Watermelon, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Lemon Basil

IMG_6336What is more summery than this salad? Ripe berries eaten off the bush? Kids running through a sprinkler? Fireflies? There may be a few contenders, but the list is short. One step further than eating each of these ingredients straight (which is a wonderfully summery thing to do as well), this simple salad plays up each component’s attributes by contrasting with the others. Crunchy cucumber, meaty tomato, and sweet watermelon, are excellent foils to fragrant lemon basil, slightly pickled onions, and salty/creamy feta bound together with fruity olive oil.

This is my Potter Hill CSA recipe for the week, and everything in the salad except the cucumber is in the share (the cucumber is also from Paul, I just bought it separately). The rest of the share was 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, purple potatoes, and savory. I’m going to use the rest of the lemon basil and red onion in these soba noodles (and I’m going to sub nectarines for the mango). I used the cherry tomatoes and leftover bok choy from last week in a Thai curry with tofu from Dinner (which is almost identical to this recipe, but with shiitake mushrooms instead of crimini, and cherry tomatoes and bok choy instead of the snap peas). The husk cherries just got eaten as a snack, and I’m not sure what the fate of the purple potatoes is yet. Maybe potato salad? Or over Dijon lentils?

Watermelon, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Lemon Basil

Serves 6

I listed quantities for each ingredient, but don’t worry about sticking to them too strictly. Use what you have, and just try to balance the ingredients.

  • 1/2 a small watermelon (~4 cups once chopped)
  • 1 lb of tomatoes (I used one monster yellow tomato, but 2-3 normal sized ones would be plenty)
  • 1 small cucumber (1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 very small onion)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this is the time to bring out the good stuff)
  • 4 ounces of feta, cubed
  • a large handful of lemon basil (regular basil or cilantro would also work)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Put the sliced red onion in a small bowl and top with the vinegar. Stir to coat.

Cut the tomato and watermelon into 1″ cubes. Chop the cucumber. Arrange the watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumber on a platter. Scatter the red onion on top, and sprinkle the leftover vinegar over the salad. Top with the feta and basil, and then drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the whole salad. Finish with the salt and serve.

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Summer Composed Salad

20180808_122241For my Potter Hill CSA recipe this week I made an updated version of a salad by a very similar name for our current season. The concept is the same: take a mix of cooked and raw vegetables, pick a protein, and serve them with a tangy dressing. Use whatever is currently at its peak and let it shine, which this week is new potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I included hard boiled eggs because I always have them around, but grilled chicken or canned tuna would be a great choice too.  I swapped capers for dill in the dressing this time because herbs are jumping out of my produce drawer right now, and another soft herb like basil or parsley would also work great.

Tomato season is hitting fast and hard, and I could not be happier. My forever favorite tomato meal is lightly toasted bread with mayo, thick tomato slices, salt, and pepper. A couple years ago I wrote about my favorite things to eat in August, and I still stand heartily by that list. I made this tomato tart this week which had great contrast and intensity from fresh tomatoes and a sun dried tomato spread (I used savory instead of the thyme and feta instead of goat cheese to use up what I had). I also have my eye on this harissa eggplant, eggplant tortas, and a big fat BLT later this week.

Summer Composed Salad

This is incredibly easy to scale. I plan on these quantities per person: ¼ lb potatoes, 1 small tomato, ½ cucumber (assuming a smaller cucumber – like a pickling cuke), 1 egg. I would also use blanched green beans, lettuce leaves (separate them from the head but don’t slice them), radishes, or salad turnips.

Serves 6

  • 1 ½ lbs new potatoes
  • 2 lbs tomatoes
  • 3 small cucumbers
  • 6 eggs

Dill Dijon Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used a mix of whole grain and smooth – whatever you have works)
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Lower the eggs in with a slotted spoon and cook for 12 minutes for fully set yolks. While the eggs are cooking put a dozen ice cubes in a bowl and cover with water. When the eggs are done transfer them to the ice water to cool while you prep everything else.

Wash your potatoes thoroughly (I let them sit in a bowl of water for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse). Cut any large potatoes in half so that they are all roughly the same size. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover them with water that comes about an inch higher than the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool.

