It is now peak tomato season, and one of my favorite summer appetizers is a simple tomato and mozzarella salad. I remember the first one I ever had. It was 1982, I had a ghastly hangover, and was absolutely  famished when I arrived on a nearby friend’s doorstep in London. She’d just come home from the local Italian deli, and prepared what at the time felt like a sumptuous feast (it was my model days, salads were a feast).

With Astrid Wyman, Andy Taylor, Steve Strange, and Francesca at my wedding

Funny, but even though the years have taken us to different parts of the globe, and we didn’t see each other quite literally for decades – every time I had a tomato and mozzarella salad, I would think of Francesca and the carefree days of our untamed youth. I’ve marveled for years over the way people weave in and out of our

Valerie Perrine, Julie Anne Rhodes, Marella Oppenheim, and Francesca Thyssen

lives. For now, after all the years and continents dividing us, we are once again neighbors. I prepared a welcome to LA dinner for her not long ago, and purposely chose this salad as our starter. No sooner had I placed the plates on the table in anticipation of her imminent arrival, and the phone rang with her pleading jet

Roasted vine tomatoes over burrata with pesto sauce

lag, and would I please meet her for dinner across town. Considering she had just traveled all the way from Jordan, I figured I could meet her three miles away in Beverly Hills, but I did wish she’d called before I opened several packages of burrata, fresh from the farmer’s market, that would now go to waste since it had been removed from it’s liquid. Then my sister gave me a great tip – you can preserve the opened cheese in milk, and it worked! I enjoyed my salad for several days afterwards, and will never again fret over any unused portions. What is your favorite summer treat, and what memories does it conjure up for you when you eat it?

Thanks for the tip sis!

PS. To make the lovely salad above:

1). Roast vine or cherry tomatoes, leaving the stems on, lightly coated in olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, in a preheated 400°F. oven for 15-20 minutes; let cool to room temperature.

2). Make some pesto sauce, I use 1 cup fresh basil, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons pine nuts, juice and zest of one lemon, 2 cloves minced garlic, salt and pepper – puree in food processor while gradually adding enough extra-virgin olive oil to achieve desired consistency; or use store bought.

3). Best quality fresh burrata, bufala mozzarella, or mozzarella fresco you can find. Assemble as pictured above.

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  • August 11, 2012
    2:53 pm

    I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour or so wracking my brains over what my summer treat is and I’ve realised that it’s Picnics!
    I know it doesn’t strictly have to be a summer or indeed an outdoor thing but believe me we get so little typical summer weather here that the first inkling there’s a sunny day coming sends me into picnic mode and the search for the coolbag & basket begins.
    There are essentials : hard-boiled eggs & a fresh cream sponge cake for start, then baked ham from our local shop, some mixed leaves, a small jar of honey & mustard vinaigrette, the ripest tomatoes and freshest bread-rolls. As a treat, I include crisps, some chocolate biscuits and fizzy drinks. If it’s just me & my honeybun then there may be a bottle of wine to stash in a fast flowing stream to cool down but usually it’s my sister, our niece, 2 nephews and me, packed into my trusty little car heading off to the wilds of Wicklow for the day.
    As for memories, this years picnic is one I will long treasure ; my oldest nephew will probably be too cool & too in love to come on our summer jollies from now on and pretty soon the other 2 kids will also be too grown up but sitting by the lake in Glendalough Park with the sun on our backs and our plates full of food we didn’t care about what the future may bring – we were just too happy living in the now.

    • August 12, 2012
      10:02 am

      I haven’t been on a picnic in AGES! I’m going to make a mental note to pack one up and head to the beach this week (when it isn’t so crowded – we’re having a major heatwave here at the moment).

      • August 15, 2012
        11:37 am

        That’s right, rub it in 😀

        I spent this morning making sure my drain wouldn’t block in torrential rain.

  • August 11, 2012
    5:41 pm

    1905 salad from the Columbia restaurant in Florida. My parents always took my brother and I to the original restaurant every time we went to Tampa. I was thrilled when they opened a Columbia near me in Orlando.

