Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot
What do you eat when it feels like you’re living on the face of the sun? I have lived in California my whole life and yes, in August and even into September, we typically will get days that are in the 100s. The lightning show we had over the weekend is definitely not typical nor is the humidity that went with it. I don’t know how people who live in hot and humid locations do it. Personally, I don’t handle it well.

My sister and her husband lived in Atlanta for a few years and I remember visiting them and felling like I was going to pass out—and it wasn’t even the height of the summer! You walk out the door freshly showered and you’re immediately sticky. I’ll take the dry heat, thank you. Even without the humidity just the thought of making something for dinner in the hot weather makes me sweat.

I am not a salad person per se. I like salads but they are not my go-to first choice for an actual meal. I usually have them with a meal so that I don’t go looking for a snack an hour later. The exception to that is when it’s hot outside. For the past week I have been enjoying a number of heartier salads including a couple of chef’s salads as well as various tomato salads. My tomatoes are loving the weather even if I am not. So, we have been trying to eat them as fast as we can.

Salads work for me in the heat for two reasons. First, not having to turn on a hot stove, oven or even the grill is an obvious benefit. Second, I tend to not eat as much in the heat so what would normally leave me hungry in an hour, actually fills me up just fine.

This recipe for Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad is perfect for summer weather because it combines some of the best produce of the season with cheese. How could you possibly go wrong? The original recipe calls for peaches but I prefer nectarines. (Mainly because I’m not a fan of the fuzziness of the peach skin.) I have made this according to the original recipe many times, but I have also made it with the addition of fresh mango and/or cucumber to the mix. It’s tasty and cooling at the same time…

Nectarine, Tomato & Burrata Salad Recipe
Yields 4 Servings
Adapted from Bon Appetit Read more…

Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad

Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad

Sunday Morning Hazards
Sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble. Sometimes I agree to things without thinking. Sometimes it’s worth it.

Last Sunday morning, we were couch-surfing after a tasty French toast breakfast and the Pioneer Woman was on the TV (because the Food Network is always my daughter’s first choice unless any of the Harry Potter movies are on). I wasn’t really paying attention but I had a vague idea that it was on in the background. Our plans that day revolved around a woodwork project for the back patio so I was trying to figure out my plan of attack. It was then that I heard my husband announce to the room” I want that for dinner!” and I stopped everything that I was doing to take a look.

It is rare that a member of my family tells me exactly what they want to eat without any prompting from me. Usually, there is a lot of back and forth about what sounds good? What do we have in the fridge? Etc..So when someone says I want that, it’s kind of a big deal. I said yes without hesitation. I was already planning on going to the store anyway so no biggie…right?

This, of course, was all before I spent the next 6 hours crouched down staining two by fours in the sun. When we finished our project and it was time for dinner I was less enthusiastic about our dinner plans and promises I made. Thankfully the recipe came together easily and went well with the pork chops I threw on the grill. Even better it made enough to cover lunch the next day. (This recipe actually makes a lot. It would be perfect for a potluck…when we can do that again!) In fact, it was even better the next day.

I wasn’t better the next day. I was walking like the tin man….

Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory Granola

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory GranolaA Gracious Plenty
One of the greatest things about living in California is that we have access to the best produce in the world. Literally. California is one of the largest if not the largest producer of fruits and vegetables for the planet and most of that is grown about an hour’s drive (depending on traffic) away. So it should come as no surprise that while other regions of the country are currently struggling to put produce on their shelves because of logistical issues, here in the golden state, we’re doing okay.

Right now our produce department looks great. The bins are full of fresh leafy greens and, due to a bit of luck that could only happen because of a pandemic, we just got some outrageously good oranges in that would normally be bound for Japan. If I had to choose the item that has been brightening my day for the past few weeks though, it would be the bright colors of the organic heirloom tomatoes. They call to me like a siren song every time I go down that aisle and I am unable to resist taking at least a couple home. But even those beauties don’t hold a candle to the ones you grow in your own garden which is why, over the weekend, we planted a garden.

It’s been a number of years since we’ve planted a veggie garden for a few reasons. The biggest roadblock was time. The number of hours we spent running around going from this place to that—sometimes staying overnight—made tending a garden impossible. And, then there are the critters. Chickens, you may be surprised to know, can be as destructive to plants as locusts and don’t get me started on the squirrels…

Now that we’re doing a lot less running around we decided to give a garden a go. Of course, something ate my pepper plant the first night but the tomatoes are still there. We chicken-proofed our planter bed and it seems to be working for now.

The plants are already thriving so I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll have a good harvest. In the meantime, I remain thankful for all that we have access to an look forward to the coming weeks and the start of the stone fruit season…

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory Granola
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 4 servings

The granola adds a crunchy topping to this delicious salad—and there is plenty left over to sprinkle on other salads and dishes. The lemony ricotta negates the need for salad dressing. Use the best heirloom tomatoes you can find for maximum flavor. Read more…

Tomato Chile Melon Salad

Tomato Chile Melon SaladTomato Treasure
This is the time of year when tomatoes are at their best. And, if you are growing your own, chances are you have more than you can handle. For me, that was always the best part of gardening. There is nothing better than a homegrown tomato. Giving a portion of your bumper crop to someone who understands and appreciates that a homegrown tomato is worth its weight in gold is just as satisfying as eating one. In fact, I tended to over-plant just so I could give some away. Mainly to my mother who lived for a summer tomato sandwich.

Time constraints and squirrel invaders have prevented me from planting a tomato garden in recent years. So, I have become hopefully dependent upon the generosity of my tomato-growing friends and I am beyond grateful when they share.

Summer tomatoes make the best meals because they don’t require you to do anything with them. They are basically the perfect snack. The flavors are so good that to hide them under or in a heavy sauce or as an ingredient in a complex recipe is in my mind criminal. If you ask my husband, the best way to eat a summer tomato is to slice it up, sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt and eat it with a fork. That was how my grandmother liked to eat hers, too. But, she would also serve them sliced alongside some avocado wedges and sprinkled with a little bit of Italian dressing (and the occasional dollop of mayo). I think that is one of my favorite “salads” that I serve with grilled steaks. Having a variety of heirloom tomatoes sliced on a platter can be a very pretty yet simple side dish addition to any meal.

I think if I had to pick my favorite way to eat peak of season tomatoes, though, it would be sliced and set atop some creamy fresh burrata cheese that has been spread on a slice toasted baguette. Heaven! (Add a little prosciutto and you have the perfect picnic!) Which is probably why this Tomato Chile Melon Salad recipe appeals to me so much. It’s basically an appetizer platter in a bowl.

Tomato Chile Melon Salad
Yields 4 Servings Read more…