Ok, well that’s a tad dramatic for what are essentially three yummy and easy (and tomato-y) salads that can be whipped up in a flash to serve as a side to, well, almost anything. Each time I make them, I get lazier, not bothering to whisk the vinaigrette first or even to make sure I actually have all the ingredients on hand. I had them with pulled chicken sandwiches, herbed turkey burgers and Florentine steak (more on that later). In the summer, I love to eat but I hate to cook. Who doesn’t? A perfect situation for these salads of few ingredients, which by the way, only get better as the growing season progresses. Don’t even bother in winter or early spring. You really need decent tasting tomatoes for these.
First, to celebrate the summer season (and the official beginning of summer vacation-teachers everywhere know what I mean by this), I had the girls over for a dinner in “Provence”. The menu: Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta, Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Pickled Onions, 3 Bean Baked Beans and a refreshing Watermelon and Feta Salad. Let’s not forget the beverage of the alcoholic sort, the Vodka Lemonade with Basil Infused Simple Syrup. Except for the beans and the watermelon salad, these recipes were loosely yanked from http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/. I was inspired by their recent Welcome to Summer Cocktail Party menu (even though the ingredients aren’t actually in season yet in Michigan).
Here’s how I adapted their Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta:
1 package Trader Joe’s mini heirloom tomatoes (the real thing isn’t available in Michigan in mid June)
6 basil leaves (not much of those available either, but I plucked a few young leaves from my garden anyways)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (plus about 2 tablespoons for brushing on the bread)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
coarse salt and pepper
1 multi-grain demi-baguette, sliced into 10 thinnish pieces (you may not use all of it)
Here goes: halve or quarter the tomatoes depending on their size, then add all the ingredients through the salt and pepper, except for the basil, which should be added before serving to cut down on bruising. Mix well, taste, adjust your seasonings and let sit on the counter for a good while. While your salad is marinating, brush your sliced baguette with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with a very small amount of coarse salt. Place in oven at 400 ° for about 8 minutes, flipping after 5 minutes, until they look toasted. I used my toaster oven for this step and it worked perfectly. When ready to serve, add the torn basil and pile the tomato salad on the toasted, oiled breads. It doesn’t matter if the tomatoes tumble off the sides of the breads, in fact, that’s even better. Though simple, this was a big hit with the girls.
Salad #2 is a Tomato, Cucumber and Feta salad, loosely based on a Village Greek Salad (meaning without lettuce) that I’ve been making for years. Except I didn’t have peppers or black olives, which meant less chopping (bravo!). This one was served with the aforementioned Florentine T-bone.
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup diced feta cheese
1/4 medium red onion, chopped
random herbs such as fresh oregano, basil and/or mint
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a couple of splashes of champagne vinegar (which really makes it sparkle!), coarse salt and black pepper.
This one’s even easier. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let chill for at least an hour. And about that Florentine T-bone, well, it’s a Giada thing. Just rub both sides of the steak with a clove of garlic and a good drizzle of olive oil. Add chopped rosemary, coarse salt and black pepper. Rub in with your hands and let steak come to room temperature. We grilled these on high for 4 minutes per side for medium well but use your judgement. When they come off the grill, squeeze lemon juice over the steaks and let them rest. You won’t believe how simple and delicious this preparation is if you’ve never tried it. No steak sauce required (and I’m a big fan of steak sauce).
Finally, Caprese Salad is an Italian classic and quickly becoming a regular guest at my summer table. Sometimes I eat it all by itself or as a baguette sandwich.
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (I’m getting repetitive here)
1 ball fresh mozzarella, diced to cherry tomato size
fresh basil (whatever amount you have is fine, I used about 5 leaves, more later in the summer)
juice of one lemon
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and black pepper
optional: 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper for spice
Once again, mix ingredients and let sit for at least an hour. And speaking of those Herbed Turkey Burgers…
I added the above chopped herbs and a 4 oz. log honey flavored goat cheese (sorry Wendy, I know you will never make these…how about substituting some blue cheese instead?)
p.s. These salads just might cause you to go “Nigella”, if there’s any left, sneaking tasty and satisfying bites right out of the fridge in the middle of the night!