DISH: Radicchio and Fresh Mozzarella Toasts; Grandpa Caprese Panzanella
TYPE: Summer Lunch
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Whole Grain Bread, Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Radicchio
A few Saturdays ago, after my mom had gotten back from her tennis match and I had finished up a long bike ride on my new and very cool road bike, we went out to the farm stands for vegetables. Our favorite stop is at Marilee Foster’s
farm. The labels by the vegetables are artistic endeavors in their own right, and, even more charmingly, business used to be conducted on an on-your-honor system. (There’s now a staffer there most of the weekend, though we don’t like to imagine what depravity caused the system to change.) Marilee’s guinea hens run around, and her tractors idle on the land behind the stand, reminding you that you really are in farm country.
We drove home with paper bags crowding the backseat. Radicchio two times larger than the heads we’d bought the weekend before. Tomatoes, both red little guys and large, tie-dye heirlooms. Lots of kirby cucumbers. Gorgeous scallions. A bundle of multicolored onions.
In the kitchen, we got to work. Though we were using the same ingredients, the same prep area, and the same mentality (fresh is good), we made pretty different lunches. I headed towards a sandwich, albeit one topped with a salad of sorts. Mom made a real salad, albeit one that incorporated bread.
Grandpa Salad has a long history in our family–one that I seemed to have recorded inaccurately last year
. Apparently cucumbers, tomatoes, and chopped onion dressed with olive oil and salt was my paternal great-grandfather’s go-to salad. We eat it a lot. To make it a full meal, Mom added chopped mozzarella and cubed toasted bread. She brought her bowl outside as I put the finishing touches on my lunch of choice: Toasts with Mozzarella and Radicchio.
I love the slight bitterness of radicchio. I think it spices up dishes as mundane as slaws, and it is complemented by ingredients with a hint of sweet, like the breakfast sausage in Phoebe’s Rigatoni Treviso
. In my lunch, the sweet was the sweet of dairy: a hefty slice of creamy fresh mozzarella. I didn’t add it this time, but if you wanted to go once step further, a schmear of fig preserves or red onion jam
beneath the mozzarella might just be delicious. I went about stir-frying half the head of radicchio with scallions and a sprinkling of salt, then topped my bread and mozzarella with it. The heat from the vegetables melted the cheese so it was soft but not stringy.
I know you’re wondering whose lunch was better…
or my toasts?
I’m afraid to turn this into a competition, since that would pit me not just against my beloved mother but also against a chain of ancestors. So we’ll leave it as a tie. Both simple, both healthful, both straight from the garden. Both delicious only in summer.
From my kitchen, where food goes straight from the ground into our lunches, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Radicchio Mozzarella Toasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 head radicchio, trimmed and cut into ribbons
2 scallions, white and light green parts cut in half lengthwise, then into thirds
2 slices wholegrain bread
2 thick slices fresh mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook for 1-2 minutes, until they start to wilt. Add the radicchio ribbons and cook, stirring constantly, until they have wilted and turned a much duller purple.
Add the vinegar and the salt, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, toast two slices of good, thickly-cut bread. Arrange the mozzarella on top.
Scoop the hot radicchio on top of the mozzarella. Grind some fresh pepper and eat immediately.
Grandpa Caprese Panzanella
1 tomato, cut into a 1-inch dice
1 cucumber, cut into about a 1-inch dice
1/4 small red onion, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup toasted bread, cut into cubes (about 2 slices)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
Mix the tomato, cucumber, and red onion in a large salad bowl. Toss with the olive oil. Add the bread and mozzarella, and toss again. Taste, then season with salt and pepper before eating.