Oh tomato season how I rapturously, enthusiastically, and happily enjoy you! Too many adverbs? Probably. I really do love tomato season though. Tomato season is finally here in the PNW. Despite some cooler temperatures, even my plants have started to ripen up a tomato or two (little ones, barely worth the mention, but still). Fortunately, the grocery stores and the farmer’s markets have tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, not the horrible off-season cardboard tasting ones that make me long for summer.
This week, I have a very short work week due to the holiday, vacation and traveling. It seemed worth it to make something quick and easy for work – particularly something that would celebrate tomatoes, as I had a full two pounds of heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s. Half went into pico de gallo and the other half became lunch. I also have an abundance of very happy basil growing in my own backyard, and since I’m down a food processor (don’t ask), I feel compelled to start eating basil in everything I possibly can before fall creeps in.
Solution? Caprese sandwiches. Caprese is usually a salad – simply made of fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil. These sandwiches are a simple variation layering bread, mayonnaise, fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. The real genius here is the assembly at the desk (or picnic, or whatever venue in which you might eat these). This isn’t even really a recipe, but an easy idea.
Take two pieces of bread (I used regular wheat sandwich bread), and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both slices. Put them together with the mayonnaise sides facing inward and put them in a plastic sandwich bag or other container). Slice a tomato. Slice a ball of mozzarella. Gather some basil leaves. Put the tomato, mozzarella and basil in a separate container (separate from the bread). Leave in the refrigerator overnight (if preparing the night before). Assemble wherever you choose to eat lunch. Enjoy!
Post 4th of July holiday (read: post ribs, corn with butter, and rootbeer floats), I am ready for a light and quick meal. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with baking chicken breasts that have been spiced up and marinated for at least an hour. They are quick and easy, in that prep time takes about ten minutes, I can wander off and read for an hour and drink a glass of wine, and then can throw the chicken breast (marinade and all) in the oven for another half hour and dinner is then served. This latest variation, chipotle chicken breasts, can be sliced up and added to a salad or tossed into a tortilla with cheese to make an easy quesadilla.
I’ve also become slightly obsessed with ground chipotle chili as a spice. I found it at Whole Foods in a cute little spice box and have been adding it to the marinade for these chicken breasts, as well as in barbecue sauce, as a rub for meat, and in eggs. It’s smokier than regular chili powder and brightens up everything.
Serves 2, but could easily be doubled
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 shallot, minced
Juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Combine all the ingredients from the smoked paprika to the olive oil in an oven safe baking dish. Add the chicken and coat with the marinade. Cover and let marinade in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the chicken breasts are marinated, place in the oven and bake for twenty minutes (to 170 degrees on a meat thermometer).
As you can probably tell, I’m into herby cocktails this summer. This gin and tonic is no exception – blending the best of berry season with purple basil. Gin and tonics are one of my favorite cocktails, and while I like a very classic G&T, I don’t mind mixing things up a bit every now and then and adding other flavors to it. I especially enjoy drinking this while sitting on the patio on a hot summer day. I used purple basil for this, but would have used regular green basil, too if that’s all I had on hand.
Blackberry Basil Gin and Tonic
1 ounce gin
3 basil leaves
Muddle the basil leaves, three of the blackberries and half of the lime in a glass. Add the gin and the ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with the remaining lime and blackberries.