I’ve been holding onto this recipe for a few weeks now, and for that I apologize, because it really is a delicious one. Not that I was trying to keep it from you; au contraire, I’ve been itching to get this one posted, especially for all you green thumbs out there whose basil plants, I imagine, have grown to Jumanji-esque proportions and who might be feeling like one can only eat so many pesto pizzas before giving up in disgust and abandoning basil for the rest of the summer. Take heart! This recipe is pesto’s chic, exotic and (dare I say?) tastier cousin, and giving it a go should help you prune your plants down to a manageable size in no time.
The reason it’s taken since late July — when my sister Annie and I concocted this salad in her cozy Milwaukee kitchen using the bounteous basil growing on her front porch — until now to post this recipe is that the last few weeks have been some of the busiest on record. From Wisconsin to Atlanta to Michigan to Indiana, I’ve been ricocheting around the Midwest in a blur of packing and unpacking, reunions and goodbyes, until finally settling here in Bloomington a fornight or so ago. Slowly, and with a lot of help from the people who know me well and the people I’m just now getting to know, I’m learning how it feels to be twenty-five, to be a grad student, to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment with slightly warped wood floors and great big windows that don’t quite close (but that so saturate the room with late afternoon sunlight that you hardly mind the gaps). It sure is a lot of change to take in all at once, but a quote by Thomas Merton, which is currently scrawled across the blackboard in my kitchen, gives good perspective:
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
And at this particular present moment, dear reader, I’d like you to recognize the delectable possibilities offered by the following vinaigrette.
sweet basil vinaigrette
Adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
⅓ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¾ cup canola oil
salt & pepper
Wash your basil and remove the stems.
In a food processor or blender, combine basil, vinegar, sugar, honey, garlic, and mustard. Puree until smooth.
With the motor running, slowly add the oil. Season with salt and pepper, and voila! If not using straight away, store in an air tight container and refrigerate. And try your best not to eat the whole thing with a spoon. Trust me, you’ll be tempted.
summer salad with heirloom tomato & peach
2 ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 ripe peaches
1 red onion
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1 head romaine lettuce
sweet basil vinaigrette
Makes 4 big salads
Clearly, this recipe doesn’t require much instruction. Rinse lettuce and tear into bite-sized pieces. Slice tomatoes, peaches, and mozzarella into thin wedges. Slice onion into strips (or however you desire).
Build each salad on its plate then drizzle generously with sweet basil vinaigrette.
This salad is late August incarnate. I suggest you get on it while the basil is still abundant and the tomatoes and peaches are at their prime.