Spring Fling

Chef Michael Scelfo shares his secrets for the ultimate al fresco dinner party.


This sweet-savory cake can be modified with a variety of fruits and herbs as the seasons change.

michael scelfo dinner party recipe

Ellen Scelfo’s strawberry-and-basil buckle with black-pepper ice cream.

The Buckle

3/4 c. white sugar

1/4 c. shortening

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. fresh strawberries, finely chopped

1 c. chopped fresh basil


1/2 c. white sugar

1/3 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 c. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Cream together the 3/4 cup sugar, shortening, and egg. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into sugar mixture, alternating with milk. Stir in strawberries and basil, and mix by hand. Pour into the baking pan. For the topping, combine the remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and distribute over the top of the cake batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Black-Pepper Ice Cream

The black pepper in this ice cream enhances the sweetness of the strawberries in the buckle.

1/2 c. whole milk

1/8 c. granulated sugar

3 c. heavy cream

1/2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp. fresh cracked pepper

In a medium mixing bowl, combine milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. Pour the mixture into the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker and season with black pepper. Mix for 20 to 25 minutes for a soft, creamy texture. Chill in the freezer for about two hours.