’t have it, no problem. You can top with any type of spread (many of which are available in small jars) such as sun dried tomato, tapenade, artichoke, you get the idea. If you don’t like nuts, top with fennel seed or cumin seed, toasted if you want-something that will give a bit of crunch. Add a glass of wine.

Tis Tomato Time. What is the first thing you think of? Yep, Caprese Salad. But just simple Caprese Salad. No balsamic, no onions, no capers, no bread on the plate. Great in season tomatoes, Heirlooms, different colors and shapes. Best mozzarella. Torn basil. Olive oil. Flaky sea salt (Maldon if you can find it) and pepper to taste. Period. Cut tomatoes into rounds, quarters, slices–vary the shape, they look beautiful on the plate. Then take the mozzarella and tear it into pieces, don’t cut it. Next, olive oil to taste. Scatter torn basil pieces over top. Finally, add the sea salt and pepper to taste. Too hot to cook? Make the salad bigger and serve for dinner, maybe with some fresh bread on the side and a plate of prosciutto and cheese. In any case, don’t forget the wine.

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Multipurpose Marinated Mushrooms. These are more than a nibble or a bit. They can actually can be used as is, as a sauce, a spread, or eaten with a spoon out of the jar. This recipe requires an overnight rest before eating, but the result is worth the wait. You will need a box of white mushrooms, generally speaking they are about 10 ounces (you can get fancy if you want, I am just giving you the basics), 1/3 cup best olive oil you have, 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, a clove of garlic minced or shaved over a microplane if you prefer, a pinch of red pepper flakes or more for a bit of heat, 1 Teaspoon of fresh thyme, salt, and parsley for finishing. First off, if your mushrooms are large as those shown in the photograph are, halve or quarter them, if not, leave them whole. Bring a pot of water to boil and add about 2 Teaspoons of salt. Drop mushrooms into the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to drain and cool. Meanwhile, make the marinade. In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, pepper flakes, thyme, and salt. Taste and add more of what you feel it needs to suit your taste. When mushrooms are cooled, press the excess moisture out using a paper towel. Don’t mush them, you want them to retain their shape as much as possible. Add them to a bowl along with the marinade and combine all. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature for serving and top with parsley to finish. They can be served skewered with a toothpick, chopped to be used as crostini, tossed with cooked pasta and a bit of the pasta water and maybe the yolk of an egg if you are adventuresome, they can be pulsed and made into a spread for crackers, they can be used as a topping for pizza Bianca with maybe a bit of sausage crumbles and some caramelized onions, or used just as part of an antipasto plate. A glass of Beaujolais? Yes please!

Another 3-4 ingredient nibble for really hot and muggy days, like today. Serve with an icy glass of Pernod or a white wine as long as it is cold. Your ingredient list? some good Greek yogurt (or labney if you have it), some chopped herbs: parsley, chives, thyme, whatever you like, salt and pepper and other dried spices to your taste and or liking, a splash of extra virgin olive oil, and some toasted walnuts for crunch. Serve with gluten free crackers (like Mary’s) or pita. And the recipe is? In a bowl, combine yogurt and chopped herbs along with salt and pepper and other spices if using and spread mixture onto a plate. Top with olive oil and toasted nuts. Done. If it is just too hot to toast the nuts, don’t bother. It will still be yummy. Just make sure your libations are chilled. Baby, it’s hot outside.

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Simple Starter Scallop Ceviche. Ceviche is fish cooked in a citrus acid or vinegar and can be prepared with different varieties of fish and a multitude of ingredients and techniques, but this is basic, simple, and fresh, and all the ingredients are easy to come by. You will need sea scallops (plan on one per person), the zest and juice of one lime, 1/2 Serrano pepper or Jalapeño pepper or whatever pepper you want for heat (or keep it heat free if that is your preference and use 1/4 slice red bell pepper cut into small dice), a slice of red onion-diced, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. First, slice your scallops across to make three small discs holding your hand on top of the scallop to make even cuts. Then cut each disc into cubes; try to get nine per disc as shown. Add the lime zest to the cubes. Save the juice for finishing. Add the chopped onion. Slice the pepper into small rounds and then chop finely. Add the amount you want for desired heat to the mix. If serving later, cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you are serving right away, add 1/2 the reserved lime juice and the salt and pepper and taste. If you want more tang, add more lime juice. The scallops will start to cure immediately, the longer they sit, the more “cooked” they become. Tear pieces of the mint and scatter over the ceviche. Stir well. Serve on a tortilla chip, on a small spoon, or even on a potato chip. It all works. One more thing, if you don’t like or can’t eat scallops, you can make this with any non oily fish using the same technique. Or if shrimp is your thing, just blanch the shrimp (cook in boiling water until shrimp turns pink and rinse in ice water to stop the cooking), chop into bite sized pieces and add the rest of the ingredients. Cocktails, anyone?