Sunday, July 28, 2013

Caprese with Lemon Green Beans or Garlicky Shitake Mushrooms

I'm not a vegetarian, but I adore vegetables in ways I perhaps don't adore meat, grains, dairy, or fruit.  If you do a simple, but random, google search of varieties of vegetables and then do a similar search for, say, meat, it's easy to see how the variety, color, texture, taste, and infinite possibilities draw me close, lasso me in, and tie me to the garden fence.

I also like what I call, in the summer, "Shop and Chop" meals--a quick slice or dice, perhaps a fast saute or grill (if any cooking at all), and there's dinner.  A cold bottle of wine and I'm outside under the trees for supper.

One of the many advantages of summer (and I'm more of a cold-weather fan) is the long light in the evening. There's time, if it cools off and you've made a quick meal like this, to take a second walk, garden, walk to the wine shop, watch a second episode of "The Newsroom," or sit on the porch and have a long phone call with a friend. could sit relaxing eating out of doors, taking your time, listening to The Rose Ensemble or Sweet Honey in the Rock... No rush.   All impossible come fall, right?

Once the tomatoes are coming on, we have tomato suppers a la Alyce's Mom.  Now my tomato suppers are somewhat like my mom's (and occasionally almost exactly), but they're also often very different.

 While she probably knew what caprese was (salad in the style of Capri), I don't remember it on the table.  Instead, there were big plates of sliced tomatoes--quite meaty--salted and peppered.  They were straight from our garden, which meant they were warm. The idea was that any we ate we didn't have to can. (As kids, we were welcome to invade the garden, salt shaker in hand, and help ourselves. Sometimes that was lunch along with a drink from the hose. No need to go indoors.)  Bread and mayonnaise might be alongside, or perhaps a bowl of cucumbers, green peppers, and onions splashed together with oil and white vinegar, heavy on the vinegar. Blistering hot tiny peppers in a jar were the resident condiment--for my Louisiana Dad's use.  He grew them himself, which was the only way he'd get them in Chicago.  Anything was better hot to my Dad. There was a big tall pitcher of the best sweet tea to drink. (Today I can't handle sweet tea unless I'm sick to my stomach and then I have it hot--try it sometime.)  I like to think she'd get a kick out of these suppers, though I know she'd miss the juice-down-the-chin tomatoes grown in Illinois.

Cook's Note:  I occasionally make my own cheese for caprese--fast and simple. If you'd like to make your own cheese, here's the post.  It's not mozzarella, but rather a home-style cheese that works beautifully and is less expensive than some store-bought fresh mozzarellas.

Here's an excerpt:

Drain longer and squeeze for a more firm cheese

caprese with lemon green beans or garlicky shitake mushrooms
serves 2

For either salad:
  • 2 cups fresh, crisp greens
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 large, ripe and heavy tomatoes at room temperature, sliced
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 12 fresh basil leaves (approximate)
  • Juice of one lemon (If making beans version, grate lemon peel first for beans)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the Caprese with Lemon Green Beans
  • 1/2-pound steamed fresh green beans or haritcots verts (very thin beans)*
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
In a medium bowl, toss together well-drained beans with oil.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Toss well with lemon rind and crushed red pepper. Taste and adjust seasonigs.

For the Caprese with Shitake Mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/2-pound (8 ounces) sliced shitake mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or chicken broth
In a large skillet, heat olive oil briefly with crushed red pepper over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms and let cook about five minutes before adding garlic.  Continue to cook another five minutes or so or until mushrooms are tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Raise heat a bit and stir in wine or broth.  Let cook another minute or so and remove from heat.  Let cool briefly, if desired, or serve hot with caprese.

For either salad:
  1. On a large platter, scatter greens on plate as desired.  
  2. Layer sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves in two columns or in a circle. Season green and tomato mixture with salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon beans or mushrooms at center or to side, as desired.
  4. Squeeze lemon over the whole salad.
  5. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  6. Serve immediately.
*If you are able to find the tiny French green beans (haricots verts) in the plastic one-pound package, many of them are microwavable right in the package.  Check the instructions to be sure.  I cook them in the microwave, rinse them afterward in a colander, and press them gently with a towel to remove excess moisture.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


  1. Thank you for sharing this recipe Alyce!!!! Love how you prepared and presented this beautiful recipe!! I'll definitely make this with my beans that I'm picking right now!

  2. I sometimes don't see comments from my own dear blogger friends on these older posts. Thanks so much, Roz! I hope you made this!


Love hearing from you! If you don't have gmail or a blog, you can choose "anonymous" from the comment pull-down menu. Sign your name within the comment box if you'd like. Thanks, Alyce