Tomato salad assembled as tasty towers makes an impressive presentation
There seem to be as many recipes for tomato salad as there are colorful heirloom tomato varieties. I’ve gone in various directions, with the constant being reasonably large tomatoes, basil and cheese. Personally, I prefer a more flavorful cheese (optimal: French feta) to the usual bland mozarella/bocconcini (the little mozarella balls). But if you like bland, stick with it in the following recipe. Two things that help elevate this salad above the usual are: the inclusion of delicious vincotto, a wonderful Italian thick, sweet wine-based condiment that’s like less-tart balsamic; and candied pecans. Serving this salad in classy layered towers looks cool, although it will all fall apart during the eager consumption, naturally. The amounts aren’t exact below, so use more or less of everything to suit your taste. This should be enough for 8 healthy servings
4-6 similar-sized heirloom tomatoes in different colors
bunch of fresh basil, stemmed and roughly chopped
French feta (at least 12 oz.)
candied pecans (buy them at Trader Joe’s)
1-2 cups arugula
Vincotto (available in gourmet markets and online)
3 T sherry vinegar
9 T extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Make the dressing in a mini-chop or food processor, blending the shallots, vinegar and oil until emulsified. Add salt & pepper to taste and set aside.
Core and slice the tomatoes into thick slices. Cut up the cheese into rough cubes that are smaller than 1 inch thick.
Toss the arugula with a little dressing and divide between individual plates (it can also be made on a big platter if desired). Place a sliced of tomato in each plate. Moisten with a little dressing, then a few drops of Vincotto. Add basil and a few cubes of cheese, then repeat. Depending on the size of the tomatoes and slices, 4 in each tower should be adequate. More than that and it gets a bit top heavy.
Garnish the top of the tower with basil, cheese and a few candied pecans. Sprinkle other pecans around the bottom of each tower and shake out several healthy drops of Vincotto around plate.