Friday, August 13, 2010

Salad Days ( and Preserving Nights)

Everything is in full swing around here. The tomatoes are coming in gangbusters and that means non stop salads! I live for these days of walking out on the back deck and picking a rainbow of fresh tomatoes and eating them still warm from the sun.
One of our favourite ways to serve fresh tomatoes is a modified caprese salad, using fresh Ontario peaches, along with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. Drizzled with olive oil and a splash of balsamic, the sweet tastes of summer explode in your mouth!

Another popular summer salad is panzanella, or Italian bread salad, using fresh ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and onions from the garden. It's also a good way to use up stale bread.

2-3 cups of heirloom tomatoes chopped ( about 10 small/med tomatoes)
3/4 cup loosely torn basil
3 cloves of garlic minced
2/3 cup of good olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 cups of chopped seeded cucumber
1/2 cup red onion chopped
2 cups of stale bread cut or torn into small chunks -use a good bread!
Salt and Pepper
Shaved Parma cheese

Cut tomatoes in chunks according to size- cherries can be halved, bigger tomatoes in pieces. Place in salad bowl and salt well- this encourages the juices to come out and increase the tomatoes flavour.

Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a frying pan and add garlic. Heat garlic until just starting to brown and removed from oil. I dump the cooked garlic right into the salad bowl but you could put it aside to mix with the dressing.

Allow the oil to heat up till very hot ( if it's smoking it's too hot) Drop in bread chunks and lower heat. Stir chunks rapidly, turning so all sides are lightly brown. Remove from pan and put in salad bowl.

Add torn basil, chopped onions and cukes,

Mix remaining oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and add to salad. Shave cheese on top and mix everything well. Allow to sit for 5- 10 minutes to let bread absorb some of the juices and dressing.

When the Russian and I were first dating, he informed me that he hated tomatoes. He had arrived in Canada after working 10 years on cruise ships so I was pretty sure he'd never actually tasted a ripe tomato. After enjoying them fresh from the vine, he's now converted to tomato love.

Tomatoes are not the only thing taking over the house these days. An early spring and hot summer has everything ripening about two weeks ahead of schedule so the canning season has also come early. Not far From the Tree has been busy so I have a ton of fruit to process as well. With the kitchen being far too hot to cook in I've adapted the back deck into a makeshift cannery, using the side burner on our propane grill as well as a butane portable burner. The preserve shelves are quickly filling but the mountain of produce doesn't seem to be shrinking! When I'm up to my elbows in sticky fruit and sweat is trickling down my face, I remind myself that soon enough it will be January and the fruits of this labour will make it all worthwhile.


  1. great post... My wife always asks me why I "insist on canning" on the hottest days of the year.. I tell her that I can when the "garden says it's time "

    she never complains when I open a jar of pickles in January :)

  2. I took a break and went out of town for a few days - I was worried the whole time that my tomatoes would all ripen and rot while I was gone. Thankfully we had cool rainy weather the whole time and I only lost a couple to raccoons. Now that it's cooler weather I'll be right back at it!