In a jar or small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and shake/whisk until uniform. If you like a thicker dressing, add some more Dijon.

Peel and halve the eggs, quarter the potatoes, slice the tomatoes and cucumbers. Arrange on a large platter with the dressing (or give everyone a little bowl for their own dressing if you have a dishwasher and can stomach such dish excess).

Eating in August

20160726_174607The best month of the year for eating is finally here. It feels like I’ve waited much more than 10 months for tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers from the garden and nearby farms. Here are a few recipes I hold off on making all year, because they are truly their best right now.

Tomato salad. There are hundreds of ways you can go about this. The classic version my mom always made was just chopped tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Dress and toss the salad a few minutes before eating, so the tomatoes can release some juices and create a dressing with the olive oil. You can of course add cucumbers, red onion, peppers, mozzarella, feta, balsamic….I could eat a version of this salad every day of tomato season.

BLTs. There is a reason people make this sandwich again and again. It is the perfect intersection of salty fat, mild acid, and crispness. And with so few ingredients, freshness and quality are everything. Now is the time!!

Sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake. I’ve raved about this before…and will continue to do so forever more. So simple, SO GOOD.

Eggplant parmesan pizza with crispy capers. While this can’t quite top a traditional eggplant parm, it gets damn close. The crispy capers are a brilliant addition of crunchy saltiness.

Roasted eggplant and za’atar pizza. If eggplant parm isn’t your thing, then give this pizza a shot. The creamy tahini base does wonders for herby eggplant and cheese.

Roasted corn, zucchini, and black bean enchiladas. This dish is a bit more involved, but makes a ton of food that you can easily reheat with a salad, freeze, or share. It is a main and vegetable in one and can easily stand on its own if you are too tired to make other things.

The tomato crostata, tomato jam, and tomato curry from The Yellow House’s most excellent tomato diary (which comes along with some wonderfully provoking thoughts on the local food movement).

If you haven’t eaten pasta with fresh pesto before the end of summer, then I will go so far as to say you haven’t really had a summer. if you have a food processor, then dig it out, otherwise a knife and a little time will do you just fine.

Baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella. A delightful one dish meal.

Fish fragrant eggplant. After I read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper last year, I dreamt of this dish for months. It is delightfully spicy and sour, plus makes excellent use of eggplant’s sauce absorbing powers.

Peach and tomato salad. Not the tomato salad I grew up eating, but one I’ve very happily added to the rotation.

It is National Farmer’s Market Week, a time of wonderful abundance, the perfect time to support farmers, and eat the most delectable vegetables.

Last week I cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters I spent minimal time out in the world today, and still saw Oktoberfest beer and Halloween decorations for sale. COOL YOUR JETS retail, it is still August, which means we aren’t done with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, humidity, weddings, dining outside, or beach days yet.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Eggplant Pasta. I admittedly set myself up for disaster with this one. I didn’t peel the eggplant so those pieces were more bitter, and I didn’t use a mandolin to slice it. The strips need to be incredibly thin for this dish to work with such a short cooking time. I cooked it for way longer than 10 seconds, but they still weren’t pasta texture. So know, this dish needs some skill and equipment to execute properly (and even then, I’m still skeptical of the short cooking time). I’m curious what this is like when executed properly, but next time I’ll just make Alton’s eggplant parm, which is one of my favorite foods.

