Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tomato, Avocado, Arugula, and Mozzarella Salad

After "Bacon Day" at Infuz, I needed a light dinner. Turns out there's really only so much bacon you can eat in one day before it becomes too much. So I got home and put together this salad as dinner. I had a ripe avocado, some tomatoes I got from the Tower Grove Farmers' Market, a couple balls of mozzarella, some arugula, and a lot of basil. I figured all those together plus dressing would be a good meal. Because of the richness of the avocado and mozzarella, this salad can hold its own as a main course. (Of course in smaller portions it can also be a side dish or an appetizer.)

I decided to use the basil not as whole leaves or chopped bits, but as basil oil. For those of you who read this blog regularly, you will notice that I have been using a lot of basil oil recently. That is because it is delicious, easy, versatile, and keeps for about a week in the fridge. Also because I recently bought Skye Gyngell's book A Year in my Kitchen (surprisingly, this is not about the trials and tribulations of a poor woman trapped in her kitchen for a year, as the title might lead you to suspect--it's actually just a cookbook organized seasonally). Her book uses a lot of basil oil, which is what got me going on basil oil.

To round out the dressing, I added some balsamic reduction. If you don't already make balsamic reduction, try it out. Especially with cheaper and newer balsamics, reducing it by simmering in a small pan for about 10 minutes can really add to the flavor by concentrating it.

I also make a different version of this salad as any easy lunch at work. I just pack a big tomato, an avocado, a mozzarella ball, a ziplock baggie of herbs from my garden, and mini tupperware of oil and balsamic dressing. Take everything out, cut it, and arrange it on a plate. I love this type of lunch--it's healthy, filling, fresh, and feels like summer. On top of all that, it's very easy to get together in the morning--a huge benefit for someone like me, who is definitively not a morning person.

*A note on tomatoes: If you can help it, never refrigerate a tomato. It ruins the texture and can harm the flavor as well.

Tomato, Avocado, Arugula, and Mozzarella Salad
serves 2 as a whole dinner, or 4 as a generous appetizer

3 or 4 small very ripe tomatoes, or 2 or 3 large very ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 bunch arugula, washed
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup basil oil (see my chilled tomato soup recipe for directions)
3 tablespoons balsamic reduction (not reduced too too much), or 2 tablespoons aged balsamic traditzionale
salt and pepper

Spread the arugula out on a large platter. Arrange the tomato slices, avocado slices, and mozzarella slices on top of the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle the basil oil and balsamic reduction over top of the salad. Serve immediately, at room temperature.

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