Easiest Summer Ever: Five-Minute Fig, Melon, and Jamón Serrano Salad

Figs, melon, Spanish ham, and basil. . J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Welcome to the Easiest Summer Ever. No shoes allowed.

When you earn your living as a recipe developer, it's very easy to get sucked into the trap of overcomplicating things. "I have all day to cook, doesn't everybody?" I seem to think from time to time. Well it's summertime, we have half day Fridays, a few extra hours of daylight to get our cocktails going, and things are supposed to be easy, darn it! In a conscious effort to simplify our lives and celebrate the awesomeness of fresh summer produce, we're spending the whole season coming up with the absolute easiest, freshest, and tastiest summer dishes we can think of.

Our parameters? No more than four ingredients (plus salt, pepper, and perhaps a squeeze of lemon or olive oil), a prep time of no more than 15 minutes, and absolutely no special equipment required. Just great seasonal ingredients prepared simply and preferably consumed al fresco in bare feet with a chilled glass of rosé or an ice cold beer.

Last week I had company coming over for a pizza party, and while I'd spent plenty of time thinking about what I was going to put on those pizzas, I left the side dishes and pre-pizza snacks to the last minute. Fortunately, these days I live a block away from a weekly farmer's market which means that my house is always stocked with fresh fruit. Right now that's dense and honey-sweet Charentais melons (think: the sweetest, most intense cantaloupes ever) and black Mission figs.

The folks at Kalamazoo Gourmet loaned me their insanely awesome (and awesomely pricey) pizza oven for the summer and I use every opportunity at my disposal to fire it up.

Everybody knows the classic combo of prosciutto and cantaloupe, so it wasn't a big stretch to combine my fruit with some thinly sliced jamón Serrano, which in my book is like prosciutto's wild cousin. Not quite as refined, but way more fun. I dressed the whole thing up with a generous drizzle of really good extra virgin olive oil (I love the Arbequina olive oil from Seka Hills), a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, and some basil leaves from the windowsill.

Did I really just write about Charentais melons and windowsill basil? Oh man, has California living gotten to me! Here's the truth: Even a good ripe cantaloupe from the supermarket and some regular old basil in a clamshell from the refrigerator case is gonna taste awesome. Just ignore the insufferable West Coasters like me.