“Meh” is about the only word I can think of to describe my feelings about eating out lately. When the bounty of summer threatens to overwhelm my refrigerator it seems criminally wasteful to let so much good food go to waste.
Well-meaning friends overwhelm my cupboards with figs, zucchini and tomatoes. A former PD employee brings overflowing baskets of organic veggies and flowers to the office each week and despite sitting at my computer munching on cherry tomatoes all day, my kitchen still runneth over!
Necessity being the mother of convection, I roasted a big batch of tomatoes, garlic and rosemary to make gads of bright sauce for the cold months ahead. But for lunch, it has to be a daily dose of Insalata Caprese. It’s so ridiculously simple: fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and pepper.
But it can go horribly wrong in so many ways. Here’s the lowdown on where to get the absolute best ingredients for this perfect end-of-summer summer salad. Eat it now, dream of it later…because it won’t taste half as good next month.
– Heirloom tomatoes: They’re everywhere, but I’ve found few as good (except straight from the garden) as Soda Rock Farm’s. You can get the red variety at G&G, Pacific Market and Big John’s. They sell the heirlooms at the Healdsburg, Windsor and Petaluma Farm Markets.
– Fresh mozzarella: I’ve spent years searching out the perfect ball. I think I’ve found one that comes as close at Oliver’s Market. Look for the large balls in water. They’re from Grande cheese in Wisconsin and have the perfect combination of salt and creaminess.
– Sononomic Vinegar: Okay, this stuff is like crack. It’s as sweet (maybe sweeter) than the best aged balsamic but a whole lot cheaper. You can get it from Sonoma Portworks for $18. Drizzle it over salad, strawberries or even ice cream. You’ll die.
– Herbes de Provence: Salt, pepper, a little lavender. It’s heaven.
– Basil: Get the freshest you can find and taste it first. Often older basil is a bit heavy on the anise-flavor and overwhelms everything.
Yes, I know. Shut up and get back to the restaurants already. But seriously, one bite of this and you’ll know why I’ve been off my game lately.
PS. Want something sweet for dessert? I’ve recently been all over Bodega Goat Cheese Natilla. It’s a combination of goat’s milk, sugar and molasses that comes together in a creamy paste you’ll be sticking your fingers into all night long. (Available at Oliver’s)