On an intermittently rainy day in early July, a small team of workers from Leicester’s Full Sun Farm struggles to set up while veggie-loving shoppers swarm about the WNC Farmers Market. Alex Brown, the farm’s owner, and enthusiastic employee Bethanny Peters quickly unload a rainbow of produce from a white van while early shoppers start snapping up the goods.
Bunches of emerald green, fragrant basil practically glow from a produce table. Tiny bunches of arugula give off an earthy, peppery scent. The tomatoes – Cherokee Purples, Black Russians, the juicy diminutive cherry type and your (ahem) garden-variety globular reds – draw admiration from the vendor in the next stall, who pronounces the beginning of tomato season “exciting.”
Now is indeed the time for such treats of the summer season. When a customer asks Peters if we will see more heirloom varieties at the Full Sun tables soon, her eyes widen a bit. “Lots,” she says with a broad smile.
Oh, sweet summertime – the whole scene, and especially the bounty of potential ingredients, put me in the mood to do some seasonal cooking.
The recipe listed below was inspired by an Early Girl Eatery creation published in Ronni Lundy’s In Praise of Tomatoes (Lark Books, 2004), a cookbook that John Stehling, co-owner of the popular Asheville restaurant, helped prepare. The shrimp I used, which were found at Greenlife Grocery, were U.S. wild-caught and absolutely huge. When you make the dish, feel free to add more shrimp; but if you do, bumping up the dressing portions is recommended. As a matter of fact, go ahead and multiply the dressing recipe as many times as you want – it makes a lovely summer dressing with nearly any salad.
Martin Pusser, Greenlife’s wine buyer, recommended the following wines to accompany this dish:
• 2004 Burgans Albarino Rias Baixas – a medium-bodied white with citrus and floral notes, a mineral finish and a clean acidity.
• 2004 Azienda Agricola Cavalchina Bianco di Custoza – a crisp and well-balanced white with light apple, nuances of honeysuckle, grassy and mineral elements.
Summer Shrimp Heirloom Tomato and White Bean Salad
Ingredients for the salad:
Arugula (Full Sun Farm sells $1 bunches – 1 per person will allow some leftovers)
6-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 each, at least 2 different kinds of colorful heirloom tomato, sliced thin
1 cup white beans, cooked (navy or great northern work well – home-cooked is the best), chilled or slightly warm
1/2 cup scallion
1 dozen shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail left on half
Ingredients for the dressing:
4 T lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp honey (add more for a sweeter dressing)
1 tsp Dijon mustard, grainy or smooth
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
1/2 cup loose packed basil chiffonade (thinly sliced leaves); I like to add a touch of dill, as well
Ingredients for the shrimp-blanching water:
4 cups water
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
Squeeze of lemon
Pinch red pepper flakes
Generous amount of salt
To prepare the dish:
First, begin to simmer together ingredients for the shrimp-blanching water.
After that gets started, begin to make the dressing. Blend mustard, lemon juice and honey with a whisk, then add olive oil, slowly, in a thin stream while still whisking. Add herbs at the end and stir. Salt and pepper liberally. Set aside.
Make sure arugula is rinsed and patted dry, with thick parts of stems (if present) removed. If desired, rough chop.
Bring water to a boil, then quickly blanch shrimp just until color changes (generally about 30 seconds, or until just done), then drain and plunge into iced water to stop cooking. Drain again when fully cooled. Roughly chop the portion of shrimp with tails already removed, then combine the chopped shrimp with the scallions, beans, and 3/4 of the dressing, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange sliced tomatoes in a fan on each plate. Pile a handful of arugula in the center. Sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper over the tomatoes and greens, then spoon bean mixture on top (don’t forget the juice!). Garnish each plate with three of the tails-on shrimp and 2 lemon quarters. Drizzle shrimp and plate with remaining dressing. Add salt and fresh pepper as needed.