It’s summer, it’s hot, it’s humid and no matter how great or ambitious of a cook you are, sometimes turning the heat on in your kitchen seems like the last thing you want to do. Take-out is not what you want today because you want something healthy, nutritious and easy to serve, so what’s the answer? Well, how about a Mediterranean Summer Salad. It is packed with vitamins, nutrients, great taste and so quick to prepare without all of that stovetop or oven heat.
The ingredients for this salad are very easy and nutritious. You will use fresh in-season tomatoes, heirloom were my choice, but if you cannot find any then use some beef-steak. Fresh herbs, briny capers and olives, and for added protein and omega-3, anchovies. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.
Reducing the balsamic brings out the sweetness in the vinegar and adds a beautiful taste to this dish. Balsamic vinegar is made from grapes. Much like wine, it is fermented in wooden barrels and the taste intensifies the longer it is aged. The thicker and more intense the flavor becomes, the less you need to use to provide a taste boost. Balsamic vinegar also offers a number of health benefits.
Balsamic vinegar contains antimicrobial compounds, acetic acid, and antioxidants. These components may also help improve a person’s complexion over time. It is low in calories, only 14 per tablespoon and it also stabilizes cholesterol. Acetic acid is an active compound in balsamic vinegar. This acid contains strains of probiotics that aid digestion. The probiotics found in acetic acid can help promote good gut health and digestion while supporting overall immune function. Gut health!
I use reduced balsamic vinegar. So when you make this, make enough to last you for a while. I suggest that you cook down as much balsamic vinegar as possible because once you taste reduced balsamic you won’t want any other balsamic ever. It is so easy to prepare, just some patience, about 20 minutes or so. You just pour the balsamic in a small saucepan. I poured in about 1 1/2 cups. Bring it to just under a boil and then lower the heat to low. Give it a swirl ever so often and in 20 minutes you have this amazing sweet balsamic reduction that you will wonder why you didn’t do this before. Store it in the fridge after you allow to cool first. It will thicken as it cools. Drizzle it over your salad, or add into a sandwich, whatever you decide to do, it will add this delicious sweet and yet subtle taste to you food.
Heirloom tomatoes are in season right now, from late July to early August. They don’t look like your standard large tomato, they can take up your whole hand, they look like someone scored them with a knife and they are very heavy. They have a massive presence with the best balanced taste of acidity and sweetness of any tomato. They offer a multitude of uses ranging from sliced for a sandwich or burger, sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper, sliced and gently layered between fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with sweet extra virgin olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar, to cut up in a salad. These tomatoes are also best for grilling because of their thick and meaty texture. So make sure you get some before they are gone!
Heirloom refers to varieties of tomatoes whose seeds have traditionally been handed down from generation to generation of farmer and culled from each year’s harvest. They are by definition open-pollinated, meaning they’re not hybrid breeds that have been developed specifically to resist disease and preserve shelf life.
Heirloom tomatoes are available in a wide range of colors and sizes. Below are some of the variations available. So grab any or all.
Deep purple-red, with mottled coloring that runs all through the flesh, the famously rich flavor of Cherokee Purples make them one of the most popular heirloom varieties. The flavor is earthy and refreshingly sweet, and it pairs well with other big flavors like blue cheese, olives, and grilled meats.
Huge, pale, ivory-colored beefsteaks that can sometimes weigh up to two pounds each! The flavor is mild, sweet, and juicy. Its flesh is dense with very few seeds, and when ripe, its blossom end turns slightly golden. This is a great tomato for eating fresh, as well as a good choice for soups, stews, and sauces.
A small tomato with a big flavor that’s best described as tart, tangy, and almost lemony. Its bright green skin is overlaid with yellow-green stripes, and its firm texture means that it’s fantastic for sautéing or grilling.
A dazzling orange large grape tomato with beautiful purple shading on its shoulders, whose low acidity and refreshingly sweet flavor is amazing on salads or skewered with meat and veggies on the grill.
Japanese Blacks are actually more burgundy with brown overtones and are usually pear-shaped. They have a perfect acidity level with sweet, slightly smoky flavor and soft, silky flesh. They’re a terrific accompaniment to anything fresh off the grill.
