June 14, 2009

beating the heat, caprese style

Yesterday I spent the morning with my mother, helping her harvest some of the most beautiful produce I've ever seen. For the second week in a row, I came home with pounds of vegetables: carrots (of course), lettuce, banana peppers, okra (green and burgundy), onions (secret!), zucchini, cucumbers, squash, and a few of the most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes.

It is an unbelievable sight to get home with an ice chest full of home-grown goodies and know that you'd better get to work soon. How inspiring to stare at vegetables you harvested yourself, that your mom grew from seed, and think... We get to eat this. What's better, is going to the grocery store only to buy things like flour, and Topo Chico, and maybe some cheese; there's no need to purchase veggies that have been flown in from around the world. Coupled with our Saturday morning trip to the farmers' market, where we scored some candy-sweet blueberries, the harvest from my mom's garden was more than enough to get us through more than one week of meals.

The first thing to be gobbled up? The gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, of course. I had one brandywine and two green stripe varieties set aside for Sunday's lunch.

On the menu? Caprese salad. This is perhaps one of the easiest salads to put together, and I'd venture to say one of the most elegant. After drizzling extra-virgin olive oil on the plate, I began layering slices of fresh, handmade mozzarella, then quarter-inch-thick slices of the heirloom tomatoes, then a single leaf of basil from our small container garden. I drizzled a little more EVOO over the striped plate, and topped it all off with a few twists of fresh-ground pepper.

Nothing could be simpler, and few meals are more refreshing than this strictly-summer salad--and of course, it's always better with fresh and local ingredients. Ryan and I agreed, this was the best Caprese salad we'd ever had. Serve with sparkling water or maybe, if you're feeling spritzy, some light and refreshing prosecco or vinho verde.
I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
I love this even more so with the heirloom tomatoes, and can't wait to bring home more from mom's. Of course, we're about ready to harvest our own heirloom tomatoes from the front garden, and I'd love to learn to make mozzarella at home... So maybe, just maybe, the next time we have this it will be 100% grown and made right here from our little apartment.