Tomato-Mozzarella Salad with Pesto
This salad is best in summer: the amazing variety of heirloom and cherry tomatoes available makes it a kaleidoscope of color.
For the pesto:
- 4 cups water
- 2 Tbs. plus 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
- 1 cup gently packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 Tbs. pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 garlic clove
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 lb. mixed heirloom tomatoes, in a variety of colors and sizes
- 1 cup halved assorted cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, in large or small balls
To make the pesto, in a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the 2 Tbs. salt. Add the basil leaves and boil for 30 seconds. Drain in a sieve and place under cold running water to cool. Squeeze the leaves to remove the excess water and place in a food processor. (Blanching the leaves helps them keep their bright green color.) Add the pine nuts and garlic and process until finely chopped. Season with the 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grindings of pepper. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and process to a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. If not using within 2 hours, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pesto and refrigerate.
Core the heirloom tomatoes and slice 1/4 inch thick. Cut smaller tomatoes into wedges. In a large bowl, toss all the tomatoes with the 2 Tbs. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a serving platter.
Slice large mozzarella balls 1/4 inch thick and slip between the tomato slices. Or, cut small balls in half and scatter over the tomatoes. Using a small spoon, place dabs of pesto on top of the tomatoes. (If the pesto is very stiff, whisk in a little olive oil to loosen it up.) Grind pepper over the top and serve, passing the remaining pesto at the table. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Family Meals, by Maria Helm Sinskey (Oxmoor House, 2008).