Monday, July 11, 2011

Caprese Beef Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Thank you, Mexico, for always sharing the remnants of your humid summer storms with those of us who live in San Diego. We're just recovering from a bout of hot and humid days that were the gift of a tropical storm south of us and I don't know anyone who's in the mood to do any major cooking. Me included.

So, when I took a look Saturday afternoon at my accumulated farmers market purchases to figure out what to make for dinner I was overjoyed to realize that I had a summer feast in front of me that required only a little bit of heat. On Friday evening I'd been to the Mission Hills farmers market, where I picked up a package of Brandt Beef's beef bacon, and Saturday morning I acquired an enormous and beautiful heirloom tomato picked hours earlier at Chino Farms, along with an unusual elongated green and yellow pepper.

I coveted this tomato while chatting with the Chinos--and it was still there when I was ready to buy.
Plus, I had some mozzarella (sorry, not from a farmers market, but Henry's), a red onion from Schaner Farms, basil from my garden, and, in my pantry, lovely Temecula Valley Blend olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company. Oh, and smoked salt from Salt Farm.

In short, a bonanza for a hot Saturday night at home with the dogs. Only one thing to do: make my version of a Caprese salad for dinner.

Look at how beautiful this is--inside and out.
Do I have a recipe for this? Nah. Just gather your ingredients, slice what needs slicing, cook what needs cooking, then layer one on top of another and sprinkle some salt and pepper over the pile. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and vinegar (my vinegar of choice was a strong Sherry vinegar from Spain that I picked up at Pata Negra), and dig in. You'll get a mix of flavors--acid from the tomato and vinegar, savory smokiness from the bacon and salt, sweet anise from the basil, more sweetness from the red onion, heat from the charred pepper, and that always lovely umami from the mozzarella. And you can't beat the mixture of textures--crunch from the bacon and onions, silky softness from the cheese, gentle chew from the vegetables. It's bright and refreshing, but, of course, its success is totally dependent on the quality of the ingredients--there's no hiding anything here.

The only cooking here was crisping up the beef bacon and roasting the pepper.
So after the salad, surely I must have had dessert, right? Oh, yes. How about half of a petite Snow Leopard melon (like honeydew but prettier) and sweet-like-candy Mara des Bois strawberries from, yes, Chino Farms. These are strawberries that make you believe in the magic of summer.

Mexico, I'm not wary of those thunderheads off in the distance. Bring it on again. I'm ready.

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