You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, and in Italy they say pomodoro, which is also the name of the book that Rachel, The Crispy Cook and some of her lucky blogger friends (like me!) had a chance to read and review. "Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy" by David Gentilcore is all about the beloved tomato, before it became so loved in Italy.
This culinary history book traces the tomato on its travels from Central America where it originated, to Europe and then on to Italy specifically, where it was first regarded with suspicion and some disdain. Gentilcore, a professor of modern history, follows the tomato through the multiple centuries it took for it to become a staple and icon of Italian cooking. The book is mostly entertaining, although I did speed read through a few sections--250+ pages on the history of anything can get a bit monotonous for a short attention span girl like me! ;-) The sprinkling of old Italian recipes was probably my favorite part of the book and I tagged several dishes to make. There is also folklore, stories, pictures and of course plenty of history all woven together in one detailed celebration of the tomato.
For me personally, the best way to celebrate this juicy, colorful fruit is one of the simplest, the Caprese Salad or the Insalata Caprese, meaning a salad in the style of Capri, and originating in the Campania region of Italy. I could eat a well-made caprese every day and not get tired of it--fresh thick slices of freshly picked tomato, sprigs of basil from the garden and creamy slices of fresh mozzarella, drizzled with the best olive oil you can get and a sprinkling of a wonderful salt. Perfection, celebration, heaven on a plate! There is no real need for a recipe but... along with being short attention span girl, I am also multi-tasking girl and it is "Say Cheese!" week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and therefore I chose to follow Mark Bittman's Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Salad recipe from the How to Cook Everything iPhone app, and thus combine my celebration of the tomato with a celebration of mozzarella. ;-)
Bittman says, "This is barely more than the three ingredients listed in the title, so all three must be of excellent quality. I like to salt the tomatoes a little bit before assembling the salad--it removes a little bit of their liquid--but it isn't necessary. (Deb says, "Darn tootin it isn't necessary--if you want to serve it with a baguette toasted with olive oil, you'll want all that yummy tomato juice-olive oil-salty goodness to soak up!")
Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad, (Insalata Caprese)
"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 4 Servings)
4 perfectly ripe medium tomatoes
8 slices 1/4-inch thick, fresh mozzarella cheese, plus more if desired
8 large fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper (optional)
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Core and cut the tomatoes into about 1/4-inch thick slices. If you like lay them on a board and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Set the board at an angle so the liquid can drain into the sink (or bowl; it makes a refreshing drink.)
Layer the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil on a platter or 4 individual plates. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.
Notes/Results: Sheer perfection! Juicy, ripe, fresh North Shore Farms Tomatoes--both red and yellow and cut thickly, basil straight from my container garden, fresh mozzarella--also cut very thickly, olive oil and a little perfect pink Murray River Gourmet Grinder Salt from Australia. Not a thing more. My Mom is in town visiting and we shared this as a starter for dinner along with some crunchy/chewy toasted baguette. When you can get the best, freshest ingredients make this often and savor it, preferably outside with a glass of your favorite wine--it is the best way to hold on to summer.
Thanks to Rachel, The Crispy Cook for arranging our Pomodoro Party. Rachel will be rounding up all the tomato dishes inspired by the book on her blog soon.
This dish also goes to IHCC--"Say Cheese!" where you can see other cheesy delights that the rest of the gang made.
Finally I am sending it to the event formerly know as Two for Tuesdays, now Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, co-hosted by girlichef and other fabulous bloggers and celebrating food that nourishes your mind, body and soul.