Right about now tomatoes are flooding farmers’ markets, and just like that, they’ll be gone in a few weeks. That’s just the way it goes as summer fades into fall. Canning is one way to extend the season, but that takes a bit of time not everyone has available. Another way, and one that can take your salad to the next level, is to slow roast them.
Slow roasting takes some time, but it’s all hands off. Pop them in the oven while your doing another project around the house, and you’ll be rewarded for weeks, and months to come. Stored in the fridge, with a thick layer of olive oil, these Slow Roasted Tomatoes will last for up to 2 months. That is, if you can resist eating them all at once.
Rome is on my travel bucket list. Until I get there, I feed my urge to go by following a few bloggers and writers living in the Eternal City. Right now I can see it’s rice salad season from their photos on Instagram. I know, that sounds crazy—does rice really have a season? Well, it’s not so much about the growing season of the rice, as it is about the ingredients you use in it. Fresh tomatoes are a main ingredient, and that’s what makes rice salad a seasonal dish in the Roman mindset.
Aside from tomatoes, and of course the rice, the remaining ingredients for insalata di riso vary, much like many other family recipes handed down generation to generation. A pickled, briny addition are key, be it capers, olives, or a giardiniera (pickled vegetable mixture). Many, but not all, include red bell peppers, carrots, and celery—I went with two out of the three here.
One thing I do urge, though, is to mix your salad while the rice is still warm, not cold as some recipes direct. Trust me on this one. Warm rice will better soak up the flavors of the dressing and olive oil. If you’ve salted your rice properly, you might find there’s no need to add any additional salt once the salad is mixed. I’ll leave that final decision up to you, so season according to your own taste.
It’s so easy to get spoiled during the summer, as produce is plentiful, and needs little help from us to shine. This salad is a perfect example. Ripe, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and vibrant fresh-picked mint from the garden come together for a simple, but incredibly satisfying no-cook side dish.
As we often say when talking about Dress It Up Dressing, ingredients this good shouldn’t be disguised—dressing should enhance them, highlighting their innate deliciousness. All this trio of cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint needs is a bit of our Red Wine Vinaigrette, a grating of fresh lemon zest, and some salt to make your taste buds go “whoa”. That was my reaction when I first made. I truly wasn’t expecting such a humble salad to stop me in my tracks, and yet it did. Even with all my decades spent in the kitchen (I started young!), there are still plenty of surprises yet to be discovered.
Here’s the recipe.
Caprese salad, a classic Italian combination of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil seems like a no brainer salad, right? That’s true, mostly, especially this time of year when farmers’ markets are filled with ripe, sun-kissed tomatoes. A little thought, though, and you can up your caprese game big time. I discovered a few new-to-me tricks this summer that elevate it from a humble combination to a star-worthy salad.
First off, let’s talk about the basil. I used to cut larger leaves into ribbons. This year I decided to swap in smaller ones. They have a sweeter flavor, and less peppery bite than more mature leaves. You can even use some of the flowers that bud when your plant is telling you it’s time for a trim—they make for a beautiful garnish.
While thick, juicy slices of beefsteak tomatoes are wonderful, quartered grape tomatoes, or simply chopping up those beefsteaks is a fun approach. The same goes for your mozzarella—diced it, or use smaller bocconcini, and cut them into halves or quarters. Your caprese now becomes a chopped salad, of sorts, providing a perfect ratio of tomato, cheese, and basil with every bite. A sprinkling of good quality salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon salt flakes, and little bit of our Red Wine Vinaigrette pulls it all together for an easy, yet sophisticated, salad.
On its own, the salad is lovely, and a nice beginner to any summer entree. Piling it on top of toasted bread transforms it from an appetizer to a substantial main course. Perfect for lunch or a light, but filling, dinner.
Good quality bread is key here. Think sturdy, too, along the lines of country bread, something that can hold the topping when you pick it up. (And not to add to your To Do List, but either one of these recipes is perfect for this recipe, or any other recipe you might be considering!) Grilling the bread adds a nice charred flavor to the tartine. If you don’t have an outdoor grill, toasting it in a cast iron skillet is a great alternative.
Pecorino-Romano cheese is what I usually have on hand, but Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano would be equally lovely. Use a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler to shave paper-thin slices, and use as much or as little as you like, or leave it out if you want to keep this dairy-free.
One last note to share. I realize it sounds a bit fussy to peel the outer skin from the chickpeas. Trust me, it’s so worth the extra few minutes.
Okay, time to get down to the business at hand. Here’s the recipe.