Amanda Love's Cooking
Delicious, Healthy Seasonal Recipes
from the "The Barefoot Cook"
Heirloom Tomato Basil Salad with Fresh Mozzarella & Olive Oil
This recipe is so simple and delicious you can almost make it with your eyes closed. Tomatoes will be in full effect for the next few months so take advantage of their availability while you have the chance. Summer is the time to eat them and gain their medicinal effects. If you are buying tomatoes in the winter months, chances are you are eating tomatoes grown in Mexico or from a hothouse which contain half the amount of Vitamin C as regular tomatoes. By eating things in their proper season, you naturally support a local food economy and your health. I grow about five heirloom varieties in my garden and I am eagerly awaiting their ripeness.
Being the lazy cook that I am, I know the day they are at their peak of ripeness, I will pick the most delicious looking ones along with a handful of basil and a couple of cucumbers and bring them into my kitchen to make this simple salad. My very favorite tomatoes are Brandywine tomatoes. They are usually a deep maroon color and sometimes have yellowish or creamy colored sides. They have thin skins, are very delicate and boast the most delicious flavor. You won’t find them in stores very often and if you are lucky enough to find one in a store, you may nearly fall over at the asking price of $5.99/lb.
As for me, I would rather grow my own than pay these extraordinary prices for tomatoes. Most tomatoes sold in stores are grown without much thought given to taste and instead are grown to be able to withstand vigorous handling and long journeys. I once heard that the average tomato is grown to be able to withstand a 30 mile/hr impact. Yikes! – my Brandywines definitely would not measure up to that, but they would beat the taste and nutritional content of a genetically engineered tomato any day. Most commercial tomatoes are picked and shipped green and then ripened with ethylene gas which turns the skin red. No wonder most store bought tomatoes have little or no taste!
As are most summer veggies, tomatoes are cooling, alkalizing and detoxifying to the body. Vine ripened tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C. They are a natural source of antioxidants and are related to reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. As for our aromatic herb, basil, she has many claims associated with her use. Several of these are calming the nerves, soothing stomach cramps and nausea, aiding in digestion and even stimulating the sexual appetite with her reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Even if you don’t have access to the most delicious heirloom varieties, find the best tomatoes you can. As long as you use quality ingredients, you can’t go wrong with this simple recipe. Also, you may substitute feta cheese for mozzarella.
3-4 Heirloom and/or Organic medium – large Tomatoes
1 handful fresh Basil
(1 English Cucumber - optional)
1 package fresh Mozzarella (this would be found in the gourmet cheese section of your grocery store or better yet, at the farmers market)
4 tablespoons First Cold Pressed, Organic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Umeboshi Plum or Red Wine Vinegar
Fresh Ground Cracked Pepper – ˝ teaspoon
Celtic Sea Salt - 1 teaspooon
Slice tomatoes into wedges. Layer basil leaves one on top of another and slice them into thin long strands. Slice cucumber into ˝ inch slices or into chunks. I recommend using English cucumbers as their skin is soft. If you are using regular cucumbers, peel the skin before slicing as it is too fibrous and chewy otherwise. Slice mozzarella or feta into ˝ inch slices or chunks.
Layer all tomatoes, basil, cheese and cucumbers on a platter and drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the dish. Alternatively, toss all ingredients together with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Enjoy as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to your summertime meals.