We're all well acquainted with that old line, "When life gives you lemons ....", etc. Well, right now, life is giving me tomatoes - lots and lots and lots of them. This is not a complaint, mind. Having just grown my first ever successful tomato crop, I still get a huge thrill out of harvesting a big bowl of these beauties every day.
Many of them end up in pasta dishes; roasted with potatoes, black olives, and a piece of snapper; grilled on the barbeque; or thickly sliced and sauteed in butter with lots of freshly ground black pepper, then tipped over hot toast and topped with a poached egg. In the weeks ahead, many will end up as pasta sauce or slow-roasted and stashed in the freezer for use during the winter months to come.
But if you are lucky enough to be able to pick tomatoes, straight from the garden, at the absolutely perfect moment of ripeness and still warm from the sun, then there is no doubt that the best way to enjoy them is very simply - teaming them up with the best quality ingredients you can lay your hands on. To me that means basil, also picked straight from the garden; the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford - I used Moon Over Martinborough's Crescent Moon Blend; and mozzarella, buffalo would be ideal if you can find it and your budget will run to it - if not, have a go at making your own, as I did.
Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Salad Recipe
(This is really more of a method rather than a recipe - quantities are not critical)
tomatoes, as many as you like
(use an assortment of colours & sizes, even including green ones)
mozzarella, one large ball
fresh basil leaves, generous handful
flaky sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
Cut tomatoes - some into thick slices, some into wedges, some roughly chopped. Smaller cherry tomatoes can be just halved or even left whole if they are tiny. The point is to avoid "uniformity". Spread tomatoes over a large flat platter.
Cut mozzarella into rough slices, or tear into pieces, as you like, and distribute amongst the tomatoes.
Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
Roughly tear basil leaves into pieces and strew over the salad.
Lastly, drizzle everything liberally with extra virgin olive oil.
Allow to stand at room temperature for around 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to mingle.
Of course you can serve this as an accompaniment to just about anything - simple oven-roasted chicken, steak or fish straight off the barbeque - the possibilities are really limitless. Personally, I like it best on its own (I can easily make a meal of this), with some good, crusty bread on the side to mop up the juices.
Eating a dish like this always puts a smile on my face. But so much more than that, it makes my heart smile, and it humbles me. It reminds me that, no matter how clever we think we can get in the kitchen, we can never improve on nature's simple packaging - the best food of all is that which hasn't been messed with, but which has just been paired with a few other "like-minded" ingredients. Like a good marriage, they don't compete with each other, they simply bring out the best in each other, and make us feel better for having been in their company.
I'm sharing this post at Gallery of Favourites, hosted by my friend April at The 21st Century Housewife; at See Ya In the Gumbo, hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace; at Foodie Friday, hosted by Designs by Gollum; and at My Meatless Mondays hosted by Chaya at My Sweet and Savory.