Friends With Salad – The Fresh Bocconcini & Tomato Caprese Salad with Pesto & Basil at The Commissary

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Every time I think of salad, I laugh to myself as I think of the episode of the Simpsons when Lisa becomes a vegetarian and the scene with Bart, Homer, and Marge dancing in a little conga line chanting, “you don’t win friends with sa-lad!  You don’t win friends with sa-lad!”  with Lisa scowling on the couch.  Oh, Simpsons, how you fit into every aspect of my life.  We know the truth though: salads kick butt and some are so much more worthy than their appetizer and side status at the meal table.  One of my all-time favourite salads is a tomato salad with fresh bufala mozzarella or bocconcini cheese with basil or a caprese salad.  Slices of tomato and cheese, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that there is basil, the tomatoes are juicy and sweet, and the cheese is soft and melt-in-your-mouth delightful.  I love it with a really great olive oil but a sweet and tangy balsamic works just fine too.

Source: the-rivalry.com

I’ll never forget the day I found out about bocconcini cheese.  I was still in university doing my undergrad and I was with a coworker at the flower shop I used to work at and it was dinnertime.  She had brought a whole container of bocconcini to nosh on and I looked over, was curious, and asked her what she was eating.  She told me bocconcini cheese and gushed about how great it was with tomato salad.  And from that day on, I was in love with bocconcini cheese, buying it from the supermarket to have on hand for snacks and salads at home, and looking out for any bocconcini or bufala mozzarella cheese menu items at restaurants.  All that time this wonderful cheese was absent from my life and now I can’t imagine my life without it!  I am such a cheese fanatic and this is definitely one of my favourite varieties.  And here to deliver a fantastic caprese salad bursting with tomatoes and soft fresh cheese is The Commissary!

Their caprese salad is part of all 3 menus (brunch, lunch, and dinner) and comes in both main ($8) and side ($6) portions.  Oh my gosh, trust me when I say that you need to disregard this salad as merely a side and always, ALWAYS order it as a main.  I mean, if you can.  And want to.  You should!  I had mine as a separate side and thought, “holy bejesus I could eat this endlessly!” and vowed that the next time I was there, I would have their caprese salad as a main with a side of The Commissary’s breakfast potatoes to go with it! 

This caprese screams fresh and juicy.  The multicoloured grape tomatoes and bocconcini are covered in delicious pesto, sweet and tangy balsamic, and a fresh as air chiffonade of basil.  What makes this salad is the fresh cheese and, combined with the balsamic and basil, it is over the moon delicious!  I felt like I was having bocconcini for the first time all over again, only 10 times more amazing!  I could not believe how soft and melt-in-your-mouth it was.  I barely even had to chew because it was that soft.  And I loved how they weren’t skimpy on the cheese either!  This is the real deal and while the cheese I’ve had at the supermarket was good, this blows everything out of the water. 

It’s a great variation of the traditional sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella salad and if my love for this salad and their baby arugula and mango salad with goat cheese salad is any indication, I’m not just friends with salad, I’m kind of bffs with it.

*****

The Commissary is located at 889 Queen Street East at the southeast corner of Queen and Logan Ave. in Leslieville.  They serve weekend brunch, and lunch and dinner during the week.  Weekend brunch is served from 9am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays and from Monday to Friday, they are open from 11am-10pm.

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Garden Vegetables for a Garden Salad – Baby Zucchini Summer Salad

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Looking at these photos makes me feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy.  Going to a different farmers’ market every week has been so rewarding and it has truly given me a more genuine understanding of and appreciation for the concept of “farm-to-table”.  I see things differently now and I am so much more aware of my consumption patterns and how I eat and cook at home.  Over the years, our freezer has become more and more empty as we make more visits to the market and rely less and less on premade, prepackaged food.  We make a lot more of our food from scratch and our fruit and vegetable baskets and bins are happily overflowing with a bounty of freshness.  Just the other day, we finally got ourselves a little food processor and I am wiggling with happiness at the endless possibilities of food we can make.     

The markets have inspired me and they’ve also inspired the creative juices.  My mum and I have gotten into the habit of brainstorming ideas on how to incorporate whatever I bring home from the market into a meal for the family and it’s been a lot of fun.  I always go into every farmers’ market visit with an open mind.  No matter how big or small the market is, I make it a point to bring home something awesome, something we can use to make a great meal.  The baby eggplants I bought at the East York market were turned into roasted eggplant parmesan melts, the baby potatoes I bought at the Queens Quay market were used into a giant Canada Day picnic salad, and the baby zucchinis I bought last week were used to make this colurful summer salad!  We used romaine, arugula, radicchio, red leaf lettuce, and baby spinach along with grape tomatoes, and our zucchinis.  I loved the cute yellow ones so much and it was so satisfying making this salad because it got my brother to eat his vegetables – willingly 😀  As a boy who isn’t very fond of veggies, he did a complete 180 on us while he was eating this.  He was scarfing plates and plates of this and it made me feel so good when he said to me, between mouthfuls, “I like zucchini, this is good!”.  Score one for Deb 😉