When I was at the market the other day, I saw dozens of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. I wanted to take a bunch home and love them and make them feel special. I didn't want to mutilate them, I wanted to show off their quirky crevices and imperfect shapes. I wanted to bring out their juicy texture and taste. I wanted to throw a party and have them be the main event. I ended up making this salad and ate it all by myself for lunch. As I was eating it, I daydreamed about how impressive it would be to walk out with these gorgeous stacks of tomatoes as an appetiser at our next barbecue. I am going to do that, I think you should too.
- 1 yellow zucchini
- 1 green zucchini
- 3 heirloom tomatoes (preferably different colours - one small, medium, and large)
- 2 avocados
- a few pieces of lettuce (of your choice)
- about 10 basil leaves
- 1 shallot, sliced super thin
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp really good olive oil
- toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- ⅓ cup almonds
- a large handful of basil
- large clove of garlic
- 5 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Start by making the pesto. In a small pan, toast the pine nuts and the almonds over medium heat, just for a couple of minutes until they become light brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Then, place the basil, garlic and tomatoes into a food processor and pulse several times. Now add the toasted nuts and pulse a couple of times until they are roughly chopped. Add in the olive oil in a continuous stream until you have the consistency you like. Season as you like.
Prepare and assemble the stacks by slicing the zucchini into thin rounds and place them in a bowl with some salt, and set aside. Slice the tomatoes into rounds and slice the avocado into thin slices (you can squeeze a little lemon juice over the avocado if you want to keep them from oxidizing/turning brown).
Then, have the rest of the ingredients nearby and get ready to stack. Start by smearing some of the tomato pesto on the bottom of the plate. Then, place the largest tomato slice on top. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Then layer the rest of the stacks like this: some basil, a few slices of avocado, zucchini, a smear of pesto, a piece of lettuce. Do this 2-3 times, until your stacks are tall enough. Then, top with the thinly sliced shallot, any other toppings you want (toasted pumpkin seeds, nuts, or chilli) and season with some salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve immediately.
• You can add in or switch up the vegetables here with any fresh vegetables that you find. This would be really great with grilled vegetables as well. Also, I am obsessed with pesto, and this tomato pesto has been my favourite this summer. I've been keeping it around for anytime we grill vegetables, or if I just want to give my salad a little something extra.
Recipe from What’s Cooking Good Looking by Jodi Moreno, with photographs by Jodi Moreno.