This is a stunning yet simple salad that can lighten up any barbecue and guarantee to wow your guests; it’s even better if you’ve been assigned to ‘bring a salad’ and you rock up with this. The beauty is in its simplicity, if quality ingredients are used. I have made this a few times and the platter it has been served on has almost been licked clean every time.
The design of the salad began with a star ingredient, in this case pesto. Every pesto I make is slightly different, based on how I’m feeling: toasted or natural pine nuts for more or less nuttiness; varying levels of Parmesan (Reggiano) or Pecorino (if I want a lighter flavour), 1 or 2 cloves of garlic depending on whether I want a big garlicky bite or something more subtle; and more olive oil for a wetter finish or less for something more paste-like. Regardless, fresh, vibrantly green and highly floral basil is essential. If I can’t find that I don’t make pesto. Where times permit I manually grind the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. For other times I use a food processor, with great results.
Pesto has a slight acidity from the Parmesan/ Pecorino so in creating this salad I wanted to introduce more. Roll out the red carpet and royally welcome some ripe, umami rich tomatoes and a piquant raspberry vinegar. The bite and acidity is then beautifully contrasted with cucumber and a soft milky buffalo cheese or a sheep’s milk based bocconcini. And finally, the star pesto is drizzled on top.
Serves: A few as an accompaniment | Preparation: 10-20* minutes | Cooking time: n/a
*Dependent on how you make the pesto.
I am not going to provide exact measurements here as there are none. Play around with the quantities of the following ingredients until you’ve hit your flavour nirvana.
Ripe, sweet and tasty tomatoes | Ripe tomatoes are essential and must be at room temperature.
Raspberry vinegar | Or a good aged red vinegar.
Lebanese cucumber |
Extra virgin olive oil | Light and fruit works well.
Seasoning – sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper |
Drained bocconcini or buffalo milk cheese |
A portion of homemade pesto | Pesto recipe here. This one contains Pecorino, but Parmesan (Reggiano) should be used for a pesto with a little more bite, as I do with this salad.
Remove the core of the tomatoes (the hard bit at the top of the tomato) and then slice in to 1 cm slices, cutting across the tomato to reveal the tomato’s natural pattern. Lay out on a platter/ plate and drizzle over a little raspberry vinegar (or similar). Slice the Lebanese cucumber and lay over the tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.
Roughly slice the cheese and spread over the cucumber. Finally drizzle over a good quantity of pesto – enough so it becomes very friendly with the ingredients below, but not too much that a nuptial ceremony occurs.
Any left-over pesto can be whacked in to some hot pasta (penne is good) with pan-fried bite-sized chicken breast pieces, semi-dried tomatoes and some little young spinach leaves.