Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cooking With Summer's Sweet Tomatoes

When I get home from work late, I immediately go into coast. That’s why a quick and easy salad makes the perfect summer meal.

I made all of these salads in less than 15 minutes using heirloom and roma tomatoes as the featured ingredient. I don’t think that there is any vegetable that has more flavor and eye appeal than heirlooms – the testimony being that I also eat them for breakfast with yogurt or fresh cottage cheese.

Bon Appetit!

Tomato, Mozzarella and Avocado Salad

1 Roma Tomato – thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
16-ounce ball buffalo mozzarella
Small basil leaves
¼ avocado, thinly sliced
1 green onion
Slice Roma Tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella and arrange on plate. Place avocado slices over the top. Take the green portion of a green onion and tear thin slices – they will curl. Top with sea salt and olive oil.

Serve with a Crosoni Bagnati or a slice of toasted cheese bread.

I made an easy version of this salad by chopping and adding all of the ingredients (except the chicken) including the toasted cheese bread. Use fresh herbs and top with the oil and vinegar.

Again, adding chicken turns this delicious dish into an entrée but I also like it with just the vegetables and bread.

Slice the vegetables all the same size. I’ve tried growing my own but I have not been terribly successful. I guess never being home to water them may be a issue.

I left out the anchovy but I know people who absolutely live for them.

Panzanella with Grilled Chicken

1/2 cup olive oil; more for the grill
4 3/4 inch-thick slices sourdough bread
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
1 small clove garlic
4 medium tomatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (3 cups)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (1-1/2 cups)
1/2 small red onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, or mint

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grate.

Brush the bread on both sides with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Grill the bread until well marked, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cutting board, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the oregano, smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle evenly over the chicken breasts. Grill, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each breast registers 165°F, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for 5 minutes, and then cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil and the vinegar. Press the anchovy fillet and garlic clove through a garlic press into the bowl (or mince by hand). Add the bread, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and herbs, and toss well.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Cook zucchini on the grill and top with fresh tomato, ricotta and herbs. This recipe has eye appeal and pairs beautifully with a grilled steak and a great Cabernet.
Tomato and Grilled Zucchini Stacks
12 1/4-inch-thick slices zucchini (cut on the diagonal from 1 medium zucchini)
5-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1 tsp. sliced fresh chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. freshly ground green peppercorns
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 1/2-inch-thick tomato slices (from about 3 medium tomatoes)

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Brush the zucchini all over with 1-1/2 tsp. of the oil. Grill until lightly browned and barely tender, 1 to 2 minutes per side (the zucchini should retain a little bite). Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, chives, mint, green pepper, and a pinch of salt.
Season the tomato and zucchini slices on both sides with salt and pepper. To assemble, put a tomato slice on each of four plates. Top each with a slice of zucchini. Repeat two more times. Drizzle each stack with 1 tsp. oil, top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture, and serve.
I LOVE this sandwich so much I have to admit that it’s my new, favorite summer recipe.
First off, using a really good baguette is essential. I found some at Fresh Market in Lake Forest. This bread was just like the bread I made in my dutch oven and looked just like the baguettes in the picture I saw in Fine Cooking’s August/September issue.
I also stopped at Amidei Mercatino, a small alley market in Lake Forest. You pay a little more for fruits and vegetables but the quality is the best there is and that’s what you want for this recipe – the best peaches and tomatoes you can find.
I bought a peach at the Farmers Market in Evanston on Saturday that was just not up to the superiority of the peaches at Amidei Mercatino. Food is a priority for me so I’ll cut back on other things just to savor a great peach.
I used just one slice of pancetta on each sandwich half and it added just enough of that great flavor that only pancetta can. Really, I wonder how I survived all these years not knowing about pancetta. Better than bacon!
Who would have thought about putting peaches into a BLT but come to think of it the peach and tomato salad I made last summer is still one of my favorites.
Peach, Pancetta, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
8 oz. thinly sliced pancetta
1 18-inch baguette
1 to 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
2 medium ripe tomatoes (6 oz. each), thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large ripe peach, pitted and thinly sliced
4 leaves Boston lettuce

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Arrange the pancetta on a large rimmed baking sheet and broil until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Halve the baguette lengthwise. Put the bread cut side up on the oven rack and broil until golden, about 1 minute.
Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half of the baguette. Lay the tomato slices over the bread and season lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the peach slices, pancetta, and then the lettuce leaves. Replace the top half of the bread, cut the sandwich into 4 pieces, and serve.
This is a quick appetizer and the addition of green olives really gives it a great Mediterranean flavor. This would be a perfect dish to serve when you are going the wine and cheese route instead of dinner. I left out the parsley.
Tomato Caponata

1/2 medium red onion, cut into fine dice (about 3/4 cup)
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
Kosher salt
3 large tomatoes, cut into small dice
1/2 cup pitted chopped green olives
1/4 cup finely chopped caperberries
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the red onion, vinegar, sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt. Let sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, caperberries, oil, lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
Drain the onion mixture (discard the liquid) and add it to the tomato mixture. Gently stir in the pine nuts and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.