This is a guest post from Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook to keep things here interesting while I await the arrival of my kitchen utensils in my new apartment.
When my friend Mary Fran put out the word that she needed some help with guest posts for her blog, I immediately raised my hand. Mary Fran and I met last year in Austin during BlogHer Food. Always upbeat with a smile on her face, I had an immediate feeling that we would become friends – and I was right!
Since we both have to eat gluten-free, we gathered a few other friends who also have dietary restrictions and went off to find a beautiful lunch. When you are in the middle of the frenzy of a conference, it is nice to step away for a few minutes and enjoy getting to know people a little better. We had a fabulous Mexican meal, shared a lot of laughs, and made new friends. This is what I love best about going to conferences!
Today’s recipe is full of the flavors of spring and summer and perfect for brunch, lunch, or dinner on hot summer days. And best of all it is naturally gluten-free!
I love Caprese Salad, an Italian classic with heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. These three ingredients represent the colors of the Italian flag and are often found in a variety of dishes, most notably this salad and Margherita pizza.
If tomatoes aren’t at their peak, it’s OK because marinating them for a few minutes in the vinaigrette gives them a huge bump in flavor. You can use any variety you like, but heirlooms are my personal favorite. When they aren’t in season, I usually buy Roma tomatoes (pear-shaped) because they have a lot of meat, few seeds and less moisture. That makes them perfect for most salads.
If you are making this later in the year and can’t find asparagus in the grocery store or farmer’s market, you can substitute zucchini, cucumber, summer squash, potatoes, or other vegetables you like for an equally delightful dish.
You can throw this salad together in just a few minutes and have it on the table in less than an hour.
The Artist and I really enjoyed this salad. I had planned on it being our whole meal, but he had a long bike ride to recuperate from and needed more protein. So we added a rotisserie chicken to round out the meal. It was absolutely perfect for this balmy evening.
Enjoy this salad when you can and thank you Mary Fran for this opportunity to share this recipe on your beautiful blog. It is an honor!
This salad is naturally gluten-free. If you choose to use a store bought dressing, make sure you read the label and be certain it doesn’t have any gluten in it. Dressing are one place where gluten likes to hide!
Kitchen Skill: How to Trim Asparagus
The best way to know where to cut asparagus (part of the stalk is tough and woody) is to hold one stalk at both ends and bend it until it snaps in two. Set the tender stalk next to the rest of the bunch and cut them all to that length.
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed off and discarded, stalks cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into small wedges
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella (stored in water), drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 4 whole lettuce leaves, preferably butter, red or green leaf lettuce
- Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp champagne, sherry, or white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp minced shallots
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 6 tbsp organic olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pinch of sugar, if needed
- Fill a large mixing bowl about half full with water and add ice to chill it. Set aside.
- In a 4-quart saucepan, bring water to a boil, salt it lightly and add the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is just barely tender, about 4 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces. Nibble on pieces, testing until they reach the doneness you like.
- Using a slotted spoon transfer the asparagus to a wire strainer. Place the wire strainer in the bowl of ice water – the strainer will make it much easier to strain the chilled asparagus. Leave in the water just long enough to stop the cooking process.
- When lightly cooled, lift the strainer with the asparagus from the water and drain thoroughly. Transfer to another mixing bowl. Add the tomato wedges* and mozzarella cubes. Set aside while you make the vinaigrette.
- In a medium jar with a tight lid, combine the lemon juice, vinegar and shallots. Let it sit and macerate for about 3 minutes. This will take a little of the sharpness off the vinegar and lightly sweeten the vinaigrette. Add the remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Place the lid on the jar, tighten it and shake the jar vigorously until the mixture is smooth and emulsified.
- Pour 1/3 to 1/2 of this mixture over the salad and toss until everything is evenly coated. Add more if you like. Taste the salad and add salt and pepper to taste. Pass the extra dressing at the table and then store remaining dressing in the refrigerator up to a week.
- Place a lettuce leaf on each serving plate. Divide the salad evenly between the plates, placing it atop the lettuce leaves. Serve immediately.