Summer is a time for easy apps, ones that are simple, quick and fresh. They speak to blue-sky days and flipflop style. Chilled (i.e., dips, ceviche) or room temperature nibbles are ideal, especially those featuring fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs. Even those of us living in fog-draped regions appreciate refreshing bites.
A bit of assembly is all it takes for these flavorful mouthfuls adapted from the cookbook “Entertaining Sun Valley Style”, a gift from my friend Sally Gillespie, herself an accomplished cook. She was involved with pulling the project together, along with a tireless team of staff and volunteers, while serving as Executive Director of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. Each July (this year, July 20-22nd), top chefs and winemakers from across the country gather for the culinary fund-raising festival that is the Sun Valley Center Wine Auction and this book (plus 50% of the Center’s annual operating budget) is the impressive result.
I love every recipe in the lead-in section, which features appetizers for a wine-tasting party. Bruschetta with strawberries and tomatoes, pistachio-crusted sea scallops, asparagus wrapped with crispy pancetta, a ‘martini tartare’ and chilled summer soups served in shot glasses are both pretty and perfectly accessible for any level of cook.
For their Local Heirloom Melon with Duck Prosciutto recipe, don’t be alarmed by the ingredients; you can keep it simple and buy whatever melon smells the best at the market, as well as whatever prosciutto you can find. Fresh picked mint is key to both presentation and flavor. (If your mint is fresh enough you can forego the prosciutto, as I did recently in deference to our resident vegan.)
Using a melon baller, carve balls from one melon. Wrap each melon ball with a section (the amount depends on your taste) of prosciutto, then place a mint leaf on top and impale the ensemble with a skewer or toothpick. The recipe calls for a drizzle of saba (a reduction of grape must, available at some specialty shops). If you can't find saba or are too lazy to look, you could use balsamic glaze or nothing at all.
Easy, breezy, as they say, and best of all it can be assembled in the morning and refrigerated ’til the doorbell rings.