This week I’ve been busy working the Salem County Fair, so I haven’t had my usual time for daily cooking. It’s also been so hot and humid outside, I’ve been craving cool summer salads and meals to enjoy – either packed up in my cooler to eat at the fair, or when I get home at the end of the evening and just want a light bite before bed.
Meanwhile my tomato plants are still producing fruit in overload, so I’ve had to come up with some quick ways to enjoy them. Of course, nothing screams summer in New Jersey more than Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella salad. Most Italians around these parts make the salad with big and juicy Jersey beefsteak tomatoes. But I also enjoy it with slices of my home grown San Marzano plum tomatoes.
I always think of my partner’s mother, Elsie, when I make this salad. I never used to particularly enjoy raw tomatoes (except in salsa) until I first tasted her preparation of this dish one summer. It was a revelation at the time and still a dish I associate with fond memories of her.
Speaking of salsa, I also made a fun one to go with some quick grilled swordfish steaks. My purple beans are still growing well and I enjoy the crunch and color of them in a salsa along with juicy red tomatoes. Combined with a local sweet cubanelle pepper and red onion, it was delicious and refreshing, with very little seasoning needed besides salt, pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar.
I also was craving some pasta salad. I like to do something a little different, however, and use Fregola for this, instead of more standard pasta “noodles”. These little toasted balls of semolina dough are so tasty and have a slightly nutty flavor, so you can also use it in a lot of dishes as an alternative to couscous, farro or rice. Here I just mixed it with some raw chopped tomatoes, a red bell pepper, chives, olives and a dressing with balsamic vinegar. Simple and simply delicious.