There’s something to be said about having the right tools to get a job done. I think this goes for just about anything in life, even food.
When you have nice ingredients or tools, cooking is more of a joy. It could mean a splurge on a quality olive oil or an aged balsamic vinegar, a luxury like truffles or Kobe/Wagyu beef (for meat eaters – maybe not for me 😉 ), or a nice quality knife or cutting block to work with as you prepare meals.
Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be expensive at all: buying produce in season, for example, when it’s abundant. You’re already off to a good start of making something good when you’re working with fresh food that’s in-season. It speaks for itself. You can do so little to it and it’s still delicious.
As ready as I am for the season to change as I sit here on my porch, on the cusp of my favorite time of the year — with cool wind blowing through the windows, anticipating the turning colors of the leaves that will start any time now — I’ll always take time to savor the last of the wonderful summer produce that I’ve grown and harvested or purchased locally at markets.
And one ingredient I always miss the most as the season turns is the tomato.
When tomatoes are perfectly juicy and ripe in New Jersey (especially here, in the “Garden State”, known for its tomatoes among other fresh produce in the summer), one of my favorite lunches to have in abundance during the summer is a good Caprese salad.
For those unfamiliar, I’m talking about thick slices or chunks of tomato and mozzarella (regular or smoked, for a different flavor, are equally as good) over fresh greens, drizzled with an aged balsamic and fruity olive oil, and sprinkled liberally with flaky sea salt and fresh pepper. P-E-R-F-E-C-T.
My love for Caprese — in salad form, sandwich form, skewers… any form — I’m not sure how or when it started, but I’ll take a wild guess and say that it had to start with a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato over the summer. I know I’ve professed my love before and I’ll do it again any day of the week. #noshame
A quick change-up to my favorite salad involves another summer all-star: corn. Grilled corn, to be exact, which takes on just an amazing, extra sweet flavor when it’s a little charred.
I normally would dress this with good olive oil and balsamic and call it a day, but this time, I found myself with an extra tablespoon or two of tzatziki and thought, that looks like a good salad dressing to me… If you find yourself with extra-thick tzatziki, a tablespoon or two each of lemon juice and olive oil can be whisked in to make it a little thinner to drizzle over your greens — speaking of which, arugula is my favorite when it comes to this salad.
Dress this salad simply with its classic partners, balsamic and olive oil, or try tzatziki as an alternative. If you find yourself with extra-thick tzatziki, a tablespoon each of lemon juice and olive oil can be whisked in to make it a little thinner to drizzle over your greens. This salad serves two if served before dinner as an appetizer or one if you're extra hungry and craving a substantial lunch or dinner salad.
- 3 cups arugula or mixed greens
- 1 large Heirloom or beefsteak tomato
- 4 oz smoked or regular mozzarella (this may be a small ball or half of a large ball, depending on what is available in your local grocery store)
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1 ear grilled corn
- ¼ cup basil
- ¼ cup tzatziki (thinned with 1 tablespoon each olive oil and lemon juice whisked in if too thick)
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- Fresh black pepper to taste
Remove corn from cob by standing it up in a small bowl and using a serrated or regular pairing knife to slice kernels off of the cob. Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice red onion. Thickly slice tomato and mozzarella in large slices or chunks.
Spread arugula on a large plate or platter and arrange sliced tomato, mozzarella, and red onion on top.
Sprinkle with grilled corn. Tear basil leaves with your fingers and scatter over the top.
Drizzle to your taste with tzatziki dressing and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately