Last week, I discussed my recent "blahdom" in the kitchen. My creativity was zapped, and I would be lying if I didn't (several times) slather some hummus on a pita and call that a meal.
After meeting a friend for coffee in Redondo Beach (a place I rarely go to), I was driving home and happened upon a farmer's market I did not know existed. That's what you get for driving down roads you rarely travel, on a day and time when you would normally be elsewhere. I knew I only had $3 in my purse, but I decided to peruse the farmer's market and pick something out for just that amount. I ended up with four of the hugest, juiciest, most flavorful organic nectarines I had ever seen (I'm a sucker for nectarines). When I brought them home and set them on the counter, next to the humongous heirloom tomatoes our CSA had sent us, I started feeling the river of creativity beginning to trickle. "Similarly sized fruits, eh? I'll see what I can do with that," I
told my canine roommate thought to myself.
Before I knew it, I was soaking cashews and roasting garlic. I sliced my tomatoes and nectarines and laid them all out, in order of their size (an exercise my anal-retentive side loved). Once I did my quality control taste-test of the roasted garlic cashew ricotta, it was so fantastic that I did my happy dance (and by "happy dance," I mean "the running man"). I felt like I had got my groove back and I only got more
cocky proud when Chris walked in and exclaimed at how beautiful these little stacks were.
As we sat down for dinner, I had that familiar inner struggle, where I can't wait to dig in but I didn't want to ruin my beautiful creation. I got over the struggle pretty quickly, though, and was stunned by how well the roasted garlic cashew ricotta complimented the bright, juicy and flavorful tomato and nectarine combination. It was the perfect combination of savory and sweet, light and rich, cheesy and fruity. Then there was the "Honey" Balsamic Syrup! This sweet yet tangy syrup, using the "Better than Honey" I spoke about last week, was the perfect touch to this salad stack, tying it together perfectly.
The alternate title for this post, the one I chose not to use, was "The Blah-Buster Salad." I chose to go with the more appetizing title, but it still fits. Sometimes, all it takes is just taking a different road to get your gears going again. Perhaps it's just indulging in a rich, elegant meal. Sometimes, it's just digging into some delicious fresh, seasonal produce. This one meal did all three of those things for me and Voila! My focus is back (for now)!
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- salt & pepper
- dried basil (optional)
- 1 cup raw cashews + water to cover them
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon miso
- juice from 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 medium-large heirloom tomatoes
- 2 similarly sized nectarines
- 4 butter lettuce leaves
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of “honey” rice nectar (or maple/agave/brown rice syrup)
- a few dashes of pepper
- Soak cashews in water for 2 hours. Save the water when you drain them.
- Preheat your oven to 450. Lay out a piece of aluminum foil. Chop the top off a head of garlic and place it on the aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil, and add salt, pepper and dried basil to taste. Wrap the garlic up into the foil and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the centers of each clove are soft and slightly “gooey.” Let cool completely before handling.
- Once the garlic is cool, squeeze the base of the head of garlic and continue to squeeze until all of the cloves are empty of their contents.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the roasted garlic, cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, and lemon juice. Add 5 tablespoons of the reserved cashew water and puree until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. Salt and pepper to taste and chill until ready to use.
- Slice the tomatoes from bottom to top, into ½ inch slices. Lay them out on a clean towel and let them set for about 30 minutes.
- Slice the nectarines, from bottom to top, into ½ inch rings. After slicing the bottom off, you will need to run your knife around the nectarine, with the pit at the center, creating a ½ inch slice. Then run the knife around the pit, separating the slice from the pit. Slide the slice over the pit and set aside. Repeat for remaining slices.
- Make your balsamic honey syrup. Combine the balsamic vinegar and “honey” in a sauce pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced to about half. Set aside to cool.
- To assemble the salads, organize the tomato and nectarine slices into similarly sized piles (i.e. larger slices of tomatoes with the larger slices of nectarine), until you have 4 piles, each with equal amounts of tomato and nectarine slices. Start with a nectarine slice that and place it on a butter lettuce leaf. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta on top and then place atomato slice on top of the ricotta. Add another nectarine slice, another tablespoon of ricotta, and another slice of tomato. Add one more slice of nectarine and then top with a bit more of the cashew ricotta. Repeat with the other 3 piles.
- Drizzle each stack with the balsamic syrup and serve immediately. Enjoy!
