Travel to any home in Southern Italy during the summer months and one dish will stand out as universal; namely, the mighty, yet simple, tomato salad. During our extended stay in Calabria we consumed tomato salad after tomato salad and never tired of the ripe tomatoes (grown from heirloom seeds), sweet basil, Cipolle di Tropea (famous red onions from Tropea), and homemade cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. The tomato salads were often consumed via simple lunches and dinners including salumi, cheese, olives, and, of course, exquisite bread to mop up the beautiful liquid that is created when combining olive oil, tomatoes, salt, and basil.
The following recipe adds fresh, whole milk, mozzarella to the typical tomato salad. The mozzarella is not a requirement but if you happen to have access to a market or Italian shop that makes very good fresh mozzarella then add it! A variation of this salad is Insalata Caprese which may or may not have originated in Capri (the main difference being the ingredients are sliced as opposed to cubed).
- Ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-1.5 inch pieces (cut the tomatoes over the serving bowl so capture all of the juice)
- 5-10 pieces of basil (do not wash basil, but rather clean each leaf with a damp cloth; thereafter, bruise the basil and shred by hand)
- Thinly sliced red onion
- Cubed Fresh, whole milk, mozzarella, cut into .5-1 inch pieces. The tomatoes should dominate this dish, so you’re looking for a proportion of 1 to 3 (in terns of cheese to tomato)
- A healthy amount of extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (salt is a requirement when consuming tomatoes so be sure to add a healthy amount)
- Dried oregano
- Good, fresh, bread
The prep for tomato salad couldn’t be easier, add the above ingredients to a large serving bowl and mix well. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes so that the salt, tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil get to co-mingle and do their thing (i.e., release all of their great flavors). For a typical lazy weekend lunch serve a tomato salad with some very good cured fish (tuna, sardines, etc.), cured olives, a few slices of cheese, 1-3 varieties of salumi like cacciatore, prosciutto, etc., lots of bread, and a rustic wine.