As you may know, we traveled to Boston last week for a little work combined with pleasure. We visited our former home for a company reunion and during our stay, we were reunited with old friends as well as meeting new ones. There were also two food writers and bloggers that I was hoping to meet. And I did. One of them was Brian of A Thought for Food and the other was Jacqueline of LD Gourmet. Jacqueline came bearing gifts.
Mr. B., Brian, Jacqueline, and I met at Flour Bakery in the Back Bay over coffee and some very decadent baked goods and chatted about food writing, photography, cooking, etc. In the conversation, Jacqueline invited us to join her virtual Summer Solstice Party taking place tomorrow, June 28th (a little late, but what does a week matter?!). After all, who doesn’t love a party? The theme for this virtual party is to make a recipe from the lovely cookbook that Jacqueline brought as a gift to us that morning, Home Made Summer by Yvette Van Boven.
I have enjoyed looking through the book and marking recipes that I want to try. There are also beautiful photographs of food and different scenes from Europe. The authors, Yvette and her husband and photographer Oof Verschuren, split their time between Amsterdam and Paris, but much of the book focuses on her time spent in Provence. That part of France is certainly one of our favorite places to visit in Europe and the experience of the region and the food and wine are phenomenal. The scenery alone is breathtaking.
With our upcoming on On The Road culinary adventures tour with Seabourn to the Mediterranean in September, I thought this Mediterranean Salad would be the perfect recipe to prepare for the Summer Solstice Party. The salad is colorful, healthy, satisfying, and vegetarian. If you prefer, add grilled chicken or grilled local shrimp to make this dish a hearty main course meal.
I would add a bit more cooked spelt to the salad. I really liked the crunchy texture (I prepared it al dente), but found there were almost too many vegetables and it overwhelmed the spelt. Basil would be a nice substitute for the mint, and I sprinkled my serving with Feta cheese, which was preferred to the marinated Pecorino. The recipe is perfect to make all sorts of changes and additions, based on what produce looks best in your Farmer’s Market this summer. Prepare it ahead and let the flavors come together while you grill your meat, chicken, or fish. It is also a wonderful salad for entertaining and to bring to a dinner party.
It was a pleasure to finally meet Jacqueline and Brian in real life (IRL) after so many years of Twitter and Facebook chatting. Happy belated Summer Solstice!
Mediterranean Salad with Spelt, Eggplant, Zucchini & Marinated Cheese
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
This is the perfect salad for summer entertaining. Add more spelt if you prefer more grain and crunch in your salad. I also enjoyed the addition of Feta cheese instead of the marinated Pecorino. There are a number of variations with vegetables, herbs, and cheeses that would be excellent in this salad. Get creative this summer!
For the marinated cheese:
5 ounces Ricotta Salata or Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup Extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
2 eggplants, diced
2 zucchini, diced
5 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup spelt (I would use 1 cup)
1 pint ripe and sweet cherry tomatoes, quartered (I used grape tomatoes)
3/4 cup Kalamata or other salty black olives, pitted
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves (or fresh basil)
For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil (I did not use the additional 2 Tablespoons)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Make the marinated cheese: Put the cheese and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and pour the oil over them. Let marinate for at least one hour, occasionally turning the pieces to cover them with the oil and pepper flakes.
3. Make the salad: Arrange the eggplant and zucchini on a large baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Toss well and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly brown, turning the vegetables over halfway through. Remove them from the oven, let cool, and transfer to a large bowl.
4. Meanwhile, cook the spelt in a large saucepan of boiling water with a pinch of salt until al dente. This should take about 25 minutes. If you want your spelt to be a softer texture, cook a bit longer. Drain the spelt in a sieve and rinse under cold water; drain well.
5. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, coriander, paprika, ands sugar, then drizzle in the oil, whisking until it emulsifies. Add the spelt, tomatoes, and olives to the bowl with the eggplant and zucchini. Toss everything and drizzle the dressing over the top. Mix well to combine. Let the salad stand for 1 hour, to allow the flavors to blend.
6. Serve, garnished with slivers of the marinated cheese and sprinkle with mint leaves.
Recipe is adapted from Home Made Summer - Yvette Van Boven