Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Parfaits

It’s peak summer season, which means it’s peak tomato season. The farmer’s market tables are piled high with tomatoes galore, and if you have a garden, chances are your tomato plants are weighed down with ripe cherries, robust Beefsteaks, and sassy Early Girls ready for the picking. The best way to enjoy a fresh picked tomato, in my opinion, is as simply as possible, so its natural sweetness and sun-kissed flavor shine through.

In our kitchen, a favorite preparation is the Italian Caprese salad, a platter of thick slices of vine-ripened tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, and just-plucked basil leaves. All that’s needed is a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar and the ingredients speak for themselves. Another equally popular preparation is tomato bruschetta – thick slices of grilled garlicky bread topped with a jumble of juicy chopped tomatoes, basil, and, ahem, more garlic. This is finger licking hands-on fare, best served family-style accompanied by a pile of napkins to wipe up the sweet dribbling juices.

This past weekend, I combined these two recipes into one for a simple yet elegant presentation, including burrata cheese, grilled bread, and fresh basil, layered into small glasses. It was a smart and fun way to portion the tomatoes and dress things up for entertaining, while saving our summer whites from wayward juices. I am a sucker for heirloom tomatoes with their variety of colors, patterns, and bulbous shapes, and these glasses perfectly displayed them like confetti. A dollop of creamy burrata and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar resulted in a fresh and savory parfait that is as beautiful to look at as delicious to eat.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Choose firm yet ripe tomatoes with a range of colors, and be sure to use a good extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. You will need six (8-ounce) glasses for this recipe.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Crostini:
6 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal, about 4 inches in length and 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Sea salt

Parfaits:
2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 burrata, about 8 ounces
6 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup small basil leaves (or large leaves, chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the crostini: Preheat the oven broiler or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Lightly brush each bread slice with the oil. Broil or grill the bread until crisp and golden on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside while you assemble the verrines.
2. Combine the tomatoes, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Divide the tomatoes between six (8-ounce) glasses.
3. Cut the burrata into 6 wedges and place one wedge in each glass. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in each glass, and garnish with the basil and black pepper. Top each glass with a crostini and serve immediately.

Easy Grilled Broccoli and Carrots

broccoli carrots

In a matter of a few weeks our farmers market has transformed into the vegetarian equivalent of a candy store. New leaves, baby shoots and spring bulbs are on display in miniature form as their growing season is in full force. In general, I like my veggies cooked simply, and at this time of year their freshness demands it. All that’s needed is a quick steam, saute, or a turn on the grill and you will have a simple and delicious side to any meal.

Broccoli and carrots pretty much sum up the ingredient list for this veggie side I made recently – plus a pinch salt and splash of olive oil for good measure. Everything converged on the grill, which in itself is another ingredient to the dish, adding char to complete the flavor profile. On the grill? Yes, if you are careful and lay the vegetables perpendicular to the grates to prevent them from slipping through. Better yet, if you have a cast iron skillet (which you should), preheat the skillet (or a griddle) on the grill, then sear the vegetables until they wilt and char, and you are good to go. Vegetables simply never tasted so good.

Grilled Broccolini and Carrots
Serves 4 to 6 as a simple side dish

1 pound baby broccoli (broccolini), ends trimmed
1 pound baby carrots, trimmed, halved lengthwise if thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. If using a skillet or griddle, preheat on the grill for 10 minutes.
2. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil – just enough to coat without soaking – and lightly season with salt, then turn to coat.
3. Lay the vegetables perpendicular to the grill grates (or spread in the skillet) and cook until bright in color, crisp-tender, and lightly charred, turning as needed, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness of the stalks.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl and season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired.  Serve warm.
5. Other options: sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes over for a nice bite and drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.

Farmer’s Market Roasted Chicken Dinner

chicken platter tastefood

Springtime Bounty

A trip to the farmers market yielded the ingredients to inspire and assemble this dinner. It didn’t require much: one chicken, a bunch of green garlic, potatoes, and lambs lettuce. A good glugg of olive oil, a head of garlic, and a lemon plucked from our tree was all that was needed to bring this meal together – and a skillet and a grill.

