Just four ingredients, so make sure you buy the freshest and best possible.  This dish highlights the secret of Italian food, which isn’t fussy, but it does require simple, fresh, and ripe ingredients.  We make this as a starter or side salad at least once a week in the summertime, hence all the variations below.

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ripe tomatoes sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese in water
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 extra-virgin olive oil
  • French sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

On a platter, alternate slices of tomato and mozzarella.  Garnish generously with the basil.  Drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

ALTERNATE PRESENTATION:

Jacques Pepin writes in Fast Food My Way, “summer at our house, especially when our own tomatoes are ripe and the basil in our garden is abundant. My recipe differs from the standard only in the presentation:  I cut the tomatoes into slices from the top to the stem end but stop short of cutting the slices all the way through, leaving them still attached at the base of the tomato. Then I insert slices of mozzarella (from a mozzarella loaf about 2-1/2 inches in diameter that I half lengthwise before slicing) between the tomato slices so that each tomato resembles a beautiful red and white fan. Garnished with diced red onion and pieces of basil leaves and drizzled with an olive oil and sherry vinegar dressing, the tomatoes are best served at room temperature.  Remove the core from each tomato. Place the tomatoes stem side down, and cut them vertically into 1/4-inch slices (6 to 8 slices per tomato), stopping about 1/2 inch from the base of each tomato, so the slices are still attached at the stem end. Cut the mozzarella into 1/4-inch slices, and insert a slice of mozzarella between each slice of tomato, creating a fan effect.”

ADDITIONAL IDEAS:

Add some pepporicini, sliced pepperonis, capers and cheddar cheese for the presentation shown above.

Or for a different presentation, you can buy the small, fresh “buffalo” mozzarella balls, marinating them in extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and a handful of torn basil leaves for about 10-15 minutes, and simply serve with some sliced tomatoes.