Its name means “Yellow Flame” in French, and it’s not hard to see why: the bright yellow-orange coloring of a Jaunne Flamme is hard to miss. These small, round tomatoes are fruity, citrusy, and sweet; they’re perfect for roasting whole or eating fresh.
These elongated little golden tomatoes have a striking red blush flecked with a delicate green striping that becomes more pronounced along with the interior marbling as the tomato ripens. The flavor is versatile and pleasantly sweet-tart, making these great for snacking on raw.
Shaped almost like a strawberry, oxhearts come in two varieties. The Pineapple is bright orange with pink stripes, and is mild and meaty with very few seeds, while the Rose is pinkish-red with a sweet, fresh flavor and aroma. Get a couple of each to make a wickedly beautiful fresh salsa or marinara sauce.
The ultimate beefsteak tomato! Higher in sugar and acidity than most varieties, Brandywines have complex sweet, spicy flavor and often grow to weigh over one pound each. The skin is smooth and deeply colored, and the flesh is supple, meaty, and juicy. Best eaten fresh in salads.
PURPLE BUMBLE BEE
An eye-catching cherry-type tomato with incredible lime green striping on its red flesh. This one is such a showstopper that we like to throw it into salads whole so that its complex flavor can shine, although its firm texture and thicker skin make it great for roasting or grilling as well.
A striking yellow beefsteak with vibrant red streaks that run straight through the flesh. They’re very sweet and fruity but low in acidity, making the flavor rich and mellow, and perfect for pairing with creamy burrata or mozzarella.
So no matter what heirloom you come across, enjoy! They are all delicious!
Now onto anchovies. Okay, before you start to turn your nose, anchovies add a ton of this salty flavor which really isn’t so fishy as you may think. If you love a Caesar salad, well there are anchovies in there. And many restaurants add in anchovies for that added “Ump” of flavor that you didn’t even know was in there but you loved in many recipes. As a side note..if you have any allergies, PLEASE always advise your waitstaff..
Anchovies consist of good amount of proteins and they have long been known to benefit the functioning and efficiency of cell metabolism and connective tissue repair and regrowth. They consist of large amounts of polyunsaturated fats, which help to reduce the presence of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) that build up in the arteries and increase your chances of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. The Omega-3 fatty acid, found in large quantities in anchovies, actually strips away unhealthy cholesterol and prevents it from binding to the walls of arteries, thus helping it be eliminated from the body. Anchovies are high in omega-3 fatty acids known to have anti-inflammatory properties and the Omega-3 fatty acids help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream.
Anchovies are rich in vitamin-A, that have been linked to reduced appearance of eye degradation and macular degeneration, as well as cataracts, so consume some anchovies and protect your eyes. Eye health!
Besides having anti-inflammatory effects, anchovies are also high in selenium that helps improve cardiovascular health. Heart health!
Anchovies are high in potassium needed for proper muscular and digestive function, as well as skeletal muscular contraction. Muscle health!
So, besides reading up on all of this valuable information, let’s get in the kitchen and prepare this pretty recipe and as always, Enjoy!
Mediterranean Summer Salad
Ingredients: Serves 2
- 1/2 cup reduced balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- a mix of different colored heirloom tomatoes, cut 1/4 inch thick, enough for two servings
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 15 olives, pitted and sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 ounces canned anchovies
- fresh good crusted bread
First, make the reduced balsamic:
Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring it just under a boil. Then lower the heat to low and cook until thick, about 20 minutes, giving it a stir ever so often. Set to the side to cool and then transfer to a serving vinegar jar. The vinegar will thicken upon cooling.
Slice enough tomatoes to serve 2 people, about 8 slices. Chop the parsley and basil and set aside.
Rinse and drain the capers, set aside.
Peel and chop the fresh garlic, set aside.
Remove the anchovies from the can and set aside.
Using a round dinner plate layer the tomatoes onto the plate, slightly overlapping each other. Combine the chopped parsley and basil and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Add the garlic, capers and olives evenly over the greens. Top with the anchovies and pepper. Drizzle some olive oil over the tomatoes and toppings. Then drizzle the reduced balsamic over the tomatoes. Serve with good crusty bread.