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.
With the recent abrupt onset of summer, our grill has been getting some good use lately. Although I love grilling vegetables (asparagus, potatoes, eggplant, and portabellas are among my favorites), I kept my greens off the flames until today. I’m happy to report a new vegetable will now be part of the regular rotation. The parmesan basil crisps on top of the lettuce add the necessary crunch. Also, parmesan cheese might be one of the best foods out there and making these crisps seemed like a fun experiment to try on this quiet Sunday.
The crisps can be made a day ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container. Hopefully you make a few extra because you’ll want to taste a few right away, just in case.
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 3 T julienned basil
- 2 large heads of romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed, cleaned and patted dry, and sliced lengthwise down the middle
- 3 T olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt and pepper
For the crisps…
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine cheese and basil.
- Put a heaping tablespoon on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten gently.
- Continue to add more tablespoons of the cheese mixture, leaving a bit of space between each one.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes, until golden and crisp.
- Allow to cool, and then remove with a flat spatula.
For the lettuce…
- Once your lettuce is dry, you’re good to go.
- Heat grill to medium-high
- Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and set aside for a few minutes so that the oil gets garlicky.
- Brush both sides of the lettuce with the oil mixture, starting with the rounded side and then doing the flat side of the lettuce.
- Place the romaine heads flat side down on the grill.
- After 2-3 minutes (check for a nice browning), flip the lettuce 1/3 way. Repeat again after 2-3 minutes more. Do it again until the lettuce is nicely browned all over.
- Serve with crisps.
It was one of those perfect-weather weekends in Brooklyn. Even though yesterday included a devastating playoff loss for the Nets, nothing was going to bring me down. We were so inspired by the weather that we grilled for the first time. You can roast this asparagus in the oven if a grill is not nearby. This recipe makes more than enough dressing for 1 bunch of asparagus, and I figure it would taste great on any green salad throughout the week.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 T soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 T honey or brown sugar
- 2 T peeled and minced ginger (I’m a big fan of the ready-to-go minced ginger in glass jars)
- 1 t sesame oil
- sesame seeds, for garnish (optional) (Really, everything is optional…let’s be honest here)
- 1 bunch asparagus, woody stems removed
- Heat a grill to high heat.
- Place the first 7 ingredients (through the sesame oil) in a food processor (a mini one works) and blend until smooth. Add water to thin out if necessary. Set aside.
- Lightly coat asparagus with cooking spray or a touch of olive oil, and put in a grill basket. Heat on a grill for 2-4 minutes, shaking the basket once or twice, until spears are slightly tender and starting to brown. Remove from grill.
- Place asparagus in a large bowl, and coat with a few tablespoons of the dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using, and serve.
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.