Ridiculous Salad

I know, I missed last week’s post.  Would you believe I’m still working on it?

In the meantime, I’d like to share something ridiculously delicious.  TD and I have been experimenting with the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables available this time of year.  The following came out of a trip to the farmer’s market and a lazy Sunday evening.

We started with a base of white balsamic and olive oil (we use a basil infused olive oil available in bulk at Whole Foods).  Next, one large tomato chopped into 1/2 inch chunks.  Allow it to drain in a colander with the help of a sprinkle of sea or kosher salt.  Give the whole thing a shake every few minutes to release the tomato juices (into the sink).

The next two piece can be done on the grill or stove-top.  Boil some corn and sear some stone fruit.  Here we’ve used yellow peaches but white peaches, nectarines, plumbs or a combination would fit the bill.  To sear, I gave each half a light coating of olive oil and dropped it into a hot pan for about 90 seconds.

Basil is absolutely necessary here.  Trust me.  We’ve tried the cheese two ways.  Below, we’ve used fresh baby mozzarella.  It works really well.  But, if you want to take things to the next level, use burrata. Burrata cheese and stone fruit together will change you life.

If using the burrata, don’t mix it into the salad.  Plate the salad and then let people dribble their own over the top.  Finally, if you dare, cook up a couple of pieces of super thin prosciutto.   Let it get nice and crispy, then give it a fine chop.  Set aside to sprinkle over the salad right before serving.

Salt and (liberal) fresh cracked pepper to taste.

This can be served as a colorful side or add-in grilled shrimp or chicken for a main dish.

This stuff is ridiculous I tell you.  And, the variations are endless.

If you like this, you might like these

Panzanellaish Salad

Ridiculous Salad

(serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)

Ingredients

  • 3 TBS white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBS olive oil (use the good stuff)
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 ears of corn, boiled or grilled
  • 3 peaches or nectarines (if using plumbs, use two 5-6)
  • 1/4 C chopped basil
  • Fresh mozzarella or burrata (2-3 ounces per person)
  • 2 slices prosciutto, cooked until crispy and chopped
  • freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. If boiling corn, set ears in a larger saucepan filled with cold water over high heat.  Allow it to come to boil.  Drain immediately and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. While corn is cooking, chop tomato.  Sprinkle with sea or kosher salt and allow to drain in a colander over the sink.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil.
  4. Halve peaches and brush with olive oil.  Heat a large pan over medium high heat, sear, cut side down for 90 seconds.
  5. Chop basil, set aside.
  6. While corn is still warm, cut off-of the ear and add into bowl with oil and vinegar.  Add in tomatoes (use a slotted spoon so that the seeds at the bottom of the colander don’t come along for the ride). Gently toss to coat.  Gently add-in peaches and basil.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook prosciutto chop and set aside until just before serving.
  9. Prepare cheese (when using mozzarella, we cut the little balls into wedges slightly smaller than the tomatoes and peaches).
  10. When ready to serve, sprinkle with prosciutto and add cheese.
  11. Note, the peaches and tomato will continue to give-off juices.  If made more than an hour in advance, be sure to drain-off some of the juices before serving.

 

 

Panzanella(ish)

Early in our relationship, TD and I established the sanctity of Sunday Supper.  I don’t recall us ever doing this with intention.  I suspect it was the product of a cross-town relationship (code for we rarely saw each other during the week) and really good Sunday night television (Sex and the City, The Sopranos etc.). Twelves years later and Monday dinner may be a scrounged peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but Sunday supper is always special.  It’s never elaborate and cooking with fire is usually involved.

One of our favorite Sunday Supper dishes has kind of evolved into being over the years.  The ingredients change depending on the season and what happens to look good a the market.  Sometimes it leans toward the Italian pursuasion.  Others more Greek.  And still others it just does its own thing. It’s an easygoing dish with little in the way of rule following.  We call it panzanella-ish.

Every culture seems to have its way of economizing resources and utilizing leftover starch products in interesting ways.  Panzanella is Tuscany’s.

