Among this summer’s many highlights was the marriage of my cousin Danny to his partner, Bryan. For almost a year, we knew the date and the venue: early August at a beautiful estate in Connecticut where we’d rent cabins and stay for the weekend. All summer long, my sister Jackie kept saying, “I don’t want to wish summer away…but I really can’t wait for Danny and Bryan’s wedding.”
As hard as we tried not to rush through summer in anticipation of the big day, it was August before we knew it. The wedding was as wonderful as we expected. The grooms were dressed perfectly, the vows and promises were peppered with Broadway-caliber singers, and the party was memorable, to say the least. (Though, truth be told, there are few things more humbling than trying to dance to ‘NSync while the other guests, many of them actors, improvise dance moves so flawless that they look choreographed.)
And then there was the food. Earlier in the day, we’d wandered through a big garden chock full of tomatoes, fresh herbs and at least three varieties of kale. By the time dinner rolled around, the kitchen had taken full advantage of the bounty. All of the dishes were impressive, but it was the first course that stood out to me: a white plate full of thick-cut heirloom tomatoes, two kinds of cheese and a simple drizzle of really good-quality olive oil and coarse sea salt. It’s easy to forget that you can make a salad without lettuce, but this didn’t need the greens. It was flavorful, vibrant and super fresh.
I think this salad is an appropriate homage to that wedding. We may have wished the summer away a little too fast, but we’re just now entering prime tomato season. Take advantage of it with this recipe and my twist on it—homemade basil oil that can be made with stems or any overgrown basil leaves that may have grown unnoticed in the garden.
Heirloom Tomatoes and Fried Goat Cheese with Basil Oil
1 (4-ounce) log goat cheese
1 egg, whisked in small bowl
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch slices
Finishing salt, such as Maldon
1 cup packed basil leaves and stems
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1. For basil oil: In blender, blend together all three ingredients. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl. Set aside.
2. Divide goat cheese into 4 1-ounce pieces and form into ½-inch-thick rounds. Working with one goat cheese round at a time, dip round into egg and roll around to fully cover. Transfer to breadcrumbs and roll around to fully coat. Transfer to small plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, split tomato slices evenly among four dinner plates.
3. After 15 minutes, heat olive oil over medium heat in medium nonstick pan. Once oil is shimmering, remove goat cheese rounds from refrigerator and transfer to pan. Cook until bottoms are brown, about 4 minutes.
4. Using spatula, carefully flip each round. Cook until bottoms are browned, just about an additional 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer one round to each plate.
5. Sprinkle tomato slices with finishing salt, then top each plate with goat cheese round. Drizzle with basil oil and serve immediately.