Friday, July 18, 2008

Small Towns. Summertime. Salad.

Greetings Small Town Girl fans! RebeccaC, from A Homemakers Habitat, here! First off, I must thank Mandy for inviting me to write a guest post while she is away enjoying music and mayhem at the Country Bears Jamboree (or something like that). Second, I must apologize in advance: this post pales in comparison to yesterday's brilliantly hilarous, mildly-disturbing tale from Rachel. I'll never look at bicycles (or stripper poles) the same way again.

As I was mulling over ideas for this post, I knew I wanted to keep with Mandy's underlying small-town theme. Afterall, thats what first attracted me to this blog. You see....I'm a big-city girl, living in downtown Chicago, but in my heart of hearts I have a special fondness for smaller towns. Places where you can hear frogs and crickets at night, your backyard is big enough to erect a shed and weekends involve things like camping and Country Jamboree.
One of my favorite recent Mandy posts came last month: Picking Berries...the story of childhood-Mandy helping her grandfather pick strawberries from his backyard berry patch. The story brought back fond memories of my own grandpa and great uncle, who grew up in a small town outside of Springfield, IL. Though my grandpa passed away when I was still very young, some of my favorite memories are about summers spent in my uncle's garden. He had a sprawling yard with patches for garlic, onions, zuchinnis as tall as I am....and tomatoes: amazing, juicy, delicious tomatoes in every color of the rainbow. When we'd visit my grandma, he's walk over with armfuls of red, gorgeous tomatoes and we'd spend half the day making spaghetti sauce or eating them raw with a bit of salt.

To this day, the smell of garden tomatoes makes me feel like I'm far away, on summer vacation. More likely, I'm sitting in our little condo in downtown Chicago wishing for a balcony so I could plant my own tomatoes.

But at least we have the farmers market, where I can lust after other peoples' produce. So thats where I found myself this past week, spending nearly $10 on every possible variety of home to make my favorite summer salad: Caprese.

I know its a summertime staple on restaurant menus everywhere at this point, but I still find the versionI make at home with garden tomatoes to be the most satisfying. The key to the dish (obviously) is really fresh tomatoes...and if you can find them, a few colorful heirloom varieties make it even better.

If you can get to a farmers market this weekend (or perhaps even your own backyard garden), I hope you'll enjoy this salad and think of our friend Mandy (doing Jello shots at Country Jamboree).

Garden Tomatoe Caprese Salad

Serves 2

3-4 medium tomatoes, whichever varieties you've got (garden-fresh of course!)
1 "ball" fresh mozzarella cheese
3 fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin strips
2 Tbs. good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked sea salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and arrange in layers on a large plate or platter. Spring basil strips evenly over the top and drizzle with oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

This can be enjoyed alone, but also tastes incredible piled onto freshly baked bread. Yum!


MeLaNiE said...

Those look so good! I need to try them!

Andy said...

My mom does this!! I never knew how it was called but it is GOOD.

Rachel said...

I'm sorry I can't hear what you are saying over the growling of my stomach