CSA Week 8: Birthday Bonanza, part 1

-Gorgeous fresh onions

Ben and I almost share a birthday (he’s 7/31, I’m 8/1), which means it’s more like Christmas or an anniversary in terms of joint celebrations, but since they fell on a weekend this year it felt quite festive. I cooked dinner on Friday for his birthday, and then he planned an excursion for mine.

I went a bit Goin-ish in inspiration with the menu, finally making the heirloom tomato salad my mom has been raving about for a year or two, and using one of her steak recipes as a jumping off point for the main course. First things first, the meat. Goin calls for a tri-tip, which is a cut of meat so identified with California that when I asked for it at Savenor’s the butcher said “You from the West Coast?” In typical Goin style, the meat gets rubbed down with chiles, herbs and spices and spends some time thinking things through in the fridge.

Rosemary, chiles de arbol, cracked pepper (lemon zest goes on at the end)

While that rested, I turned to those stunning young onions from the CSA:


They were drawn and quartered (eighth-ed, actually), then I caramelized them in butter and olive oil, very slowly.

I put those aside to be combined with beans and thyme later, and made the salad, which is aaaaamazing.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata and torn croutons
Adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques
(If you still haven’t bought this cookbook, DO NOT DELAY. It inspired this blog, it inspires me, it will make you a better cook.)
To serve 6 (I made a half batch)
1/3 lb good country white bread
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano leaves (I used parsley)
1/2 clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used all sherry vinegar instead of the combination of the two)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes (varied colors and sizes)
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
2 tablespoons sliced opal basil; 2 tablespoons sliced green basil (I used all green)
1 pound burrata* cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

*Burrata is a heavenly ball of fresh mozzarella that has been filled with cream or, in this case, mascarpone. I found a fresh local one (made in Somerville) at Formaggio Kitchen. Pricey but worth it for a special occasion.

Croutons: I’ve been making croutons like this for a while; it makes them chewy and crunchy and delicious, WAY better than cubes and nothing like what you buy in a bag.
Preheat oven to 375. Tear up the inside of the bread and toss with 2 T olive oil, squeezing the oil into the bread.

Toast on a baking sheet until golden but still soft inside. I like to add a bit of salt before toasting them.

Dressing: Pound the oregano (parsley, in my case), garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt in a mortar and pestle to make a paste.

Transfer to a bowl and add the vinegars. Whisk in the 6 T olive oil remaining, season to taste.

Tomatoes: Prep the tomatoes–core the heirlooms, halve the cherry tomatoes.

Cut half of the heirlooms into wedges and slice the other half into 1/4 inch slices. Season the slices with a bit of salt and pepper and lay them out on a platter, overlapping. Spoon on a bit of the dressing and scatter on some of the basil.

Slice the burrata into 12 slices and nudge them in between the tomato slices.

Dress the heirloom wedges and cherry tomatoes with 3 T of the dressing, tossing them with the shallots, salt, and pepper.

Gently add in the croutons, then arrange the mixture on top of the tomato/cheese slices on the platter, making a pretty heap. Top with the parsley and remaining basil.

You guys. I know that’s a long ingredient list for a tomato salad, but everything is fast and easy and so worth it. Major step up from the basic caprese.

As for the rest of dinner, the dining room was pretty:

I had roasted potatoes to accompany the steak and beans. We had some technical issues with the steak–there was a band of fat that made it shrink up and my ideas of timing were all off, so it was way underdone and needed to go back on the grill *after* resting, but it worked out.

I bought the tiniest chocolate cake at Whole Foods, and put the tallest birthday candle on it:

But mostly I’m still thinking about that tomato salad.

Can you blame me?

Next up: My birthday ramble.

Coming soon: A visit to the Farm!! Also, a dinner party. And some nice quick summer meals.

9 thoughts on “CSA Week 8: Birthday Bonanza, part 1”

  1. I’m pretty sure it’s: http://www.fioredinonno.com
    So good. $7 for a little ball, but….Oh yum. It makes me want to duplicate panini I had in Florence a few years ago with burrata and fresh peas, but I’ll have to wait for spring.

  2. Thanks, guys! In retrospect, I feel like that tomato salad photo is sort of the blog equivalent of burying the lede. I saved the best stuff for towards the end!

  3. i was thinking this morning about how much i miss nights like that with my husband from before three kids arrived. you’ve made me decide that, kids or not, i’m going to make a huge effort to have special evening like this. great job! i’m weak at the knees over that salad and your pretty table.

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