Friday, June 10, 2011

a springtime Caprese

How laughable that not even a month ago we were bemoaning the cold rainy weather. It feels like August in Key West right now, here in Queens, NY and we have barely brushed the surface of June.  It is already too hot to cook, so I am offering up a version of a deep summer recipe that would suit a steamy day like today.
 Lemon Balm has taken over my herb bed.  It is time to be ruthless and tear some out.

My herb garden has already become so overgrown it needs serious cutting back. A fresh herb pesto, made with a mix of the tenderest of spring herb leaves, is great to have on hand in the fridge. This pesto becomes a perfect addition to salads, soups, as a starter for a vinaigrette or a topping for grilled vegetables. Add some mayonnaise to it and use it as a sandwich spread.
With Caribbean mangoes now very visible in the markets what a great time to give this fruit a shot on the grill! For best results look for a firm, ripe mango that is not too mushy. The heat and smoke will intensify the flavor and leave really pretty grill marks on the flesh.
Gather up the ingredients for a simple summer salad.

With all this new-found abundance a grilled salad of Mango and mozzarella cheese with fresh herb pesto becomes a simple meal that can come together in minutes, which is about all the time you would want to spend cooking in this heat. The recipe is a play on the traditional Caprese Salad of fresh mozzarella cheese and garden fresh tomatoes served with basil and olive oil. We still have several weeks before any good tomatoes will be available, so consider this alternative for a springtime take on this classic.

Grilled Mango and Mozzarella Salad with Herb Pesto
oil for grilling
1 mango, peeled and sliced into slabs
1 lb. fresh mozerella, sliced into 1/2' slabs
6-8 large lettuce leaves
1/2 cup fresh herb pesto- see recipe below

Lightly oil a hot grill and cook the mangos about three minutes per side, till warmed through with visible grill marks, but not too cooked that they fall apart. Remove from heat. Add the sliced mozerella on the grill for barely one minute to warm the chesse, but don't let it melt into the grill.
Arrange the slices of cheese and the mango on a bed of the lettuce leaves and dress with the herb pesto.

Fresh Herb Pesto
-for this recipe mix and match herbs as you like. It could be just one herb, like the classic basil or a mix of two or more.  If you are mixing different herbs from the garden, choose the youngest, most tender leaves- any of these would work well: parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro, sage, oregano, lemon balm, chives, basil, dill, chervil, lovage, thyme.

2 cups chopped fresh herbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic
Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend till the consistensy is thick, adding more oil as needed.
Makes about one cup. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

For another grilled mango recipe, one that includes shrimp and a spicy BBQ, sauce check out my post on the Edible Queens Blog.

Deb, you should consider a career in cookbook photography. As if your schedule isn't full enough! But honestly, your pictures are beautiful!  The salad looks gorgeous.

For those of you red wine lovers...sorry, but this time of year I'm mostly about white, especially with all of these wonderful light salads. That being said, I'm a big believer in simply choosing whatever wine you desire, to complement the foods you love. So, if it's red your craving, that's what you should drink. Just be sure to try and match the body of the wine with the weight of the meal. You don't want one to overpower the other. For example, you wouldn't go with a big heavy Cab here. Look for something on the lighter side like a Beaujolais perhaps.

For me, typically I would go with something light, dry and crisp. But here I'm going to be adventurous and go for a Moscato d'Asti. Often enjoyed as a dessert wine, it is sweet and low in alcohol (which makes it perfect for an afternoon brunch). This slightly sparkling (frizzante) white comes from the region of Asti in Piedmont, in northwest Italy. Moscato Bianco is the grape. Flavors of peach and pear are dominant in this crowd-pleasing wine. It's particularly delicious with fresh fruit (hence my choice for this recipe)! Deb's summery salad and a glass of Moscato are a perfect combination this time of year.

Moscato's are also very reasonably priced - there are so many outstanding examples in the $15 price range. La Spinetta is one of my favorite producers. Their Moscato d'Asti Bricco Quaglia is sublime...and affordable at $15.99. These wines are not meant to be aged so try to find the youngest vintage you can. Right now, the 2010's are what you should be looking for.

Mmmmm. I know what I'm making this weekend!

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