Wheatless Wednesday Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Peaches with Balsamic Reduction

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Summertime favorite, Caprese Salad goes rogue with sliced ripe peaches and a drizzle of velvety rich balsamic reduction. This colorful combo was the brainchild of my son, Eric.  I had recently purchased a flat of perfectly ripe peaches and I am lucky enough to have a constant supply of lovely heirloom tomatoes from my garden in shades of red, yellow and even striped green.  The peaches add a nice sweetness to the traditional tomatoes and mozzarella and the balsamic reduction is the piece de resistance.  Of course, you can drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette which is easy and delicious, but the reduction is worth the minimal effort.  In only 10 minutes or so, balsamic vinegar is transformed into a richly flavored syrup that can be drizzled on almost anything to enhance its natural flavors.  I also love using a variety of colors for an exceptionally colorful presentation.

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Peaches are one of summer’s most popular fruits and they are so good when they are at the peak of the season, like they are right now. Peach peels can  be fuzzy and tough, so I peel them for this salad so they blend better with the tomatoes.  If you are using a thinner skinned peach or nectarine, just slice them up without peeling.  Peaches are low in calories and fat free but provide fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including A, C and potassium.  They definitely add some pizzazz to this salad! For another ‘rogue move’, try substituting goat cheese or feta and adding some chopped fresh mint along with the basil.  Yum!

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I love using columnar basil when I can, especially as a garnish.  It has small leaves which are tender and fragrant, and quite pretty when sprinkled on top of foods since they don’t need to be chopped.  Most grocery stores don’t carry columnar basil but some Farmer’s Markets do.  I grow my own from seedlings I bought at a garden center.  They are pretty hardy compared to other types of basil and don’t flower as often (i.e. needing to be constantly clipped) so the plant keeps growing, up to three feet tall.

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TIPS:  For a beautiful arranged salad, cut all components into similar sizes, shapes and thickness, at least as much as possible.  To make ahead, slice tomatoes, peaches and mozzarella and arrange on a serving platter.  It will be fine sitting at room temperature for an hour or so until you’re ready to serve.  Drizzle with balsamic reduction and garnish with basil just before serving.

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TOMATOES AND MOZZARELLA WITH PEACHES AND BALSAMIC REDUCTION

3-5 assorted ripe tomatoes
1 large ripe peach
6 oz bocconcini (or other size fresh mozzarella balls)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsn sugar

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  • Bring balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes.

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  • Taste balsamic reduction and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency) Check the consistency.  If it’s too thin, simmer for a few more minutes.  If it’s too thick stir in one drop of water at a time until syrupy.  Transfer to a small bowl or server with a spout.

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  • Remove stem end of tomatoes and cut in half vertically.  Cut horizontally into 1/4 inch slices (or wedges, if you prefer)

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  • Cut peach in half and remove pit and peel.  Slice horizontally into 1/4 inch slices and place on a platter with the tomatoes.

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  • Slice each bocconcini the long way into 3 slices. and arrange over tomatoes and peaches.

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  • Cut basil into julienned slices if using large basil leaves and sprinkle evenly over tomato mixture.

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  • Drizzle balsamic reduction over tomato mixture and serve with more reduction on the side.

 

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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3-5 assorted ripe tomatoes
1 large ripe peach
6 oz bocconcini (or other size fresh mozzarella balls)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsn sugar

  • Bring balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes.
  • Taste balsamic reduction and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency) Check the consistency.  If it’s too thin, simmer for a few more minutes.  If it’s too thick stir in one drop of water at a time until syrupy.  Transfer to a small bowl or server with a spout.
  • Remove stem end of tomatoes and cut in half vertically.  Cut horizontally into 1/4 inch slices (or wedges, if you prefer)
  • Cut peach in half and remove pit and peel.  Slice horizontally into 1/4 inch slices and place on a platter with the tomatoes.
  • Slice each bocconcini the long way into 3 slices. and arrange over tomatoes and peaches.
  • Cut basil into julienned slices if using large basil leaves and sprinkle evenly over tomato mixture.
  • Drizzle balsamic reduction over tomato mixture and serve with more reduction on the side.

