Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Caprese" Toasts

After bringing home a few beautiful heirloom tomatoes from the McKinney Farmer's Market this weekend, I had a brilliant (if not totally original) idea to put them to good use. Why not riff on the classic Caprese salad to create a light but very satisfying summer dinner? A simple pesto stands in for the basil leaves, and the tomatoes and mozzarella are broiled so that the tomatoes are warm, and the cheese is nice and melty. All of that is piled onto a thick slice of buttery toasted bread. Not bad. Not bad at all.

P.S. As you might guess, this combination also makes for a killer grilled cheese sandwich!
Serves 2
(4 if served with heartier side dishes)
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 Tb pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan
1 round loaf of crusty bread (I used a Country Italian loaf from my grocery store bakery)
2 Tb butter
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced and most of the seeds/juice gently removed (regular tomatoes are also completely acceptable)
1/2 lemon
1 Tb olive oil
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into ~1/4" rounds
salt and pepper
First, make your pesto. If you want to use jarred pesto, skip this step. In the bowl of a food processor, add basil, garlic, pine nuts, and a smidge of olive oil. Process until a paste is formed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then slowly drizzle in olive oil with the machine running until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times during this process if needed. When done, pour the pesto into a bowl, and stir in the parmesan and salt to taste. Set the pesto aside while you prepare your toasts.
Set the broiler to High while toasting the bread.
Slice four 1" (or slightly thicker) slices of bread from the loaf. Heat a large cast iron skillet (or any large skillet) over medium-high heat. Add in a pat of butter (about 1 Tb), and once it is melted and hot, place the bread into the skillet, swirling them a bit in the butter to ensure good coverage.
Let them toast for a couple of minutes, checking them occasionally. Once the bread is toasted and golden, remove it to a plate, and melt another pat of butter in the skillet. Add the bread back to the skillet, toasted side up, and cook until the other side is toasted and golden brown.
Remove the toasted bread to a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread generously with the pesto. Top with a couple tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
Place the toast under the broiler for ~2 minutes to cook the tomato.
Remove from the oven, and place mozzarella rounds on top of the tomato. Place back under the broiler for another ~2 minutes.
Once the cheese is nicely melted, remove and serve immediately.

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