I have a confession. I have never been a huge fan of raw tomatoes. To hear of someone eating a tomato sandwich – slices of ripe tomato on white bread with mayo, salt and pepper – sends me into a shutter and brings acid to the back of my throat. Yes, I know…most lovers of the culinary arts go ga-ga over the fresh tomato taste, but I guess I have always been different. Saute it for two minutes in olive oil, salt & pepper and then it is perfect. Recently, though, something has changed.
In my recent travels with work and play, I have been taunted to the depths of my foodie soul by one of the simplest of dishes – the Caprese Salad. A salad made by layering sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, drizzled with olive oil and maybe some balsamic vinegar. This salad has lit a fire that I can’t contain. Seriously, I would slit the tires of your grandma’s Hoverround to keep her from getting to this dish before I do. I have no guilt in doing so…try me. But I have noticed that my obsession for tomato-cheesy-basil goodness has spurned into making other dishes where the tomato (or its baby version – the cherry tomato) is the star. Let’s look at a few.
Caprese Salad with a Punch
I would say that I came up with this twist because I discovered that the mozzarella presented in a Caprese Salad can sometimes be bland and tasteless, so I decided to make this dish with a mild goat cheese, but to be honest I forgot to buy mozzarella and I had goat cheese in the fridge. Basically, it was a mischief moment turned golden. Also, I decided I would like to take the basil a step further by making it into a basil-oil.
1 vine ripe tomato
4 oz package goat cheese
Salt & Pepper
Since the slices of the tomato were larger than the goat cheese, I decided to half the slices to make them proportionate. I then layered the slices between the rounds of goat cheese on a plate or platter. (A quick tip: slice your goat cheese when it is very cold, helps keep that round shape) Drizzle with basil oil (recipe below). I served it with grilled or toasted slices of baguette.
1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1 scallion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Place the clove of garlic and scallion in a food processor or blender, chop till fine. Add basil. Turn on processor or blender and slowly drizzle oil in the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can certainly add more basil if you feel the oil is too thin.
To continue our Tomato-palooza, I made a quick quinoa salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes, purple basil, scallions and a quick lemon vinaigrette or heck, use that basil oil and add a couple of dashes of white balsamic vinegar.
My tomato torture has turned out to be good inspiration for some mischief. But I still warn you to keep Grammy’s Hoverround out of my way…or you may even need to hide that tomato sandwich. 😉