Every night as I wait on the Westport train platform for my train (which is sometimes right on time, and other times very, very late), I usually chat with Michael for a few minutes about the normal things: how the day went, how was work, blah blah blah. It’s inevitable that I prod and poke (verbally, of course) to get the dinner menu out of him; sometimes he’ll tell me while other times (usually when he’s thinking of something on the crazier side) he’ll be coy and evasive, usually using the phrase “your face” to try and shut me up. Either way, I then spend the next 70 minutes or so (depending on the bus situation) wishing my train to go faster as I either fantasize or wonder about what will end up on my plate. Mean, isn’t he?
This time around, though, he actually spilled on the details: he told me that he was in the mood to eat a large vegetable with some cheese that night, and that’s exactly what he did when he went to Westside and picked up an heirloom tomato that easily ran over a pound, though I did clarify that he was in fact in the mood for fruit. No matter. He paired it with our normal arugula salad and hummus, resulting in a very simple meatless dinner that did not fail to be satisfying.
The trick to the salad, though, is adequate seasoning in order to bring out the flavor of the tomato. Using a light hand, a little salt on the tomato slices prior to applying the cheese does much to intensify the flavor, and depending on the mozzarella you’re using, a little extra sprinkled on top will prevent it from having a bland creaminess that to me overwhelms even the best tomato.
Serves 2-4 either as an appetizer or main course
- A little over 1 lb of fresh tomatoes, sliced
- 1 medium-sized ball of fresh mozzarella (mozzarella di buffula would probably be the best-tasting choice, but it’s really expensive; we like to get the homemade, hand-pulled mozzarella balls that are made in-store), sliced
- 8-10 basil leaves
- Very good Italian olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Arrange tomato slices onto the serving plate and lightly season with sea salt. Add cheese slices, positioning them between tomato slices, and also lightly season with sea salt. Chiffonade the basil leaves by stacking them on top of each other, rolling them into a tube, and then thinly slicing, and sprinkle over cheese and tomato slices. Drizzle olive oil over slices, then season with black pepper.