An Easy (no, REALLY) Summer Dinner Party: Melissa@Market

| July 19, 2011

Disclaimer: First, Patty wrote that article about popsicles last week.  Now, I’m writing about melons. What’s next?  Sausages?!  By the time ZomppaB and ZomppaKat return from the Camino our only readers may be 13-year old boys.  B and Kat- dreadfully sorry, but here we go! What can I say? I love my melons.

Does it ever irk you when you read about how “easy” summer entertaining is?  When people come to my house, it’s never “easy”.  It involves cooking and cleaning and trash and dishes and, these days, screaming children.  Not that I don’t enjoy it, but it’s not like you’d catch me saying, “I’m exhausted.  What can I engage in that’s a simple activity?  Ah, yes!  A dinner party!”  C’mon.  Let’s get real.  Inviting people over needs to be balance of fun and hospitality.  Too little of one or the other and people go home either tense or hungry.  The host has to be the right mix of prepared but still perky.

Recently, I decided to invite a few girlfriends over for a mid-week dinner.  I didn’t have countless hours to spend on elaborate dishes, but thanks to some savvy farmer’s market shopping, I did have a plethora of perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables at my disposal.  Here’s what I threw together in under 2 hours to feed 10 people and still enjoy myself in their company (read: maintain my sanity).  I have to admit, it *was* kind of easy.  (Erasing the memories of 1 1/2 year olds poking sticks into my thighs and dumping the entire contents of my dog’s dish on the kitchen floor, not so much. There’s only so far easy cooking can carry you.)

  • Strawberry Sipper: When I made this back in June, I doubled the recipe (minus the wine) and froze half.  It thawed out perfectly.  This time I served it without wine.  Still tasty.  I also had sparkling water with limes and an assortment of beer and wine.
  • Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella stacks:  All fresh from the farmer’s market and in season.  I cut the tomatoes and cheese to a similar size round, stacked them, sprinkled with chopped basil, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt/pepper.
  • Kale chips: Everyone has their own way of making kale chips.  I broke off the leaves from the steam, drizzled and tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and hot pepper flakes.  Baked in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until desired crispness.
  • An antipasti platter: cured meats, cheeses (I usually choose 4- a blue, a goat, a hard and something fun), olives, almonds and crackers/baguette slices.
  • The melon salad recipe below.
  • A simple green salad: Personally, I love the organic field greens mixed with herbs sold at most markets.  I used a basic salad dressing recipe like these composed of shallots, white wine vinegar, olive oil and dijon mustard.  The only other thing I added to the salad was a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
  • Dessert.  You must wow with dessert.  There is no way around it.  People will remember what you feed them last.  They will write on your Facebook page thanking you again the next day.  They will forget that they really did love the kale chips.  The comments will all be on dessert.  Since our spread was so light, I went full throttle and whipped out my favorite Barefoot Contessa chocolate cake recipe.  It has brought grown men to their knees.  Seriously.  That good.  (Note: I leave out the coffee powder and egg yolk in the frosting.  Still, earth-shattering.  And much easier.)


I feel a little sheepish even calling this a “recipe”.  It’s five ingredients in a bowl.  Still, it looks gorgeous and tastes delicious and that’s pretty much all that counts in this dirty, stinkin’ world.  It would be equally lovely at a brunch or breakfast.

Melon, Ham and Basil Salad

Adapted from a Washington Post Recipe by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick


2-4 ounces of organic ham (or prosciutto/speck, etc), cut into small strips

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

approx. 2 tablespoons olive oil (use high-quality since you’re not heating it)

2 typical-size melons (preferably cantaloupe or a similar heritage melon), seeded and flesh removed and cubed

Pepper/Salt, to taste (depending on the ham product you use, you may need no salt at all)



1.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl except salt/pepper.  Use a spoon or your fingers to gently combine.  Make sure ham pieces are separated when tossing.

2.  Taste.  Season with salt/pepper as needed.

3.  Self-congratulate yourself on easy, yet gorgeous, dish.  Enjoy those melons.


Category: Appetizers, Breakfast/Brunch, Featured, Melissa@Market, Recipe Vault, Sides, Sauces, and Breads

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Comments (5)

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  1. Belinda says:

    Is it wrongo love your melons too?

  2. Lovely summer menu and the melon ham salad sounds wonderfully refreshing!

  3. Melissa says:

    @B- Getting a little lonely on the Camino, are you?

  4. Patty says:

    LOL! The melons and a perky host – sounds like my kind of gathering. Lovely menu, Melissa!

  5. This looks like a perfect meal! I’m glad you reminded me of your strawberry sipper recipe – I had been meaning to try it but June was kind of a lost month around here. Cool that it freezes well! And the melon salad is my kind of recipe.