The best tomato salad ever plus pesto

September 25, 2009

Marzella Hazan's  tomato salad

We’re coming to the end of our summer varieties . Courgettes are now officially thin on the ground,  at least in Wicklow,  as are Aubergines.  I had such plans but we just didn’t get enough sun to feature them as often as I’d hoped. Tomatoes are also coming to an end,  so to have them along with Basil is a last blast of  summer (you know, the one we never had). Basil + Tomatoes can mean so many things – a simple salad (just add your best Olive Oil and a little Salt) or a more substantial salad if you add Mozzarella (this is the classic Caprese). One of my first posts on this blog was Marcella Hazan’s simple Tomato salad. It still beats pretty much anything.

For an easy dinner chop up your Tomatoes and briskly fry them in hot Olive Oil with some Garlic and a little of the Chilli that’s packed in the paper bag along with the Tomatoes, then toss with Pasta,  Basil Leaves and maybe some Black Olives. It’s a dish that takes all of 10 minutes to put together.

These days I  favour Pecorino over Parmesan with pasta. I bought a big block on a whim a while back and using it has reminded me of why it works so well. It’s a saltier cheese, with Tomatoes this works well as they tend to be sweet (or should be).It’s all about contrast which sounds a bit cheffy but is true. As there’s Basil in this week’s bag I’ll give a pesto recipe. I know, it’s a bit obvious but properly made it’s really really good and nothing like the stuff you buy in jars (even the fancier brands are muck).  Good pesto has plenty of Garlic, real Pine nuts and ideally, Pecorino Cheese rather than Parmesan but you can use Parmesan if you’re stuck. It might seem a waste but using decent Olive Oil pays dividends as it adds so much to the flavour. Best of all, Pesto takes  all of ,oh, 2 minutes to make, a quality I really rate in a recipe especially when it’s Culture night and the weather is good!

Pesto (for 2)
Peel and roughly chop 2 fat cloves of Garlic and put in your blender along with 8 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (a generous glug), 2 Tablespoons Pine nuts, a generous pinch of Salt, and your Basil Leaves (remove any really thick stems first). Blast until everything is blended. A little chunkiness can be nice but you may prefer a smoother Pesto so you decide when to stop blending. When you’re finished, stir in 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Cheese. Serve with freshly cooked Pasta and more grated Pecorino (or Parmesan).
This can be made in advance and will keep in your fridge for up to a week  in a jar with a layer of olive poured over.  As Basil goes so well with all kinds of veg (especially roasted) Pesto makes a great dressing – just thin it out with some Olive Oil and a little Lemon Juice to add some zing


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