Tags: Basil

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Vinnie and Tuddy’s summer camp had only one clear cut rule, “Don’t touch Pop-op’s tomatoes.”  Being small and prone to a bit of trouble, I neglected the “Don’t” in this singular law and became determined to get my grubby little hands on each piece of blazing red fruit.

On a slow mid day break from pizza making and breadcrumb crumbling, I carefully tiptoed over the border stones that outlined my Grandfather’s garden and snuck inside.  Amidst the greenery, wooden stakes and cages I was almost completely camouflaged.  I turned in circles on my heels, dizzy with joy.  Peering over my shoulder, to ensure Drew was keeping a proper look out, I began to methodically touch each dangling tomato solely because I was not supposed to.  I turned around once more and caught my brother with his head face upward, following a passing cloud in the clear blue summer’s sky and I knew I had lingered too long.  I felt my heart drop to the pit of my belly when from nowhere my Grandfather appeared like a ghost.  He lifted me up with one hand from the patch of tomato earth and placed me beside my clueless little brother.  Not a whole lot was said but his disapproving look hung around until dinner.

The next morning as Drew and I sleepily shuffled into the backyard of my Grandparents house, I saw my Pop-op hunched over a small plot of dirt about a hundred yards from his own larger patch.  He had re-planted a Roma tomato bush.  He presented us with an old Chivas Regal container full of miniature garden tools and motioned toward our newly pruned section of the yard.  I think our tomato plant lasted about two weeks, not bad for a gardener of 5 and 3 years of age.

*The recipe below is a classic-it’s simple and perfect alongside every summer meal.  Tomatoes only taste like themselves for two or three months out of the year- so after September you are better off with a can or jar.  The real thing is worth the wait. 

Ingredients

4 garden fresh beefstake tomatoes (if using plum make it 6, if using cherry or grape make it 12-14)
1/2 cup freshly torn basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Slice the tomatoes into quarter wedges.  In a salad bowl combine the tomatoes salt, basil and black pepper, stir to combine.  in a small bowl or cup combine the honey and olive oil, whisk gently and toss with tomatoes.  Serve and enjoy!

New Edition Pasta Salad

Whether on the beach or in the park, no picnic or barbeque menu would be complete without the ubiquitous pasta salad.  Let us pause here for just a moment- I want you to close your eyes and envision the pasta salad.  Overcooked elbow or shell shaped pasta, smothered in what is sure to become warm slippery mayo, studded with bits of bell pepper and onion that at one time may have been crisp but are now slightly softened by the heat of the sun.  For decades this salad held a place and the end of the summer BBQ table, next to a pile of hot dogs and hamburgers, atop a red and white checkered table cloth, and for just as long we have all spooned servings of the dish onto a paper plate only to push it away from our seeded buns and eventually toss it in the garbage.  The pasta salad, as just described in extreme detail above, has seen its end.   If you need I will give you a moment to say your goodbyes….

I promise there will be no separation anxiety upon this introduction to a new, lighter, more flavorful edition as seen in the recipe below.   I hope you enjoy.

New Edition Pasta Salad

1 pound farro
1 pound baby spinach
2 cans UN marinated artichoke hearts rinsed (you can also used frozen just make sure to properly thaw)
1 clove garlic
Juice and zest of two small lemons or 1 large lemon
8 fresh basil leaves
4 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used Locatelli, because I always use Locatelli)
1 tablespoon salt
7-10 turns of fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preparation:

Rinse the farro in a colander with several washes of water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous amount of sea salt.  Add the farro to the boiling water and cook for aproximately 15 minutes or until tender, but still al dente.

In a food processor or blender add the artichoke hearts, basil, mint, walnuts, Locatelli, garlic clove, salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice.  Slowly pour in the olive oil and pulse until all ingredients are pureed.

Gently tear the spinach leaves into a large salad bowl, add the cooked farro and stir lightly to wilt the leaves.  Add the artichoke puree and combine well.  Season with any additional salt and pepper at this time.  Serve warm or at room temperature.