My challenge this morning was to create “salads” that could be eaten on a boat, picnic style. Whether you’re heading to a barbeque, movie night in the park, or any other occasion where utensils are a hassle, here are a few easy ideas:
The first is caprese salad…on a stick. You need:
- small mozzarella balls, cut in half
- a bunch of grape tomatoes
- basil leaves
- your favorite balsamic vinegar dressing (you can make your own by whisking/shaking equal parts vinegar and olive oil)
Assemble toothpicks with the mozzarella on the bottom, flat side down so it can stand. Then, fold one basil leaf in half and put it on the toothpick. The grape tomato tops it off. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic dressing.
The other option is chopped up vegetables and some great dressing as dip. I went with Sang Lee’s sweet ginger dressing. The farmer’s market had quite a selection for dippable vegetables today. I went with: wax beans, red and green bell peppers, burpless cucumbers and carrots. I also used some home-grown roma beans.
OK, it may not be rocket science… but it’s August and sometimes we just want to cut vegetables and use them as a vehicle for good dip.
Here’s another version of the classic Caprese salad. This one takes a little bit more prep work than the original post, and it’s a welcome variation because you can eat this one without a knife. Sometimes, the fewer utensils the better, especially when having to carry everything up and down a spiral staircase. This is a delicious side dish for a summer BBQ. To make it a hearty main dish, you can add couscous or quinoa and some toasted pine nuts.
The cherry tomatoes and basil came from my garden in the sky. I was pretty excited that I grew enough tomatoes to make a salad that fed 5 people!
Thanks to The Curvy Carrot for this fantastic recipe.
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 medium shallot, minced (about three tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
- 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped into bite-size pieces
- Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
1. Toss the tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the sugar in a medium bowl. Set it aside and let stand on its own for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the tomatoes to a salad spinner and spin them for a few seconds to remove the seeds and extra juice. Make sure you conserve the juice.
3. Put the spun tomato juice/seeds through a fine strainer to reserve the juice and discard the seeds.
4. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat on the stove.
5. Add 1/2 cup of the tomato liquid, the shallot, and vinegar to a simmer. Let simmer until the mixture is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. (I didn;t have that much tomato liquid so I just let it simmer for a while and then decided it was done when I felt like it)
6. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.
7. Whisk in the oil and salt and pepper to taste.
8. Add the basil and the mozzarella to the tomatoes. Toss gently to combine.
This basic dish is a great way to take advantage of the different varieties of tomatoes available in the Northeast at the end of the summer. While this salad may not win creativity points, it is worth posting because it is a classic combination and requires no cooking. I like to julienne the basil (so quick—see below) to spread the herb’s flavor out more evenly. The leftovers can be put into a sandwich for lunch the next day, or even used to make a fancy grilled cheese.
Note: If you use really fresh and delicious heirloom tomatoes, vegans can enjoy this salad without the cheese: just add a bit more salt to the tomatoes.
- 1 pound fresh, salted mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch slices. If you can find buffalo mozzarella, that would be best.
- 2-3 tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- olive oil for drizzling
- balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 15-20 basil leaves
- Layer the mozzarella and tomato in alternating slices on a large serving plate.
- Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Julienne the basil: Stack 5-10 basil leaves in a pile, facing the same direction. Roll the basil leaves up into a tight roll. Then, slice the basil into thin strips. Repeat with remaining basil leaves.