Tomato-Basil Salad

Tomato-Basil Salad
Recipe type: Salad
This recipe comes originally from Marcella Hazan, from the cookbook I consider to be the kitchen bible: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. If you don’t have a copy, get one quickly!!!! This dish is also completely dependent on good ingredients; your tomatoes must be juicy and flavorful and as fresh as possible. The only way to make this salad taste right is to use really flavorful tomatoes from a home garden or farmers market – tomatoes that ripen off the vine simply don’t taste right and ruin the salad. Good olive oil is important as well…. This salad is so delicious that you will never have leftovers. Be sure to serve with good fresh bread to soak up the tomato juices (Great Harvest’s baguette is perfect!).
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • Good quality red wine vinegar
  • 2 pounds absolutely fresh, perfectly ripe, flavorful tomatoes
  • 1 dozen large fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Peel the garlic cloves and mash them with the salt in either a mortar and pestle or a small bowl. Use salt to taste; I use about 2 teaspoons. Stir in two tablespoons vinegar and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
  2. Skin the tomatoes raw (meaning do not blanch them to get the skins off; use a potato peeler!) and slice them into a deep and wide serving platter. (Note: if your tomatoes are a thing-skinned variety skinning them isn’t necessary).
  3. When you are ready to serve the salad, wash the basil leaves in cold water and tear them by hand into two or three pieces each. Sprinkle them over the tomatoes.
  4. Pour the garlic/salt steeped vinegar through a strainer and over the tomato slices. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of olive oil over the salad, toss gently, and serve immediately with slices of thick country-style Italian or French bread for dunking. (You wait until just before serving to mix the vinegar and oil because the salad will toss off a fair bit of liquid because of the salt and you can use the bread to soak this liquid up; you don’t want the salad to get too sloppy and liquid before serving, however, so mix just before eating). Serves four people or two piggishly inclined tomato lovers.