Monday, August 6, 2007

The staff of salad

In these fogged late summer daze, I have become enamoured with color. Red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes. Sweet 100's. Early girls. I love them all. I've been pretty into "kitchen sink" summer salads (more on that later) but I've been kicking around a few recipe ideas focused around produce that is booming at the moment. I forced Josh to come over and be my guinea pig as I knew he would probably have forgotten to eat all day and would therefore eat just about anything I placed in front of him, and probably like it. On the menu was:
Tomato Panzanella with Lavender and Mint
Sauteed sweet corn and red pepper with chili-lime butter
Red-rubbed flank steak

All were works in progress, though luckily all were edible. The chili-lime needed a bit more bang, the red-rub will next time go on a thicker cut, and the Panzanella needed...something. I gave it another go today, and figured it was the "pan" that just needed a bit more loving. Here is the second stage of this summer salad (as with all things that I make, amounts are approximate and should be adapted according to what you have). On the tomatoes--they are the stars of this dish, so this is the perfect time to make it. You don't want Safeway tomatoes, or winter tomatoes. This is good, summertime stuff here folks.
  • 2-3 lbs good tomatoes. I like mix of sizes (sweet 100's, big heirloom) as well as colors (red, tiger-striped green, those little golden goodies). Cut the small in half, cut the larger in a range of sizes (early girls perhaps in 4 or eight, big guys in large squares)
  • 2 cups trimmed arugula. You can cut this into think strips like the mint if you like.
  • Lavender salt (pretty cheap at Whole Foods, oddly enough)
  • Bunch of mint, to taste (optional)

For Croutons

  • A good loaf of bread. I didn't use the whole loaf, and in fact its great for day old. Try ciabatta or Acme herb slab. See below for crouton recipe.
  • Olive oil (1/4 cup-esque., or mix some olive oil and some butter)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

For Dressing

  • A smallish shallot, minced
  • 3ish tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Put diced shallot in a cup with vinegar and a bit of lemon and let mingle for 20ish minutes.
In the meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 with a cookie sheet in there. Cut the bread (you may choose to take off the crust, or leave it on if you like the texture or are lazy. In a frying pan, heat oil or oil and butter over medium heat (until butter foams or oil is warm). Add garlic and let cook 30 sec to a minute. Add bread to pan and toss to coat, or if the pan is small put the cubes of bread on cookie sheet, pour oil over, sprinkle with sea salt and grind a bit of pepper atop. Bake, stirring once or so, until the bread is lovely and crispy but still a bit soft in the middle. Remove after about 8-9 minutes and let cool. These can be stored in a Tupperware for a day or two.

While the bread cools, cut the tomatoes and sprinkle with lavender salt. Taste to make sure you have not created something that tastes like potpourri. Take mint leaves to taste, and lay them all one atop another. Roll them up, then slice thinly across the roll, as if you were cutting a baguette. Do the same to the greens if you like. Slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar. In a big bowl, toss tomatoes, greens and bread (you may want to add the mint later). Grind pepper to taste. Let sit for one hour and up to a few--this could be good for pick nicks--or eat immediately if you are quite hungry or like your bread very crispy. Before serving, taste and add olive oil as needed.

Some possible variations--remove mint and lavender, add burrata, or another good fresh mozzarella, and basil. Or, leave lavender in, and add some tasty goat cheese. These are just ideas--let me know if you try them. They're on my list. As always, any suggestions, additions, or changes (I never measure my salad dressing) are awaited...

Next: Cheddar and pink pearl grilled cheese with garlic-onion jam...

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