chicken skillet

Green garlic is young garlic which resemble thick spring onions. Its buttery and mild flavor is amplified when roasted and braised. In this preparation, the green garlic’s bulbs and white stalks are tucked under a whole chicken which nestles in a skillet between hunks of potatoes and a garlic head while roasting. For serving, the reserved green garlic tips are chopped and tumbled with lemon zest, oil and a pinch of sea salt, for a bright gremolata garnish – making sure that the garlic stalks are completely put to use. A fresh lambs lettuce salad, simply dressed with lemon and olive oil, surrounds the chicken, mingling with the pan juices which are redolent with the buttery roasted garlic cloves. One stop shopping and dinner at its best.

garlic scapes

Roasted Chicken Platter with Potatoes, Garlic Scapes and Lemony Lambs Lettuce

The beauty of this recipe is its ease of preparation and one-skillet method. The veggies and chicken roast together – either on the grill or in the oven. Other vegetables such as onions and carrots may easily be substituted. Serves 4.

1 (4 pound) whole chicken
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound garlic scapes
1 pound small yukon gold potatoes, halved crosswise
1 large head of garlic, outer layers of skin removed, top trimmed by 1/4 inch to expose the cloves.
1 untreated lemon, halved

Salad:
6 ounces lambs lettuce (mâche)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. If you have time, season the chicken all over including inside the cavity with salt. Place in a bowl or on a rimmed dish and refrigerate uncovered for a few hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Drizzle and coat with olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
2. Prepare a grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (about 400°F/ 200°C). If using an oven, preheat to 400°F.
3. Snip off the green stalks of the garlic scapes and set aside. Place the bulbs, the potatoes and garlic head in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, then dump the vegetables into a large cast iron skillet (or grill-proof baking dish). Nestle the chicken into the center of the vegetables, breast-side up. Roast over indirect medium-high heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting occasionally with pan juices and rotating the pan from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove from the heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for 15 minutes.
4. While the chicken rests, squeeze the roasted garlic into the pan and gently mix around to combine with the juices and vegetables.
5. Make the gremolata: Finely chop the green garlic tips and place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
6. Make the salad: Place the lambs lettuce in a large bowl. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Add to the lambs lettuce and toss to coat.
7. Spread the salad around the rim of a large platter, leaving the center clear for the chicken. Carve the chicken into serving pieces and arrange in the center of the platter. Scatter the roasted potatoes and garlic scapes around the chicken.  Spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken and vegetables and sprinkle with the gremolata.

Winter Greens and Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

beet salad Lynda BalslevMarinated Beets, Arugula, Spinach, Pistachios, Feta, Mint

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have a salad. In fact, winter is a great time to eat a bowl of healthy greens – chock full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber, a sure-fire way to keep the doctor away. While summer salads are often light and ethereal, winter salads have heft, laden with all sorts of goodies like nuts, cheese, and dried fruit.

winter greens

Winter Greens and Baby Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is brimming with baby kale, spinach, radicchio, and chard, sprinkled with nuts and seeds, and sweetened with roasted beets. A rich and potent vinaigrette naps the leaves, taming and binding the bitter, nutty, earthy flavors. I make a dressing, with rich, sweet and viscous balsamic, and slightly thicken it with Dijon mustard, so the dressing is sure to cling to the leaves. Mix and match your favorite greens from what’s available in the farmers market. Be sure to include a combination of bitter and mild flavors as well as a variety of color and texture. For this salad I used spinach, chard, baby kale, radicchio, and arugula, and flowering broccolini as a garnish.

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1/2 pound baby or small beets, roasted, peeled, cooled
8 cups assorted greens
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon pepitas

Whisk the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Cut the beets into quarters or halves, depending on the size. Place the greens in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Scatter the beets, pistachios, and pepitas over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing to taste.

Lemony Mixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint

fava green saladIt was tempting to fiddle with this salad, but I am happy I didn’t. The beauty of this plate of greens is its simplicity. Bright fava beans, mint, spring greens and napped with lemon and olive oil. Favas are a bit of work to prepare, but well worth the effort. A good idea is to prep more than you need, then freeze the leftovers for easy use later. Feel free to mix the greens to your liking. Peppery arugula is a must, on its own or combined with mizuna, baby spinach, watercress – they all work. If you can get your hands on fresh chervil, that will add nice flavor as well.

