Growing up, raw tomato was my least favorite vegetable. Nothing elicited more feigned vomiting or shrieks of “ewwwwww!” than a simple slice of tomato accidentally landing on my sandwich.
It wasn’t until many years later when I tried a slice of heirloom tomato in a caprese salad that I finally came around. It was my love of cheese that inspired me to swallow my fears and take that first bite, and when I did, I found it was nothing like the mealy bland tomatoes I tried in the past. This tomato was firm and juicy with the perfect balance of fruity sweetness and acidity. It was more than a vehicle for mozzarella – it was delicious!
There’s a reason this heirloom tomato tasted so different from the ones I was used to. Most grocery store vegetables are cultivated to hold up through transport, look pretty on the shelf and to resist herbicides and pesticides. Taste isn’t very high on that list of priorities. Although there is no strict definition for an heirloom plant, they are typically old varieties, developed before the age of industrial agriculture. Heirlooms seeds were preserved by passing them down generation to generation. Families usually picked for the tastiest vegetable, not necessarily the best looking or most shipable.
- 1½ lb mixed heirloom tomatoes of choice
- ⅓ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- ¼ cup basil leaves, slivered
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons pesto
- 6 cups arugula
- ½ good baguette
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the baguette. Mix olive oil with garlic in a small bowl. Lay the baguette slices evenly on a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of each slice with the garlic oil. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until toasted. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
- Cut the large and medium tomatoes in wedges, then cut each wedge in half. Half the small tomatoes. Place in a large bowl. Add olives, basil, mozzarella and pesto. Toss together. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Divide arugula evenly among 4 bowls. Top with ¼th of the salad. Serve with baguette slices.