August. The first month in San Diego that actually feels like summer. And when I say “feel”, I mean it’s warmer than San Diego’s average temperature of 63.65 degrees. It’s so hot, people are being encouraged to use cool zones a.k.a. libraries (I see what you did there San Diego, tricking people into reading). I say, grab a book, leave the library, and head to the beach! August is the prime month for summer vacation after all. Just ask the Italians.
Ferragosto is an Italian holiday that essentially justifies people taking vacation for a long weekend ….or most of August. In 18 B.C., Emperor Augustus, this month’s namesake, introduced the holiday that he aptly named after himself – feriae Augusti or festivals of the Emperor Augustus. The festivals coincided with other Roman holidays celebrating the harvest and the end of a long period of hard labor. Horses were also relieved from their duties in the field and elaborate horse races were held. These traditions are still alive today, whether you’re at il Palio in Siena, Italy or the Del Mar Racetrack. However, most Italians simply head to the coast to relax – a plan I readily support.
If August is all about taking a break from a work and relaxing, then I think the cooking philosophy should match. Set aside the 10 plus step recipes for another day and make something simple. Enjoy all the great produce summer has to offer while you still can. Seasonal ingredients shine without fuss. This summer, I can’t seem to get enough of radishes. You may think it is odd that I feel so strongly about a root vegetable, but try some lightly salted sliced radishes on a buttered piece of toast and you will understand. That’s why when I saw a recipe for watermelon radishes with burrata, I knew the crunchy and creamy combo would work.
After repeatedly trying and failing to find watermelon radishes, I decided to use the small red variety. Although I love burrata mozzarella, if it’s too hard to track down, I think buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini would work great as well. I added arugula, but you could use mache, butter lettuce, or just skip the greens. The point is to enjoy the food and the extra time you will save with an easy recipe. As for myself, I plan on spending that time on the beach.
Insalata di Ferragosto, serves 4
- 2 handfuls of arugula*
- 8 oz. burrata*
- Half a bunch of red radishes, thinly sliced
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Chopped fresh chives
- 1 loaf of rustic bread, sliced
*See above for substitute suggestions.
Place arugula on a large serving plate. Tear burrata into pieces and place on top of the arugula. Arrange radish slices on top of the burrata. Drizzle olive oil on the salad, then squeeze the juice from the lemon. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Top with chives. Serve with grilled or toasted sliced bread (put a little salad on top of a slice and you’ve got a great piece of bruschetta).