"I'd prefer this if they replaced the feta with animal fat. Like what you trim off a chicken!"
Let me tell you about the other day, when the coals were burning low and I'd just made cream-cheese stuffed jalapenos which were then wrapped in bacon and baked until they were sputtering bacon fat and the cream cheese had puffed up and the peppers softened, and how we ate them in a chain reaction - people watched as first one, then another, then another put a pepper into his or her mouth and then melted as it dissolved against teeth and gum.
I'd fried up the rest of the bacon, because the gang of us were having burgers and who doesn't like that on top of a burger. And then there were worries that the huge smoked sausages that we'd bought wouldn't cook over the simpering coals, so we brought them inside and fried them in the pan of bacon grease. There were children at this meal.
There's nothing else to say: It is barely the middle of August and I'm enjoying a Post-Winter Holiday body. This has nothing to do with you - you are all beautiful, and I envy everything about you, from your brain to eye sockets to hair follicles. But we're not going to be baking, or talking about it, for awhile. I have a scone recipe to share with you, but it isn't devastating. Mostly, what I post here will be about vegetables. That 'Hunter Souffle" in 'True Blood' made me freak out a little too. I'm taking it as a sign.
Salad Days. Welcome to them. I'm looking forward to them! That's why I'm weeping.
This is the first one, based on entertaining a friend for dinner the other night and not knowing what to make - I decided on Havarti/Fontina paninis (Use olive oil instead of butter, and grill or griddle), this salad, homemade pickles that a friend of mine had made for my birthday and I'd recycled the brine for my own cukes and for dessert, Rainier cherries and Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut cookies, sandwiched with vanilla ice cream. The salad was the unabashed hit of the evening.
And why not? You've got peak produce, a minimum of ingredients, contrasting temperatures and flavors, a riot of colors and a wild sense of abandon. None of my tomatoes are ripe yet, with the exception of a few Romas, but I was gifted some from a family friend. They were delicious fresh, but not heirlooms and not quite vine-ripened enough to deny messing with. So I halved the larger ones and then used the smallest of the bunch (Grape, Currant or other super-small cherry tomatoes would work best) in the 'dressing'. They blister and pop in the garlic, basil and chili-infused oil and then just before they sizzle out their juices, you pour the whole bash over your sliced, room temperature tomatoes and throw on bits of fresh basil and crumbles of the sharpest feta you can find. Grind sea salt and crack pepper over the top, drizzle with lemon juice and serve.
So, what follows is the roughest of rough instructions - use your preferred serving dish, the number of guests or just how many tomatoes you have on hand to determine the measurements. For the dish above, which could have served four without an issue, I used three large, baseball-size tomatoes, two golf-ball sized ones and a handful of cherry/pear/grapes.
Tomato Salad with Feta, Basil and Warm Tomato Dressing
Inspired by Jamie Oliver's spitty enthusiasm for seasonal produce, and TBean's amazing dinners
Fresh slicing tomatoes (at least 1 per person, heirloom, market or homegrown if you can)
1-2 cups grape, currant or small cherry tomatoes
Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Garlic (2 cloves, peeled and cracked/smashed)
Juice of one Lemon
Wash and stem all of your tomatoes. Wedge, chunk or thickly slice the larger tomatoes and arrange on your chosen vessel. Heat the olive oil (I used around 1/3 of a cup, increase or decrease depending on the number of tomatoes and your preference) in a small saucepan/skillet, on medium-low. Add the chili flakes (use your discretion and heat tolerance as a guide, I used just a sprinkle), dried basil and garlic. Heat until the garlic begins to sizzle and turn golden. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the smaller tomatoes - the skins should begin to blister and split after a few seconds. Remove from the heat and spoon the tomatoes and garlic over the platter. Drizzle with as much of the infused oil as you'd like.
Finish the salad by dribbling fresh lemon juice on top, and dotting with shards of feta and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy. Eat warm or at room temp, and chill any leftovers.