I know that I go on and on about eating local. I believe that our future is all about being sustainable within our communities, without having to rely on the great expenditure of fossil fuels that we currently depend on for the delivery of so much of our sustenance. There is no doubt that this will become a bigger issue as we move forward. However, I think that there are a few exceptions and extravagances that, purchased judiciously, can literally spice up one’s life.
There are a few special ingredients that I occasionally buy that help me make our meals special. Truffles, fine vinegar, chanterelle mushrooms and imported prosciutto are among them. When considered in the overall food budget they usually don’t amount to much, but the flavors and difference that they make are well worth the extravagance. I mention these ingredients here from time to time. They sometimes seem really silly and other times seem like something that you would not go out of your way to find. If you have often wondered why your meals at home aren’t as good as what you have experienced in a fine restaurant this might be why.
I began my desire for special ingredients when I started bringing items back from business trips abroad. I usually work seven days a week on these adventures but I try to carve out a little time to find some morsel that can only be purchased in whatever locale I happen to have the good fortune to visit. Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy might be my favorite early find. I’ve also schlepped mustard from the English countryside, smoked salmon from Herrods and salted caramels from Brittany, France. I have now discovered the wonderful world of online goodies. Do you know that you can buy Brooks Catsup online?
Fortunately for me, I spend time in both New York and L.A. If you can’t find interesting little gems in funny little shops in those thriving metropolises you are simply not trying. There is a Chinese place in Monterey Park that sells the most awesome tuna jerky. It’s worth the hour drive. So keep your eyes open when you travel – down the block or around the planet – and bring something delicious home. Be careful of customs; sometimes they don’t allow certain food products to be brought in the country. And, for heaven’s sake, do not forget the bottle of really nice French wine in your carry on like I did in Charles de Gaulle Airport last year and lose it to some thirsty French officers who will be very happy to enforce the rules.
This salad, with summer prospects written all over it, is best with really fine, sweet old balsamic vinegar. I found some just like the kind I brought back from Italy in a cheese shop in Studio City, California.
- 6 Roma or other medium size Tomatoes, quartered
- 1 Ball of Burrata or Buffalo Mozzarella
- Fresh Basil
- Sea Salt and Pepper
- Best Olive Oil
- Really Good Balsamic Vinegar
- Chef’s Knife
- Ovenproof Dish
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Quarter the tomatoes. At this time of year these will have to be hothouse tomatoes. The roasting brings out the sweet taste that is not overly present raw.
- Drizzle a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Roast for about an hour.
- Remove and let cool a little.
- Serve with slices of cheese and torn basil. Drizzle a little more oil and drops of really sweet balsamic vinegar. Top with a few sprinkles of your best sea salt and a twist of black pepper.