Earlier this Summer I traveled to Las Vegas for the first time to attend a conference for work. Michael flew out towards the end of the week for a little getaway. I’m going to be honest. I did not enjoy my visit to Sin City. The heat, the gambling and the complete lack of fresh air just didn’t agree with me. I was fortunate to be able to go, however as I typically love exploring new cities. Since I prefer STSO to be a positive environment, I’ll focus on some highlights from the trip.
During my flight West, I watched several hours of The Cooking Channel on JetBlue TV. Pretty standard stuff – Brunch at Bobby’s, Giada at Home, when suddenly, (imagine my surprise) Dinner at Tiffani’s joined the line-up. As the title suggests, the show features host Tiffani Thiessen preparing dinner for her celebrity friends. Am I the last to know that Kelly Kapowski hosts her own national cooking program? The focus of this particular episode was comfort food. During the first half of the show, Tiffani prepared what looked like a lovely roasted tomato soup. Later, Mario Lopez joined Tiffani in her kitchen (I’m not making this up) for a refreshing rosemary greyhound cocktail. Despite never having met before, Tiffani and Mario’s wife Courtney seemed to enjoy each others company and chatted about Saved By The Bell while making grilled cheese sandwiches. Everyone got along really well and dinnertime banter appeared effortless.
That was probably the best part of the trip.
The other great thing that happened in Vegas was the result of room service. It was 114 degrees the day I arrived. Too hot to go out for dinner, I ordered a Caprese salad from the in-suite dining menu. I loved the simplicity and freshness of the cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, basil leaves and balsamic. I’ve been on a Caprese salad kick for weeks now. I’ve waited to write this post, however until I could combine it with a trip to Ward’s Berry Farm to pick local cherry tomatoes. The key to this salad is finding the most flavorful ingredients possible. Recognizing that you don’t really need a recipe to combine tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, I thought I’d share a couple tricks that turn a simple Summer salad into something really special. Use local tomatoes and basil – keep an eye out at the farmers market or take advantage of the bounty from your own garden. Dress with fruity olive oil and a balsamic syrup. I’ve been using an espresso balsamic, which adds a smokey richness to the dish. Lastly, season with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt like Maldon. Pair this with a crusty baguette and a nice bottle of cold white wine – perfect for a no-cook end-of-Summer dinner.
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, red and yellow, halved
1 cup bocconcini (bite-sized fresh mozzarella balls), drained, halved
10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Generous drizzle of balsamic syrup
Generous drizzle of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl combine the tomatoes, bocconcini and basil. Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.