Wheatless Wednesday – Tomato & Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

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Basil + Tomatoes = Love.  If asparagus is the harbinger of spring, tomatoes are the essence of summer.  I reaped the first ripe tomatoes from my garden yesterday, still warm from the sun.  What a treasured bounty! It was so warm in March in California that I decided to plant tomato seedlings then which is very risky but I got lucky, or rather temperatures never dropped too low and I never even had to cover my tender plants at night.  So now I am enjoying the largesse.  I had planned something entirely different using lentils and eggplant for dinner tonight but could not resist the pull of my fresh tomatoes so I ended up making Tomato and Eggplant Stacks layered with fresh mozzarella and avocado drizzled with a fresh Basil Vinaigrette.  Bliss!

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I did have a little mishap in the garden, however. I was trying to tuck a heavily laden branch behind a support and the stem snapped.  It didn’t break all the way so I decided to ‘bandage’ it up with a bit of painter’s tape and hope for the best.

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Do you see the little blue ‘bandage’?  If my doctoring doesn’t work, I will be ripening about a dozen green tomatoes on my windowsill.  Crossing my fingers…

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What can I tell you about tomatoes except that they are the ultimate in summer dining? Did you know that Tomatoes were a wonderful gift from the Mayans?  Tomatoes are native to the Central America and were cultivated by the Aztecs centuries before the Spanish explorers introduced them to rest of the world. Lucky for us!  Besides being delicious, tomatoes are nutrient dense, loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.  They are an especially good source of Vitamin C and the phytonutrient, Lycopene, which is a beneficial antioxidant.  So slice away!  Put them on sandwiches, in salads or add them to your morning toast with a slice of avocado and a sprinkle of fresh basil.  Yum!

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TIPS:  To easily remove the avocado pit, strike down on the pit with a sharp knife and twist until it come out.  You can roast the eggplant ahead of time, even the day before, and store in the refrigerator.  Just bring to room temperature before assembling.  For best results, use eggplant and tomatoes that are a similar size.

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For a more colorful arrangement, use a variety of tomatoes.  If you aren’t into stacking, just throw everything together in a large bowl and drizzle with basil vinaigrette.

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TOMATO & EGGPLANT STACKS WITH BASIL VINAIGRETTE

3-4 fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 small globe eggplant
1 avocado, ripe but firm
6 oz fresh mozzarella, optional

BASIL VINAIGRETTE

1 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 small shallot or 2-3 scallions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey or agave
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

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  • Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/3 inch rounds.

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  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes,  or until lightly browned, turning halfway through,.  Or grill them on both sides. Let cool.

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  • Place all vinaigrette ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Set aside.

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  • Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/3 inch rounds. Cut avocado in half crosswise, remove pit (see tips) and peel.  Slice into 1/3 inch rounds.  (Make slices thicker or thinner to your liking)

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  • Build stacks by placing one tomato slice as the base, then eggplant, mozzarella, tomato, avocado then tomato.

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  • Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with fresh basil.  I also had some balsamic reduction left from my Antipasti Platter which I put out for extra drizzling.  Balsamic Reduction Recipe HERE.

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Tomato & Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

TOMATO & EGGPLANT STACKS WITH BASIL VINAIGRETTE

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3-4 fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 small globe eggplant
1 avocado, ripe but firm
6 oz fresh mozzarella, optional

BASIL VINAIGRETTE

1 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 small shallot or 2-3 scallions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey or agave
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/3 inch rounds.
  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes,  or until lightly browned, turning halfway through,.  Or grill them on both sides. Let coo.
  • Place all vinaigrette ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Set aside.
  • Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/3 inch rounds.
  • Cut avocado in half crosswise, remove pit (see tips) and peel.  Slice into 1/3 inch rounds.
  • Build stacks by placing one tomato slice as the base, then eggplant, mozzarella, tomato, avocado then tomato
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with fresh basil.

 

Antipasti Platter – Roasted Eggplant, Peppers & Tomatoes with Burrata

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NBA Playoffs are here and my husband had an offer to go the the Warriors game LIVE, so I invited my two lovely neighbors over for some impromtu girl time.  Yes, the game was on and the Warriors won!  But more importantly, we watched female style, champagne in hand and a lovely antipasti platter spread before us.  Needless to say, a good time was had by all and my platter with thin slices of roasted eggplant, charred mini sweet peppers, wilted cherry tomatoes, salty olives and creamy burrata passed the test!  The eggplant was a rich and flavorful, the mini peppers just got sweeter through roasting and the burrata was a delight.  The big winner though, was the balsamic reduction that I drizzled over the whole thing. Credit goes to my son, Eric, for that recipe.  Yum!  Oh, and here are our fun napkins…just because.

