Every year, my father and I plant a beautiful herb and vegetable garden, and every summer, it is quite exciting to watch an empty back yard erupt into a plentiful harvest.
Anyone who visits is quickly transported to Italy. Whether they are wandering among a hundred tomato plants, sitting under a canopy of 30-year-old grape vines or just kicking back with a glass of red, they have that spiritual sense that they are being allowed to take part in a tradition that I consider timeless, priceless and very personal.
Tomatoes are always the dominant plant, and in many sizes and varieties; but we also grow, cucuzza (Italian squash), green beans, Anaheim chiles, Tabasco peppers, eggplant, rosemary and basil, and in August, the three fig trees and one peach tree must be picked each day before the squirrels find out how tasty they are.
Each new season brings for me a new level of appreciation for gardening and fresh produce, but more importantly, every flower that blossoms and every fruit which ripens by my hand reminds me of everything my parents have ever taught me and every tradition I plan to carry forth.
Caprese Salad is always a crowd pleaser, especially in August when basil flourishes and tomatoes are at their peak, juicy, super-ripe and sweet. Always use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and generously salt the tomatoes.
In this salad I have used heirloom tomatoes purchased at a local farmers market and combined them with some just-picked tomatoes from my garden; the addition of Burrata cheese puts this classic summer salad over the top.
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. The outer shell of the cheese is made from mozzarella but the inner part of the cheese is filled with buttery strings of curd and cream.
If you like sun-dried tomatoes, you will love these.
Halve some plum tomatoes lengthwise & remove seeds (not the core).
Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking pan and season with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs.
Slow roast in the oven for 2 hours at 300 degrees.
Remove, cool and store in mason jars, layered with fresh herbs and covered with more olive oil.
They will keep in the refrigerator for 6 months and will come quite handy paired with fresh mozzarella and basil when you crave a fancier version of Caprese salad or any time you want to jazz up your favorite sandwich.