It is Summer in the Kitchen

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Fresh Watermelon Salad

With summer in full swing, it’s time to focus on festive recipes for warm-weather entertaining. If there’s ever an appropriate time to be a bit over-the-top with your food presentation, the Fourth of July is it! Be it a red, white and blue trifle or an extra-flavorful watermelon salad, showcasing the color of our flag (at least in a dessert) is definitely the way to go. 

Versatile and sweet, berries make a bright addition to cakes, crisps, cobblers and countless other baked dishes. Still, when berries are truly at their peak, their flavor is perhaps best enjoyed eaten out of hand or showcased in no-bake desserts, such as this Summer Berry Trifle, where berries take center stage. If you have a star cookie cutter, use it to stamp the pound cake into star shapes for a more patriotic flare. 

Watermelon is the quintessential summer fruit. Look for smooth, symmetrical melons with no flat sides or dents. A dull, hollow sound when tapped signals that it is ripe. When it comes to summer salads, there really is no wrong combination. Since there’s such an abundance of fresh produce available, you can mix and match as you please. I love the combination of watermelon with fresh herbs, sun-ripened tomatoes and salty feta cheese. If time permits, drizzle the watermelon with a bit of the vinaigrette and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour before assembling the salad. It adds an extra flavor boost and is absolutely delicious!

This watermelon salad is the perfect summer side; it’s bright and refreshing, sweet and savory! It’s the ideal side for weeknight dinners or outdoor gatherings with family and friends. 

Fresh Watermelon Salad 

(Makes 4 servings) 

3 cups baby arugula 

1 mini watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 ½-inch chunks (about 7 cups) 1 cup thinly sliced Persian cucumber 

1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved 

1 shallot, thinly sliced (about ½ cup) 

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint 

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil 

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

¼ teaspoon kosher salt 

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

½ cup crumbled feta cheese 

¼ cup shelled pistachios, toasted walnuts or roasted cashews, chopped 

Place arugula over the bottom of a large salad bowl. Top with watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, shallot, mint and basil. 

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Drizzle over salad; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with feta and pistachios.

Summer Berry Trifle

If you are looking for a patriotic dessert to serve to a crowd, look no further! A trifle dish is used here, but you can also use a large glass punch bowl or mason jars for individual servings. 

Summer Berry Trifle 

(Makes 10 to 12 servings) 

4 cups sliced fresh strawberries and/or raspberries 

2 ½ cups fresh blueberries 

¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided use 

¼ cup fresh lemon juice 

¼ cup water 

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese or mascarpone cheese, at room temperature Grated zest from two large lemons 

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream 

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract 

One premade (1 pound) pound cake or angel food cake, cut into 1-inch cubes (8 cups total) 

Place strawberries/raspberries and blueberries in separate bowls. Sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and stir gently to coat. Set aside. 

Heat ¼ cup sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Beat cream cheese, remaining ½ cup sugar, and lemon zest in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add cream and vanilla extract and beat on low speed to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then gradually increase speed to medium and beat until smooth and the consistency of pudding. 

Cover the bottom of a 3 ½-quart trifle dish with half of the cake cubes. Drizzle with half of the lemon mixture. Top with a layer of blueberries, half of the cream cheese mixture, and then a layer of the strawberries. Repeat the cake layer, drizzling with the remaining lemon mixture. Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture and remaining berries plus any accumulated juice. 

Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or up to 24 hours before serving. Garnish with a few halved strawberries, fresh mint and grated lemon zest, if desired.

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