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If you have never had burrata, it’s similar to fresh mozzarella but creamier and even more delicious! Burrata means ‘buttered’ in Italian if that gives you any indication of it’s yumminess. It resembles fresh mozzarella but it’s insides are soft and ooze out upon cutting it open. Mmmm….. I used a burrata from Belfiore, one of the few small family owned, cheesemakers in the SF Bay Area.  I love to promote local companies, especially when they take such care to use only quality natural ingredients, and the owners just happen to be friends of mine – even better!  Belfiore handcrafts their cheeses using no artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives.  In addition I love that they  use a vegetarian rennet in making their burrata.  I really like this brand but there are many other good handcrafted cheese companies out there too so look around.

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TIPS:  I love fresh herbs on almost anything.  I just walk outside my kitchen door and clip whatever I have on hand.  This time it was fresh basil, thyme and parsley, however, any fresh herbs will work just fine.  If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, sprinkle a bit of Italian Seasoning on top of everything before drizzling with balsamic reduction.  The balsamic reduction is heavenly and I can think of dozens of ways to use it in the future.  It’s easy to make but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil will be tasty too.

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I will be out of town next week at Rancho La Puerta (an early birthday present to myself) so I will not be in my kitchen but getting inspiration from the wonderful chefs at The Ranch.  So stay tuned, especially on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM for photos from my week at The Ranch.  When I come back, I’m sure I will have a lot to share… Have a good week!-Joyce

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ROASTED EGGPLANT, PEPPERS & TOMATOES  WITH BURRATA

1 globe eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint miniature sweet peppers
8 oz burrata, room temperature if possible
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, parsley, basil or thyme, roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives (optional)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsn sugar, brown sugar or honey
Vinaigrette:  2 Tbsn olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

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  • Remove the leafy stem and cut the aubergine into half lengthwise

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  • Then slice thinly lengthwise using a sharp knife or a mandolin

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  • Spread the slices on papertowels and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the excess water come out.

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  • Wipe eggplant slices dry. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet and spread eggplant evenly in the pan in a single layer.  You may need more than one pan depending on the thickness of the slices.

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  • Brush tops with olive oil and roast at 400°F until they turn light brown, about. 25-35 minutes

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  • Place cherry tomatoes and peppers in another lightly oiled pan and roast in the same oven until charred in spots and wilted. Turn peppers once.
  • Stir balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsn sugar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency)

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  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.  Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and pour the vinaigrette onto the warm eggplant and lightly toss to combine.

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  • Arrange eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives and burrata on a platter.

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  • Sprinkle herbs and arugula over the top.  Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and balsamic reduction.

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  • Serve room temperature with crusty sourdough bread and the remaining balsamic reduction on the side.

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Roasted Eggplant, Peppers & Tomatoes with Burrata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 globe eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint miniature sweet peppers
8 oz burrata, room temperature if possible
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, parsley, basil or thyme, roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives (optional)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsn sugar, brown sugar or honey
Vinaigrette:  2 Tbsn olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

  • Remove the leafy stem and cut the aubergine into half lengthwise, then slice thinly lengthwise using a sharp knife or a mandolin
  • Spread the slices on papertowels and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the excess water come out.
  • Wipe eggplant slices dry. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet and spread eggplant evenly in the pan in a single layer.  You may need more than one pan depending on the thickness of the slices.
  • Brush tops with olive oil and roast at 400°F until they turn light brown, about. 25-35 minutes
  • Place cherry tomatoes and peppers in another lightly oiled pan and roast in the same oven until charred in spots and wilted. Turn peppers once.
  • Stir balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsn sugar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency)
  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and pour the vinaigrette onto the warm eggplant and lightly toss to combine.
  • Arrange eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives and burrata on a platter.
  • Sprinkle herbs and arugula over the top.
  • Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and balsamic reduction.
  • Serve room temperature with crusty sourdough bread and the remaining balsamic reduction on the side.