Bountiful Basil

Monday, July 4, 2011
I have a challenge in my yard -- not enough sun. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all the shade and the trees that provide it, but it makes it hard to grow sun-loving vegetables, herbs and flowers. This summer I decided to plant many things in pots -- especially my herbs. Then I could move them as they needed more sun. They are all thriving -- especially the basil.

I've made pesto and have been making lots of other basil friendly dishes to use up the bounty. One of my favorites to make is Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Plate. I visited our Farmer's Market for fresh tomatoes (it will be awhile before mine are ready). This is perfect on the side of grilled meats or as a light supper all on it's on with some crusty bread.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Plate

2 balls (8 ounces) fresh mozzarella
2-4 large ripe tomato
1/2 cup fresh whole basil leaves
4-5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut an X at the blossom end of each tomato. Drop quickly into boiling water and then plunge into iced water. The peel will now slip right off. Peel each tomato using this method.

Chiffonade (this is generally accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons) the basil, reserving some large leaves for garnish.

Use a serrated knife to halve the ball of mozzarella and then slice into 1/4-inch thick half moons (the fresh cheese is much easier to slice if you place it into the freezer for 30-40 minutes before slicing to firm it up -- don't forget it though). Slice the top and bottom off of the tomato; chop these pieces into a fine dice and set aside. Slice the tomato in half down through the center and then cut each half into 1/4-inch thick half moons.

Working in a circle on a dinner plate-sized serving platter, overlap the slices of mozzarella and tomatoes. Sprinkle cut basil over entire plate. Arrange the reserved diced tomatoes in the center of the plate and garnish with another basil leaf or two. Drizzle the olive oil over everything; sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Serve with a nice crusty bread, preferably homemade. Makes 4-6 servings.