The Simple Art of Cooking With Silvia Lehrer

It all started with Penny Simon’s deliciously piquant Kirby cucumber salad. Penny, a busy Manhattan consultant, loves to cook in summer in her Water Mill home. She prepared the do-ahead Kirby salad below for lunch one day when her dad was visiting.

In a recent interview about my book, Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End (Running Press, 2011), Joan Hamburg, the queen of Talk Radio on WOR 710 AM, echoed those thoughts in her “Summer Friday Spotlight in the Hamptons” morning show. “Summer is the best time to cook at home in the Hamptons. With the abundance of fresh ingredients in their prime – the cooking is so easy,” suggested Joan.

And so are the recipes in this week’s column. [expand]

Be sure to use Kirby cucumbers for the salad. They are in season and preferable to commercial waxy cucumbers. The panko-coated chicken fingers can be prepared ahead and they make great picnic fare, as do the baked peaches with honey lemon glaze. We’re into local peach season and they are as juicy and sweet as one would expect a peach to be. The honey from our beekeeper, Mary Woltz of Bee’s Needs, reflects what the farmers are growing. This summer’s honey, available at farmers markets and some farmstands, is one of the most delectable I’ve tasted. Yes, it’s all about summer and the cooking is easy.



Kirbys are currently farm fresh and preferable to commercial waxy cucumbers.

Serves 4 to 6

3 Kirby cucumbers, peeled and diced

1/4 red onion, diced, about 1/2 full cup

1 tablespoon chopped dill

3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup mint leaves, shredded

2 tablespoons golden raisins


1. Prep cucumbers, red onion and dill and place in a bowl. Season with olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix. Add shredded mint leaves and raisins and toss to mix gently. Salad may be prepared up to a day ahead. Refrigerate in a suitable container. Serve chilled.



To bake or to fry – either way this is perfect 

picnic fare!

Serves 6

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts,

about 3 to 4 large halves

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon paprika

Lemon halves


Parchment paper or Silpat liner for baking sheet


1. Trim chicken breasts of excess fat and gristle, rinse clean and pat dry with paper towels. Separate the filet from the chicken breasts and then cut both the breasts and the filets across the grain into 1/2 inch-long slices. Put into a bowl and coat with the buttermilk for 20 minutes or so. Drain the chicken slices and season with salt and pepper, rosemary and paprika. Spread panko breadcrumbs on a lined baking sheet and place the chicken slices in the crumbs turning to coat well.

2. To bake: Preheat oven to 400° F, place the baking sheet with the chicken fingers in the oven and bake for 8 minutes, turning once. To fry: Pour about 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron skillet and heat to 375° F, or when a chopstick or wooden spoon handle is inserted in the oil, the oil bubbles around it. Put 3 to 4 coated fingers in the hot oil and fry for 3 minutes on one side and 2 to 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a colander to drain excess oil. Repeat with remaining chicken fingers until all are done. Allow to cool, and refrigerate in tightly covered containers until ready to serve. Top the chicken with lemon halves and serve.



Now is the perfect time to prepare this dessert with local peaches and local Bee’s Needs honey.

Serves 6 to 8

4 large ripe peaches

5 tablespoons apricot jam

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup cold tap water

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

4 teaspoons sugar

Vanilla ice cream, optional


Preheat oven to 350° F


1. Rinse the peaches, cut in half and remove the pits. Place peaches cut side up in a 9 x 13” shallow earthenware baking dish.

2. In a small bowl whisk together apricot jam, honey, water, lemon zest and juice. Spoon the mixture over the peach halves and sprinkle each half with 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until peaches are tender – very ripe peaches will cook faster. Check peaches several times during baking, basting them with their juices each time you check. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired. Drizzle pan juices over the top.


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