Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Staples : Peach + Blackberry Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Blackberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar, Toasted Pine Nuts, & Crumbled Goat Cheese

Summer Staples: Peach + Blackberry Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Blackberry Infused
Balsamic Vinegar, Toasted Pine Nuts, & Crumbled Goat Cheese
What's more summery than a Caprese Salad? Um, well, a Caprese Salad made with peaches, blackberries, & heirloom tomatoes, that's what. I've been kinda obsessed with different types of Caprese Salads as of lately. Some of the editions include roasted strawberry caprese pasta saladcreamy burrata caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes, and mosaic melon salad with homemade burrata. Those were all fab and completely fueled my motivation to make this version. When the hot summer months come rolling around, I have this uncontrollable need to buy lots of rainbow heirloom tomatoes & ripe peaches. It's a compulsion that has no cure, and often results in masses of produce in the kitchen, which is never ever a bad thing. But it usually catches up with me and I find myself trying to beat their expiration date, so I don't feel guilty tossing them into the trash. This is the perfect way to use them up!! I sliced the tomatoes and seasoned them with some salt & pepper, and then sliced the peaches and coated them in a little lemon juice to keep them gorgeously colored. In order to make this salad truly a summer staple... add big 'ole leaves of fresh basil, creamy mozzarella (or burrata) cheese rounds, fruity olive oil, and juicy blackberries. To round out the flavors, I garnished the top of the platter with some crumbled homboldt fog goat cheese + toasted pine nuts. The key component to this salad though is the homemade blackberry infused balsamic vinegar. This requires some planning ahead of time on your part... two weeks planning. I know this sounds like a drag, but you'll be thanking me for the rest of the summer. I started mine in May and have used it all up, ever since. Simply cover some fresh blackberries with a good, high quality balsamic vinegar and let it sit. After that, I sweetened it with a little sugar, to taste. And, I have also used it, with a tiny bit of honey, to make a blackberry balsamic reduction. Both options are fabulous drizzled over the salad, so it really is up to you which one you use!! I hope that everyone is enjoyin' the hot, sunny days + nights. Also, please check back tomorrow for a post of some of my favorite recipes for the Fourth of July!! Enjoy :)

For the Blackberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar:
2C High Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1C Fresh Blackberries
Sugar, To Taste
2t Honey (if using for a balsamic reduction)

For the Salad:
Fresh Georgia Peaches, Pits Removed & Thinly Sliced
Rainbow Heirloom Tomatoes, Sliced
Fresh Mozzarella or Burrata Cheese, Sliced into Rounds
Fresh Basil Leaves (whole or Chiffonade)
Fresh Blackberries
Toasted Pine Nuts
Crumbled Goat Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, For Drizzling
Homemade Blackberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar, For Drizzling
Fleur de Sel & Fresh Cracked Pepper, For Sprinkling

1. For the Blackberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar: Rinse and dry off the fresh blackberries and place them into a glass bottle or container. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, so that the berries are completely submerged, tightly cover the container, and let it sit in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks before using. Once the berries have infused the vinegar, add in some sugar, to taste, about 1T at a time until you have reached the desired sweetness that you want. Using a whisk or fork, mix until the sugar has dissolved, while also mashing some of the berries up to infuse more flavor. If you want to make a blackberry infused balsamic reduction, add ½C of the vinegar and 2t honey to a small saucepan and cook to reduce for 3-5 minutes or until thick & syrupy. Let it sit and cool until you are ready to drizzle it over the salad.
2. For the Salad: Lay the slices of peach, heirloom tomato, cheese, and basil in a pattern on a large serving platter. Garnish the top with fresh blackberries, toasted pine nuts, and crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle the salad with some extra virgin olive oil and the homemade blackberry infused balsamic. Finish by sprinkling the whole platter with some fleur de sel & fresh cracked pepper.
3. Serve immediately!

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