I picked my first large tomato from the garden today - an heirloom beefsteak variety. My basil is crying out to be harvested and lures me with its fragrance as I pass the herb garden. I can't say so much for the eggplants - my plants have been stingy and shy to produce this year, and I have not yet turned my hand to dairy farming so alas, no homemade provolone, but at least for the next couple of months, I will have tomatoes on my mind and on my kitchen counter and fresh salsa on hand. That's a nice thought. And at least once or twice I will make this Israeli Tomato Eggplant Salad I first sampled on a balmy evening on a spacious lawn at a diplomatic function in Tel Aviv, the type of reception where I just hung out at the refreshment table and made sure I was engaging in a very important diplomatic responsibility - as my husband puts it, "Eating for my country."
Could these colors be any more vibrant, oozing their rich and luscious hues? The salad tastes as succulent as it looks and transports me with a single bite on a magic salad boat back to the Middle East - undulating among the fragrance of jasmine, the salty ambiance of a beach side restaurant serving fish and mixed grill, sauteed in the silkiest of olive oils and baguette with a bit of inelegance that makes the food taste locally unique...... our two young children crawling under the table biting the feet of other diners, the subsequent parental ban of those children from restaurants for a year.....isn't it interesting how fragrances and flavors awaken vivid memories - pleasant or not! This recipe creates a lovely spiral of fresh produce in vibrant red, white, green and caramel, dressed with a nutty, licoricy pesto and will definitely evoke pleasant musings. Your tomatoes and basil and, if you are more a farmer than I, eggplant, will be truly honored.
6 large ripe tomatoes
2 medium sized eggplants
20 slices provolone cheese
2 cups pesto
minced parsley for garnish
-Slice eggplants into ½ inch slices. Sprinkle salt on both sides of slices and allow to sit for 30 minutes to draw out bitterness. Rinse with water and pat eggplant slices dry, then fry in ½ inch hot oil in frying pan until brown and golden on each side. Drain well on paper towels.
-Slice tomatoes in ½ inch slices. Cut provolone cheese rounds in half.
-On large flat platter place a tomato round, spread with spoonful of pesto. Spread an eggplant slice with a spoonful of pesto and place next to the tomato slice. Place a slice of provolone cheese next to the eggplant slice.
-Repeat arrangement of tomato, eggplant slices and cheese to create a round, swirling circle on the platter.
-Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
-Add about 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese; blend while slowly adding about 1/3 of the olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides of container.
-Process basil pesto until it forms a thick smooth paste. Repeat until all ingredients are used, mixing all batches together well.
-Basil pesto keeps in refrigerator one week, or freeze for a few months.