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Dinner With Friends: Rhubarb & Berry Consommé, Cantaloupe & Speck Ham with Arugula

Rhubarb & Berry Consomme

It’s a simple truth that we really enjoy having friends come to dinner. Winter nights are definitely cozier sharing a piece of chocolate in front of the fireplace. Summer evenings in our neighborhood are balm for the soul. Kids playing, biking, laughing hard. Food improvised and shared when conversations carry on well after sunset. Cookouts, fishing, sipping wine on the back decks. All that’s missing is a good game of pétanque!


Neighbors have come and gone in the years that we have been on this street but by some random and kind act of life, we have always had great people moving in around here. Not everyone was familiar with Southern hospitality but withing a few short weeks, you can tell they warmed up to it. We all take turns keeping up with the common areas duties. We all share crab traps and fishing rods. We all find ourselves in a storm tightening boats to the dock.

Rhubarb & Strawberries

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, it is... And sometimes it hides the obvious from right under your nose. Take our neighbors and friends Pam and Steve for instance. They moved in a couple of years ago and we have spent many times chatting, comparing garden work, exchanging dog stories, etc.. However, after two years of cookouts and barbecues in the neighborhood, we had not had them over for dinner yet!


So on one of the hottest days of this week, they walked to fifteen steps from their front door to our back porch and came for dinner. We knew we already liked them but we did not know why and how much. Now we know. Air force, cancer, moving, traveling, Europe…all these words came and went several times in the course of the evening. Lots of anecdotes and experiences rang familiar to Bill and myself. And we listened and talked for hours. With pleasure.

We had bubbly chilling in the fridge, plenty to eat and the grill all set to go. The heat and humidity were overwhelming so I kept the menu fresh and simple and made a commitment not to turn the oven on!

Rhubarb & Berry Consomme

We put some shrimp on the grill, made a huge field pea salad with avocado, onions, red bell pepper, a mozzarella and heirloom tomato salad. The highlights of the meal were the cantaloupe and speck ham with arugula plate I served as appetizer and the rhubarb and berry consommé we had for dessert along with some freshly made financiers cakes. Super fresh and simple.

Out of the many foods and dishes we enjoy during the summer, we clearly have our favorites such as apricots, peaches, berries and cantaloupes. In the winter my mother would always start our meal with a soup. In the summer, it was a slice of cantaloupe with some prosciutto or speck ham (and a drizzle of port for the adult!). Years later, miles away, I do what my mother did then. With produce this seasonal and this good here at the market, there is no excuse not to!


The cantaloupe and speck plate is inspired and adapted from all the various versions I have had since I was a kid while the rhubarb and berry consommé is adapted from a recipe in the summer issue of Elle A Table that my mother brought me when they came to visit. Once a year I get a suitcase full of French food magazine and yes, it does get me an entire year to read through them all!

We had a wonderful dinner with our neighbors and we stayed at the dinner table chatting way passed a reasonable hour. But it’s summer. And there were stories to share and memories to make. And good food to eat…

Have a wonderful weekend!

Cantaloupe & Arugula

Cantaloupe, Speck and Arugula:

There is really no cookie cutter recipe for this just make sure you have enough of the following for 4 to 6 people

Cantaloupe: I count 3 thin to medium slices per person
Speck or prosciutto: I count 2 to 3 slices per person
Arugula Salad: a small handful per plat
pine nuts: a little or a lot depending on your taste
Celery root: I cut it in little batons and I like the crunch it provides the salad, but you can omit it or use jicama if you prefer.

Rhubarb & Berry Consommé, adapted from Elle A Table:

Makes 4

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 1 inch sticks
1/4 cup chopped fresh lemon verbena
1 cup strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup blueberries

In a large saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a simmer. Add the rhubarb sticks and cook over medium heat two to three minutes. Remove from the heat and throw in the lemon verbena. Let cool completely. Add the strawberries and blueberries and refrigerate until cold.
To plate: divide the fruits among glasses or ramekins and top with some of the poaching syrup. Serve really cold and within the same day as you make it (or the strawberry will turn mushy and soft)

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga June 11, 2011 um 4:14 am

"but by some random and kind act of life, we have always had great people moving in around here."–

I don't think that's random…I think it has to do with the laws of attraction and the Universe and good people putting out good vibes and attracting good people in the area 🙂

How's that for a little hippy dippy on Friday night 🙂

The food looks wonderful. Your photos make me want to dive right in…beautiful!

Justine de Jonge June 11, 2011 um 5:05 am

Summer and fresh food is divine. And you've made summers even more amazing with rhubarb! Where I live, rhuburb is such a winter necessity. It's great to see it in your summery photos. Yum!

Sara June 11, 2011 um 5:42 am

Ooooh, that berry consome looks so refreshing and delicious! 🙂

Josie Lee Suska June 11, 2011 um 6:18 am

Great to see speck mentioned along with the ol' prosciutto classic. Great looking starter, never thought of adding the port to the melon/meat pairing.

Kate@whatkatebaked June 11, 2011 um 6:45 am

That sounds a glorious evening- what better a dinner party you could have asked for? Delightful company, delicious food… the perfect recipe!

Unknown June 11, 2011 um 9:19 am

Lovely idea!

Unknown June 11, 2011 um 9:20 am

Lovely idea!

Maris (In Good Taste) June 11, 2011 um 9:29 am

Everything looks wonderful!

