The seasonal vegetables I used from the garden and polytunnel were: Little Gem lettuce and garlic in the dressing - with eggs from our organic hens. For the salsa I used a mixed selection of tomatoes, and basil - with some nice juicy fresh garlic cloves for rubbing onto the toasted Bruschetta
Both of these recipes couldn't be easier! Just the thing you want in the busy summer holidays when you don't have time to spend hours messing around making meals, and need something in the fridge ready to go for a quick and easy meal at odd times!
I've always loved a good Caesar Salad and have tried many versions over the years, in some great restaurants. The best I ever ate was in the rooftop restaurant of Saks Fifth Ave in New York - which was was my special treat to go to, when visiting friends there, before I decided to stop flying to reduce my personal carbon footprint.
I've tried since to find a really good dressing recipe to replicate that memorable salad for what seems like forever! - Sadly I could never find one in any of the usual good books which didn't involve an awful lot of time-consuming faffing around with half-boiling eggs, disemboweling the uncooked yolks and then slowly drizzling oil into things - which I have neither the time nor the patience for! I wanted something really easy, where I could just throw everything straight into the blender and eat literally two minutes later.
I also looked on the web - with no joy either. Some even included shop-bought, non-organic mayonnaise - yuck! After a lot of very disappointing experiments (the dogs ate quite a lot of the trial dressings!) - I finally invented this one, which is the quickest, easiest and definitely the fastest one ever! Not only does it taste every bit as good as the original Saks recipe I loved - as I think you will agree if you've ever tasted it - but actually I think it's even better. It's all organic and bursting with nutritious, healthy ingredients!
3/4 of a cup of natural full-fat Greek yogurt - Glenisk is the brand I used as it's available everywhere in Ireland (I find cup measures easier for measuring liquids)
Just throw all of the ingredients into your food processor or Nutribullet (which is what I use)
Process until smooth and emulsified - which will literally take only half a minute. Don't over-process as it may warm and start to separate.
Done! How easy is that?
Put into a covered jar and chill until needed. Shake or stir just before using - to ensure that the dressing is smooth.
Store any leftover dressing in an airtight jar in the fridge for 3-4 days
Drizzle onto leaves and toss to lightly coat (don't drown them!).
For the plain version, add croutons and extra grated or shaved Parmesan.
For the vegetarian version, you could also add grilled, plain silky tofu if wished and make the croutons with olive oil only. (Definitely only organic tofu in this case - as all non-organic tofu is made from GMO soy. Clearspring do a nice one).
For the omnivore's version - whatever else takes your fancy with the croutons and Parmesan - smoked or plain chicken, bacon lardons etc. Making the croutons with the leftover bacon fat really makes this sensational!
The idea with this dressing is just to have a very light slick on the leaves, but if you like a much thicker and heavier dressing - you can add some chia or flax flour or seed blitzed. They are both more or less tasteless but good thickeners, which also add some nutrients. Try adding just a level teaspoon at first, blitz into the dressing to combine and leave to stand for a few minutes, then test again for thickness, as they take a few minutes to thicken.
To make the croutons:
After cooking the bacon for the lardons, lift it out with a draining spoon, reserving any fat which runs off, and snip it into pieces with kitchen scissors.
Toss the cubes of bread in the fat left over in the frying pan, to absorb it (or use a tablespoon of olive oil for vegetarians).
Put them on a sheet pan in the oven at 190 deg C for 10-15 minutes. Keep a strict eye on them to make sure that they don't burn! Remove from the oven when nicely browned and crisped through, and cool on the tray. If you can resist just trying a few to see if they're crisp enough - you're a better woman than me! Just make sure there's some left for the salad!
Recipe 2. - Simple Tomato Salsa - to serve with Bruschetta
This recipe is something we eat a lot in the summer when we have really good tomatoes, and is so easy that I can't believe I've never done it before on Tunnel to Table - but it couldn't be more delicious!
Any amount of assorted, good-flavoured tomatoes. It's hard to be exact, but for instance, 6 large and 12 small cherry tomatoes should serve about 2-3 people, serving on 4 slices of toasted bruschetta each. This recipe is great for using up any odd bits of larger beefsteak tomatoes left over after making a very neat tomato salad!
Including some small sweet cherry tomatoes in this really makes the recipe zing with flavour - but if you don't have any, adding a very small pinch of white sugar with the salt and freshly-ground pepper will help improve to the flavour a lot.
A small handful of fresh basil leaves
Good extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
Thick slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread
Some fat juicy garlic cloves.
1. Cut all the tomatoes up into fairly small pieces, about the size of a 1/4 of a cherry tomato and put them into a bowl.
2. Finely shred or chop the basil leaves and add to taste as you go.
3. As you add the chopped tomatoes, drizzle with a little olive oil as you go - not too much at first as it gets more runny as it sits, and you can end up with soup - (which is still very nice!) Stir gently to combine after each drizzle of oil.
4. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Again go easy at first and taste as you go along - you can always add more if needed. I can't stress how important it is to always use freshly ground, preferably organic pepper - as this is on another planet in terms of both flavour and beneficial phytonutrients!
This can sit in a covered bowl in the fridge for several hours or days if wished - or served straight away.
Cut the peeled garlic cloves in half
Toast the slices of bread until really crisp, but don't burn them as it ruins the flavour!
As you take the hot slices from the toaster, let each person rub their slices with the cut side of a garlic clove, and pile on the salsa from the bowl with a spoon!
This is not a polite lunch or supper - it's a relaxed, 'eat with your fingers' meal to share with good friends anytime in summer and enjoy!