There’s nothing like a ripe, still-warm tomato plucked from the garden, sprinkled with a pinch of coarse sea salt. We’re all for this method of consumption, and highly recommend it. But if you want to kick the experience up a notch and create something that you can share with friends on a Sunday afternoon, add layers of fresh mozz and basil for a classic Caprese salad. We’re into a variation on this classic that’s a little more chunky and rustic.
Supreme Summer Tomato Salad with Mozzarella (or Burrata)
2-3 lbs of garden fresh/ heirloom tomatoes
sea salt and ground pepper
pinch of dried oregano
red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 grated clove of garlic
1/3 cup basil, sliced thin
pinch of red pepper flakes
Slice tomatoes into bite-sized chunks and wedges. Place in a colander and sprinkle toms with a few pinches of coarse salt, which will help draw some of the moisture out, and will bring out that bright, acidic tomato flavor.
Toss and sprinkle and let the colander drain into a bowl or the sink for 10-ish minutes.
While they drain, blend dressing ingredients together: oil, vinegar, oregano, red pepper and garlic.
In a separate bowl, coat tomatoes in dressing and add ribbons of basil.
Slice up a 1lb ball of Mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala, and cut the round pieces into smaller, bite-sized morsels that can be placed on a plate beside the salad, or scattered on top and mixed in.
Option 2: pour salad around a ball or two of Burrata, that can be opened and dipped into with pieces of fresh, crusty bread.
This past weekend some of the Murray’s staff was lucky enough to escape New York City for the fresh, magical air of Vermont, a gorgeous state with its vast green rolling hills, scattered with cow paddocks.
For the last 5 years, The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival has celebrated all things fromage. Cheese producers from all over the state gather to display a plethora of Vermont-made specialty food products. Not only did we get to catch up with some of our cheesemaking friends, but we also got to enjoy idyllic scenery. Right outside of Burlington, the festival takes place on Shelburne Farm, situated directly on Lake Champlain
When we weren’t busy rolling around in the field, munching on Vermont’s best, or petting the sweetest calf in the world (Skittles), we got to talk curd. Murray’s staffer, and all-around queso expert and connoisseur, Elizabeth Chubbuck, led the “Counter Intelligence” seminar. Elizabeth showcased a couple of cheeses sourced from Vermont that we later age in the Murray’s caves.
You see, Murrays has a very special relationship with this state. Through our Cave Master Reserve program we have been able to source cheeses from Vermont, take them into our caves and age them. This process adds our own Murray’s terrioir to the cheeses.
As Elizabeth explained, this relationship with Vermont cheesemakers is good for both maker and seller. A great case is Vermont Butter & Cheese Company’s Torus. VBC makes this cheese exclusively for Murray’s, and sends it to us very young. When developing this cheese, we decided to go with the doughnut shape, allowing for more rind and varied texture in each bite. VBC produces the cheese, we provide the affinage – producing a product that is exclusive to our cheese counters. By collaborating with different on cheeses, it allows producers to get a little extra attention from Murray’s. We are proud of our Cave Master selection, and participating partners have the advantage of the “Murray’s Showcase”.
Shopping for cheese was another topic that Elizabeth discussed. One of the goals of Murray’s as a company is to demystify the cheese case. She provided tricks of the trade, and explained the difference between taste and flavor. We strongly encourage those who don’t have much experience in buying cheese to step up to the counter and give it a shot. Cheesemongers are thrilled to do this – helping a customer discover a new cheese by taking them through a taste journey is what inspires us.
After spending the weekend with fellow cheese nerds, beautiful cheeses, and breathtaking scenery, it was hard to say goodbye to Vermont.
The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival takes place every year in July, right outside of Burlington. Next year if you need a good reason to visit Vermont, want to eat some cheese and listen to a talented Murray’s cheese-whiz discuss the nuances of the cheese counter, the festival might just be exactly what you’re looking for. Until next year, Vermont will remain in my mind as a magical, distant memory.
(Want to take a class led by Elizabeth? She is teaching “Feel the Funk” 8/19/2013 at Murrays!)
As soon as summer hits, the cravings begin. Nothing does hot nights, and summer vibes better than watermelon. I mean, what says “dang, it’s hot” better than slicing into a juicy, sticky, sweet melon? Few things. Of course, since Murray’s is a cheese shop, we had to find a way to sneak some dairy in there.
Feta. the perfect pairing. Salty and crumbly, not only does it play well with the flavors of watermelon but it also provides a nice textural change. Feta is a Greek sheep’s milk cheese, made basically by compressing fresh cheese curds and brining them for preservation. The brine makes this cheese slightly salty. I don’t know if this is something that you encounter but in Tennessee, where I grew up, watermelon was nothing without a dash of salt.
While the pre-crumbled feta is pretty common, try some of the real stuff from Greece. It will usually come in brine, and has a lot more acid, lemony flavor than what we are used to seeing. Of course, it is available at Murray’s.
Our Friends over at Real Greek Feta were nice enough to share this recipe for a super easy watermelon and Real Greek Feta salad. Perfect for those hot, lazy summer nights. Also, follow them on Twitter, and Facebook for the latest in all things feta.
Watermelon and Real Greek Feta Salad
Serves 4, 10 minutes
¼ lb Real Greek Feta, cubed
½ watermelon, chunks
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1. Mix Real Greek Feta, watermelon chunks, and thinly sliced onions
2. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve
Sum-sum-summertime! Beach season is officially here, and at Murray’s we’ve got one thing on our mind when packing a picnic for those epic days in the sun: Cheese! Yes, cheese at the beach!
Hot weather means you’re going to want something refreshing and light to snack on. Fresh, spreadable cheeses that won’t stink up your cooler and transport easily are ideal. Here are some of our favorites for the season. Just add some fresh fruit, a big bottle of water or chilled vino, and the soothing sound of ocean waves.
Something fresh and light: With the sun beating down and the salt in your hair, there is no need for anything heavy. Bring on the Petit Billy, a delightful chevre that doesn’t tax your palate or your wallet. It’s creamy and bright like a tangy whipped cream cheese, and pairs just as fabulously with fresh fruit.
Something rich and triple crème-y: A couple of bites is enough to satisfy—you are still wearing a bathing suit, right? Nettle Meadow Kunik should do the trick. A small round of rich, velvety goodness hits the spot and never leaves you wanting. We love this with fresh strawberries or raspberries.
Something soft: Seriously, if you are anything like me, you’ve already packed a towel, water, sunblock, reading material, bocce ball… the last thing you need to be schlepping is a cheese knife and board as well. Brebisrousse D’Argental is light and creamy, and has plenty of flavor without being super pungent. Now all you need is to find space for those petit toasts to scoop up the orange-rinded sheep-y goodness.
Something smoky to put you in the mood for BBQ: This is a no brainer – River’s Edge Up in Smoke! A delicate chevre from Oregon gets wrapped in a smoked Maple leaf and spritzed with a touch of bourbon. The finished product is tangy and fresh with a meaty-smoke subtlety that makes your mouth water. You’ll wonder why your craving for ribs increases exponentially.
Something with a bit more heft: Yeah, we said to stick to light and soft, but just to round out our list, let’s throw in Cave-Aged Landaff. Reminiscent of a cheddar, this semi-firm raw cow’s milk cheese aims to please. Pre-slice for snacking ease.