Savor the season

Spring, summer and fall bring warmer temps, longer days and a fresh bounty of locally grown fruits and vegetables to our tables. Yes, it’s time to savor the season and beautiful produce available this time of year.

For those of you who have been following me and enjoying my recipes each month, I hope you have started to detect a trend. In a nutshell, my food philosophy is to eat whole foods, in season when possible. I will eat almost anything (in moderation) and enjoy a variety of foods that include some meat, chicken, pasta and rice, lots of fish and veggies, some grains, and an occasional dessert. I do limit white refined flour and white sugar as much as possible.

I adhere to what I call “the three-hour diet,” whereby I try to eat something every three hours. I start with a hearty breakfast that usually includes a protein, a veggie and some grains. Mid-morning, I typically eat some fresh fruit, and for lunch a protein (fish, chicken, or beans) along with some veggies. Mid-afternoon, I’ll enjoy another piece of fruit, and for dinner, more protein and veggies. After dinner and before bed I will snack on one of the following: half an apple with peanut butter, a ½ cup of yogurt with ground flaxseed, a piece of multi-grain toast and almond butter, a ¼ cup of nuts and dried fruit, or a few crackers and cheese. I find eating these foods before bedtime helps me to fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep.

Now that May is here, I absolutely, positively will be eating as much fresh, locally grown asparagus and arugula as humanly possible. I’ll include them onto my breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. Listed are a few of my favorite recipes that incorporate these ingredients. I hope you will try and enjoy them.

Lemon and Arugula Farfalle with Feta and Basil

All the ingredients I love. It’s easy and very tasty.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 pound bite-size pasta, such as farfalle or penne
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch hot red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus juice, if desired
  • 1 heaping cup crumbled feta
  • ⅓ cup coarsely grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 4 ounces (about 4 cups) factory-washed arugula
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring 2 quarts water and a tablespoon of salt to a boil in Dutch oven or soup kettle. Add pasta and, using back-of-the-box times as a guide, cook partially covered and stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet, add garlic and chili flakes and cook on low heat until fragrant. Turn off the heat before the garlic starts to turn brown.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix basil, lemon zest, feta and Parmesan.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain (reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water) and return the pasta to the pot. Quickly stir in the arugula, followed by the olive oil mixture and cheese mixture; toss to coat. Add salt to taste and a generous sprinkling of pepper, along with pasta cooking liquid if needed and a good squeeze of lemon juice to boost flavor. Serve, sprinkling with additional parmesan.

Cantaloupe, Prosciutto and Arugula Salad

I first tasted cantaloupe and ham or prosciutto in Italy. It’s a wonderful combination of salty and sweet. Please note the melon needs to be perfectly ripe to fully enjoy this recipe, and the arugula adds just a touch of peppery tartness to the dish.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced mixed fresh herbs (such as basil, chives and parsley)
  • 8 ounces fresh arugula
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cantaloupe, halved, seed, peeled and cut into thin wedges
  • 6 to 8 thin slices prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces.


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine vinegar, shallot, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. While continuously whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated. Whisk in the herbs and set aside while you prepare the salad.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the arugula and red onion. Drizzle in ¼ cup of the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette to taste, if desired, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.
  3. Arrange the cantaloupe wedges on a large serving plate, top with the arugula salad and the prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Roasted Shrimp & Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This light and healthy salad is perfect for lunch or dinner!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 12 Ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 16 ounces large shrimp, cleaned, deveined and tail removed
  • 1 yellow or red sweet pepper cored, seeded and cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
  • 1 green onion, chopped


  • Juice of one large lemon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Put the asparagus, shrimp and sweet pepper in a large bowl. Add the chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, black pepper and ½ tablespoon salt. Mix well. Pour the shrimp mixture on the baking pan.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, or until asparagus is tender and shrimp are pink.
  4. While shrimp are roasting, arrange Romaine lettuce on four plates. Add half the chopped green onion and reserve the rest to garnish on top of salads.
  5. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. After shrimp and veggies are cooked, mix well with dressing.
  6. Top each plate of Romaine lettuce with some of the shrimp mixture. Garnish with remaining green onion.

Warm Asparagus Salad with Pancetta, Leeks and Pine Nuts

A beautiful and tasty side dish.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4-ounces pancetta, dice small
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2-inch pieces on the bias
  • 1¼ cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only) wash well
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1-2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. In a large non-stick pan, sauté pancetta, stirring frequently over medium heat until crisp and lightly golden.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to pan. Add asparagus pieces and leeks. Sauté until asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, lemon, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley. Sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Is Italy on your bucket list? I have three fabulous small group guided tours to Italy this year! Check them out at or visit my Facebook page, “Cooking with Dawn Tours, LLC.” You can always email, call or text me:, 313-618-6559. See you next month with more of my seasonal recipes and fun in the kitchen.

2018 Cooking Challenge! I have a challenge for you this year. I challenge you to make any one of my recipes each month from my Oakland Lakefront articles and send me a photo via email. The reader that sends me the most photos at the end of the year will be invited to a Chef’s Table Dinner in January 2019 at my home here in Commerce Township!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.