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Photography by Chris Miller
Welcome back from the Blah's! I completely agree that a trip to the farmers market can bring about a great resurgence of creativity to the kitchen. Plus, those fresh, ripe off the vine flavors taste so much better than your average, everyday grocery store produce. While the tomatoes are tasting so juicy and vibrant, I can't wait to try your salad! I have to get on this pronto.
Thank you! Fresh, seasonal, organic produce is definitely one of life's greatest pleasures. I hope you enjoy the salad as much as we did! 🙂
tomatoes and nectarines sound delicious together! and i am a HUGE fan of cashew cheese! this recipe is right up my alley!
If you like cashew cheese, then you will LOVE this recipe! Happy Monday, Caitlin! 🙂
YAY, I am so happy you found inspiration - this is certainly an inspired dish and looks amazing!
I had to laugh:
A. I sing/ talk to my cat and dog all the time when Justin is away (they are so helpful, they really know how to listen 🙂 )
B. Yep, the booty shake is my "Holy crap this is good, getting pumped in the Kitchen" signtaure move
We would make pretty good kitchen dance partners!
Without a doubt, we would make GREAT kitchen dance partners! Hahaha! I even do this seated butt-wiggle when I'm really excited about what I'm eating. I'm making it a "thing." All the kids will be doing it pretty soon. 😉
And you hit the nail on the head- animal companions are the best listeners. Sometimes, I don't even have to say anything to Sam and she knows what I'm thinking. 🙂
Gabby @ the veggie nook
This is sooo creative Kristy! I'm so glad you found inspiration in your kitchen again. I am still feeling a little blah, although have managed to turn out some tasty fair.
I need to make that cashew ricotta- roasted garlic in anything just HAS to be good 🙂
Thank you! If you like roasted garlic- you will LOVE that cashew ricotta!
I hope you get over the blahs soon, Gabby! 🙂
Beautiful! So pretty I wouldn't want to eat it- and then I would. Then I'd probably do a celebratory booty shake, pop in some good tunes and dance around the kitchen because it was so awesome. Well done!
Thanks, Erika! I think we should start a kitchen dance squad- Our slogan would be "We turn out good food and good moves!" 🙂
You got your groove back! I SO hear you, though. Last night I was just not feeling the "it" required to make dinner. So dinner was a handful of mixed nuts and an almond butter and cherry jam sandwich made from the sad little end pieces from a loaf of bread. Oy! Your creation looks and sounds amazing! A perfect farmer's market meal.
Thanks, Annie! I know those loaf end pieces well! The other day, for a snack, I was too lazy to actually spread cashew butter on a cracker. So I dipped the cracker in the cashew butter. Lazy person's problem solved. 😉 I just think it's a late summer thing...
Love that you are feeling inspired to cook again! Kitchen dancing is a favorite past time of mine too, and my cat and I have conversations constantly - she is very talkative. 🙂
Thanks, Melissa! I think you should join mine and Heather's kitchen dance team! I think our biggest fans would be our animal companions, but still... 😉
now if only my canine companion came out of the bathroom to sit by the kitchen so i can chat with him. If he doesnt smell anything interesting, he will not move a muscle. Some days he comes by and sits at the entry and we chat and share some uncooked and cooked items. most other days its me and some music.
i love those towers of juicy, creamy saucy layers! so pretty and elegant. glad that the trip kicked the blahdom away:) i just throw in a quick daal and dry veggie side with store bought roti bread on blah days, coz i dont have to think to cook all that:) if the day is blah-er than regular blah, then i call hubbs to either get something on come early and cook;)
Thank you, Richa! Samantha is the same way. Occasionally, she'll come sit in her bed in the dining area, but usually she's too busy sleeping in our bed. 🙂
The farmers market always has that effect, that energy that inspires to whip up something creative and delicious in the kitchen..which reminds me I need to visit one myself. Your new dish is amazing! I'm glad you're back in the zone, although it looked like you never left it 😉
Your comments always bring such a smile to my face. Thank you, Richgail! 🙂
Wow! Roasted garlic cashew ricotta!? That sounds incredible!!!!
I definitely feel what you're saying. Some weeks I just have no desire to cook. And other weeks, I wish I could skips work and cook for hours on end. So glad you rediscovered your creativity in the kitchen. This recipe is awesome! 🙂
Thank you, Courtney! I hope you're feeling better! 🙂