There are many fine and delicious things to eat in the summertime, but none of them compare to the tangy and creamy wonderfulness of a tomato and basil and mozzarella salad made with homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and quality mozzarella.
I could eat this every day. Sometimes, in July and August and September, I actually do.
This is really a heat-of-the-summer recipe, but if there are fresh tomatoes and basil leaves to be found in the garden, I will eat this salad. That means some lucky years I’m making my first tomato and basil and mozzarella salad in June. And, sometimes, when the autumn weather has been kind, I’m still eating this in October and early November.
The list of ingredients here is short. This is a simple recipe. Gourmet mozzarella or balsamic is nice, of course, but it’s more important that your tomatoes are summertime perfection. When the garden faeries gift you with a tomato that is too beautiful to cook or hide in a sandwich, this is the dish you should make.
This recipe is adapted from the Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad Glucksman, from Gourmet. I’ve changed a few things over the years, but that original recipe is also divine.
You will need:
- One perfectly ripe slicer / beefsteak tomato. Homegrown, if possible. Farmers’ market purchased, if not. Do not bother making this with supermarket tomatoes. It’s just not worth it.
- A few sprigs of basil. A dozen leaves would be great, but even six big leaves will be enough.
- Fresh mozzarella. Locally handmade, if at all possible. How much you use will depend on how big your tomato is. I usually find a typical ball of mozz will make two or three tomato and basil and mozzarella salads.
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.
- A dollop of Dijon mustard.
- A droozle of honey.
- Salt and pepper.
That’s it. Seven ingredients. Ok, nine ingredients if you count the salt and pepper.
Start with the tomato. Cut out any blemishes, and slice it into roughly 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick slices. There’s no right answer here. Just slice the tomato, and spread it on your plate.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt across those tomato slices. You can skip this step if you’re watching your sodium levels, but the salt really does bring out the tomatoeness of the tomatoes. Try it. A little goes a long way, and the flavor boost is worth it.
Next, slice the mozzarella. Again, there’s no correct answer for slice thickness. I usually aim for roughly 1/4 inch thick slices, but thicker or thinner would also work fine. Listen to your taste buds.
Place a slice of mozzarella across each slice of tomato. Match the sizes up as best you can, but don’t stress about this. Making tomato and basil and mozzarella salad should be a stress-free experience.
Now, we’re ready for the dressing.
Mix the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar in a small container. If you’ve got a pint-sized jar with a screw-on lid, that would be a great dressing-making-container. Use that. Otherwise, any cup or bowl that’s easy to mix in will do just fine.
Next, add your Dijon mustard. The original recipe calls for about 1/4 teaspoon of English dry mustard. I’ve long-ago stopped measuring this step, and never bothered worrying about the differences between English dry mustard and Dijon mustard. Just add a dollop. Aim for a 1/4 teaspoon sized dollop.
And, honey. The original recipe calls for sugar, but I much prefer the taste of honey in salad dressings. Plus, I can find local honey from small farmers. Win! No local sugar plantations in northern Virginia.
Here’s a hint: Always try to source your ingredients from as close to home as possible. You’re supporting a local business. And, just as important, you’re supporting your taste buds. Local tastes better than not-local. It’s that simple.
So, use honey and skip the sugar. The original recipe calls for only 1/8 teaspoon of sugar, so we don’t need a lot of honey here. A tiny droozle is perfect.
Did you mix up your dressing in a jar? Good. Just twist on that lid and give the thing a thorough shaking. You’re going for an emulsified look: little bubbles of oil suspended in the vinegar.
No jar? No worries. Just use a fork to give the dressing a good mixing. It’s harder to emulsify the dressing this way, but it’s nothing worth stressing over (see previous note about this being a stress-free experience).
Once mixed, set the dressing aside for a moment.
Grab your basil. We want all leaves and no stems. So, strip the leaves from the stem.
Next, we want to slice these thin. If you like, you can slice each basil leaf individually, but that’s the kind of thing that makes me crazy. I’ve found it’s easy to stack the basil leaves with the largest leaves on the bottom, and smaller leaves toward the top of the stack. Then, just roll the leaves together into a long tube, and slice it with the knife. Whole thing takes a minute to do.
Fluff up your sliced basil. You should have a tablespoon or more, depending on how much you started with.
The original recipe calls for adding the basil separately to the salad, but I just mix it with the dressing. No real reason. Feel free to ignore this step and just add your basil separately. It’s up to you.
Basil or no basil, now’s the time to drizzle that dressing over your stacks of tomato and mozzarella. Give each stack a bit of dressing. There should be more than enough dressing for a single tomato’s worth of salad.
If you didn’t add your basil to the dressing, this would be the time to add it to the salad.
And, that’s it!
A single tomato will make enough salad for two to four people to split as a side dish. Or, it’s a light meal for one person. This is one of my favorite meals for a summertime lunch or dinner. Add an ear of grilled corn for a bit more substance, if you’re really hungry.