Here is a little recipe for the unofficial last day of summer. Except, this isn’t a recipe so much as a suggestion, in the way that tomatoes suggest a sprinkling of salt, and that pesto suggests gratings of cheese, and that it all suggests a hunk of bread.
In other words, here is a plate of summer’s simplest, finest produce, gussied up with only a few things: a fiery drizzling of chili oil, crackles of smoked salt, and a rich pesto covered in fresh cheese.
A plate like this takes few minutes to make, fewer ingredients (although I do suggest using the sweetest, freshest tomatoes you can find) and even less time to devour, whether it be for lunch or a light dinner. And best of all, all of it- the sweet, acidic tomatoes, the tingly oil, the mild mozzarella, and the salty parmesan- takes only a piece of crusty bread to make it taste akin to the best pizza or panzanella, while still remaining, at its essence, a simple plate of summer tomatoes.
This is what I’ll be eating to close out the end of another glorious August. And I hope that as it slips away, in all the hustle and bustle, you find time for a simple plate of tomatoes, too.
Yields: 2 plates of tomatoes + extra pesto
Why I love this recipe: sweet, juicy tomatoes are enhanced by smoky salt, a rich basil pesto and two cheeses: mild shreds of mozzarella and salty parmesan. Fiery chili oil adds extra depth of flavor and a piece of crusty bread ties it all together.
For the tomatoes:
- 3-4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons chili oil (or, make your own)
- smoked salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- parmesan, for grating over the top
- fresh mozzarella, torn, to serve
- 2 pieces of crusty bread
For the pesto:
- 2 cups washed basil leaves
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- First, make the pesto: combine the basil, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped.
- Add the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese. Set aside until needed.
- Layer the sliced tomatoes on two plates. Drizzle each plate with a tablespoon of chili oil. Sprinkle with the smoked salt and black pepper.
- Drizzle pesto over each plate of tomatoes, going back and forth over the plate a few times.
- Top each plate with torn mozzarella and grated parmesan and serve with crusty artisan bread. Enjoy!