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If the goal of feeding folks in the summer is to keep the cooking and the heat at a minimum, I’m in. As my friend Jodie says, “I turn into a troll when the temperature gets above 65 degrees F.” Even it it’s not terribly hot outdoors — or is, in fact, lovely — my house seems to turn into a hot box on June 1 every year. Of course that’s just one reason Americans grill (the contemporary version of the separate summer kitchen) and eat outdoors anytime we can. The other is we’re inordinately attached to kicking back for three months every year. Or we say we are anyway.

Tucker loving being outside.

While it’s been chilly-willy damp all week here in the Springs, I know the rest of the country has been warming up for weeks. Our weekend promises to hit 80 and with that in mind, I’ve been thinking about a new simple, flexible side that would spruce up any simple grilled meat or be a treat on its own for vegetarians. Enter TOMATO-CHICKPEA SALAD. I could have named it any number of things; it’s sort of a cross between an Italian caprese and the basic Israeli salad with a few kalamata olives included as a nod to the Greeks–all topped off with a basil-parsley vinaigrette. There’s more to it, naturally, but the important idea is this: the ingredients are infinitely versatile. The basic lineup goes like this:

1-inch fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegin), cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, canned chickpeas, kalamata olives, and minced onion–all stirred together with a very herby vinaigrette (or your favorite)

But the beauty lies in your own food imagination or what’s in your fridge or on your counter. Think feta instead of mozzarella, though you want to change the basil to oregano, maybe. Skip the olives or add sautéed/marinated mushrooms. What about artichokes? Diced young carrots, chunky pieces of sweet bell peppers, or snappy slices of celery add crunch. Don’t like chickpeas? Sub cannellini or northern beans. Have leftover green beans? Chop them up and throw them in. Same goes for diced cooked chicken. How about sliced banana peppers? If you’re cutting back on fat, just drizzle the whole thing with a really good balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and leave the olive oil in the cupboard. You get the idea. You’ll make my salad yours; I know it. You might even give it a new name. While you think about that, try this:

tomato-chickpea salad

This quick, throw-together side is perfect for grilling season and is so versatile. Add your favorite diced vegetables. Sub zucchini for the cucumbers or beans for the chickpeas, change up the herbs, toss in marinated mushrooms/artichokes, place on a bed of fresh greens, or leave out the olives. However you toss it, tomato-chickpea salad lands for the win for summer. Use my vinaigrette, which will keep a few days in the fridge, or sub your favorite. If taking to a picnic, drizzle the salad with a little oil to keep it moist as you travel, but don't add the basil vinaigrette until just before you eat.
Servings: 4 servings
Author: More Time at the Table/Alyce Morgan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup small fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegin– about 18 1-inch balls or 6 ounces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes – about 18
  • ½ cup 1-inch pieces of peeled, diced cucumbers — half a cucumber or so
  • ½ cup whole pitted kalamata olives
  • ½ cup cooked chickpeas – about half a 15.5-ounce can drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion or scallions
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, crushed red pepper

Basil and Parsley Vinaigrette

  • 4 tablespoons each minced fresh parsley and basil reserve a sprig of the herbs for garnish
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 drops hot sauce
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Toss the salad ingredients: In a medium bowl, toss carefully together the mozzarella, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, chickpeas and onion. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, and a 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper and stir again gently.
  • Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together parsley, basil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until vinaigrette is emulsified. Alternately, you can shake together all of the ingredients in a small, tightly sealed jar or use a food processor. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Add vinaigrette to salad and serve: Drizzle about half of the vinaigrette over the cheese and vegetables. Stir until ingredients are well-coated. Taste, adjust seasonings, adding more vinaigrette as needed. Garnish with reserved sprig of herbs. Serve at room temperature. This salad is best the day it’s made.

Notes

OPTIONAL:  If you really like basil, add a few tablespoons more, minced, after you mix the vinaigrette into the salad.           
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2019. All rights reserved.

NOTE OF INSPIRATION: If you like a more basil-y basil vinaigrette and are really flush with basil, try this recipe by David Lebovitz.


R is for Rhubarb

This week held re-shooting the photos of one of Dave’s (the hub) favorites–Rhubarb Pie. Dave, though, would just put it like this: Alyce made Rhubarb Pie for him for Memorial Day.

Here’s the old post. You’ll see why it needs work on all levels.



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Best Summer Sides from More Time at the Table


FOODIE READING:

NPR article: “Why Ditching Processed Foods Won’t Be Easy — The Barriers to Cooking from Scratch.”

excerpt…

First, it takes money. Healthier diets — diets rich in fresh produce and lean proteins — generally cost more. The researchers who conducted the processed-food study recognize this: They note that the unprocessed diet they fed participants cost 40% more than the ultra-processed diet. And lots of American families don’t have more money to spend on food. Many of the families in our study were experiencing food insecurity, meaning that they lacked food to feed everyone in their household. Across the United States, one out of every eight people does not have enough food to eat, and many more do not have enough money to regularly afford healthy foods.

by SARAH BOWEN
SINIKKA ELLIOTT
JOSLYN BRENTON

Summer is a comin’…do you know the song?

Alyce