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad (pictured above). Paired with the eggplant noodles, and as much as the eggplant didn’t work, this dish did and it was entirely unplanned. I’ve been slowly reading through The Art of Simple Food to soak up its wisdom, and turned to the salad chapter for inspiration. I wouldn’t have put green beans and cherry tomatoes together, but as usual Alice was right. Easy red wine vinegar and shallot vinaigrette, and enough of a departure from my usual tomato salad. This one will forever be in my late summer rotation.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Chard and feta quesadillas. A dinner disappointment is necessarily followed by a sure success. I cooked down a lot of chard (probably 8 large leaves, stems removed and chopped), and then cooled it a bit and squeezed out excess liquid. Flour tortillas filled with mild cheddar, feta, and the chard made for a fail-safe delicious meal paired with a tomato and cucumber salad.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Skillet greens & beans with anchovy breadcrumbs. I would have eaten the entire pot of this if possible. This is a dish that is a flash to put together and everything I want in a meal. Filling beans, vegetal greens, and anchovy umami. I even burned the croutons for this (by bread wasn’t at crumb level) and it was still amazing. Last time I made it with dried beans that I cooked, which did hold their integrity much better, but I still liked that the canned beans I used this time broke down more to mix with the dressing. I used mature red Russian kale chopped, and cannellini beans, but will continue adapting it with what I have around for future versions. Even if you don’t think anchovies are your thing, give them a chance. They shine here.

This was a busy and earlier week at work, so my breakfasts were mostly fruit and granola eaten during morning meetings. But I made up for it this weekend with a perennial favorite (made with chard this go around), and then skillet potatoes with a goat cheese, zucchini, and cherry tomato omelette.

Besides a tiny batch of strawberry thyme honey jam, I haven’t done any canning this summer. But that all changed this week, because determined to make up for lost time I made tomato jam two nights in a row, followed by a double batch of dilly beans (I used the recipe from the book, which uses white vinegar, cayenne pepper and no peppercorns, but I may add those in next time). Still on my list: ketchup, roasted corn salsa, peach salsa and lots of tomatoes.

Last week I cooked…

20150726_195049Spicy fried chicken sandwich. We had this for dinner on Will’s actual birthday. It was the first fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever made, and I see no reason to ever seek out another recipe. The chicken was spicy, crispy and tender, and the yogurt sauce/slaw was just the right creamy, crunchy contrast. For me this was a perfect balance of spiciness, enough to feel it and warrant spicy in the name, but not so much that it kept you from actually tasting everything. I suppose if your spice tolerance is low you will want to find another recipe, but I’ll be sticking with this one.

Lentil and chickpea salad with feta and tahini. Redemption after a weekend of barbecue and fried chicken. I love the onion salad on top of the creamy legumes. Paired with the tomato salad below.

Tomato salad with pomegranate molasses (from Persiana). I added in some cucumbers and cherry peppers from my garden instead of the Turkish peppers, but loved this simple but new take on a tomato salad. The dressing is super potent, so used sparingly.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersOttolenghi’s black pepper tofu. This has been on my to cook list for too long. The addition of butter is inspired (but really didn’t we all love rice with butter as kids?). The amount of pepper seems ridiculous, but the butter mellows it nicely. I halved the recipe to use a single block of tofu (which usually come in 14 oz portions on the US).

Spicy roasted bok choy. Paired with black pepper tofu. I think my red pepper flakes are especially potent, because this was super spicy, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for to go with the pepper tofu. I mostly was excited about the ease of preparation and the fact that I didn’t also need to cook this on the stove.

Peach and corn coleslaw. #Summer. This slaw is sweet and a little sour and just the perfect summer salad. I used regular peaches, less cabbage, plus a cucumber.

Grilled eggplant and chickpea salad with pomegranate molasses. I guess pom molasses is the special ingredient of the week here. I made this for a picnic (to eat on Boston Common while seeing King Lear) and it was perfect. I roasted the eggplant since I don’t have a grill, along with green peppers and an onion,  For the picnic I also make a tomato and cucumber salad with balsamic vinegar and the zucchini cornbread again, and my friends brought couscous salad for the best summer salad compilation ever.

Blueberry pie with yogurt. If you ask me, the best way to enjoy leftover pie is for breakfast. Just take a couple big dollops of yogurt, and top with a small slice of pie and some fresh fruit if you have it. Really this is the same concept of those dessert yogurt cups, but 1,000x better.

Last week I cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Not something I cooked, but I went to Brattle Book Shop in Downtown Boston and the cookbook section was incredible. I’m embarrassed to be a born and raised Bay Stater/book store enthusiast and not have know about this place until this weekend. We walked away with Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, Clementine in the Kitchen, and Moose Mousse.