Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Holding On

Whoa!!! Did I see my southern friends post photos last week on Facebook of their kids going back to school?! WTF?! It's the middle of August?! Since when did the buzzkill guillotine cut off summer while we're still in the thick of it? Well, I'm in the thick of fog actually, but there are times in the day when I see the sunshine. Everyone keeps telling me to wait until September when apparently summer arrives in San Francisco. We do have plenty of amazing summer produce so at least it tastes like summer to me. 

A quintessential summer dish in my book is a caprese salad. Done right, this timeless combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil is more than the sum of its parts. But every component counts, so you've got to find really good stuff or it's a little depressing—no better than the tomatoes you find in the grocery store in January. And while I like a good classic, I often find myself drawn to push the envelop—just a tad. One of my favorite summer fruits is the nectarine, and I thought it might be a nice add to a traditional caprese. And then since I hate my electric stove, I thought I'd expand it even further and make a full dinner caprese highlighting some of summer's best bounty. 

Actually, as I type this, I realize one could argue it's not a caprese at all. Just because a dish has tomato, mozzarella and basil in it doesn't automatically make it a caprese. It's like the people who rate recipes on cooking sites and they give the recipe "4 forks" but then proceed to tell you that they completely changed every ingredient in the recipe. Ummm, yeah, bozo, that's not even the same recipe so how can you even rate it? 

Given that, I guess I'm better off stating that this dish was perhaps inspired by the caprese salad. But this version has been bulked up to make it a legit dinner. And even if you don't hate your stove like I do, but are just feeling lazy or it's too hot to cook where you are (damn you), then this is your ticket. 

You do start with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, and then I added fresh corn cut off the cob, rotisserie chicken, arugula and my beloved nectarines. You could get crazy and shake up the caprese world even more by substituting any combination of bacon, prosciutto, peaches, roasted red peppers, roasted zucchini, burrata, mint or even tarragon. Drizzled with some good olive oil and lots of fresh ground pepper and salt, you've got a guaranteed winner. 

Even though kids are starting to head back to school, you've still got some weeks left before the stone fruit disappears. Here are a few nectarine tips you may appreciate: 
  • Go for freckles. Sun spots on nectarines are a sign of sweetness. 
  • Take a whiff. Choose fruit that is fragrant and has a little give or is only moderately firm. 
  • Don't chill. For the fullest flavor and juiciest fruit, store nectarines at room temperature, slightly apart, until they yield slightly to the touch. Then put them in the refrigerator. 
  • Know your colors. White nectarines are sweet and delicate and perfect served fresh in desserts. Yellow ones are brighter and richer flavored and can be served raw or cooked in sweet or savory dishes. And there is no need to remove the skin when cooking, unlike peaches. 
And hurry the hell up, September!  

Summer's Bounty Caprese Salad

1 pint cherry tomatoes (or 1.5 lb heirloom tomatoes)
3 ripe nectarines
8 oz fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese
corn cut from 1 ear
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
4-6 oz arugula (or other lettuce)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (purple or green)
handful fresh mint, chopped
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp white balsamic (traditional can work too)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Fresh salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk together vinegars, oil, mustard, salt and pepper. 
2. Slice tomatoes and nectarines, and tear burrata or mozzarella into chunks. Add to large bowl with corn, shredded chicken, and arugula. Drizzle dressing on top, mix and add salt and pepper to taste. 
3. Turn onto a large platter and scatter basil and mint on top. Add more salt and pepper if needed. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Holly! I was just visiting your site and this caprese salad looks absolutely amazing! Totally going to try it:-)