Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tomato, tomahto... as long as its Fresh!

I had the pleasure of meeting a professional chef recently. One thing that he told me about grilling and cooking is that you always try to cook with fresh regional ingredients. Optimum flavors in its prime. A tomato is best coming from California's valley at the peak of freshness. Just adding that single tomato to greens will turn the simplest salad into a gourmet experience. Try to bring regional fresh produce into your rafting camping menu. Tomatoes, basil, peaches are all in peak freshness. Add them to your next recipe.

10 large fresh tomatoes (heirlooms are recommended)
1 bunch fresh basil (picked fresh if possible)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
cracked fresh pepper to taste
1 large peach (optional)

Rinse tomatoes in fresh water. Set aside. Wash basil. Pick leaves off of stem and set aside to dry in small colander. Take care not to bruise the delicate leaves. Slice tomatoes. If large, cut in half and then slice. Arrange on a platter. Stack leaves of basil; one on top of the other. Roll the stack until it forms a tubular cylindar. Slice thinly cross-wise. This will form strings of basil when you unroll them. Sprinkle the thin basil chiffonade over the tomatoes liberally. Splash on the balsalmic vinegar and olive oil. Pepper to taste. Decorate with thin slices of peaches (optional). This is a perfect salad for a vegan.

Variation: add slices of fresh mozzarella or bufalo cheese. Talk about an awesome meal after rafting all day. Just add a crusty sour dough baguette and it's dinner. In the winter, add a minestrone soup to cap off this meal.

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