The evolution of a great salad: heirloom tomatoes, peaches, herbs and chèvre.

Inspired by both my Boulud Sud salad and the fact that we are thick in the middle of tomato season, I made this beauty last night.

Heirloom tomato, peach, herb and chevre salad with shallots and apple vinaigrette.

Heirloom tomato, peach, herb and chevre salad with shallots and apple vinaigrette.

Heirloom tomatoes that were so tomatoey I hardly knew what to do (because how rare in this hybridized age is a tomatoey purchased tomato?!), paired magically with peeled and sliced peaches, young chèvre, a handful of chopped herbs from my garden and a lovely apple vinaigrette that I made with a Granny Smith Apple Balsamic I bought at Williams-Sonoma just yesterday. Diced shallots provided a bit of kick. 

If you want to test the freshness and piquancy of your shallots, slice one. If it makes you cry, you're in great shape for kick. If not, you'll have a much tamer but still lovely flavor.

Aren't those tomato hearts surreal?

Using fresh herbs is such an underrated means of boosting the flavor and beauty of most any dish. And do they ever love tomatoes. In my scrumptious Herby Tomato Tart, I use equal parts parsley, basil and chives. Last night I used a similar blend: two types of basil, thyme and chives.

This salad is definitely best when no part of it beyond the cheese has ever been cold. Please, please, I beseech you: DO NOT store your tomatoes in the fridge. You will kill all flavor and texture and make me feel so sad. 

I used a very young chèvre that is creamy, tangy and just solid enough to maintain itself at room temperature. I also let it sit on the counter for a good half-hour before serving. 

You want to use peaches that are definitely ripe but not mushy. They need to have the slightest hint of crunch so that they stand up to the soft tomato flesh and cheese. Overripe peaches tend to lose not only their marvelous texture but also their flavor. Blech- mealy peaches are as awful as mealy apples.

As far as vinaigrettes go, I like to keep mine simple: equal parts oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. If you have an especially strong vinegar or want to include mustard, you'll likely want to use a higher ratio of oil to the tangy elements: 60/40 or so. But keep things basic, use good quality stuff and let the fruits and veggies shine. 

The Granny Smith Apple Balsamic is really delicious, and I highly recommend it. If you don't want to buy any because you don't get misty-eyed over new vinegars as do I, substitute white Balsamic or Champagne vinegar or maybe a blend of those. 

This recipe will be posted momentarily in Salads.

Boulud Sud: a review

You might know that I have a long-standing, mostly-love affair with New York City. My parents regularly took my sister and me there during our childhoods (lucky us), I lived on the Upper East Side for three years in the early aughts, and I have hauled ass back there as often as I could since.

The unfortunate fact is that I wasn't what you'd call a big eater when I lived there, so other than a few spectacular meals at gems like Chanterelle (now closed; sob), I missed out on a lot in NY's culinary world. A different story for a different time.

Since leaving in '03, I have most definitely made up for lost time, eating my way around the city as often as I can. From the Greenmarket to any Danny Meyer treasure, I make sure not to waste any of the three squares + snacks I get each day. 

One of my favorite truths about New York is that if you just start walking, you will come across something spectacular. Could be a performance, a beautiful sight, a proposal...anything really. Last Friday, after a full day immersed in the BlogHer conference (and a late night on Thursday), I was totally beat. I got a ludicrously overpriced glass of wine from the hotel bar, brought it to my room and put on my pajamas. 

"But, wait, dummy. Remember where you are!" I murmured. Chastened, I threw on some clothes, took the elevator down and walked out into the bustling night. 

New York in July can be as muggy as Louisiana, and that's not a compliment. But last Friday was one of those perfect evenings in which humidity and sweat are nothing more than ideas, and I walked and walked with a gentle breeze on my arm. 

As I approached Columbus Circle, I veered left to head north on Broadway. Past 61st St, the Empire Hotel sign loomed large just ahead, and I was jolted back to the first time I stayed there: on a recruiting trip for the University of Chicago. I can't remember why I chose the Empire, but it likely had something to do with Priceline or Hotwire, but I remember checking in and feeling awfully grown up and professional. Was I 23? 24? A lifetime ago.

If you know that part of New York, you know that the Empire looks out over Lincoln Center, a triangle park apparently named Dante (who ever knew? not me) and a strip of restaurants -Cafe Fiorello, The Smith, and Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud.

I wasn't terribly hungry, but hello. Daniel Boulud people. So I stopped. And irritated the shit out of the hostess when I switched my decision to sit outside versus in -"I've already set you a place at the bar."- and smiled winningly and ignored her peevishness and sat down so happily at a table directly abutting the rail dividing sidewalk and dining area. Perfect.


Perhaps because she was irritated, or perhaps because Boulud Sud was busy, or perhaps anything, but while someone quickly left menus on my table, it took nearly twenty minutes for anyone to return. I didn't much care because New York is the best people-watching outside of New Orleans, but I finally made myself known and ordered a beautiful glass of Benoni Pinot Noir. Of the gods!

Then, before Mr. Wine could leave, I ordered the Crispy Artichokes alla Romana with Nipatella (an Italian herb) Aioli and the Heirloom Tomato Panzanella with Burrata, Stone Fruit and Pesto.

If anyone is going to do fried artichokes right in America, I surmised, Daniel Boulud is a good bet. I was not mistaken.


These babies tasted as if they'd been plucked from Italian soil that morning which, as I find American 'chokes horribly depressing, left me speechlessly thrilled. The batter was light, the fry was perfect with nary a spot of grease in sight, and the aioli was bright and tangy just as it should be.

I was happy that my salad came concurrently because it was lovely to go between bites of each. The burrata was an enormous blob with a wonderfully firm exterior and lusciously jiggly interior. Some burrata just oozes like melting ice cream; it might taste good but you need a spoon and it's awfully unattractive. This one held together just enough; I needed my knife but only slightly.

Though I have paired both tomatoes and peaches with burrata, I've never combined all three. Why not? What have I been waiting for? I am now all the wiser. The peaches and cherries were at the peak of ripeness, and the tomatoes are what you hope for when you pay up for heirlooms (but all too rarely get).

The only erroneous element was the sliced caper berries whose briny tang was too dissonant for my taste. Fortunately there weren't too many, but when I replicate this salad at home, I won't add them at all. 

The pesto was gorgeous and added depth, the pine nuts a tremendous textural treat and the bread cubes were neither overbearing nor cut too large. I appreciated the latter especially because it gets my goad when I cut the top of my mouth on crusty edges.

I wished I'd had room to order much more for the menu was a huge bowl of candy available for the taking, but next time. Next time.

Tomatoes in all their summer splendor

Yesterday, I was helping shelve books in Jack's school library, and the librarian told me about her parents' organic farm in Delaware (cool!) and how her mother had recently brought over a truckload of fresh tomatoes. They are awash in tomatoes and have already made a freezer-full of pizza and spaghetti sauces and the like. Naturally this conversation prompted me to think about all the ways in which I enjoy tomatoes, as you probably know in spades by this time in the year.

I've been eating the cherry varieties like candy lately, just popping them in my mouth every time I pass the bowl I leave full on the kitchen counter (please tell me you are not refrigerating your toms!!). I eat them when I pass our plants, although they're dwindling seriously now, outside. And I still can't resist buying more tomatoes each and every time I go to the store or market. I bought these beauties yesterday after I left the library and propped them on my sunny windowsill to ripen a bit more, knowing I'd make a pie with them tonight. Gorgeous, yes? They're languid yet not, sexy in all their ripe vegetalness.

I'm pretty excited about this dish- it's my corn, bacon and basil tomato pie.