Instant Italy

Melons and tomatoes at a Minnesota farmers' market transport one cook to Lombardy and Puglia.

I've spent so much time in Italy that I can even find hints of it in Minnesota, where I live--especially at the height of summer when I'm impulse shopping at my farmers' market. Cantaloupes, so ripe I smell them before I see them, bring back a melon antipasto from Le Frise, a small farm on a nearly vertical mountainside in Lombardy. (The owners served the salad with goat cheese they'd made that morning and bread baked by a neighbor.) Stands crowded with organic cherry tomatoes--currants, sun golds and Sweet 100s--conjure up the summer pastas and bread salads of Puglia. A mix of these little American tomatoes comes closest in flavor to the luscious Puglian variety. Peppery watercress reminds me of the wild arugula that Pugliesi often use by the handful to finish uncooked or barely cooked pasta sauces. And peaches make me think of the Italian Renaissance version of a hot fudge sundae--spiced wine syrup poured over ripe fruit and ice cream. When the syrup hits the ice cream, the topping turns gooey and thick. It has no fat and can keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper hosts the nationally broadcast public radio show The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Her new book, The Italian Country Table (Scribner), will be published in October.

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