We're only near the end of summer in that the school year will be starting soon, but that doesn't mean we can't dream of slightly cooler mornings and that second round of local tomatoes that we'll see in September.
Until then, we'll have to rely on grocery store tomatoes, which might not taste as good as one grown in your own backyard but they'll at least taste better than the ones you can find in the middle of January. You could use any variety of tomato in this end-of-summer tomato salad from "Big Salads" (Quadrille, $24.99), but author Kat Mead suggests the small tomatoes that are usually sold in a mix of yellow, orange and red. You can cut them in half or leave them whole. If you're using a larger slicing tomato, cut them into thick slices and then into quarters.
Mead's method of roasting feta in parchment paper would also work for paneer or halloumi or even tofu, and any kind of nut or seed would add just the right crunch for the salad, including toasted pecans or walnuts.
End-of-Summer Tomato Salad with Roasted Feta and Pine Nuts
Tomatoes really come into their own towards the end of summer when they’ve soaked up all the sun’s rays. Their sweet flesh goes so well with the baked salty feta and basil. It’s guaranteed to keep those end-of-summer blues at bay for a little bit longer.
— Kat Mead
Small handful of fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 (7-ounce) packets of feta
3 ounces arugula
14 ounces mixed tomatoes, cut into rounds
1 shallot, cut into very thin rings
1 1/4 cups mixed olives, pitted
Small handful of basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and take a large sheet of baking parchment and lay it on your kitchen counter. Put half the oregano, olive oil, lemon zest and chile flakes in the middle of the paper – roughly the size of the two blocks of feta. Stir it altogether and lay the feta on top next to each other. Add the rest of the oregano, oil, lemon zest and chile flakes on top and then carefully lift up the top and bottom edges of the paper. Bring them together up in the air above the feta and start to fold them down in small folds, over and over, until you nearly reach the feta. Then, fold the two open ends underneath the feta so you have a closed parcel. Slide it onto a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, arrange the arugula on a serving platter, then layer up the rounds of tomato and shallot rings. Sprinkle over the olives, basil leaves and pine nuts.
Remove the feta from the oven and crumble one block over the platter and leave the other whole to make a centerpiece statement. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and top with a twist of black pepper. SErves 6.
— From "Big Salads: The ultimate fresh, satisfying meal, on one plate" by Kat Mead (Quadrille, $24.99)