Burrata Caprese with Peaches, Apricots Tomato, & Basil

Hey Summer 2017, just slow down. Memorial Day. Check. June, those 30 days. Whoosh. Independence Day. Over. School doors open in late August. Labor Day’s in sight. Only 169 days until Christmas.

The Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival 2017

Here’s a thought. Despite the 24-hour news cycle, try to own your last 8 weeks of summer. Jot down what you most want to do. Make priorities. That’s what I promised myself this summer. Grateful to be healthy, able and surrounded by friends who laugh, every day needs to count.

This beautifully designed (and, battered) wasp nest is being recycled as nesting materials for this year’s migrating birds.

How can I do that? Knowing that my Life rolls better with 8-9 hours of sleep each night, it takes more No’s than Yes. It works to block out time to cook, write and actually do the assignments for the music class I enrolled in recently. Twicky but doable. Busy, but so far, so good. Here’s a glimpse at the past two weeks. How is your summer going?

The Aspen Institute’s campus and venue for IDEAS 2017


Blanca O’LEARY & I attended our 13th Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute together. This is an NPR Podcast Live Taping “In the Thick” with Maria Hinojosa, the award-winning anchor and executive producer of NPR’s Latino USA.

In the words of the Aspen Institute folks, The Aspen Ideas Festival is ‘the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times.’

Every passholder received this bag that is made of repurposed military surplus material and made in USA plants partially staffed by Vets with 10% of profits going to Vet organizations. In the bag was a copy of the Constitution which thrilled Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, who I heard speak on Culture & Civil Liberties.

Created in 2005 by well-known author, president and CEO of the AI, Walter Isaacson, and brilliantly managed by vice president Kitty Boone, the Ideas Festival has been the highpoint of my summers for the past 13 years. This year was no exception.

Walter Isaacson is leaving the Institute at the end of the year, returning to his home town of New Orleans to continue writing and also teaching at Tulane University. The Preservation Hall Band interrupted a conversation with Andrea Mitchell and Samantha Powers (on stage) to lead him out of the tent to a farewell party.

At IDEALS there were recognizable all-stars such as Thomas Friedman, Andrea Mitchell, Fareed Zakaria, musician Jon Batiste as well as governors and cabinet members. I was more interested, however, in the many lesser known names such as the very impressive Rebecca Onie, a MacArthur Genius and public health entrepreneur. I won’t forget my new best friend, Dr. David Rapoport, the Director of Research in Integrative Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai who stressed the importance of sleep. He suggested we all need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Yesssss. A Win for Mary. I tried to hear presidential historian and author Jon Meecham at every opportunity. And, no, I didn’t tell him I’d visited all the presidential libraries but Ford’s. Restraint is my middle name.

Headed to the Party. Kathy & Walter Isaacson are just behind the band.


Last week I received an emergency e-mail from a young executive here at The Gant. (Her name will remain anonymous.) Her husband’s birthday was in a week. To celebrate at a Bar-B-Que, a friend was making limoncello ice cream. She was baking the birthday cake, wanted it to be lemon, and asked for suggestions.

I e-mailed her two suggestions with recipes and photos. She chose Maida Heatter’s classic East 62nd Street Lemon Cake, which, according to many bakers, is the best lemon cake ever. She is a good cook but admitted to not being a baker. At high altitude, baking successfully is difficult. I gave her my bundt pan, a spray can of Pam’s happy Baker’s and some tips. Then, I prayed.

The beautiful end result of the birthday cake. “When life gives you lemon cake,” she says, “you disguise it with amaretto cookies.”


Like many first-time attempts, the cake didn’t behave. (I once made three coffee cakes, all failures, before I cried.) But, her fix was ingenious. (BTW, she is also ingenious at her very challenging job.) “It was actually quite funny,” she said, “and it was one of those days where absolutely nothing went right.  But in the end the cake was delicious and I’ll definitely try to make it again.”

Yes, we will.


