There is no fruit or vegetable I look forward to more in summer than tomatoes. That’s because I refuse to eat those pink tennis balls we get the rest of the year, or those bright but flavorless (and frightfully expensive) hothouse tomatoes from Holland. And with global warming, tomato season lasts into October in many parts of the country.
As with most other local produce, I try to keep tomato preparations simple and quick, to let the flavor of tomatoes come through. A simple salad of sliced tomatoes and sweet red onions with olive oil and balsamic vinegar is about as good as it gets, except perhaps for freshly made salsa with tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers. Salsa also means “sauce” in Italian. Pureed or chopped tomatoes combined with garlic sautéed in olive oil make a quick marinara sauce for pasta. Even quicker is an uncooked tomato sauce seasoned with basil, olive oil, and a hint of garlic.
And how could we forget gazpacho? There are lots of ways to go with this quick, popular chilled tomato soup. You can add cucumbers, sweet onions, bell peppers, corn, and zucchini. Seasonings can include basil, cilantro, cumin, and hot pepper. Got leftover bread? Make a bread salad with soaked and squeezed dry country-style bread, red onions, basil, celery leaves, and capers. Add some oil-packed tuna and perhaps some olives, and you’ve got a nifty main course.
Green beans are another vegetable that is usually best from local sources in summer. One key to cooking green beans quickly is to use no more than a quart of water for a pound of beans. Starting with hot tap water speeds up the process. As a side vegetable I like blanched green beans sautéed in butter and olive oil with shallots and fresh herbs. For a different taste, sauté the green beans with lemon rind and minced anchovy fillet.
Green beans can also be combined with new potatoes and sweet onion in a warm salad. For a hearty side dish to go with roast chicken or lamb, quickly stew wider Romano or Italian green beans with tomatoes and black olives. In the recipe below, I combine green beans with grilled tuna, parsley, lemon and olive oil.
The recipe also has a Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. For this part of the recipe, don’t use those rubber balls of mozzarella that have been sitting in the dairy case for weeks or months. You’ve got to have mozzarella made fresh—like that day. If the cheese has been sitting in the dairy case for a few weeks, you might as well use it with those pink tennis balls.
Tuna and Green Beans with Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
- 1 teaspoon salt plus additional for seasoning
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, about 1 pound
- 12 to 14 ounces fresh mozzarella
- 20 to 25 basil leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Two 8-ounce tuna or swordfish steaks
- Olive oil spray
- 1 pound green beans
- 1 lemon
- 1 shallot
- 1/4 cup parsley leaves, preferably flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus additional for the table
1)Turn on a gas grill. Run the hot water tap and put 1 teaspoon salt and 1 quart hot tap water in a 12-inch sauté pan or wide saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
2)Meanwhile, core and cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices. Slice the mozzarella as thinly as possible. Alternate slices of tomato and mozzarella (in rows or a circle) on a serving platter, slightly overlapping each other. Tuck a basil leaf in between the tomato and mozzarella slices. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3)Season the tuna with salt and pepper and spray with olive oil spray. Grill the tuna or swordfish for 2 minutes on each side. Put the fish on a cutting board when done. Covered with foil.. Meanwhile, trim the green beans and put them in the pan as soon the water boils. Cover and boil for 3 to 4 minutes or until just tender. Drain in a colander.
4)While the beans cook, juice the lemon. Peel and halve the shallot. Drop the shallot down the chute of a food processor with the motor running. When the shallot is chopped, turn off the machine, add the parsley leaves, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice (save the rest for another use), and salt and pepper to taste. Turn on the motor and gradually add the olive oil. Turn the machine off.
5)Cut the tuna into 1/4 to 3/8-inch thick slices. Combine the tuna and green beans in a shallow bowl. Add the dressing from the food processor and toss gently but thoroughly. Serve the tuna and green beans with the tomato and mozzarella salad. Pass the additional olive oil and let each diner drizzle as much as they wish on the tomato and mozzarella salad. Serves 4
Per serving: 597 calories, 49 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrate, 39 grams fat, 17 grams saturated fat, 132 mg cholesterol, 723 mg sodium.