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Celebrate summer with strawberry-rhubarb fried chicken, basil lemonade and more

Fresh herbs and summer produce complement homey cookout dishes for the perfect spread.
/ Source: TODAY

Summertime is in full swing and there's nothing like classic cookout dishes with innovative twists to make a spread sing. To inspire many summer evenings dining at home, Erin French is visiting the TODAY kitchen to whip up some recipes from her new cookbook. Using lots of fresh herbs and produce that are currently in season, from basil and fennel to strawberries and rhubarb, French reinvents a few fan favorites.

Have an icy glass of fresh squeezed lemonade infused with something special. Enjoy crispy fried chicken with the nostalgic tastes of cornflakes and buttermilk, but with a lively red sweet and sour sauce that draws its flavors from strawberries, rhubarb, vinegar and sugar. Combine fruit and fresh veggies in a gorgeous salad, and top it all off with panna cotta — a cool, creamy Italian dessert.

Pull up a chair, and enjoy!

This refreshing summer treat comes with an unexpected twist with the fragrant hint of Thai basil. Serve simply over ice on a hot day, add a splash of sparkling water to make it a spritzer or use it as the base for a delicious cocktail with a little vodka.

Preparing a plate of crispy fried chicken can be the heart of a good summer cookout. This recipe takes it to the next level by incorporating the season's fresh bounty. Gently tangy fennel seed gets incorporated into the seasoning and brine to help create the most tender chicken. Cornflakes and buttermilk bring home the batter while flaky sea salt tops off the sizzling hot finished produce. On the side, summer's starlets, strawberry and rhubarb, highlight the sweet and sour notes for the perfect dipping sauce.

The ideal side dish for a vibrant picnic spread, bread salad is a mixture of fresh vegetables and/or fruit with tender, torn pieces of bread that soak up all the good flavors. This one can be made into a main event by topping it over a bed of fresh arugula and adding some nice goat cheese. The blackberries, juicy cucumber, sweet peach and summer herbs like basil and mint are a heavenly combination that shines in the warm months.

Rose Panna Cotta

Erin French

Panna cotta, a smooth, gelatin-based dessert that is served cold, gets infused with the natural flavors of a summer garden in this easy Italian dessert. The heavy cream, vanilla bean and rose water make this panna cotta a simple confection worthy of an elegant soiree or warm weather picnic. It pairs perfectly with fresh berries and honey.

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