For this simple salad or one of its variations, look for the best tomatoes you can find at your local farmers’ market, or perhaps simply over the fence, if you don’t have them in your own garden.
Keep it fresh but flavorful in the spirit of the salad with a Bandol Rosé—its full herby palate with added sweet fruit and creaminess will play off the olive oil and tomato well; recommended producers include Château de Pibarnon, Mas de la Rouvière and Domaines Ott.
- 6 medium or large slicing tomatoes
- 5 small tomatoes, about 1½ inches in diameter
- 2 cups small cherry tomatoes
- 2 small torpedo onions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup best-quality extra virgin olive oil
- Sel gris, or other solar-dried sea salt, or
- kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
- Basil flowers, for garnish
Remove and discard the stem and blossom ends of the slicing tomatoes and cut the tomatoes into 3/8-inch thick slices. Set aside. Cut the small tomatoes (through the poles, not the equator) into wedges and set aside. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, cutting pear-shaped tomatoes through the poles and round tomatoes through the equator; set them aside.
On a large platter, assemble the salad: Begin by arranging a circle of large tomato slices on the outside edge of the plate, alternating colors and overlapping the slices slightly. Next, add a ring of onion slices, overlapping the onions onto the tomatoes by half. Add another ring of tomatoes, moving towards the center, and another of onions. In the center of the plate, arrange a circle of small tomato wedges. Tuck slices of mozzarella here and there. Arrange the remaining tomato wedges on top of the sliced tomatoes and scatter the sliced cherry tomatoes and the garlic over the salad. Season with kosher salt and let sit for 15 minutes.
Drizzle the olive oil over the salad. Add several turns of black pepper and a light sprinkling of sea salt, if using, or kosher salt. Garnish with basil leaves and basil flowers. Serve immediately, or cover and serve within 1 hour.
• Scatter 2 cups poached salt cod over the salad before adding the olive oil.
• Scatter Italian canned tuna (drained) over the salad before adding the olive oil.
• Omit the fresh mozzarella and crumble 4 ounces blue cheese or goat cheese over the salad before adding the olive oil.
• Use sweet onions (Maui or Walla Walla) instead of the torpedo onions.
• Omit the basil; scatter 1 or 2 minced serranos and 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro over the salad before adding the olive oil.
• Fry 6 rashers of bacon until it is crisp; crumble and scatter it over the salad just before serving.