It’s August in New England, which means tomatoes are busting out all over. Every year we scale back the number of plants we put in, but we are blessed with a very sunny raised bed alongside our house that simply churns out tomatoes, basil, lettuce, eggplant, peppers and zucchini, so we are once again in abundance! Last year we added rhubarb, and it grew like crazy. I’ve already made one strawberry-rhubarb crisp this year, and am going to have to harvest and freeze a bunch more before the first frost. I’ve learned a lot about the proper ways to harvest and grow rhubarb so it comes back healthy every year, and I’ll post more about that soon!Today I’m sharing two easy salads that only require you to pick up a couple ingredients in addition to tomatoes — primarily the mozzarella and feta cheese — assuming you are growing your own basil, lettuce or cucumbers. Both salads are crowd-pleasers that keep well at cookouts and on buffet tables, and taste refreshing, not heavy or overly filling. Dig in and get your summer greens!
To make the Greek Salad:
Wash, dry and chop your lettuce, or just buy a box of fresh organic mixed greens, which is what I usually do. Place in a large bowl then top with sliced fresh tomatoes of any variety, diced red onion, Kalamata olives, sliced and halved cucumbers and crumbled Feta cheese.
Drizzle with the dressing of your choice, or make your own Greek salad dressing by shaking together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, a squeeze of half a lemon plus 2 TBSP red wine vinegar. You can add more zip by swirling in some Dijon or other mustard, and you can make it creamier by stirring in a spoon full of Greek yogurt. Yum! Just add to a jar and shake to emulsify.
To make the Caprese Salad:
On a serving plate, drizzle some good olive oil in a zig-zag pattern. Lay down half-moon tomato slices, top with a basil leaf, then finally place a slice of fresh mozzarella on the stack. Season with a little bit of pepper (fresh cracked is best tasting, but any kind is fine) and then drizzle with good balsamic vinegar over top. Serve!
Both salads will keep in the fridge for a few days, too, which is great for lunch. The caprese salad in particular travels well if you pack the slices tightly in a shallow container, and it’s that rare healthy item that my entire family will eat, so it’s going to be on rotation in our house for as long as our tomato plants are producing! I love anything that extends the feeling of summer, even when vacations and beach days are winding down and school is starting up.
Are you in Boston between now and Labor Day? Check out the 2017 Fermentation Festival happening this weekend at the Public Market! Join Boston Ferments from 10 am to 4 pm at the market, above the Haymarket MBTA station (orange and green lines) or on foot/by bike at the corner of Congress and Hanover streets. There will be demos, book signings, make-your-own-sauerkraut, food tastings, a libation garden and more!
Boston Ferments is an all-volunteer group of fermentation and pickling enthusiasts based in the Boston area, and willing to share starters for fermented foods, like yogurt, sourdough and kombucha. Why fermentation? Fermented foods — those made by converting sugars to acids, gases or alcohol — have preserved nutrients and are easier for the body to digest. Many cultures have traditionally fermented foods, from kimchi, pickles and miso to sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh. Eating fermented foods can introduce beneficial bacteria (“probiotics”) to your system, easing digestion and immunity. A proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps us to absorb nutrients in food more readily, and can contribute to better overall health. Fermented foods also last longer than canned food, making them very budget friendly, too.
Find out more at bostonferments.com, and have a great weekend!