Summer Tomatoes Three Ways
This summer, I've simply fallen in love with tomatoes ! A simple splash of olive oil and vinegar (with a sprinkling of sea salt) can bring out the sweetest of flavors in under ten minutes. Whether off the shelf, from the farmer's market, or from your garden (I adore picking mine fresh from my mum's), tomatoes can be the star of any summer salad. I share with you a few of my favorite recent preparations !
GOING GREEK WITH HEIRLOOMS, FETA, AND ARUGULA !
My mum and I love watching episodes of The Barefoot Contessa together, drooling over celebrity chef Ina Garten's picturesque home full of flowers and garden-fresh produce ! One of my favorite salad recipes of hers takes less than 5 minutes to make, and marries tomatoes, feta, and arugula - bringing me straight back to the isles of Greece.
Cut a 7 oz block of feta cheese into thick slices and place in the center of the plate. Slice 6 medium tomatoes into wedges and arrange loosely around the feta (Ina uses red tomatoes, but I love heirlooms - for their pop of color and sweetness !) Arrange some arugula salad around the edges of the plate. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and top it off by crushing 1 tsp dried oregano over the feta and tomatoes. Finish with sea salt and freshly ground pepper ! You can find The Barefoot Contessa's original recipe on The Food Network site - HERE.
MARINATED TOMATOES WITH RED ONION AND MINT !
I saw this recipe on the cover of Saveur Magazine last month and had to try it - I made it for an outdoor dinner gathering last week and it went over amazingly well ! Vinegar and a bit of salt brings out the natural sweetness in all tomatoes, but this recipe takes the time to marinade them for an extra 20 minutes - intensifying the flavors (and then brightening them yet again with some mint !)
Halve about 2 lbs. of cherry tomatoes, thinly slice 1/2 a red onion, and toss them with 1/4 c. olive oil and 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar in a large bowl. Season with salt and let it marinade for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Slice 1 lb. of heirloom tomatoes and arrange them on a platter. Top them with the cherry tomatoes and onions (being sure to pour all the marinade juices on top.) Lastly, tear 1 c. mint leaves into tiny pieces and sprinkle over the salad, finishing with pepper and sea salt. In the above photo, I prepared about half all these amounts for a smaller serving ! You can find the original Saveur recipe by chef Chris Fischer - HERE.
THE CLASSIC CAPRESE - TOMATOES, BASIL, AND GOOD OL' MOZZARELLA !
I really got into caprese salads on my trip to Spain last year, where they were often sliced thin and stacked in beautiful towers of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella ! I have a basil plant in my apartment, and try to make use of it at least a few times a week - here are a few different ways I like to prepare my capreses.
For my housewarming party last week, I prepared some caprese salad bites atop warm, toasted baguettes - a great way to turn the classic salad into finger food. I thinly sliced two french baguettes, dipped one side in olive oil, and baked them in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees. After cooling, I topped each with one large basil leaf, an heirloom tomato slice, and slice of mozzarella (for bruschetta I use the "ovolini" - 4 oz. egg-size mozzarella balls.) I finished each with good Italian olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic, freshly cracked pepper, and salt (I particularly love the look and texture of French sel de guerande.) These got snapped up super quick - I made a second batch and it, too, was gone within minutes !
When reminiscing about Spain, I stack my caprese salads - tomato slices on the bottom, mozzarella in the middle, followed by a giant basil leaf ! You can simply do one slice of each (as pictured), or stack them like towers with multiple slices of each ingredient. As with all my other salads - I love the look of chunky sea salt, particularly French sel de guerande or fleur de sel from the Camargue region, as well as a splash of olive oil and balsamic.
My last, and perhaps most frequently made salad, I like to call my "Lazy Caprese." I lost nearly 30 lbs. last year, and I like to think this fresh salad was one of the reasons ! This is a healthy and easy lunch option I usually make a few times a week - 10 baby cherry tomatoes cut in half, 10 "bocconcini" 1.5 oz. bite-size balls cut in half, and a few torn basil leaves, garnished with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This amounts to precisely 20 bites, each one with a piece of tomato, mozzarella, and basil in it ! You certainly don't have to be so specific with the ingredient amounts - I always just found this was a nicely portion-controlled lunch for one that was fast, easy, and delicious !