TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA SALAD WITH FRESH PESTO

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It’s that time of year again, when Parisians who, for whatever reason, cannot escapes for ‘les vacances’,  swop their city suits for swim suits and head for ‘Paris plage’, the artificial beach which since 2002 has popped up, complete with parasols and deck chairs along the right bank of the Seine during each July and August (from 20th July to 23rd August 2015 – but dates do vary a little from year to year). I find it quite amusing to stroll past he second hand book sellers lining the banks to glance down at people slapping on the ‘Ambre Soleil’ and posisng in ‘Speedos’ while tourists gawp from passing packed ‘Bateaux Mouches’

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Paris Plage 2015

The best tomato and mozzarella salad that I have eaten was overlooking an actual ‘plage’ at a beachside café at ‘Les Sablettes’ near Toulon, and it was the inclusion of pesto rather than mere basil leaves, that lifted it above the ordinary.
I make mine on a much smaller scale, but it is equally delicious, and very quick and simple to make.

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The best tomato and mozzarella salad at Les Sablettes

If you have not made home-made pesto before, then this is really easy to do and you can play around adjusting the various ingredients to suit your own taste.

The most important thing to remember is that this (as all my recipes) is a seasonal dish, I know that in the UK people are used to eating whatever whenever, but this is just not the way here and there is simply no substitute for lush, fleshy deep scarlet coloured tomatoes that smell of the vine and not the plastic supermarket packaging. When I first came here I was frustrated not to be able to buy anything anytime, but now I wait with anticipation each new crop and the recipes that they inspire and if you follow me throughout the year, you will be able to see this reflected in my blog posts. (See my posts ‘Welcome/Bienvenue’ and Roasted Red Peppers/Paris Markets)

Nature has a wonderful system – it’s simply a matter of learning to work with it and not against it.

And just because it would rude not to, I have posted a photo of the lovely beach at Les sablettes….I know where I would rather be!

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Les Sablettes

Ingredients
per person

2 Ripe tomatoes (I prefer to use plum tomatoes as they are more ‘meaty’ but any ripe tomatoes in season will do)

½ a ball of creamy mozzarella per person (I have found buying mozzarella an art, and it is not always the most expensive that is the best, some varieties are more suited to slicing and eating on a sandwich of melting on a panini (panini is Italian for ‘sandwich’), whilst others are best ripped up and melted on a pizza or pasta dish, for a salad a soft creamy variety is best)

Olive oil (I used Olivier & Co olive oil with basil)

Balsamic vinegar (I used Maille white balsamic as it looks better with the pesto

2-3 fresh basil leaves

2-3 black olives

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the pesto

50 gm of pine nuts

50 gm of freshly grated parmesan cheese

A large bunch of fresh basil

1 large clove of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for storage

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

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Method

Lightly toast the pine nuts and leave to cool

Put the cooled pine nuts, parmesan and basil in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds son the slowest speed

Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency

Add a little salt and pepper to taste

What you do not use, can be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar, covered in a little extra oil and kept up to two weeks. To make a lighter sauce for pasta, the pesto can be mixed with crème fraiche, to give a milder flavour and a more fluid consistency.

To make the salad simply slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a plate

Lightly drizzle them with the olive oil and balsamic and season with a little salt and pepper

Tear up the mozzarella and arrange on the plate

Pour over the fresh pesto and add the basil leaves and olives

Et Voila

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