Let’s start with the tomatoes.  In the heat of summer when it seems like the markets are giving away tomatoes, I like to use beautifully colored heirlooms.  During the off-season, I stick to smaller varieties like grape, cupid or cherry because they pack a little more punch in the way of flavor than the larger, anemic, hothouse varieties.  For panzanella, you want some juice (I don’t seed), but not a ton.  To get to the optimum tomato juice ratio, I cut the tomatoes into bit-sized chunks, set them in a strainer and salt them. Then, I let them sit for about 20 minutes, gently tossing the strainer every five minutes or so to release the juices.  While they are resting, I usually melt in a clove or so of garlic like with my pico recipe.

Oh wait, if you are patient, there is a step before the tomatoes.  My bad.

If you remember to, pour between 1/4 and 1/2 cup  of extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl.  To it, add on large, smashed clove of garlic and desired seasoning (fresh herbs etc).  Let steep for a couple of hours.  This the oil you’ll use to toast your bread cubes.

Back on track.  While the tomatoes are sweating it out, I cut up my sort-of stale bread.  I usually don’t go whole-hog-Thanksgiving-stuffing-stale for panzanellaish.  It’s a personal preference, but we like a little give in the bread.

Also a personal preference, I like to toast the bread on the stove-top.  We aren’t making croutons here and for whatever reason, I tend to forget the bread when I attempt to toast it in the oven.  So, in goes the garlic oil, then the cubes.  Toss to coat and let toast on a couple of sides.

See what I mean?

No matter the persuasion, we always use cucumbers.  Sometimes persian (as I’ve done here), sometimes English, sometimes normal.  Seed them if you want.  We don’t.

This salad needs a little bite to it.  Diced shallot or red onion will do the trick.  Just a little kick.

Herbs are also important.  Remember the Strawberry Shortcake dolls that smelled like their namesakes?  Well, if it was the 80s and I was a strawberry shortcake doll, I’d be Basil Bottechelli.  Mint is lovely too or whatever your favorite combo might be.  When fresh herbs aren’t in season, we toss in some Herbs de Provence (our household’s version of Windex.  Have an issue?  Throw on some Herbs de Provence).

Okay, it’s time to man-up and buy a good hunk of parmesan reggiano.  I’m talking aged at least 18 months (though 24 is better).  It’ll be tough to throw-down upwards of $25 a pound the first time.  But, it will last much longer than you’d expect (even if you are prone to breaking-off hunks with your fork and eating it straight-out as TD and I have become)  And bonus?  The rind is an excellent addition to a soup or tomato sauce recipe.  It’ll change your life.  I swear.  Feta, goat or buffalo mozzarella (think caprese inspired) are genuis in this salad as well.

We microplane.  You could shave with a veggie peeler or grate.  Up to you.

Finish off the salad with some acid, really nice cold-pressed olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  My favorite acid for this is fresh lemon juice.

Toss everything together and then give it about 15 minutes for the bread to soften just a tad.  Pair it with a protein and beautiful wine and, no matter where you happen to be for reals, you’ll swear you’re in Tuscany.

Soundtrack

TMH’s Endless Summer playlist.  Beach boys, 2 Wicky, Norah Jones, Karmin, Frank Sinatra, Grouplove, Foster the People, The Black Keys…to name a few.

Misanthropic Hostess Panzanellaish

In lieu of an actual recipe, I submit this diagram for consideration.  Mix and match as desired, adjust ingredient volume to number of people you are feeding (and then, double to be safe, there will never, ever be leftovers).

You should be able to click on the image for full-page display.

 

A pico de salsa

In our household, salsa is a food group.  We eat it on everything.  And while there are as many types of salsas as there are things to put it on, during the summer months, pico de gallo is on the list of things made weekly in my kitchen.  Pico is a salsa of the uncooked variety.  Pico can be made many ways.  Here is how I do it.

Simple ingredients: tomato, purple onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime, salt, pepper and cilantro.

