Sunday, January 2, 2011


This is a somewhat more complicated (and worthily so!) version of everyone’s summer favorite. The croutons can be made ahead; the rest should be done shortly before you leave for your day of wine tasting and picnicking so as not to destroy the tomatoes' flavors by putting them in the refrigerator. If it’s very hot outside you can put the salad components in the warmest part of your cooler during transport. This dish should be served at room temperature.

½ lb. country white bread
½ C. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. fresh oregano leaves
½ clove garlic
1 ½ T. red wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
½ pint cherry tomatoes
3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes of assorted sizes, shapes, and colors
1 t. fleur de sel or Kosher salt
2 T. sliced opal basil
2 T. sliced green basil
1 lb. burrata cheese
½ C. thinly sliced shallots
¼ C. flat-leaf parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the crust off the bread and tear what’s left into rustic 1-inch pieces.  Using your hands, toss the bread pieces with 2 T. olive oil, squeezing the bread gently to help absorb the oil.  Toast on a baking sheet 12-15 minutes, stirring a few times, until the croutons are golden brown and crispy on the outside but still a little soft and tender inside.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oregano, garlic, and a heaping ¼ t. salt to a paste.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegars.  Whisk in the remaining 6 T. olive oil and taste for balance and seasoning.

Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half.  Core the heirloom tomatoes.  Cut half of them in wedges and set aside.  Then one by one, hold the remaining tomatoes on their sides and cut them into ¼-inch slices. Season the slices with a little salt and pepper.  Place the slices overlapping in a large shallow container (your serving dish) with a cover, spoon a little of the vinaigrette over them and scatter a little basil on top. Cut the buratta into twelve slices, and tuck them in and around the slabs of tomato.

In a large glass or plastic bowl with a cover, gently toss the heirloom wedges and cherry tomatoes with the sliced shallots, ½ t. salt, a little pepper, and 3 T. of the vinaigrette.  Taste for seasoning, adding more vinaigrette if you like. 

To serve, gently toss the croutons into the tomato-shallot mixture and then spoon it in the center of the serving dish, piling it up so that the sliced tomatoes and burrata still show.  Scatter the parsley and remaining basil on top. Yield: 6 servings.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cured meats, other cheeses

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