What better way to enjoy sweet, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes than in a simple Heirloom Tomato Salad? A few slices of fresh mozarella tucked in, a handful of basil leaves strewn on top, and a drizzle of light, tangy vinaigrette - one of summer's classic pleasures. (Skip to recipe.)
Summer is at its glorious peak and we're enjoying some sensationally hot and sunny days. Life feels full and rich; the garden is running amok with its abundance, plants falling over each other with cheeky abandon and sprawling into pathways, and flowers are blooming in riotous colours. We can't keep up with all the produce bursting from the ground. This truly is a time of plenty.
Everything is growing splendidly - except for what the deer and the mole managed to pillage. True to form for this crazy year of 2020, we've had exceptional deer problems. Those dastardly animals have been sneaking into our garden night after night to raid whatever strikes their fancy. We've tried putting posts tied with strongly perfumed soap all around the perimeter - no luck. We've tried putting wire cages over the rows - they came and nibbled around them and through them. Our latest offense has been to pound stakes all around the garden and string two rows of heavy duty nylon fishing line to encircle the garden. We heard somewhere that the deer can't see it, but are freaked out by the feel of it as they push against it when they try to enter, and since they can't really see it, they can't jump over it.
So far it's worked. Crossing our fingers that it's the final solution.
For the mole - we've got a trap set in the garden, but so far he's managed to evade us - sneaky little bugger. He's burrowing under the rows, making mounds of dirt, and killing the plants he digs among. We'll keep working to get him out of there.
And I'll try to harvest what we can get before he gets to it.
Our garden tomatoes are still green and hard (the consequences of gardening in the north), but I know we'll enjoy them later in the fall once they ripen.
So when I saw these beautiful ripe heirloom tomatoes at the market, I couldn't resist. They are heavy and sweet and juicy, and only needed a little adornment to showcase their glowing jewel tones and rich flavour.
In the style of a Caprese Salad, I tucked in some tender slices of soft fresh mozarella cheese and scattered over a handful of basil leaves from the garden. Quick and rustic, you don't have to fuss with this salad. Just cut any kind of slices or chunks, and pop it onto a plate. The spectacular colours provide the beauty.
A true Caprese Salad (from the island of Capri in Italy) is adorned with nothing but salt, pepper, and a glug of olive oil (and sometimes balsamic vinegar), but in a bit of a riff, I strayed from the classic and drizzled over a simple French vinaigrette sweetened with a touch of white balsamic vinegar. It's light and just tangy enough to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. Utterly divine.
If you've got some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, this simple but stunning salad is a delicious way to showcase them. Served as a first course, or with a light pasta dish or grilled meat, it's a beautiful summer meal to eat outside in the dappled shade, to the sounds of the birds chirping in the trees nearby.
Happy Summer Eating!
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Kitchen Frau Notes: This Caprese Style Heirloom Tomato Salad really depends on the quality of its ingredients. It should only be made with the freshest, ripest, sweetest, juiciest tomatoes, ripened in the sun and tasting of summer, fresh crisp basil leaves, and tender, moist fresh mozarella (springy pizza mozarella doesn't absorb juices and just won't be the same in here). Or use bocconcini slices. If you can't get fresh mozarella or bocconcini, just make the salad without and have a plain heirloom tomato salad - still fantastic.
I like to make up a double batch of the vinaigrette while I'm at it. It's a very light, mild dressing, keeps in a jar in the fridge and is handy for dressing any kind of green salad or vegetable salad.
Heirloom Tomato Salad, Caprese Style
- 3 big, ripe, juicy heirloom tomatoes (1½-2 lbs /700-900gms) or sweet vine-ripened garden tomatoes
- 1 ball (250gms) of fresh mozzarella (Fior' di Latte)
- 1 small handful of fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons (90ml) olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
Slice the tomatoes pencil thick. Slice the mozzarella just a little bit thinner than the tomatoes.
Arrange the tomato slices overlapping on a serving platter, tucking in a slice of mozzarella after every third slice. Pile any extra bits of tomatoes into the middle and tear any unused bits of cheese into bits and scatter them over the middle also. Tear the basil into bits and scatter them over the tomatoes.
Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into a small jar and shake it vigorously until the dressing is emulsified. Drizzle the vinaigrette sparingly over the salad platter - you don't want to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the heirloom tomatoes. You won't use all of the vinaigrette - save the rest in the fridge and use it as a dressing for green salads or vegetable salads.
Serves 4 generously, or 6 with smaller servings.
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