And, it starts as many salsas do, with tomatoes.  For pico de gallo, I like to use firm roma tomatoes.  This salsa version is a little more polite than others (and by that, I mean, less saucy).  For this reason, I like to cut the tomatoes in half, give them a squeeze to release the seeds, and let them drain for a few minutes.  For your salsa making needs, I suggest investing in a tomato corer.  Well worth the $2.50 (and can secretly be used on large strawberries if you please).

Once, the tomatoes have drained, rinse out your strainer and start chopping.  For a medium roma tomato, I like to cut each half into three ring, remove the middle, slice in half, and cut into smallish squares.  You can go larger or smaller as desired.  Two tidbits here.  First, after chopping your tomatoes, return them to the strainer and sprinkle over 1/2-1 tsp salt.  Then, toss and let drain for another 5 minutes.  This not only seasons your fruit (yes, they are a fruit), it also helps to release additional juice.  Second nugget: use your tomatoes…and your taste buds to gauge the ratio of the remainder of your ingredients.  Personally, I like to add half as many onions as I have tomatoes.

I like using purple onion because they’re pretty.  Use white or yellow if you prefer.  And, please, learn how to cut an onion. It’ll help you win friends, impress potential clients and shorten your prep time immensely (for the record, I cut horizontally first, then vertically).

Now things start to heat up a bit.  When cutting hot peppers (like jalapeno), I’ve conceded and use a plastic glove on the holding hand (or the reverse side of the plastic bag they came in).  For years, I put up with burned fingers, chalking it up to overly sensitive skin.  Then, one day, TD and I were watching Jamie Oliver make salsa in that ridiculous garden of his and he mentioned that while peppers don’t bother him, they burn his wife.  Apparently, peeling skin wasn’t enough to convince me I should protect myself, but a celebrity endorsement was.  I think I’ve lived in Los Angeles too long.

Anyhow, wear protective gear as desired.  I like to add half of a large jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed) for every two cups of tomato.  Adjust your quantities to your preferred heat levels.

Next up: garlic.  I like to use the rasper to sort of melt the garlic into the other ingredients.  I find it helps to better distribute the flavor and reduces the risk of running into a “hunk of raw garlic”  while eating.

Three more very important ingredients plus seasoning.  First two: the zest and juice of a large, ripe lime.  Then, about half of a cup of chopped fresh cilantro.  Now I know cilantro is a controversial and polarizing herb.  People tend to love it (me) or outright detest it.  There is actually some evidence that we humans may be genetically predisposed one way or another.  If you happen to be one of the poor, disadvantaged variety for whom cilantro tastes like soap, leave it out (and seek help, there are a bevy of support groups out there for you).

Salt and pepper as desired.

Next comes the hardest part of all.  Once all ingredients have been mixed together, cover your dish, put it in the fridge and let the flavors marinate for at least a couple of hours.  Trust me on this part.

Soundtrack

Ozomatli’s in the house, you should know that by now.

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients

  • 6 firm (but brightly colored) roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 purple onion
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno pepper (depending on how brave you are)
  • 1 large or 2 regular cloves of garlic
  • 1 large lime (you’ll use both the zest and the juice)
  • 1/2 C chopped, fresh cilantorsalt and pepper to tastes

Directions

  1. Core and halve tomatoes.  Squeeze tomaotes to loosen seeds.  Let rest in mesh strainer for five minutes, shaking strainer occasionally to release juices.
  2. Chop tomatoes to desired size.  Return to mesh strainer and salt as desired gently shaking strainer to release additional juice and seeds. 
  3. Chop purple onione (chop should be the same size as the tomatoes).  Add both onion and tomatoes to a medium bowl.
  4. Rasp garlic into tomatoes and onions,  While you are at it, zest the lime into the mixture.  Then add lime juice.
  5. Donning protective gear (if you are a wimp like me), halve jalapeno.  Remove ribs and seeds.  Chop them into a small dice.  Add as desired.
  6. Chop cilantro, add to rest of ingredients along with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. MIx gently until well-combined.  Cover and let rest in the fridge for at least two hours (over night is a good call).