I was really hoping we would have one 'last gasp' sunny day when I could post this blog as it is the perfect summer dish, however it appears the weather gods are against me. I couldn't resist buying a bag of beautiful heritage tomatoes at the recent Abergavenny food festival but chatting to the grower, I feel that these maybe the last from the summer season. No need to be sad...autumnal braises and stews are just around the corner and I love cold season cooking.
I appreciate that you will have had numerous tomato salads before, but what elevates this one is the the quality and variety of the tomatoes (obvious really) and the gazpacho sauce which anoints each mouthful with an extra punch of tomatoey flavour. It also looks stunning and has the potential to convince your diners that you are a culinary genius - just don't tell them that it is remarkably easy to make. Try to use buffalo mozzarella or if you can get it, burrata. The flavour and texture is light years away from the industrial rubbery supermarket versions. For four as a starter or light lunch:
Heritage tomatoes, super ripe and sweet - 1kg
Vine tomatoes - 4 large
Celery - 2 sticks
Green pepper, seeded - 1/2
Garlic, peeled - 2 cloves
Passata or made tomato sauce - 100ml
Sherry vinegar - 2tbsp
Flaked chilli - a pinch
Basil, leaves picked - small handful
Stale sourdough or other quality loaf
Extra virgin - to dress
Buffalo mozzarella - 2x150g balls
Salt and crushed black pepper
Quality aged balsamic or balsamic glaze - to dress
Heat you oven to 220c. Finely slice croutons off the loaf of bread, remove crusts, oil and season then bake until golden. Set aside.
Blitz the vine tomatoes; garlic; celery; green pepper; a few basil leaves; passata; sherry vinegar and chilli in the blender until smooth. Season and add more vinegar if you think it needs it then pass through a fine sieve and set aside.
Slice your heritage tomatoes, try to cut in different ways so you get a variety of shapes in the salad. Toss in a bowl with some extra virgin, a little balsamic, some torn basil and seasoning. Toss in the croutons and mix well. Ladle a little gazpacho sauce in the bottom of a pasta bowl, top artistically with tomatoes and mozzarella. Drizzle the sauce with some olive oil and more balsamic. Easy.