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!

Asparagus and Hot Smoked Salmon Puff Pastry Bundles

These are a delicious combination of asparagus, hot smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon zest, all wrapped in buttery puff pastry. I’ve used 4 asparagus spears per bundle here, but it really depends on how thin your asparagus is – you could get away with more, if using the very thin ones. I wouldn’t use the very thick spears for this.

Salmon and asparagus bundle

I think puff pastry – especially ready-made puff pastry is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have on hand. I love homemade puff pastry too, but it’s super time consuming and the all-butter pastry you can get is really very good. The ready rolled stuff – even better!

These asparagus bundles are really delicious to eat and are nice served warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, cold on a buffet table and make a great portable snack to take on a picnic. Like all things made with puff pastry though, they will lose their crispness, so they are best eaten within 24 hours of making them.

Salmon asparagus parcels

Leave the puff pastry in the fridge until you have all the other ingredients ready to assemble.  It can behave badly if it gets too warm and not puff up as much as it should do.

Ingredients:
1 sheet of ready-made, ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry
150g (approx) cream cheese – I used Philadelphia, full fat
24 (approx) trimmed asparagus spears – I used 4 per bundle
2 fillets of hot smoked salmon – I used honey roasted, ready to eat
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Salt and pepper
1 little olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Salmon and asparagus parcels

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tin with parchment or a non-stick liner

On a lightly floured surface, cut the rectangle of ready-rolled puff pastry into 6 equal squares. I used a pizza cutter to do this.

Then, on a diagonal, spoon a little cream cheese onto each square and flake the salmon on top.  You really don’t need a lot, or you won’t be able to close your parcel.

Rub a little oil onto the asparagus spears with your hands, just enough to help it cook in the oven.

Season with salt and black pepper and then sprinkle over the lemon zest.  This really helps lift the flavours.

Brush the visible edges of the pastry with beaten egg and draw up two opposite corners to form a bundle, press the edges together to seal.

Salmon & asparagus parcels

Place the pastry bundles ontp the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra salt and pepper if you like.

If it’s a very warm day and the parcels have warmed up too much, put them in the fridge to chill out and firm back up for 10-20 minutes.

Salmon & asparagus bundle1

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  Serve warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, or cold for a buffet or picnic

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.