One of my favorites this time of year is the simple caprese salad--luscious ripe tomatoes, creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, bright fresh basil, and very little else. I prefer mine with just a drizzle of really good olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
I recommend using a mix of tomatoes if you can--I made this salad last summer, and the plum (Roma) tomatoes and yellow tomatoes complemented one another perfectly. Yellow tomatoes have less acid in them, and are a bit milder. I like to think of them as a "gateway tomato" for folks who don't love tomatoes. (It's sad, yes, but there are many people who don't.) Also, you need to use fresh mozzarella, which is usually sold in the deli section of your grocery store, with the fancy cheeses--it's spongier in texture than the stuff you usually put on pizza, and is often packaged in liquid. If you prefer to gussy your caprese up with balsamic or other flavors, might I suggest this recipe from the Pioneer Woman? My recipe is at the end of this post.
What if Caprese salad isn't really your thing? Never fear. Here are some other ideas for yummy hot weather meals that won't even make you break a sweat!
Seared Chicken Salad with Cherries and Goat Cheese Dressing, from Everyday Food magazine: I've made this a couple of times, and it's delicious and easy. The tang of the goat cheese is perfect with the crisp lettuce and sweet cherries!
Grilled Chicken Salad with Feta, Fresh Corn, and Blueberries, from the Pioneer Woman: I haven't tried this, but it sounds delish!
Thai Chicken Salad, from For the Love of Cooking: This sounds totally delish, and might help satisfy a craving for Asian food while keeping things light.
Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts, from Ezra Pound Cake: This is so unique; I wonder if I could get my husband to eat squash this way?
Hope there's something here to inspire you to make the most of the summer's bounty of fresh produce. I want to head to the farmers' market right now!
Caprese Salad, recipe by Julie
Time: 15 minutes, including washing the basil. Serves: 2-4.
- Mixed ripe tomatoes, about 1 large or 2 small tomatoes per person
- 8-16 oz. fresh mozzarella (depending how much cheese you want per person!)
- 1-2 cups fresh basil leaves, whole (again, depending how much you like).
- Very good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Sea salt, such as fleur de sel, to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Wash tomatoes, remove the cores of large tomatoes, and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices using a serrated knife. Arrange on a large plate or platter. (You may add some salt and pepper at this point if you want to focus the seasoning on the tomatoes themselves.) Since the ends of the tomato don't usually look as pretty, you can just go ahead and eat them right now--no one will know!
- Slice mozzarella into equal thickness slices and arrange on top of the tomato slices, however you like. Tip: the trick to slicing the mozzarella is to use the same serrated knife you used for the tomatoes.
- Rinse and pat dry the basil leaves. Scatter across the salad.
- Drizzle the whole salad with olive oil, to taste, and season with sea salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.