I love tomatoes & basil together…it’s Summer in one delicious bite. Between our garden, in which we have about 20 or so varieties of basil growing, and the Farmer’s Market, where, each week, I must buy at least 6-10 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, in a varying sizes & colors…from Yellow Pear, one of my faves, to Indigo, a beautiful, new variety this year…our kitchen becomes an ode to these summer classics! Last week was no exception…I couldn’t get enough! After my fifth tomato purchase, Émilie, who was with me, asked, “Mom, what are you going to do with all these tomatoes?”
That was a great question, as I had no idea. The different varieties of tomatoes were just so beautiful, I had to have some of each. It’s tomato season, & I had to try every heirloom tomato being displayed…I felt like a kid in a candy store. I knew that, once we returned home, I would figure out what to do with the tomatoes. Actually, I was already thinking…
…that previous week, I had read an article from Tasting Table, entitled “Perfecting the Caprese”. I guess I was already in an “ode to tomatoes & basil” mode after all. But, I didn’t want to just make a Caprese salad…I needed a couple of twists…you would be bored with yet another recipe for a tomato-mozzarella-basil salad, right? I kept thinking as we walked through the Farmer’s Market, looking for the Homeland Creamery kiosk…we love their milk & heavy cream. The kiosk wasn’t there. I know this thought process is convoluted, but, hey, this is how I think sometimes…that is when I decided to make homemade ricotta cheese! Perfect!
I know at this point, you are thinking, “How tangential is this?” I will not bore you with the details of I how I arrived to this point, but suffice it to say, making ricotta cheese was in my immediate future.
I do not know how many of you have ever made ricotta cheese, but it is easier to make than you think. All you need is milk, citric acid & salt…& cheesecloth or muslin to strain the cheese…the entire process takes 30 minutes. I decided to add Meyer lemon zest, which added a nice brightness to the cheese. Williams-Sonoma carries citric acid, as well as a DIY Mozzarella/Ricotta Cheese-Making Kit. My kit came from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, where Ricki, The Cheese Queen, has been making homemade mozzarella & ricotta cheese since 1978…I bought this kit a couple of years ago & have really enjoyed it.
This appetizer makes a ton, which is good when you invite 6 people to dinner last-minute. Yep, the Griswolds, Sniders & Henrys were gracious to be our guinea pigs…thanks to all three couples! This entire menu can be made in less than 1½ hours. While making the ricotta, grill the chicken, tear the basil & slice the tomatoes for Balsamic Chicken Caprese Pasta…once the crostini are made, slice the bocconcini…or buy mozzarella ciliegine…which means “cherries” in Italian…these little cheesy pearls can be directly added to the pasta…no cutting needed! Boil the pasta & you are ready for dinner! Open a bottle of rosé to serve with dinner. This pasta is also great served as a salad at picnics, pot-lucks & parties.
For dessert, celebrate National Ice Cream Month & serve Grilled Peach & Raspberry Sundaes. This dessert is a great, easy ending to this meal. While grilling the chicken, also grill the peaches, set aside, then serve with vanilla ice cream or gelato & Raspberry Cabernet Sauce…a sophisticated, quick dessert. Keep the Raspberry Cabernet Sauce in your freezer…this sauce can be quickly defrosted & used in a pinch!
So, if you’re like us, and love tomatoes & basil…& Caprese salad…please try this menu! Also, please share with me your favorite way to use tomatoes & basil during the Summer! Enjoy & Have a great week!