This summer was the first time I planted my basil plant before June, and only because a friend invited me along as she picked out her own herbs at the garden center. Nevertheless, combine this with the extreme variations in New England weather, downpour one day and sunny the next, and my plant had all the right conditions to become the wild beast that it is now. With such a plentiful bounty this year, I gave my food processor a summer home on my limited counter space as I made many variations of pesto (raw walnuts, toasted walnuts with Parmesan cheese, no walnuts with ricotta and the list goes on.)
One of my favorites is also one of the simplest: garlic + salt, olive oil and of course, basil. I like to serve it over tomato and mozzarella. Its easy to make and a great base to add other layers. In the picture above, I added avocado, but you could add roasted red pepper, salami, watermelon etc.
Tomato-Mozzarella Salad with Basil-Garlic Oil, serves 4 for a side
Large handful of basil
1/2 – 1 Clove garlic
1/2 – 1 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Smash the garlic clove and sprinkle kosher salt over it. Press the granules of salt into the garlic by holding your knife at a sharp angle and pulling it towards you. If you’re nervous about the blade, you can also grate the garlic instead. Making it into a paste with the salt blends the flavors better.
In a food processor, chop the basil until it is in small pieces. Scrap down the sides and add the garlic-salt paste. All of this is to taste, so I recommend starting with 1/2 of the garlic paste; you want just a hint. Pulse a couple times before adding in the olive oil. I recommend starting off with 1/3 cup and adjusting along the way. Blitz all of it until everything is well-incorporated and adjust to taste. Set aside as you slice the tomato and mozzarella.
Arrange the slices alternating between tomato and mozzarella. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper between each slice. Drizzle the basil-garlic oil over the salad right before serving.