Three things that always (yes, always) go together: tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. There are many ways to concoct these ingredients, but the most basic — and arguably one of the most delicious — is the simple tomato and mozzarella salad. There is a caveat, however. If you’re looking to skimp on price, this is not the recipe with which to do it. [Exit: my fellow poor grad students].
You’ll need the very best tomatoes (“vine-ripened” of the bright red variety work well), the freshest and softest mozzarella (usually at least $5.00 or above to start), and at least a medium-quality olive oil, such as Colavita or Bertolli. You’ll find that you will use olive oil extremely often in Italian cooking, so no need for sticker shock just yet – especially if you’re lucky enough to catch a buy-one-get-one-free deal at the grocery store. (Bless you, Publix.) Also, take solace in the fact that you can use off-brand olive oil for many other dishes …. basically, any recipe where it isn’t drizzled on top.
Now, to make this darling little salad, you’ll need the following:
- 4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
- 8 1/4-inch thick slices of fresh mozzarella
- 8 basil leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper (t0 taste)
- Salt (to taste)
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Core the tomatoes and cut into roughly 1/4-inch slices to match the mozzarella slices. (Note: salting them before layering gets rid of some of the excess liquid.) Layer tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil on a large serving plate or on four individual plates. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lightly drizzle olive oil on top and serve. (Makes 4 servings).
[Source: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, p. 101]
And, finally, now that you’re hooked on the tomato-cheese-basil combo, here’s another delicious concoction to try. (Photo below.)