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We are more than halfway through the last full month of summer and while it seems impossible and exciting to think that fall is almost upon us, these last few months of sunshine, grilling, and fellowship have passed at the happiest of paces. For us, the weeks have moved quickly enough to avoid monotony while also maintaining a refreshing sense of leisure that has left us fully infatuated with the season’s charms and quite content with their passing.
I have loved sharing these meals with you all this summer and I hope they have enabled and inspired many happy gatherings. For this last addition to my trilogy, I wanted to make something a little different.
We have explored the classic grilled steak, dipped our toes into southern cuisine, and now I am giving a nod to the beauty of the side dish. We are going beyond the bags of potato chips, tossing the macaroni salad, and reviving the true mastery of a well composed side dish - or, in this case, an entire meal of them.
That's right, I am pulling out all the side dish stops for this last summer meal. We have got 2 1/2 hours, $40, and a address book full of hungry friends so let's live these August days.
This menu is choked full of flavorful recipes, but this heirloom tomato and fried mozzarella salad one is likely my favorite, mostly because basil + tomatoes will forever be my favorite equation.
This salad, or "ring of happiness" goes a little something like this. Fresh mozzarella is sliced, breaded, and fried, heirloom tomatoes are sliced, and a whole bunch of basil is thrown in the blender with some olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice until it becomes a proper vinaigrette.
It is my very own take on a caprese, and, with all respect to tradition, I think it might be even better than the original.
Next up, panzenella. An overflowing bowl of greens tossed with crisp cubes of bread, plums, candied walnuts, manchego, and balsamic.
Stop picking out all the candied walnuts. Yeah, I see you...
Our trio concludes simply, with some roasted cauliflower that has been tossed with sun-dried tomato oil for tang and color.
There are so many aspects I love about this meal. I often shy away from vegetarian cooking because I never quite feel full, but this meal is so hearty that there is no chance of anyone leaving hungry.
I also love that this meal can be lunch just as easily as dinner. If you are not feeling a full-blown dinner party, try inviting a few friends over for a late weekend lunch.
Oh, did you think I forgot about dessert?
These pretty trifles are comprised of a rich chocolate mousse, sweet diced peaches, crushed almond cookies, and airy whipped cream. The combination of the chocolate and peaches is truly heavenly. While these are rich, the airy almond cookies and acidic peaches balance the heaviness of the mousse.
So, what does your Friday night look like?
shop this post...
- 1 baguette $2.04
- panko bread crumbs $1.83
- almond cookies $4.09
- 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks $2.35
- 1 1/2 cups candied walnuts $4.40
- 7 ounces wild arugula $2.04
- 1 large head cauliflower $2.55
- 5 medium heirloom tomatoes $4.60
- 1 lemon $0.50
- 3 ripe plums $1.81
- 3 ripe yellow peaches $2.74
- 2.5 ounces fresh basil (one medium bunch) $2.76
- 1 package sun-dried tomatoes $2.04
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella $6.14
- 1/2 lb Manchego $6.04
- 1 pint heavy cream $1.83
Total = $47.76 - Just a teeny bit over our $40 goal and approximately $8 per serving. I would say that is pretty satisfactory.
assumed pantry and refrigerator items
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
- vegetable oil
- balsamic vinegar
- red pepper flakes
- dried herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, oregano)
- onion powder
- garlic powder
Chocolate Peach Trifles
mousse recipe adapted from bon appetit
Hostess's Note: Prepare the trifles first, as they have the longest setting time. By the time you have prepared and served the rest of the dinner, these trifles will be ready to serve!
for the mousse
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup very strong coffee, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Fill a 3-quart saucepan with about 2-inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Combine 4 large egg yolks, coffee, and two tablespoons granulated sugar in a large, glass bowl and set over the simmering water, being careful that the water does not touch the bowl.
Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is foamy, has nearly doubled in volume and reads at 160 degrees F when checked with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in chocolate. Allow to cool to room temperature.
While the chocolate cools, prepare the egg whites. Whisk two large egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. While continuing to mix, slowly sprinkle in remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat the whites until stiff peaks form.
Use a spatula to add half of the beaten egg whites to the cooled chocolate mixture. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate, then repeat with the remaining half of the egg whites. Carefully fold in chilled cream.
Assemble the trifles.
for the whipped cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Beat in confectioner's sugar.
- 3 medium, ripe, yellow peaches
- 2 cups miniature store-bought almond cookies
- chocolate mousse
- whipped cream
Dice two peaches into cubes. Reserve the remaining peach and 1/2 of the whipped cream.
Divide half of the diced peaches amongst the bottom of six, 6-ounce glasses. Crush three cookies over each glass and then top with a spoonful of whipped cream, remaining diced peaches and a thick layer of chocolate mousse. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Hostess's Note: At this point, move on to preparing the mozzarella.
To serve: Thinly slice the remaining peach. Top each glass with a spoonful of whipped cream and garnish with peach slices and an almond cookie. Serve immediately!
Tomato Mozzarella Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 quart vegetable oil
- sea salt
- 5 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- fresh basil, for garnish
Gather three shallow bowls. In the first bowl, combine eggs and milk; whisk thoroughly. Place flour in the second bowl. In the third bowl, combine panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried herbs.
Dip each slice of mozzarella into the bowl of flour and shake to remove excess. Dip into the egg mixture and then coat with panko; repeat so that each slice has two coats of breading. This will make the outer coating extra crunchy and protect the mozzarella from melting when it hits the fryer.
Lay the breaded mozzarella out onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 1 hour.
Hostess's Note: In the meantime, prepare the bread for the panzanella salad, slice the heirloom tomatoes, prepare the basil vinaigrette, and cut and prepare the cauliflower.
When the mozzarella has been in the freezer for 50 minutes, heat vegetable oil in a fryer or dutch oven and prepare a drying area by lining a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels and topping with a cooling rack.
Once the oil has reached 350 degrees F, drop the mozzarella slices into the oil, two at a time, and fry for about 2 minutes; until deep golden. Lay the fried mozzarella out onto the prepared cooling rack and sprinkle with sea salt.
Once all the mozzarella has been fried, layer with the sliced tomatoes on a large platter. Garnish with fresh basil and drizzle with the prepared vinaigrette just before serving.
- 2 ounces fresh basil (1 medium bunch)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender.
With the blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until the vinaigrette is smooth and thick. Refrigerate until ready to use. Shake before using.
Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-dried Tomato Oil
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place cauliflower in a large bowl and drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil. Toss in red pepper flakes and sea salt. Spread the cauliflower evenly over the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes; until the edges are just golden brown.
While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the sun-dried tomato oil. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in the work bowl of your food processor and pulse until smooth.
Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a serving dish; toss with the prepared sun-dried tomato oil. Serve warm.
Plum & Walnut Panzanella Salad
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 large french baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 7 ounces wild arugula
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ripe plums, sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 cups candied walnuts
- 1/2 lb manchego cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Place balsamic in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce down to about 1/3 cup; until thick and syrupy. Allow to cool.
Set your oven to the broiler setting and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss bread cubes with 4 tablespoons olive oil and spread evenly over the lined baking sheet.
Place the sheet pan under the boiler and toast until evenly golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool while you prepare the salad.
In a large bowl, combine arugula and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper; toss to combine. Toss in toasted bread, plums, walnuts and shaved manchego. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.