Heritage Tomato Salad with Goats Cheese and Balsamic

Lovely tomatoes that taste of the sun, fragrant basil, cool goats cheese and spiky balsamic – a simple but really good salad for a hot summer’s day.

Heirloom Tomatoes

You can get tomatoes all year round in the supermarket, but most of them have been grown in a poly tunnel and travelled half way around the world and taste of nothing. A tomato that has been grown in sunshine is a wonderful thing and should be celebrated.

These big, juicy, seasonal tomatoes don’t have a long shelf life, so if you are lucky enough to get hold of them, make sure you enjoy them while they are at their best.

Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

One of the best ways to enjoy them is a simple salad. This one uses very few ingredients as the tomatoes are the star of the show.

You could dress the tomatoes with an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, but simple balsamic vinegar, reduced until thickened, is really good here. Reducing the vinegar, really insensifies the depth and flavour. You could of course, just buy a bottle of ready made balsamic glaze which is the speediest option, but it’s really worth making your own for the best flavour.

Tomatoes and basil

I’ve made a large platter here, which is nice for people to help themselves, but this could easily be scaled down for two people to enjoy.

Ingredients:
Assorted heritage tomatoes – as many as you like, I’ve added a few cherry tomatoes too
Goats cheese – around 100g per person
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar – around 3/4 of a cup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:
To reduce the balsamic vinegar, place in a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low and leave for around 10 minutes or until thickened. Set aside and then refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Tomato Salad

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on your serving plate, sprinkling a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the slices.

Tear some of the basil leaves and make sure some of the leaves are between the layers, leave some of them whole too.

Heritage Tomato and Goats Cheese Salad

Break up the goats cheese and scatter over the tomatoes, you can remove the rind, or leave on.  I’ve tucked a few crumbles of cheese in between the tomatoes too.

Drizzle over the balsamic reduction and serve immediately.

Tomato Goat Cheese Salad Balsamic

This is one of the nicest salads to enjoy on a hot summer’s day.  You can scale up or down, add pita chips if you would like some crunch, or slices of toasted baguette make a nice addition too.

Tomato Goat Cheese Salad

Some very cold white wine would be another nice addition to this salad!

Fall Salad with Pita Chips

It’s definitely starting to look autumnal outside now and I couldn’t be happier.  I know some people are feeling sad that summer is over, but autumn is SO much better.  All the colours, flavours, smells, fashion and even the angle of the sunlight make this my favourite time of year.

Fall salad3

Now all the squashes and pumpkins are starting to come into the shops, I like finding as many ways of using them that I can.  I think roasted butternut squash is really good in a salad with greens, tasty cheese and a nice dressing to bring it all together.

Fall salad2

This is a hearty, autumnal themed salad with roasted squash, red chicory, apples, walnuts and a really punchy blue cheese that I picked up – Buxton Blue.  This is a deep russet coloured cheese with blue veining and has a really good kick to it.  I also topped the salad with some Parma ham and a few pita chips for a bit of crunch – these are very quick to make.

I like to serve the dressing on the side, or if I am taking one to work with me, I love those little screw top pots that hold just the right amount.  This one has grain mustard, maple syrup and yoghurt which really works with the bitter red chicory leaves, salty cheese and sweet apples.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash or pumpkin
1tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of red chicory or radicchio, end removed and leaves separated
1 bag of mixed salad leaves, or any other greens like baby spinach or kale
1 crisp, red dessert apple
Half a lemon
1 handful of walnut halves
Around 100g blue cheese – I used the Staffordshire Cheese Company’s Buxton Blue
1 pack of Parma ham
1 large pita bread

Dressing:
3tbs plain yoghurt
2tsp grain mustard
2tsp lemon juice
1tsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt and black pepper

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/395°F

Peel and chop the butternut squash into bite-sized chunks.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a lined baking sheet.  Roast for around 20-25 minutes, giving them a turn half way through.  The chunks should be tender and the edges just staring to catch.

Squash

Brush the pita bread with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cut into into bite-sized squares, place onto a sheet and roast with the squash for 5-10 minutes – keep an eye on them, they should be crisp and golden.

Pita chips

Set aside while you assemble the rest of the salad.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and check the seasoning.  Add a little more lemon or maple to adjust to preferred taste.

Core and slice the apple and toss in the juice from half a lemon so it doesnt discolour.  Arrange the leaves and red chicory on a platter and scatter over the squash, apple slices and walnuts. Break the cheese into crumbles and scatter those over too.  Gently turn to mix the salad together.

Fall salad1

Take slices of the Parma ham, gather then together, tear and place little ‘heaps’ in and around the rest of the salad.  Finally, top with the crunchy pita chips.  I prefer to serve the dressing on the side.

Fall salad4

The salad can be scaled up or down, depending on how many people you are feeding and of course, it can be plated individually.  I normally serve 1-2 slices of the Parma ham per person and sometimes use pecans instead of walnuts.

Fall salad

I think this colourful, autumnal salad is a great lunch dish and any left overs make a good packed lunch too.

 

Caprese Skewers

For the perfect party food, these skewers are easy to make and serve.  A portable salad on a stick that is not only colourful, but delicious to eat too.

Caprese skewers4

This is not really a recipe – it’s more of an assembly job – tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, a little seasoning and drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze.

Caprese skewers1

I used a ready made balsamic glaze for this that clings to the salad perfectly, but you don’t need to buy it.  For a balsamic reduction, just boil a cup of balsamic vinegar until it has reduced by half.  It will become thicker, a little sticky and coat the back of a spoon.

Caprese skewers

Ingredients:
Small tomatoes – I’ve used a mixture of red and yellow cherry tomatoes and jewel tomatoes that I found at the supermarket
Basil leaves – go for the smaller leaves if possible, or you can fold the extra-large ones around the cheese and tomatoes. I got mine from a living plant as the pre-packed bunches tend to have very large leaves.
1-2 containers of small mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
Balsamic glaze
Italian seasoning with chilli
Salt and pepper to taste
Bamboo or metal skewers – I used 18cm bamboo skewers

Method:
Toss the bocconcini with a sprinkle of the Italian seasoning and then simply thread the tomatoes, mozzarella balls and basil alternately on the skewers.

Sprinkle over freshly ground black pepper and a little salt if desired and drizzle over the balsamic glaze and serve.

Caprese skewers3

These are so pretty and light for summer entertaining, parties or a barbecue.  Serve with cold white wine, prosecco or a summer punch.