caprese salad

caprese salad (7).jpg

In another facet of my life working as a professional riding instructor, I have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, from every social strata. I could recount innumerable barn foibles- the time the blizzard came, and we had no hay, so the barn manager and I had to stay in the negative temperatures to wait for the hay trailer that was stuck in the snow, and then immediately start unloading it as the truck was still moving, clambering onto the hay like mountain goats. "You horse women are tough," I remember the truck driver saying. "Tougher'n you!" Debbie replied.

The time the flood came, and we had to use a rowboat to get to the barn. The time we were trying out a new horse, and when the sucker got in the arena, it took off at a flat run instantly- the owner then mentioned, 'oh yes, she has a bolting issue'. 

For the grossly large part, the people you meet in the horse world are genuinely good human beings. They care for their animals, they work hard, and they are dedicated to what they do. One such example of this tenacity is a farmer who trades horses out in Indiana. I won't use his name here, because I'm not sure how he would feel about being out there on 'the world wide web', but he is a bona fide gentleman and a good man. Many horse traders have few scruples; they are looking for a quick buck, and when the horses have outlived their usefulness, they will sell them to slaughter across the border. Not this man. Still working his farm at the tender age of 87 (I think that's what he told me last time I saw him, but I also think he's been 87 for a few years...) he cares for each horse as his own animal. Feeds them, cares for them, gets them vet care when they need it. With 300-350 head, that's pretty significant. He knows each one, and can tell you about them- he doesn't name them though, because that would make him sentimental. He calls them all Hank, even the mares.

I could tell you a few stories that pull on my heartstrings from visits to his farm, but my favorite is when we were out there looking for horses to buy, and he drove us through an almost empty pasture, save for two horses. One may even have been a donkey, I don't quite remember. "Why are these two out here alone?" we asked. "We bought them in a group," he said. "The red one there- his teeth are all falled out, and the other ones bothered him and wouldn't let him eat nothin. So I brought him over here with his friend until it's his time to go." For those of you not in the industry, this may seem just like common sense- but basically, the farmer was taking a financial loss every day he kept that horse and his buddy, and gave them a pasture to themselves. "It's the right thing to do, innit?" he would say.

Now, don't let me fool you into thinking he's all soft and sweet. He loves a good joke, and loves to play tricks. For a few years he kept bringing us one horse to try that he knew we didn't want, but he would say it was a different one. "Try this new horse 'ere, the painted one. Yeah, you'll like him." he'd say with a laugh. I'll never forget the first time I went and rode at his farm, trying the horses to see which ones we might want to bring back to our barn. I got on a medium sized sorrel gelding that he said 'may have had a rider 'afore' and he was a handful, but I liked him. As I was sorting him out- maybe three minutes had gone by, and I had just walked- the farmer yells from the sidelines "Are you going to ride that horse, or make love to it?" while his cowboys all laughed merrily. 

The reason I bring all this up, is that my mom and I went down to the local farmer's market yesterday. This market is not one of those places where the local craftsmen are selling jam and bread- there are just farmers, selling produce out of their trucks. One such man reminds me of my friendly farmer so much, I just have to buy from him every time. He looks to be in his late 80's at least, and he always wears suspenders with button down shirts. I can't help but purchase whatever he wants to sell me, and that's where we got these tomatoes. Sweet, bursting little jewels of summer, bright yellow cherry tomatoes. 

I made this quick salad with them and it was delicious. If you have the chance, try it yourself. It's fabulous. And- support your local farmers, if you can.

Here's how it's done:

Quarter some cherry tomatoes, or dice up a big heirloom. Dice some fresh mozzarella.

Combine the two and dress them with some balsamic reduction.

Chill for a few hours, until you're ready to serve. It will be better at room temperature, so bear that in mind when you take it out of the fridge. Just before serving, mince up some fresh basil and stir that in.

Season liberally with salt and pepper, then enjoy. Yum.

Recipe:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, or 1-2 cups diced tomatoes

4 ounces fresh mozzarella

1/4 c balsamic reduction

1/4 c fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

Quarter your cherry tomatoes and dice your mozzarella. Toss together with the balsamic reduction. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Just before serving, chop and add the fresh basil. Season with s&p.