Summer Panzanella

_MG_4771In my old apartment, I had a basil plant on the kitchen window -- here in New York, we have to try pretty hard to bring the outdoors in, with few windows and outdoor space at a premium making it difficult. There wasn't a ton of sunlight, but somehow that plant survived the winter and when I brought it to my new apartment (which somehow gets even less light, being on the first floor), I was hopeful. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have inherited my parents' green thumbs and it lasted less than a month. Basil is one of my favorite herbs, a smell that means all sorts of wonderful things -- like Italy, and pesto, and summer. I'm very excited to see it back at the farmer's market, along with the season's first greenhouse tomatoes. This salad makes an excellent main course when you don't feel like doing too much cooking, or is a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken or rack of lamb (as we had it)._MG_4770 _MG_4766

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To make this salad even easier, you could skip roasting the red peppers and just chop them up raw, but I love the smoky layer of flavor they add.

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Also, my second post is up on Wine & Bowties! See my family's recipe for classic tomato-basil bruschetta here.

Summer Panzanella (adapted from Eat This Book)

1 baguette or loaf of French bread, torn into bite-size pieces

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons capers

2 red peppers, roasted over an open flame, then diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup basil leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread pieces with 1/4 cup olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Toast until bread is golden-brown, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk garlic, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and red wine vinegar in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss, and season as needed. Lastly, add toasted croutons and stir.  Serve immediately.

Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomato Crostini

You know, I was finally ready to accept the fact that summer was over. Ready to embrace apples, crisp fall nights, colored leaves. And then of course, New York goes and throws a slew of 80 degree days at us, and I'm back to wearing shorts and eating the last of the summer tomatoes before months of squash and root vegetables. Not that I don't love squash -- I'm just not quite ready to let go just yet. I made these crostini a few days ago as a quick lunch, and I love how the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes is balanced by just a dash of fleur de sel and the creamy ricotta. In fact, the cherry tomatoes I got from the farmer's market were so sweet, I could have omitted the salt and drizzled a little bit of honey over them for another take on this easy appetizer. Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomato Crostini

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half if large

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 baguette, thinly sliced

6 oz ricotta cheese, preferably homemade or good-quality

1/4 cup fresh basil or oregano, julinenned

Fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and roast until skins begin to blister, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, toast baguette slices in oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Spread 2-3 tablespoons ricotta on each piece of bread, then add 2-3 tomatoes, a few pieces of basil, and sprinkle fleur de sel over. Serve immediately.

Tomato-Basil Bruschetta

I think that this dish, to me, means that summer is really and truly here (as if I couldn't tell by the waves of 95 degree days). Since there are only five ingredients, be sure to use the best tomatoes you can find (or grow). My parents make this pretty much every weekend during the summer -- but since I couldn't be at home sitting on the porch, I made it for myself as a quick lunch last weekend. The recipe can be amended depending on how many people you are feeding, and also makes an excellent appetizer for an easy dinner al fresco. Just serve with a chilled rosé and imagine you are sitting on a terrace somewhere in Italy.

Tomato-Basil Bruschetta

2 lbs (about 4-5 large) tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup basil leaves, julienned

Salt and pepper

1 baguette, thinly sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

Mix tomatoes and basil in a medium bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk olive oil and garlic together in a small bowl. Lay baguette slices on a baking sheet, and with a pastry brush, brush each slice with garlic & olive oil mixture. Roast until golden brown, about 8 minutes (watch closely as they burn easily). Let cool slightly, then top each piece with a spoonful of tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Corn and Tomato Salad

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After a lovely and relaxing few days spent on the North Fork of Long Island, I was lucky enough to return to temperatures topping 100 degrees back in Brooklyn. So much for escaping the heat -- and as someone without air conditioning, I'm sitting right in front of my fan while writing this, and will likely take my second shower of the day when I finish this post. Ah well. This salad just happens to be perfect for days like today, with minimal cooking times and quick assembly.

 

Corn and Tomato Salad

7 ears sweet corn

2 large tomatoes, diced, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 red onion, finely chopped, or 5 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chives, finely chopped

1/4 cup basil, julienned

1 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)

Juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

On a grill, roast sweet corn until slightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. (Alternatively, you can roast the corn in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or boil on the stove for 10 minutes). Cut corn kernels off into a large bowl. Mix with tomatoes, onions, chives, and basil. In a small bowl or glass, mix lime juice, olive oil, and vinegar, and pour over salad, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

 

Insalata Caprese

The first time I ever had this salad was when I was 16 and traveling in Italy with my family. I vividly remember sitting in a small trattoria in Vernazza, the bright red tomatoes bursting with flavor in my mouth, their sweet juices offset by the creamy mozzarella and sharp basil. Of course, I had eaten raw tomatoes before, but had never liked them much. But there was something about this combination of flavors that changed my mind for good, and since then I have loved tomatoes in salads, pastas, even plain with a little salt. Be sure to only use the best tomatoes you can find -- this is not a salad for winter, since there are only a few flavors it really gives them a chance to shine. Insalata Caprese

2 large tomatoes (beefsteak or heirloom), sliced

8 oz mozzarella, sliced

10-12 basil leaves

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

On a large plate, layer one slice tomato, one slice mozzarella, and one basil leaf. Repeat with remaining slices to form a circle around the edge of the plate. Drizzle vinegar and olive oil over salad, and season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.