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

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

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.

Heirloom Tomato Tartare Verrines

Heirloom Tomato Tartare Verrines

~ Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata, Basil, Crostini ~

Before I fully throw myself into fall, I will share this recipe that takes advantage of the bushels of heirloom tomatoes we are still lucky enough to enjoy. Our warm and sunny early autumn has kept the supply of tomatoes ample and ripe. I am a sucker for heirloom tomatoes, their range of colors, patterns and bulbous shapes are eternally pleasing. In this easy recipe, I dice a variety of tomatoes and serve them in a glass, or verrine, to show off their colors. A dollop of creamy burrata and drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar results in a savory parfait that is as beautiful to look at as delicious to eat.

Considering how fresh and minimal this recipe is, it’s key that you use high quality ingredients. 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.

Heirloom Tomato Tartare Verrines
Makes 6 small appetizers

6 slices of baguette, cut 4 inches in length by 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed
1 1/2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut in 1/4 inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 burrata rounds, approx. 4 ounces
Aged balsamic vinegar
Basil sprigs

Preheat oven broiler. Brush baguette slices with olive oil. Rub with garlic clove. Arrange in one layer on a baking tray. Broil until lightly golden on both sides, turning once. Remove and set aside.
Place diced tomato in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine. Divide the tomatoes evenly between 6 glasses. Top with a spoonful of Burratta. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar. Top with a basil sprig. Serve with baguette crostini.

Ratatouille Gratin

~ Ratatouille Gratin ~

It’s that time of year when the vegetables sneak up on you. A month ago, summer squash were elusive, appearing in the markets in small groups at a price. In the garden they were merely a hint of themselves peeking from their flowers. Purchases felt premature, tasting a little bitter, and costing too much for something you knew would soon be prolific.

Then, before you know it, a month has passed and squash are teeming everywhere. The garden is lobbing them to you like tennis balls, the market shelves are stacked with zucchini, crooknecks, and patty pans, ripe and ready for consumption. With the bounty, it’s time to get creative, because, ironically, it’s easy to tire of this abundance, and that is a shame.  So, yesterday I was determined to use my imagination to celebrate summer squash. Instead of a traditional ratatouille, I made a gratin. And before I made the gratin, I played a little bit with my food and made Ratatouille Stacks.

~ Ratatouille Stacks ~

The ingredients are identical, only the arrangement is different. Serve the gratins as side dishes or a light vegetarian meal. The stacks are fun appetizers.

Ratatouille Gratin with Goat Cheese and Basil

Try to choose squash and eggplant of a similar diameter. This recipe makes enough for an 8 to 9-inch square or round pan. Alternatively, you can arrange the vegetables in smaller individual gratin dishes.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

1 narrow eggplant, about 10 ounces
1 medium zucchini, about 6 ounces
1 medium yellow squash, about 6 ounces
1 large red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch pieces, plus extra for garnish
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven broiler.
2. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash crosswise about 1/3 inch thick. (If the eggplant is much wider than the squash, quarter lengthwise and slice 1/3 inch thick.)
3. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and peppers in one layer on an oiled baking tray. Brush the tops with additional oil and lightly season with salt and black pepper. Broil on the top shelf of the oven until the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, and brown in spots, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Remove and cool to the touch.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8 or 9-inch square or round gratin dish. Arrange the vegetables, alternating and slightly overlapping, in rows or a circular pattern. Tuck the basil between the vegetables in a random pattern so that it is evenly distributed. Scatter grape-size amounts of the goat cheese evenly over the vegetables.
5. Bake the gratin in the oven until the cheese is soft and light golden in spots, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with extra basil if desired.

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta with Mozzarella

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta

Call it impulse shopping: I couldn’t resist the peppers at the Farmer’s Market.  It was my Thursday morning run to the market, nice and early to beat the crowd and avoid the scorching summer sun.  I was on an efficient mission to purchase ingredients needed only for dinner and not to spend too much money (my history is dismal in both areas.)  I breezed through quickly, authoritatively and with discipline, a few simple sacks of greens for a dinner salad lightly gracing my arm.  I was nearly finished, my wallet still in tact.  And then I saw the pepper table.  Sandwiched between the Asian vegetable ladies and the artisan goat cheese vendor, the pepper table stood out like a psychadelic altar to the produce gods.  Stacks and stacks of peppers were on display in a confetti of colors. Gnarly sweet red gypsies, smoky green poblanos, shiny purple bells, lantern-shaped habaneros, perky plump red cherries. It was a pepper smörgasbord.  I took some pictures, and then I filled my one remaining bag  with all kinds of peppers: Anneheim, Fresno, Hungarian, jalapeno, serrano. When the bag was full, I sheepishly asked for another, discarding any previously displayed discipline. I had no idea what I would use the peppers for – I wasn’t thinking; I just had to have them.  Luckily, this wasn’t a shoe store.


So, several days later, after putting the peppers to satisfying decorative use in a bowl on my old Provençal farmer’s table, it’s time to eat them.  I think I will simply sauté them, because I’ve become attached to the aesthetic qualities of my peppers, and I think this will help retain their vibrant color and structure the best.  For an easy dinner tonight, I will make bruschetta topped with the sautéed peppers and melted cheese.  If I have any peppers left over, they can be used tomorrow in a pasta salad, a vegetable tian or as a pizza topping.

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta with Mozzarella
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course

For the bruschetta:
4 – 1/2″ thick slices of peasant or sourdough bread
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the peppers:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs. (800 grams) mixed summer peppers, stemmed, seeded, large peppers cut lengthwise in strips, small peppers sliced horizontally in rings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut in 4 slices
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves

Make the bruschetta:
Grill the bread on both sides on a griddle pan or in an oven until toasted golden. Smash each garlic clove with the side of a large kitchen knife.  When the bread is grilled, brush each slice with olive oil and rub the smashed garlic over the bread slices. Place on baking sheet.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add peppers and sauté until tender but not too limp, about 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Spoon peppers over bread slices.  Shred one mozzarella slice over each bruschetta. Sprinkle one tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano over bruschetta.
Grill in oven until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute.
Remove from oven and arrange on serving plates. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Garnish with basil leaves.