Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pesto

Heirloom tomatoes are my obsession!

There is nothing better on a hot  summer day than a lunch or dinner with a great tomato salad. This particular picture was an entry for a fundraiser cooking contest. The salad was an honorable mention, and is featured in the Rockville Bank 150th anniversary charity cookbook.

White, striped, pink, & green tomatoes are all represented on this plate. Markets  such as Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods carry heirlooms year round. If you are unable to find in your local market, try summer time farmers markets. Not only will you find colorful tomatoes, but purple potatoes, fresh herbs, local melons, unusual squashes and delicious native corn. The flavors of local summer veggies is outstanding compared to super market fare. A red perfect tomato from the supermarket is grown for beauty and durability for transport, The taste and nutrition had been bred out! Scientific American had a recent report on how taste has become diminished.

What you need

  • 1 lb or more various tomatoes, cherry to beefsteak, caution do not refridgerate
  • Fresh log of mozzarella cheese like BelGioioso cut into 1/8″ slices
  • A Bunch of fresh basil about 4 cups of leaves, washed and all stems removed, you can combine Sweet Italian, purple or Thai depending on taste preference. Save  some leaves for garnish.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil or other neutral preferred oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional squeeze of lemon to preserve Basil’s color
  • Garlic  cloves optional
  • Pine (pignoli) nuts optional or Walnuts if pine nuts are unavailable
  • Aged balsamic vinegar

Combine fresh basil and optional garlic and nuts with 1/2 of the olive oil and pulse in a food processor. Add oil as needed to create a paste. If leaves do not grind it is an indication you may need more oil, you may need to use a spatula to move all leaves into the blade. If paste is runny add more basil. The paste should be green and smooth. I do not add salt until after adding cheese. When pesto is smooth add Parmesan and pulse gently.  over processing can COOK the cheese. The ratio should be 8:1, Basil to oil.

Slice  Beefsteaks, slice or quarter all your medium tomatoes, leave cherry tomatoes whole or halve. Remember do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes if it can be avoided.

Just before serving, assemble your platter with larger tomato slices at the base, separate slices with mozzarella. I tiered my salad with 3 layers of  beefsteaks and decorated the platter with  alternating colors and sizes. Garnish with basil leaves.

Drizzle pesto on salad or serve on the size. Serve Balsamic as a side as well.

This salad does not need to be dressed, the olive oil in the basil  combined with balsamic to taste, is the perfect dressing.

This is my Favorite summer time meal!