(Italy posts are coming later this week. Stay tuned!)  Tomatoes, cheese, basil, and bread. There is certainly nothing revolutionary about this combination, but this weekend I was determined to make dinner centered around whatever looked best at the farmer’s market and upon seeing the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes at my favorite farm stand, my mind was made up. Initially I hadn’t planned on posting about this meal, but as I started cooking and tasting along the way, I knew this was going to be more than good.

What takes this beyond the typical caprese style salad? Well, for one thing, it involves abundant slices of crusty bread spread with spiced garlic compound butter, grilled to perfection. A bed of lettuce and a handful of basil from my garden help it along. Additionally the whole mess is drizzled with a light bright basil vinaigrette. The finished dish was truly fantastic, and easily one of my favorite dinners so far this summer. Of course, this is one of those impossible to title recipes.  How to choose which of the many fabulous components deserve a place in the inevitably long label? Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a mouthful. An amazing, perfect, summery mouthful.

  • Yield 4-6 servings

Ingredients

For the crostini:

  • 3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium loaf of crusty artisan bread, sliced ½-inch to ¾-inch thick

For the basil vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves, chopped

To finish the salad: 

  • 12-16 oz. small to medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 round of fresh cheese, such as burrata or mozzarella*
  • 1½-2 cups lettuce leaves, such as butter lettuce or romaine
  • Large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

  • 01

    To prepare the crostini, heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix until evenly combined. Spread the butter over both sides of the bread slices.

  • 02

    To make the vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and basil leaves in a liquid measuring cup. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, process in a blender or food processor until smooth.)

  • 03

    Place the tomato wedges in a medium bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Once the grill is heated, oil the grates well. Place the bread slices on the grill, cover, and let cook, turning once, until both sides are just beginning to char, about 2 minutes per side (depending on the temperature of your grill.) Remove to a plate. On a large serving platter, place the cheese in the center. Surround the cheese with a thin layer of lettuce leaves. Top with the bread slices and tomato wedges, and sprinkle with the chopped basil. Drizzle some of the basil vinaigrette over the entire platter and save the remainder for serving, as needed.

  • 04

    *Note: I used homemade burrata from One Hour Cheese. The mozzarella is also excellent, and either would be perfect with this salad!

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