Caprese Salad with Yellow Pear Tomatoes and Bocconcini

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Despite the massive amount of rain we have gotten in the past few months, my yellow pear tomatoes are doing fairly well. Well enough that they are attracting dozens of leaf-footed bugs who are having their way with each other and my tomatoes.

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I won’t even consider insecticides and have instead started an all-out assault on these relatives of the stink bug with gloved hands, squashing them to death between my thumb and forefinger. It’s brutal, but such is life.

So, back to the tomatoes. My yellow pear tomatoes are doing well and I’m getting a bunch off of the one plant I have. My basil is not doing so well, but I have enough to make one of my favorite summer dishes, caprese salad.

Caprese salads come in many forms, typically made with larger slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella with a leaf of basil sandwiched in between. The tiny balls of fresh mozzarella, also known as bocconcini, were on sale at my local Publix. You can usually find them in the deli area of the grocery store. They are so cute and perfect to pair with my sweet yellow pear tomatoes.

I’ve been on a balsamic reduction kick lately. OMG, it gets thick, syrupy, sweet, and the flavor is intensified. It’s amazing. I could drizzle it on everything. I especially like it on caprese salad (and it was pretty darn good on the zucchini caprese paninis I made last week. Sorry, no picture and no post). To make a balsamic reduction, I just pour balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until it reduces by at least half and coats the back of a spoon. When it cools down, it will thicken even more.

Caprese Salad with Yellow Pear Tomatoes and Bocconcini

This is not an exact recipe. Vary the amounts of ingredients according to need and preference.

yellow pear tomatoes (or other sweet cherry tomatoes), halved
bocconcini (or small balls of fresh mozzarella)
fresh basil leaves, torn into smaller pieces
olive oil
balsamic vinegar reduction (instructions above)
salt and pepper

Combine tomatoes, bocconcini, and fresh basil leaves in a serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction. Season to taste with salt (I use Kosher salt) and freshly ground black pepper.

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Blueberry Loaf

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I have five blueberry bushes in my yard. I planted three of them the year we moved to this house. I didn’t realize there were already two mature bushes until the next summer. What a nice surprise. The three bushes I planted are still small and not yet producing much, but the other two have quite a few berries on them. For the past week or so, blueberries have been ripening on one of the mature bushes and I have already gotten at least 3 quarts of  beautiful berries off of it.

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With the mild spring and plenty of rain, the conditions have been ideal for an abundant amount of sweet blueberries. I am just thrilled. Last year I wasn’t so lucky because the mockingbirds and squirrels were relentless and ate almost all of the meager yield of berries.

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This blueberry loaf is wonderful. It’s cake-like, but not too sweet. My oldest son and I agree that a slice of this blueberry loaf would be a perfect base for strawberries and whipped cream. It would be an excellent 4th of July treat.

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Blueberry Loaf

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to defrost the frozen berries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 X 5 X 3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of the flour and set aside. This helps to keep the blueberries to sinking to the bottom of the batter. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, with electric mixers, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Gradually mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 – 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the loaf pan. Let blueberry loaf cool completely on a wire rack.


Caponata on Spaghetti Squash

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Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant stew. I was introduced to caponata (served with fried goat cheese medallions) years ago at a long-gone tapas restaurant in downtown Fredericksburg, VA. I fell in love instantly.

We got our last Pinckney’s Produce CSA box of the season this week along with a challenge to create a recipe using the vegetables found in the box. The box contained Japanese eggplant, green bell peppers, tomatoes, poblanos, spaghetti squash, cubanelle peppers, cucumbers, butternut squash, and watermelon. I thought of caponata immediately.

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Caponata can be eaten as a main course, side dish, or as an appetizer (think bruschetta). I thought it would be excellent on spaghetti squash.

Caponata on Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling over spaghetti squash
2 Japanese eggplants (or 1 Italian), diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, cored and diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
3 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Cut the stem off the spaghetti squash and then cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Drizzle the cut side of the spaghetti squash with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes until the squash is tender.

While the spaghetti squash is baking, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until it starts to get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes, capers,  and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Scrape the spaghetti squash meat out of the skin with a fork, separating the strands. Arrange on serving platter/dish and top with the caponata.