Our Father’s Day Backyard Brunch was absolutely fantastic! The ladies made French Toast Casserole and Crab Hash, with ice-cold Mojitos to sip on. Sitting outside was a nice way to dine, with warm weather, an occasional breeze and no bugs. The men thoroughly enjoyed themselves and my son-in-law retired to our hammock to relaxingly browse on his iPad. After helping with cleanup, everyone went home to take post-brunch naps. What a life!
Our garden has finally picked up steam, now that the plants are getting a full day of sun. We are growing tomatoes, zucchini, collards, kale, rhubarb and 3 kinds of salad greens. We also have a strawberry plant that is producing berries prolifically. And, our grandson is eating them off the plant prolifically too! Except for the mint plant, my herbs are doing well also. The basil is growing well, even with my constant picking. This is the perfect time of year to serve your family a simple salad with basil, tomatoes and, if you have it, buffalo mozzarella cheese. Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic water buffalo. Its dense consistency is richer than the same cheese made from cow’s milk. Try your just-harvested basil in this classic summer recipe and you’ll grow basil every year after.
Caprese Con Mozzarella Di Bufala <Buffalo Mozzarella with Tomatoes and Basil>(serves 4):
1 lb tomatoes, ripe
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 fresh basil leaves
12 oz Buffalo Mozzarella, cut into very thin slices
Coarse salt and black pepper, freshly ground
1. Rinse, core and cut tomatoes into thin slices. In four medium-size salad dishes, alternate the cheese slices,
basil leaves and tomato slices, overlapping slightly.
2. Spoon the oil over each serving, letting it to form a pool like a sauce. Season with salt and pepper, cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Here’s another simple yet delightful dish for summer, made with the Middle Eastern spice: harissa. Harissa is a Tunisian spice blend with vibrant, peppery flavor and bold, smoky heat. You can use it in lieu of cumin, coriander, chili powder or cayenne pepper or create a spicy rub for grilled meats and fish.
Harissa Shrimp (serves 2 ):
Use 2 Tbsp pre-made harissa spice or make it using this recipe:
2 tsp ground cumin (see note on toasting and grinding spices)
½ tsp ground fennel
½ tsp ground caraway
½ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
½ - 1 tsp sea or kosher salt, or to taste
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
Note: To toast whole spices, place them in a dry, heavy skillet. Stir a minute or two or until fragrant and transfer to a bowl. Grind with a mortar and pestle, or use a clean coffee grinder or electric spice mill.
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, leaving the tail section on, and deveined
1. Combine cumin, fennel, caraway, cayenne and salt in a bowl. Whisk in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Mix in the lemon juice and zest. Toss shrimp in harissa mixture and marinate 10-15 min.
2. Prep the grill if grilling the shrimp. Preheat broiler if not grilling shrimp. Place shrimp on the broiler pan or on the grill. Cook, turning once, until cooked through, ~3 min. each side. Discard marinade.
And to round off this easy meal of shrimp and salad, try making some homemade lemonade with fruit infusion:
Fresh-squeezed Lemonade with Frozen Fruit Cubes (serves 6):
1 cup (6 lemons) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups water
In a large pitcher, combine the lemon juice and sugar; stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the water and blend well. Serve with Frozen Fruit Ice Cubes.
Frozen Fruit Cubes:
2 c. prepared lemonade
Variation of fresh fruits to puree in blender (e.g. kiwi, berries, mangos, guava, limes, watermelon, cherries)
In a blender, add a single type of fresh fruit (use several tablespoons of the lemonade if needed to thin out for complete pureeing). Blend well, pureeing entirely or leaving just a touch of chunkiness if desired. Pour pureed fruit into ice cube trays. Freeze. Drop into glasses of fresh lemonade. Enjoy!