Lemony Mixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint
Serves 3 to 4

1 pound fava beans in the pod
5 ounces (about 5 cups) mixed greens
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, shredded
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Shuck the fava beans. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and blanch until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the shells.
2. Whisk the olive oil,  lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl.
3. Combine the fava beans, greens and mint in the salad bowl. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing to taste. Scatter the cheese over the salad and garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

Farmers Market Chicken Dinner

chicken platter tastefood

Grilled Chicken, Garlic Scapes, Potatoes, Lambs Lettuce, Lemon, Roasted Garlic

A trip to the farmers market yielded the ingredients to assemble this spring dinner. It didn’t require much: one chicken, a bunch of green garlic, potatoes and lambs lettuce. A good glugg of olive oil, a head of garlic, and a lemon plucked from our tree was all that was needed to bring this meal together. And a skillet and a grill.

chicken skillet

Green garlic is young garlic and resembles thick spring onions. Its flavor is buttery and milder than garlic cloves, and it’s delicious roasted and braised. In this preparation, the bulbs and white stalks were tucked under the chicken which nestled in a skillet surrounded by potatoes and the garlic head. The green garlic tips were chopped and tumbled with lemon zest, oil and a pinch of sea salt, for a bright gremolata garnish – and no waste. Lambs lettuce is mild and pleasantly nutty and best simply dressed so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavor. I dressed it lightly with oil and lemon and scattered it around the carved chicken. And the roasted head of garlic? Squeezed into the pan juices for deep flavor and a rich final touch.

garlic scapes

Roasted Chicken Platter with Potatoes, Garlic Scapes and Lemony Lambs Lettuce

The beauty of this recipe is its ease of preparation and one-skillet method. The veggies and chicken roast together – either on the grill or in the oven. Other vegetables such as onions and carrots may easily be substituted. Serves 4.

1 (4 pound) chicken
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound garlic scapes
1 pound small yukon gold potatoes, halved crosswise
1 large head of garlic, outer layers of skin removed, top trimmed by 1/2 inch to expose the cloves.
1 untreated lemon, halved

Salad:
6 ounces lambs lettuce (mache)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. If you have time, season the chicken all over including inside the cavity with salt. Place in a bowl or on a rimmed dish and refrigerate uncovered for a few hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Drizzle and coat with olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
2. Prepare a grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (about 400°F/ 200°C). If using an oven, preheat to 400°F.
3. Snip off the green stalks of the garlic scapes and set aside. Place the bulbs, the potatoes and garlic head in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, then dump the vegetables into a large cast iron skillet (or grill-proof baking dish). Nestle the chicken into the center of the vegetables, breast-side up. Roast over indirect medium-high heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting occasionally with pan juices and rotating the pan from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for 15 minutes.
4. While the chicken rests, squeeze the roasted garlic into the pan and gently mix around to combine with the juices and vegetables.
5. Finely chop the green garlic  tips and place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
6. Place the lambs lettuce in a large bowl. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Add to the lambs lettuce and toss to coat.
7. Carve the chicken into serving pieces and arrange on a large serving platter. Arrange the roasted potatoes and garlic scapes around the chicken. Scatter the lambs lettuce around the chicken and vegetables. Spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken and vegetables and sprinkle with the gremolata.

Skillet Dinners: Spicy Sausage, Mustard Greens and Cauliflower

sausage greens tastefood

~ a farmers’ market bounty in a skillet ~

Last week I came home from the farmers’ market with an armful of mustard. I shop with my eyes and couldn’t resist the bunches of mizuna mustard leaves – frizzy purple, spiky red, scalloped green – not to mention their sunny flowers strung together in tidy bouquets. Since then, they’ve made themselves at home in my fridge, while I’ve reached for pinches and handfuls at each meal, tossing in salads, sprinkling as garnish. Yesterday was our last hurrah. I up-ended the remaining mustard into this quick one-dish skillet dinner, along with my other market acquisitions: spicy Italian sausages, violet-tinged baby cauliflower, orange cherry tomatoes and a few handfuls of curly kale for good measure.

Spicy Sausage, Mustard Greens and Cauliflower in a Skillet
Serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 ounces Italian sausages, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups cauliflower florets, any color works
Salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 generous bunches mustard greens and/or kale, tough stems removed
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage in one layer and cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once. With a slotted spoon transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. If the skillet is dry, add 1 more tablespoon oil. Add the cauliflower and a sprinkle of salt; sauté until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the greens, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cumin, paprika and black pepper. Saute until the greens are tender and bright in color, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sausage. Cover partially, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm with couscous or farro.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes with fresh mustard:
Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Pickled Mustard Greens from Hunter Angler Gardner Cook
Mustard Greens, Tofu and Chicken Soup from Viet World Kitchen
Grilled Shrimp and Mustard Green Salad from White on Rice Couple