For the past 41 years, a cannon located at Smuggler Mine has blasted off at 6am to usher in the start of Aspen’s July 4th activities. Our Golden Retriever, Belle, when hearing the roar every year, would leap onto our bed (forbidden territory) and shake for the next hour or so. Aspen Daily News, Rising Sun Photography

I knew this day would come…We have known Cavanaugh O’Leary since he moved to our Aspen neighborhood with his parents when he was 4. We often helped him celebrate his 4th of July birthday. He just finished his 2nd year at Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo so I’ve been nearby in the winter in Cambria. Now 21, it’s obvious I’ve been replaced by Gabrielle Scapa, also a Cal Poly student.


Our farmer’s market is always late out of the gate because of cooler temperatures. The stalls are now loaded so Wendy Weaver, the earliest customer at the market every Saturday, picked up peaches and apricots so I could make this gorgeous Burrata Caprese with Peaches, Tomatoes, Apricots and Basil. It’s another delicious recipe from Melissa Clark’s Dinner, Changing the Game cookbook.

BURRATA with PEACHES, APRICOTS, TOMATO & BASIL, Dinner, Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

Serves 4


3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 whole Burrata cheese (usually about 6 ounces) OR, mozzarella di bufala
2 large peaches and 4 apricots (or nectarines or plums)
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved and left whole, combo
Flaky sea salt (I use Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)


1. In a small skillet over medium heat toast the pine nuts, shaking the skillet occasionally until they are golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

2.In a blender or food processor, combine the chopped basil, lemon juice, fine sea salt and 1/4 cup olive oil. Puree until a chunky dressing forms. You do not want a smooth dressing.

3. Place the Burrata in the center of a large platter and arrange the fruit and tomatoes around it. Spoon the dressing over the cheese, leaving some for the fruits. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Top with the toasted pine nuts and a sprinkling of flaky sea salts.


1. I served it with French or rustic country bread as my dinner. Clark suggests that paper-thin prosciutto, sliced salami or smoked salmon alongside is a nice salty contrast.

2. You may also serve this to guests by slicing wedges of burrata and spooning fruit onto a small salad plate. Or they can serve themselves if you divide the burrata into wedges.

Can We Prevent a North Korea Crisis? with (LtoR) Evan Osnos, The New Yorker; Elizabeth Economy, Council of Foreign Relations; Thomas Friedman, New York Times and Fareed Zakaria, CNN.


  1. says

    I love your recaps—what a fun time you’ve been having! I’m sure I told you this before but my most memorable 4th was in 1976 in Aspen! They went ALL out for the bicentennial. I’m going to have to try that lemon cake—I’m impressed that it turned out so beautifully at your altitude—she did well despite the sticking. Hope you’re enjoying the summer—and thanks for the Christmas countdown 😉

  2. Donna Grauer says

    Mary, what a life you have. And you are smart to say no and get your sleep and still fill your life with the most amazing things. I am loving the peaches and burrata idea. I will definitely try it.
    Looking forward to tomorrow and another one of your adventures that I can join you on.

  3. Cathy O'Connell says

    Mary, now I definitely have to do that Caprese. You don’t happen to have a link to the recipe? (Smiley face would go here, but I
    don’t do them.)

  4. says

    Hi Mary, your salad looks delightful and though summer is flying by you always seem to make the best of your time and interesting activities in the journey of the season. I’m into the sleep notion and am pretty disciplined on being sure I get enough each night. Happy the cake worked out in the end, and love your photo picks on the months adventures. Hugs,

  5. says

    “It works to block out time” THIS THIS THIS! I’m juggling a lot of stuff this summer (edits, still) and I’m slowly learning to just say NO. I have this terrible fear of missing out but I am guessing life will just go on and I will survive. I do know one thing which is that life would be better with a big bowl of that Burrata with peaches!

  6. Kathy Callahan says

    What a beautiful summer salad, and I’m sure it tastes as gorgeous as it looks! I’ll be heading to our Farmer’s Market on Sunday in search of some lovely peaches and tomatoes to try my hand at it.

  7. Chez Nana says

    I agree with Mardi on that bowl of Burrata with those delicious looking fruits. It just looks so refreshing. Mary, when the weather gets colder out there you really have to try this soup, it was fantastic.

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