Tomato-Feta Open-Faced Sandwiches

To me, the end of summer means lazy afternoons spent in the park, swimming, candlelit dinners al fresco, and more than anything -- tomatoes. Or at least, the first three are what I dream during the summer (mostly I've been in an air-conditioned office and sweating on the subway). But tomatoes, those I can have. My mom made these simple sandwiches for me when I was home a few weeks ago (why is everything always better when Mom makes it?) with tomatoes from their garden, and I couldn't resist re-creating it once I got back to the city -- especially since she sent a few of those tomatoes back with me as well. This makes an excellent appetizer or a simple lunch -- but be careful, you'll eat a whole baguette before you know it.Tomato-Feta Open-Faced Sandwiches

1 baguette, cut into 4-inch long halves

2-3 tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 oz feta cheese, thinly sliced

8-10 basil leaves, julienned

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Toast bread until golden-brown. Layer tomatoes and feta on top, then sprinkle with basil leaves and a dash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. 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.