The light is changing and the days have started to shorten. It won’t be long until pumpkin spice overtakes us, but for now literally every fruit and vegetable you can imagine is having its moment. Tomatoes: heirloom, local, or the fabulous ones that happen to be growing in your garden are just waiting to be picked. There are green beans galore, zucchini by the bushel, cherries, peaches, melons, and fresh figs. Snap up as much as you can and take advantage of all of it, because it will disappear faster than you can say caramel macchiato. Sure, you can freeze, can, or dry some of this bounty, but eat what you can while it’s fresh. Nothing beats the carpe diem of a fresh, juicy tomato and there is no better way to capture that than a caprese salad.
Typically, a caprese salad consists of sliced tomato, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Drizzled with some fruity olive oil, dappled with a ribbon of balsamic glaze, a few grinds of black pepper and a shower of flaky sea salt, it is heaven on a plate. A classic example of keeping it simple and letting the freshness of your ingredients shine through, you can add fruit as an easy way to take it up a notch. Melon, peaches, plums, berries, cherries – all are game – like the slices of cantaloupe nestled into the salad below. Vary the tomatoes, use different types of basil, and don’t limit yourself to sliced mozzarella. Creamy burrata, ricotta salata, small celiegine (mozzarella balls), as well as other types of cheese, like Manchego, Gruyere, or a sprinkling of herbed cheese curds will also play well.
Why stop there? Grab the biggest plate you can find and use it as a canvas. There are no rules here, so use your imagination and have some fun. See how much of what we have in season right now you can corral onto one plate and make it a riotous party of colors and flavors. Take it outside and enjoy it al fresco with a nice glass of wine. Add some crusty bread or crackers, and it’s dinner. Maybe some sliced ham, roast beef, or salami, or some chilled shrimp or pieces of chicken. There is no better time than right now and the place is right here.
- fresh green beans
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Everything Bagel seasoning
- 1 yellow zucchini, 1 green zucchini
- 1/2 lemon
- flaky sea salt
- tomatoes – heirloom, and other assorted sizes and varieties
- freshly ground black pepper
- balsamic glaze
- celiegine, Manchego, herbed cheese curds
- fresh cherries
- 1 cup cubed seedless watermelon
- 5 fresh figs, halved
- 1 fresh peach, sliced
- 1/3 cup black olives
- 1/2 cup large, green olives
- 1 ear corn, yellow or white, kernels removed
- 1 handful fresh Thai basil, tiny leaves and flowers
Blanch green beans in a small pot of boiling water until crisp tender. Transfer to ice bath for 5 minutes, then drain. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Everything Bagel seasoning. Slice colored peel of zucchini into ribbons using a vegetable peeler, saving the insides for another use. Toss ribbons together in a small bowl, seasoning with a squeeze of lemon juice and sea salt. Slice heirloom tomatoes, arrange on plate and sprinkle with sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze. Add slices of Manchego and celiegine. Add green beans and zucchini ribbons. Continue with cherries, watermelon, figs, and peach slices. Tuck cheese curds and olives into open spaces. Add cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with corn kernels. Scatter basil leaves and flowers over.