Caprese salad is a classic. It is also a salad I see done poorly all too often. The star of the show is the tomato. The mozarella and basil are merely supporting characters. Only make cabrese salad when tomatoes are in season and pick the best you can find. Cut the fresh mozzeralla smaller than the tomato, the creamy goodness is just a counterpoint to the juicy ripe tomato. The dressing is very simple with just enough basil and garlic to let the tomato sing.
Slice the best tomatoes you can get your hands on.
Layer with much smaller slices of fresh mozzarella.
Salt and pepper generously.
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic minced
6-8 basil leaves chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Whisk first 4 ingredients together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
Pour the vinaigrette over the tomato and cheese.
Succotash is a favorite of my husband’s. Plain old corn and lima beans is good enough but why not make it awesome? Summer squash is a classic addition from the triad of the Native Americans. Onions and red pepper sautéed in bacon drippings adds flavor. Finishing the whole thing off with cream and parmesan makes it the ultimate! Don’t eat meat? No problem skip the bacon and use olive oil or a combination of butter and olive oil. This succotash is so rich and flavorful I serve very small portions of meat or chicken with it. I used thawed, frozen baby lima beans here but when fresh are in season, by all means, use them. Also in the off season frozen corn will work.
2 slices applewood bacon cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion diced
1/2 red pepper diced
1 small to medium summer squash quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 cup thawed frozen baby lima beans
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
Sprig of thyme
3/4 cup heavy cream
Parmesan to grate
1. Sauté bacon until crisped to your liking. Remove to a paper towel covered plate reserving the drippings in the pan.
2. In the bacon drippings sauté the onion and red pepper till limp. If needed add some olive oil.
3. Add squash and thyme. Cook about 8 minutes stirring occasionally.
4. Add beans and corn. Heat through.
5. Add cream and cooked bacon and let reduce to a nice sauce consistency.
6. Transfer to a serving bowl and grate some Parmesan over the succotash.
Basil is available all year long but is abundant and cheap in the summer. It grows like a weed at my house and big bunches are only one dollar at the farmers’ market. I make several batches and freeze them for the winter. I leave the cheese out of the batches for the freezer. I often use nuts other than pine nuts as they are so expensive. You can use any pasta but I like a short one with crevices for the pesto to hide in. Torcetti is the pasta in the picture. Green beans are an easy and traditional addition. Pesto pasta is a great main dish but can be served as a side as well.
2 coves garlic peeled
1 bunch basil
3 ounces parmesan chunks
1/3 cup pecan pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cups torcetti pasta
1 1/2 cups green beans cut to same length as pasta
Parmesan for grating
1. Drop garlic into running food processor. Process until you no longer hear the bits on the blade. Wipe down bowl.
2. Add basil to the processor and pulse 8-10 times.
3. Add Parmesan and pecans to the bowl run until well ground.
4. With processor running add olive oil. It should be a thick paste. You may need to scrape bowl and add a few more drizzles.
5. Bring pot of salted water to the boil. Add pasta and beans. Low boil for 7-8 minutes till pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water then drain.
6. Toss pasta and 1/2 of pesto in a bowl. Add some of the pasta water to blend. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.
The rest of the pesto can go in a small bowl covered with olive oil and will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.