On Summer and Salads

IMG_1011This week, it has felt like summer is finally here. You might say summer has been here for a while but that heavy, grey, mugginess that has been surrounding us for the last few weeks, and making me want to spend every second in a fridge or a cold shower, is not my idea of summer. For me, summer is sunshine, long walks, drinking in the day and eating dinners outside on sultry evenings. Thus my first al fresco dining experience of the year marked the beginning of my summer.

IMG_1022My first summer dinner had to be a salad. Salad’s are as synonymous with summer as orange airoplanes rammed with lobster skinned Brits and rain. This is a shame because, like the aforementioned, they don’t fill me with enthusiasm. I don’t particularly like salads, a bowl full of tasteless leaves and half a tomato does not a meal make. Food is supposed to make your heart sing and your stomach full, for the most part salads fall short on both counts. This, however, is not to say that salads have no potential. A few years ago they were in their gawky teenage years, they had glasses and braces and shaved carrot and oily, flavourless dressing. Now perhaps they are in their mid-twenties, a few mistakes have been made but they are growing into themselves and starting to look and taste good.

IMG_1019The people who know salads are really the italians, they realise the importance of proper flavour. This tomato salad is inspired somewhat by a Jamie Oliver recipe but I have switched it up a bit and added some mozzarella because I love cheese, I can never make a salad without cheese, it’s a real weakness. I think this is great on its own for a light dinner or starter, or equally brilliant as a side for fish or anything barbecued. Cost wise I splashed out a bit on this one because I wanted loads of different types and colours of tomato and I am lucky enough to live very near to an amazing fruit and veg shop. If you don’t have access to this kind of ingredients don’t fret, normal tomatoes are just fine, however, I would advocate buying the posh ones from the supermarket as they have so much more flavour. What you lose in terms of cost efficiency with this dish, you more than make up for in time saved, it is so easy to make but still looks impressive if served to friends.

Tomato and Bread Salad à la Jamie(ish)
To serve one (For Dinner)

  • One or two large tomatoes such as beef tomatoes.
  • Ten to fifteen smaller tomatoes, I love the variety pomodorino which you can buy easily in supermarkets.
  • Half a ball of Mozzarella (Buffalo if you are feeling flash)
  • Two slices nice bread.
  • A teaspoon of capers.
  • A dessertspoon of chopped red onion.
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Lemon juice or white wine vinegar

How to make it…

  • This bit is fairly self explanatory, but I’ll explain it anyway! Chop the tomatoes, as suggested by Jamie I like to cut them up into all different sizes, slicing the big ones, halving some of the small ones etc. Then toss them in a bowl with the bread, cut into chunks. Get you’re hands in and mush it all together so that the bread soaks up all the lovely tomato juices.
  • Now make the dressing. I usually making dressing in a jam jar as you can screw the lid on and give it a good shake. Put in the capers and onion and a sizeable glug of nice olive oil, about a tablespoon (I know I am supposed to be all about saving the pennies but I always keep an expensive bottle of olive oil for salads or dipping bread, as a bit of a luxury). For vinegar Jamie recommends red wine vinegar, I didn’t have any so I opted for a mix of white wine vinegar and balsamic, you could also use lemon juice for the acidity and add just a splash of balsamic. Finally add a generous pinch of salt, a grind of pepper and a small pinch of sugar. Shake up the jar.
  • To the salad, add the torn basil leaves and mozzarella then dress everything and toss.
  • Done!

Washing up rating *** I used a chopping board, a knife, a teaspoon, a jam jar, a plate and a knife and fork to eat with.

Cost Rating * I used a selection of tomatoes costing £3, (from the supermarket it would be half each of a pack of tomatoes costing £1.75 each, and one beef tomato costing 80p), 1/5 of a ciabatta costing £1.50, half a mozzarella costing  £2 (that’s for the fancy one though, normal mozzarella costs £1), half a pack of basil costing 80p, 1/4 of a red onion costing 18p, 1/10 of a jar of capers costing £1.30 and some oil and balsamic but most people have that already right? My total cost was: £4.90, If you buy everything from the supermarket and get the cheap mozzarella it would be, roughly: £3.90