Mély du Chaudron Pastel June 11, 2011 um 11:14 am

Hé bien…
La chaleur caniculaire que l'on avait en France a dû arriver jusqu'à chez vous !
On a eu une période de grande chaleur pendant près de 3 semaines, et maintenant… J'ai 2 pulls sur le dos 🙂
Je retourne à mes mousselines cocoon & doudounisantes à souhait… avec des légumes d'été !

Mais, froid ou chaud, le melon, un bon melon bien parfumé… C'est un pur délice.

Profitez bien des bleuets pour nous hein…
En France, la petite barquette de 200 g coût un bras (même les 2 bras & les 2 jambes !) ^^

Au plaisir de découvrir encore & encore tes fabuleuses photos 🙂

Helene June 11, 2011 um 11:18 am

Mely: on a en moyenne 95F a cette epoque (et 90F depuis Mars) et 110F + dans un mois mais la on etait deja a 99F. On est dans une region sous-tropicale ici.

Helene June 11, 2011 um 11:19 am

Justine: yes, rhubarb only grows in the spring and summer here.

Anonymous June 11, 2011 um 11:51 am

Looks amazing – as always!

emm June 11, 2011 um 12:17 pm

The colors in the last two photos are amazing. That's awesome that you had you neighbors over. So many people have never even said hi to theirs, let alone cook for them. So sad really.

angela June 11, 2011 um 1:58 pm

One of my favorite things is to have my neighbors come for dinner and build that support system that is hard to have these days. I'll bet they were delighted to have your food.

Michelle Stiles June 11, 2011 um 2:46 pm

Oh Helen! I would LOVE to be in your neighborhood! It sounds so beautiful. I adore summer time, hours spent outside in the open fresh air with good people.

marla June 11, 2011 um 2:56 pm

Sounds like such a lovely night with friends. That starter salad is such a fun idea. The sweet & savory ingredients are nice pairings. Lucky you to get the fun gift of all those European magazines…those are always the best!

Sally June 11, 2011 um 3:38 pm

It's cool and rainy here, doesn't feel a bit like summer, but if I wait 15 minutes, as they say in New England, the weather will change. Cantaloupe is one of the quintessential summer foods that reminds me of my childhood and times at the New Jersey shore–a place to find the juiciest cantaloupes (there's a lot more to it than Snookie!) I so enjoyed reading this post–the way summer should be! I am happy you are embracing it.

Brycia June 11, 2011 um 3:59 pm

Sounds wonderful!!! I wish I could come visit you! : )

Alina—Explora Cuisine June 11, 2011 um 5:36 pm

There's nothing better than a nice dinner and a glass of wine with friends, how I miss my friends now 🙁 everything looks gorgeous Helene, as always, your neighbors are lucky! Have a great weekend!

la domestique June 11, 2011 um 7:13 pm

Oooh that sounds like a lovely evening! I always love having friends over, though we don't slow down and do it enough. Sounds perfect: simple food, good conversation, and bubbles!

Rose from Magpies Recipes June 12, 2011 um 5:16 am

oh Helene how I wish I was your neighbour! have been itching to try rhubarb, now you have tipped me over the ledge! hitting the farmers market tomorrow 🙂

megcjones June 12, 2011 um 8:00 pm

those consumme photos are just gorgeous! can't wait to try this out myself.

Dana June 12, 2011 um 9:19 pm

The cantaloupe, speck and arugula certainly make for a pretty plate. I love the pairing of melon with cured pork products.

cocoa and coconut June 13, 2011 um 2:01 am

I've just stumbled across your blog and I am marvelling at your recipes and photographs.

Will be back!

Mandy @ Withmilkandflour June 13, 2011 um 7:14 pm

Everything looks so delicious and healthy! Your photos are always so pretty and inspiring.

Cookin' Canuck June 13, 2011 um 7:35 pm

Chatting and sharing stories over good food on a warm summer's evening – that's the good stuff in life. Lovely post, Helene.

apaler1 June 13, 2011 um 8:17 pm

It's always awe-inspiring how people who've known each other for a long time just actually "get to know" each other after a while. It's even more wonderful how food can open up those avenues of communication.

Great recipe as well! I've never thought of pairing prosciutto with cantaloupe before and it sounds like a perfect summer pairing.

Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having June 13, 2011 um 8:22 pm

Gorgeous summer meal! I sounds like you had a wonderful evening.

kyleen June 13, 2011 um 8:59 pm

Oh how I wish my exams would end already so my real summer could start…

This looks amazing as usual. I love how the last picture has so many complimenting colours and shapes. And the consomme is such a great idea for a summer dessert!

Lauren June 14, 2011 um 12:07 am

Rhubarb is absolutely fabulous! I love this idea!

Unknown June 14, 2011 um 12:40 am

Oh Helene, I delighted my family this past weekend with that berry sorbet and vanilla shortbread cookies. The vibrant color of the sorbet was so visually satisfying and the cookies were feminine but rich. I worked hard on photographing them and will highlight this dessert probably next week. It was the first time photographing food that melts!! How hard! My family was laughing at me stressing out over the sorbet with my camera! Thank you!

Danncy June 14, 2011 um 6:28 am

I agree with Lauren…this is fabulous!!

Jeanne June 14, 2011 um 2:19 pm

I love the sentiments in this,Helen, and the wonderful story about neighbors.

Shelby June 24, 2011 um 6:43 pm

I first experienced the marriage of flavors in cantaloupe & cured ham this past Easter in Rome, and despite the pizzas and pastas aplenty that graced my palate, this duo was certainly my favorite. What a delightful evening you treated your neighbors to…Thank you!

Greens April 15, 2015 um 7:45 pm

Nice and healthy

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