The Perfect Summer Salad

Being that this is my first post and blog of any sort, I feel it somewhat necessary to introduce myself.  My name is Caleb Fortney and I am a culinary-obsessed, 23 year old who resides in the idyllic area of Oak Park, Illinois.  I have worked in an array of restaurants, majority of them being French premised, and have come to find that this is my calling.  My credo to cooking has always been “If I can change one person’s mood with that of my cooking, I have accomplished my goal”.  Above is a picture of a summer salad I recently constructed for myself and a group of friends.  It consists of…..

~Heirloom Tomatoes
~Basil Pesto
~Balsamic Reduction
~Crispy Pancetta
~Caramelized Onions
~Toasted Black Walnuts
~Blue Cheese (I used Danish Blue)
~Micro Greens.

For starters, in the beginning stages of such construction, I find it highly important to leave whatever tomatoes you are working with out at room temperature.  To me, I find them to be most succulent when their juices aren’t cold.

For the basil pesto, call it superstition, but I always chiffonade the basil before putting it into the food processor–it has always kept me from having a brown basil pesto.  After that, toast some black walnuts and toss those in as well.  Throw in a few cloves of garlic, suitable to your taste, and blitz the processor.  Next, slowly stream in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil until you reach the consistency of a loose paste.  Finally, stir in some finely grated parmesan cheese and set aside.

For the balsamic reduction, I prefer simplicity over daunting–pour 1 cup of balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan along with 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium and let reduce for about 15-20 minutes.  Once done, let cool in order for it to thicken.

Crisp up the chunks of pancetta in a bit of olive oil in a saute pan.  In that same pan, once done with the pancetta, use the residual fat to caramelize your diced onions in.  Cook “low and slow” on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.  Once complete, you should have amber jewels looking back at you.

Lastly, slice the tomatoes to your preference and season them with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with your favorite, robust cheese and crumble the toasted walnuts over it as well.  Next, smear the basil pesto along the plate and spoon the crispy pancetta and caramelized onions over the tomatoes.  Top with some microgreens (or spring mix) and drizzle the treacle that is your balsamic reduction.  Be it a group of friends or table for one; this dish is sure to please.

Caleb Fortney~

3 thoughts on “The Perfect Summer Salad

Leave a Reply