Tomato Mozzarella Basil Salad

Serve with Allegro Pinot Grigio

This is a true Summertime salad because it is best made with garden-fresh, ripe ingredients. The riper the tomatoes, the better; and only fresh basil leaves will do. Use your best quality, dark green and fruity olive oil for this one.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, or 1/4 teaspoon dry
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tablespoons pitted black oil cured olives, chopped
1/2 lb small mozzarella balls (Bocconcini)
5 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1" thick wedges

Allow the minced garlic to stand in the vinegar for 10-15 minutes before preparing recipe. This will help remove the "bite" from the garlic and mellow it.

Meanwhile, slice tomatoes into wedges. Drain mozzarella balls (they are normally packaged in a brine). Remove pits from black olives and coarsely chop. Set these ingredients aside in a salad bowl.

Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a cruet or in a blender with the garlic and vinegar from above. Use 4 tablespoons vinegar if you like a tangy salad (3 tablespoons if you don't). You can use all balsamic vinegar, or if you prefer a milder dressing, use half balsamic and half red wine or Chianti vinegar. No mincing or chopping is required if a blender is used - pulse briefly.

Pour vinaigrette over tomatoes, cheese and olives; stir to coat. Do not add too much dressing - just enough.

Can be served with peeled, sliced cucumbers (1/4" coins or 1/2" cubes), if desired.

Season to taste with freshly grated black pepper (and salt, if needed) and serve, optionally, on a bed of radicchio or escarole hearts.

Source:  From our September, 2009 e-Newsletter