Baked Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad
By: Erica BrownServes: 4
Up until now, if we wanted to sound chic, we would always say we live 30 miles from St Tropez. True, but now we've amended it to 30 miles from Posh and Becks! Also true, though we're up in the hills with the peasants.
Still, we share the same weather and, in summer, that means I want dishes that taste and look good at room temperature - where room temperature is defined as 35 in the shade of the parasol over the table on the terrace.
It's too hot for hot food and too hot for cold - which melts or congeals too quickly. Recently, I've been playing around with a sort of baked tomato, mozzarella and basil salad - we had a guest who likes tomatoes cooked but not raw.
The result looks as good as it tastes in the sun and works well as a starter with a few salad leaves, or as an accompaniment to barbecued meat or fish.
4 large, ripe tomatoes, halved horizontally
4 tbsp butter, melted
Good handful basil leaves, shredded
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 slices buffalo mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas3.
2. Remove about one quarter of the seeds and juice from each tomato, then put them, cut side up, in an ovenproof dish. They should fit snugly.
3. Mix the shredded basil and chopped garlic into the melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into each tomato half and top with a slice of mozzarella.
4. Drizzle a little of the reserved tomato juices over the cheese and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly coloured and the tomato is cooked through.
5. Remove and serve sprinkled with a little more basil and a grinding of pepper (espelette looks pretty). Spoon over any cooking juices in the dish - or use them to dress the salad leaves.
NB The cooking time will vary depending on the tomatoes - slower and lower is better than shorter and higher. They shouldn't get to the collapsed state but must be cooked through.
© Recipe copyright 2003 Erica Brown