Well, as usual, “we are going to cook” turned in to “Teanna is going to cook a three course meal for you while Jack watches the NCAA Elite 8."
How this always happens, I’ll never know.
Jack is always a big supporter of my capabilities in the kitchen, but often lets me know that I seem to “choke” when cooking for large groups of people (like my ice cold brunch). He is such a sweet boyfriend.
To prove him wrong, I decided to keep it simple:
Caprese Salad with Basil Oil and Basil Sea Salt
Grilled Sirloin with Shrimp Potato Pancakes and Asparagus
Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies and Kumquat and Blueberry Cream Tarts (Recipe Tomorrow)
Let me get off subject a bit here. For those of you who watched Top Chef Season 5, you may remember an episode where Ariane won the Today Show Challenge with her Beefsteak Tomato Salad. You may recall the ire of fellow “cheftestants” and viewers alike due to the fact that Ariane won for a dish that require no cooking – at all.
You know what I say? Ariane is smart. She knows what most people like. Most people like simple. Easy. Something they can recreate at home quickly. And she WON! Jeff, who cooks dishes with 46583739 components, had his food spit out on live TV by Kathie Lee Griffen, yet the judges couldn’t keep their forks away from Ariane’s dish.
I personally like to eat dishes that are complex, cook things that are challenging or different, and learn about techniques because I feel that it helps me grow as a home cook and hopefully, one day, more. But you know what? Most people I know would be more interested in eating a slice of mozzarella cheese and a deliciously ripe tomato with fresh basil than Tomato Confit with Marinated Tomatoes on a Crispy Tart (although, I SO want to try this recipe).
But most importantly, IT IS FAST.
I didn’t need to stress. I already made the desserts in advance. The steak dish would take about 15 minutes to make. And all I needed to do was about 5 minutes of prep work before we were ready to dive in. And for a little something different, the basil oil and basil sea salt added a bit of a wow factor that really took little effort to make.
Guess what? It was probably the most pleasurable cooking experience I have had to date. No stressing. No running about. Just pure, delicious food.
They don’t call her the Cougar for nothing, my friends.
Caprese Salad with Basil Oil and Basil Sea Salt ( Basil Oil Recipe Adapted from Top Chef)
For the Caprese Salad:
4 Heirloom or Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, ends discarded and sliced ½ inch thick
2 balls fresh mozzarella, sliced ½ inch thick
4 leaves fresh basil
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (optional)
For the Basil Oil:
2 cups basil
1/2 cup olive oil
For the Basil Sea Salt:
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp sea salt
Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
For the Basil Oil: Blanche basil in boiling water. Shock in ice bath and set aside.
Place basil into a blender with ½ cup olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine chinois or strainer.
For the Basil Sea Salt: Crush dried basil with a mortar and pestle until it becomes a powder. Mix with 1 tsp sea salt. Set aside.
To Plate: Place alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella in the center of the plate, starting and ending with a tomato slice (you should have three slices of tomato and two slices of mozzarella). Repeat with the other three tomatoes. Top with a fresh basil leaf.
Drizzle basil oil over tomatoes and around plate. Drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar (careful not to use too much).
Strew grape tomatoes around plate and sprinkle with any chunks of leftover mozzarella, if desired. Serve with basil sea salt.