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Lobster and White Bean Spoons

These are rather decadent and filling little bites that nevertheless can lay claim to a certain rusticity. Beans will do that. If lobster is unavailable or too expensive, feel free to substitute cooked crayfish or crab.

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Melting Potatoes with Thyme and Cheese

As an homage to one of my heroes, Nigel Slater, I set out to create the sine-qua-non of potato comfort-in-a-pan. But, in order to qualify for inclusion in my relaxed kitchen, it had to be 80 percent hands-off, and then, once finished, capable of hanging out uncompromised until I was good and ready to serve. This heavenly dish is the result.

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Marble Hazelnut Cheesecake for a Crowd

I am indebted to the hugely talented dessert-meister of the Palm restaurant, Jeffrey Bleaken, for the original recipe on which this variation is based. You will probably have to invest in a new pan the first time you make it, since so few people actually have a 10-inch springform pan lurking about the kitchen, but once you have the pan you can place the cheesecake firmly in your repertoire of formidable desserts (it travels well, in the pan, too). Note: don’t be tempted to make it in a 9-inch springform; it’ll be too thick to cook efficiently.

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Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, & Pesto Tarts

Sure, you can substitute great fresh cow’s milk mozzarella for the buffalo mozzarella called for here. But if you can get the authentic stuff, treat yourself. Puff pastry is the lazy cook’s secret ingredient; if your local bakery is willing to sell you a hunk of raw puff pastry made with real butter, the flavors of this crisp and colorful summer snack will take off for the moon and never look back.

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Grilled Flat Iron Steaks

Flat-iron steaks are the new darlings of the meat world, but there are only about four per head of beef, so they will always remain relatively rare no matter how popular. The steaks are cut from a very lean area of the shoulder/chuck, which is normally quite fatty. Cooked correctly (think flank steak), this is a delicious and economical cut. Most butchers make “shoulder-tender medallions” from this area of the animal, so ask him or her to cut flat-iron steaks for you instead. Just like flank steak, flat-iron takes well to marinating. Don’t cook past medium-rare, though, or there will be tears.

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Grilled Peaches

Head to See Canyon, south of San Luis Obispo and just inland from Avila Beach, for the juiciest, peachiest, most lusciously delicious peaches in the world. The rich, loamy coastal soil and mild climate combine to make the area not just idyllic for human beings, but also perfect for growing all kinds of fruit. In season, See Canyon peaches—especially the dry-farmed fruit—are, to supermarket peaches, as one of Tablas Creek’s fine Rhône-style white wine blends is to Two-Buck Chuck.

It’s a little too much trouble to fire up an outdoor grill just for this dish, but it’s natural if you’ve already used the grill to cook the main course. A ridged cast-iron griddle pan is an easy option. The peaches should not go onto a very hot grill. If you buy dried lavender rather than harvesting it from your own garden, be sure it is rated for human consumption and not as an ingredient for potpourri.

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