If you could capture the flavors of summer on a scale of 1-10, this would be an eleven.
Roasting ripe tomatoes in the oven with basil and garlic not only intensifies the flavors, it also creates wonderful juices that are perfect for mopping up with warm crusty bread.
Or, if you’re pressed for time and want a perfect fresh tomato and basil salad, there’s nothing nicer (or easier) than the PRESSED TOMATO & BASIL SALAD that our mother used to make.
English home-grown tomatoes are unbeatable in my opinion, so there. Sadly, we didn’t grow our own tomatoes when I was growing up – but the local tomatoes we bought from the horse-drawn fruit and vegetable cart that toured our neighborhood were just as good; as were the ones that the man next door cultivated in his greenhouse.
He was a very kind man who never mentioned the fact that one or two had been plucked from his vine; probably by a naughty 7yr old who’d climbed over the adjoining garden wall to steal a big ripe tomato, warm from the sun.
So here are two recipes; both glorifying ripe tomatoes and basil and I love them equally:
ROASTED TOMATO SALAD with BASIL, GARLIC & BLACK OLIVES (a Delia Smith recipe)
(Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)
12 large ripe tomatoes
12 large fresh basil leaves, torn in half
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of extra-v olive oil
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
12 more large basil leaves, torn in half
2 dozen small pitted black olives (such as kalamata), rinsed and drained
2 more tablespoons of extra-v olive oil, whisked together with…
2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar
Pre-heat the oven to 400F / 200C
You need to skin the tomatoes so cut a tiny X at the top of each, place in a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Leave for 1 minute then drain.
When they’ve cooled, slip the skins off and cut them in half around the equator. Place them cut side up in a shallow roasting tin and season with salt and pepper.
Scatter the chopped garlic over the tomatoes followed by a drizzle of olive oil.
Top each tomato with half a basil leaf, making sure the basil gets covered with oil.
Put in the top part of the oven and roast for approx 1 hour or until the edges are starting to blacken. Remove from the oven and cool to room temp. This can be done a few hours ahead.
Just before serving, decorate each tomato with another half basil leaf, a black olive and finish with a good drizzle of balsamic and olive oil dressing.
Serve at room temp with warm crusty bread.
And now for the uncooked but equally delicious version:
PRESSED FRESH TOMATO & BASIL SALAD
12 large very ripe tomatoes
12 large basil leaves
Extra-v olive oil
Balsamic vinegar; the older the better (25 yrs old would be perfection)
Freshly milled black pepper
Slice the tomatoes ½ inch thick, thinly cutting off and discarding the stalk end. Place the slices close together in one layer on a large plate. Give them a good grind of sea salt.
Stack the basil leaves together, roll them up tightly and slice across very thinly to create fine shreds, aka ‘chiffonade’.
Scatter the shredded basil all over the tomatoes then give everything a good drizzle of olive oil.
Lay a piece of foil on the tomatoes, tucking in snugly around the plate. Find a good book (fiction or non-fiction, doesn’t really matter) that fits on top of the foil-covered tomatoes – now find something heavy to set on top of the book…. something weighing 2-3lbs should do the trick.
Let it press for 1 hr at room temp.
Remove the book, foil and 3 lb bag of dog biscuits or whatever. Transfer the now incredibly basil-y and slightly bruised tomatoes to a serving dish and pour all the fabulous juices over them.
Finish with a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a grind of black pepper; serve at room temp with warm crusty bread.
Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge but bring it to room temp before eating, or pulverize them in a processor and tossed with freshly cooked spaghetti or your favorite pasta to make a lovely pasta salad.