The garden centers are filling up with lush spring inventory, including tomatoes and basil. The perfect pairing. In North Texas, our last average freeze date is March 17th, which means Mother Nature can still throw us a curve ball. We have been known to have a freeze in the middle of April and snow on Easter. This does not mean you have to wait to plant frost-tender plants. It just means that you have to watch the forecast and be ready with frost cloth or old sheets. (I personally favor a five gallon bucket turned upside down over the plant and removed as soon as the air warms up.)
Endive salad with basil and tomatoes
2-3 endives, leaves separated
1 large naval orange, peeled and sliced into circles
1 large tomato, sliced (or a dozen cherry tomatoes, cut in half)
1/4 red onion, finely sliced (I prefer shallots, personally)
5-6 basil leaves, thinly sliced – extra for garnish, if desired
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Wash and prepare endive leaves and arrange on a large platter. Zest about half of the orange and set zest aside for dressing.
Cut off the peel of the orange, along with the outer white membrane. Slice into thin circles and arrange over the endive leaves. Slice the tomato and onion and arrange on platter. Top with sliced basil leaves.
To make the dressing, add the olive oil, lemon juice and honey to the bowl with the orange zest and whisk together. Pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the sea salt. Serve right away.
If making ahead, add the dressing just before serving so the endive leaves do not wilt.
Hint for slicing basil: Wash and pat dry basil leaves. Stack basil leaves and tightly roll from one end to the other. Thinly slice the rolled leaves. Separate basil slivers and use as desired.