I love summer, with its abundance of fruit and vegetables. I find myself being more adventuresome with my cooking. I also find myself returning to some classic dishes--after all, there’s a reason they’re classics, eh? This one, with its riperipe tomatoes and creamy mozzarella and basil that smells like sunshine is one of my favorites. I make it as soon as there are good tomatoes. I always use buffalo mozzarella. When I first heard about buffalo mozzarella, I thought it was a joke--after all, mozzarella is Italian and everyone KNOWS that buffaloes aren’t found in Italy, they’re found in North America, right? (NORTH AMERICA ROCKS!) And I don’t know about you, but I sure-as-heck wouldn’t want to try and milk one. And furthermore...
But then I found out that real mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffaloes. Oh. Never mind.
Do we need a recipe for this? Ok, if you insist. You’ll need:
- 4 perfectly ripe tomatoes, preferably still warm from the sunshine and shouting “my roots! I can’t feel my roots!”
- 2 - 125 g/4 oz balls of buffalo mozzarella
- Some large, intact basil leaves--the exact number depends on how thin you slice your tomatoes. I love basil, and I slice my tomatoes very thin...
- A sharp knife. I only add this because I’ve cooked in a lot of kitchens where there was not one single knife that would cut a tomato. You really need one. I use a filet knife, meant to filet fish. It’s perfect for this job.
- About 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella as thin as you can. It helps with the mozzarella to really slice it--don’t just push down with the knife, move it back and forth. This will yield thinner slices. In the center of the mozzarella, the slices may be larger than the tomatoes. If that happens, you are allowed to cut them in half. If you’re really good, you’ll have as many slices of mozzarella as you have of tomatoes. If you don’t, just eat the extras. Sometimes we shoot for imperfection.
Arrange the salad as follows: a slice of tomato, a slice of cheese, a basil leaf, repeat. Finish with a basil leaf. Drizzle vinaigrette over it all.
Serves 4 if they like it, and 10 if they don’t.
- You can make this with the little pearl mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. You’ll want to cut the tomatoes in half so that they don’t squirt on your silk shirt when you bite into them (trust me on this). Add a chiffonade of basil--cut the basil leaves into thin strips and mix with the mozzarella and tomatoes.
- You can hollow out a tomato and fill it with little pearl mozzarella or just mozzarella cut into small cubes. Pour over a loose pesto made with basil, pine nuts and good olive oil.
- You can cut a tomato into 8-10 wedges and arrange them artfully around a ball of mozzarella that you’ve cut into. Cut an X-shape, not quite through the ball, and fill the center with basil pesto.