Humpy Dumpty It is summer here in Virginia which means heat and humidity are as abundant as fresh veggies. Its the time of year when a cool, crisp glass of wine is considerably more enticing than spending hours over a hot stove. A simple salad makes a great meal and is equally suited to a slow night in or a back yard dinner party. When people ask me for a recipe, of any kind, I always ask if they know how to make a basic vinaigrette. Once you have conquered this unctuous mix of acid and oil, you will have a whole world of possibilities open.

One of the core parts to any salad is the dressing; and making your own could not be easier. In fact, one of my favorite ways to treat fresh veggies is with lemon, good olive oil, salt and pepper. Sound a little too simple? Here is the catch, everything has to be top notch- you need fresh, organic (and preferably local) greens, real wine vinegar, a flavorful oil, pepper you crack yourself and a salt that doesn't include a picture of a girl in a yellow raincoat. I want to underscore the importance of these "pantry" items and their quality. What makes restaurant food better? Its the quality of the items they start with. If you stop reading here and only have one take away, make it this this one: start with a good pantry and you will finish with exceptional food.

Let me take a second to dispel a few rumors
* Fancy ingredients are expensive.