Friday, July 2, 2010

New Favourite: Orange, Tomato and Bocconcini Salad

Have you ever tried something for the first time and thought "Oh my gosh .. this is definitely going to be a favourite?" I know it's kind of like an oxymoron; a favourite something is supposed to have wonderful memories attached to it, something that you've loved for a long time, something comforting that you look to and can count on. But haven't you ever experienced the thrill of the "new favourite?"

For instance, awhile back when I had breakfast in this new restaurant down the street and my multi-grain porridge came topped with cardamom spiced apples, I thought: OMG, cardamom is my new favourite spice. And it definitely has become a favourite -- added to curries, cookies, cakes, dressings ... but this post isn't about cardamom (although one is coming up soon!); it's about a salad. Wait! Don't navigate away! I'm not being anti-climactic! This salad is nothing short of perfection. What, with this definitely being salad weather and all, we probably need new and exciting salads to sneak in between the old favourites. This salad, though not new to by culinary partner (in fact, it was one of the very first salads that he made when he was in cooking school!), was just introduced to me recently. I had a bunch of mini bocconcinis left over from a previous salad (yeah, i'm a little salad crazy!) that had to be used up. I didn't really think about it much, but when I came out of the shower one evening I found a beautifully arranged plate of segmented oranges, quartered grape tomatoes, halved mini bocconcinis and in the centre, a bunch of basil in chiffonade. Beside it in a little bowl: a sweet, tangy, balsamic vinaigrette. "Can you toss the salad?" he asked non-nonchalantly. "The dressing is supposed to be made with white wine vinegar, but we only had balsamic." Only balsamic? I didn't complain, especially after I took the first bite . Sweet, fresh, tangy, lovely little fragrant hit from the basil ... perfect in every way.

Since that day, I've made this salad a bunch more times, and I always smile at each bite. It's really really that good. And I think the secret is in the orange. Tomato, bocconcini and basil have always been close friends; it's the first salad you think to make when the weather gets hot and steamy. But orange? Orange feels like winter, Christmas, mixed with warm comfy spices in cakes and muffins, or in winter salads when potatoes and parsnips need a little sweet juicy pick-me-up. But orange with the classic tomato cheese and basil combo? Unheard of in my culinarily-impaired mind. But never again. Those juicy, citrus-y sweet segments lifts and old favourite to new heights. You HAVE to try it this summer!

Orange Tomato and Bocconcini Salad
adapted from the Humbler College Culinary Management course :)

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad

1 orange, cut into segments
a handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
4 mini bocconcinis, halved (or 2 big ones chopped up)
4 large basil leaves, chopped in a chiffonde

1. Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together until they kind of emulsify. Let it hang out in the fridge while you prepare you salad ingredients.

2. Toss all the salad ingredients together and drizzle the dressing over. Make sure that your first bite contains a bit of everything.

3. Repeat tomorrow!!