    • August 12, 2012
      10:03 am

      What is in a 1905 salad Karen? I love memories like that, and consciously make a few with Tatjana, so she will always remember fondly too.

  • August 12, 2012
    3:17 pm

    Potato salad is a summer treat for me. I like the old fashioned version using mayonnaise with some hard boiled eggs chopped up and added into the mix. Even though I rarely eat this treat anymore, I still associate it with summer months. These days, tomato salads are more to my liking. I suspect that I could happily eat tomato salads every day and never tire of them. I’ll have to look for your special cheese to give it a try, but will make do with any fresh mozzarella in the meanwhile. 🙂

  • August 12, 2012
    10:05 am

    There were a few people wanting to know what barrata was on my facebook page (funnily enough they were Italian too), so here is an explanation from Wikipedia:

    Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. It is also defined by some sources as an outer shell of mozzarella filled with butter or a mixture of butter and sugar. It is usually served fresh, at room temperature. The name “burrata” means “buttered” in Italian.

    • August 12, 2012
      10:06 am

      I don’t know where they get butter and sugar from – it isn’t sweet, but the texture of the inner part of the cheese is LIKE butter.

  • August 12, 2012
    10:08 am

    There are several foods that are decidedly summer foods for me–watermelon, corn on the cob, potato salad, bratwurst on the grill. At least one of those foods is incorporated into a meal at least once a week all summer in our house.

    One food that I consider to be a summer-only food is deviled eggs. My whole family loves them, but I never even think about making them any other time but summer because to me, they just “belong” in summer. Several years ago, I received a new piece for my Spode Christmas Tree china collection–a deviled egg plate! I was actually baffled that a Christmas themed piece of china would be designed for a summer food. I thought it was just the funniest thing ever. I finally broke it out this year and served deviled eggs with Christmas dinner, just to say that the deviled egg plate had been used at least once–the whole time thinking “This is just wrong”, lol.

    • August 14, 2012
      7:51 am

      Being from the corn capitol of the world, I have to agree with you that corn smacks of summer for me too.

  • August 12, 2012
    10:48 am

    Jewels-you can google “1905 salad” and find the recipe. It’s a basic lettuce/tomato salad with ham and Swiss cheese julienned. The dressing has Worcester sauce which gives it a little kick. We like to serve it with shrimp marinated in Mojo sauce and grilled. It makes a great light summer meal. I believe the recipe was created by a waiter @ The Columbia in the 1950’s. At the restaurant they toss the salad table side.

    • August 14, 2012
      7:53 am

      I looked it up, and it’s pretty much a straight forward chefs salad.

  • August 14, 2012
    7:55 am

    My mother used to grow tomatoes in our backyard. Nothing like the flavor of a ripe one picked right off the vine minutes before!

  • August 19, 2012
    10:08 am

    Clearly I am catching up with all my blog reading today. This is a great tip.

  • August 31, 2012
    6:14 pm

    I am really enjoying reading your blog! I have to say one of my favorite summer treats is a tomato sandwich. And the tomato MUST be fresh from the garden. My late grandmother Mary got me hooked on these sandwiches when I would visit her during the summer in North Carolina. I was a “city kid” from New Jersey and thought all tomatoes came from Pathmark. Ha! What did I know? LOL! While visiting my grandma at lunchtime one day, she brought in some fresh picked produce from her garden (collard greens, tomatoes, peppers) and told me in her country drawl we were having “‘mater sammiches” for lunch. I was totally in the dark so I just smiled and nodded my head. Out came the fresh loaf of Sunbeam bread, a sharp knife, a jar of mayo, and the salt & pepper. My grandma had grown some of the biggest tomatoes I’d ever seen and I asked her why they didn’t look like the ones my mother bought at Pathmark? She laughed and said “baby, thems hot house ‘maters–these right out my garden are the real deal! You’ll like them!” One taste and I was hooked! Grandma Mary’s homemade tomato sanwiches were a hit with this Jersey girl and I still have to eat one every once in a while. Good memories!

  • September 12, 2012
    8:00 pm

    omg do you & your sister look alike,you both have the same hair line & the lenght of face,wow,2 good looking ladies..