We all have those little things that get to us. Nails on a chalkboard, a dentist’s drill—you know the sound that makes it feel as if someone is forcing, oh, somewhere along the lines of 241 small daggers into your temples and twisting them to and fro, just for fun. And I’m willing to bet that you probably know your significant other’s/best friend’s/roommate’s pet peeve too. Sometimes, maybe you even press that button, you know, just for fun. My other half is a willing participant in many a culinary experiment. He is patient and straightforward, two traits that I can appreciate as I cook my way through Mark Bittman’s book (I’m meddling in my own literary venture now, the working title somewhere along the lines of “Mark and Amber.” Not the same ring as “Julie and Julia,” but we’ll see. I already know who’s gonna play me in the movie. Anyway. I digress.) But there’s one thing that my patient fiance won’t put up with: squeaky vegetables. You know the ones. Those of us culinarily inclined will be apt to call them al dente, and I do tend to like my green beans ever so slightly undercooked. If I present squeaky vegetables at the dinner table, they’ll be eaten without complaint by both parties—but not without commentary. Something along the lines of, “Man, I just didn’t know that squash was supposed to sound like this when you bit into it. The way it rubs against the enamel on my teeth like nails on a chalkboard, mmm. This is tasty.” So here’s where I divulge my gastronomic weakness. I love cheese, in almost any capacity, but fresh mozzarella has always been a little tough for me. It’s squeaky cheese. And while my fiance has no problem with it, well, it sets every nerve of mine on edge when I take a bite. The flavor, especially when it’s fresh and locally made, is out of this world though, and if you don’t mind the squeak factor (any of you who migrated here from the states where they sell cheese curds are great candidates) it’s the perfect addition to a late-summer lunch. Here’s a recipe with flavors I adore, but a texture, well, I could do without. Decide for yourself. And if you suffer the same aversion, let me know so that we can share the pain. Caprese Salad *This is a classic Italian/Mediterranean dish, and while it can be made with easy-to-find grocery items, it’s best made with the freshest ingredients you can get your paws on. This time of year, that means late-summer tomatoes (even cherry tomatoes will work), basil from the backyard, and some fresh mozzarella from your closest Texas dairy. 3 medium heirloom tomatoes, like Brandywine 6 ounces fresh mozzarella 1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil leaves olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into quarter-inch-thick rounds. Layer tomatoes, cheese, and basil alternately on a plate, and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve with a few slices of baguette for a light lunch, or couple with a perfectly cooked, grass-fed steak and a glass of wine for a full dinner.
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