8 slices crusty Vienna breador comparable wood fired bread
8 roma tomatoes
1 small purple onion
1/2 bunch basil leaves
4 balls buffalo milk mozzarellalarge bocconcini can be used
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes
freshly cracked black pepper
Occasionally, when my friend’s restaurant is very busy and I am not so busy, I will help out in his restaurant for old time’s sake, (every Chef needs to feel the rush of a busy service once in a while, or we’ll wither and die).
These occasions are usually in the busier summer periods, which consequently are obviously the hotter days in the kitchen. Some days they are so unbearably hot that when the hunger hits you could not imagine eating a hot meal, even though the guests seem to be quite content to do so. The difference of course is that those patrons are in a different world than ours, they are dining in the ocean breeze at this seaside haunt, while we Chefs are working over 8 pieces of kitchen equipment generating immense amounts of heat with a pathetic excuse for an extractor fan hanging over head and clearly failing to remove all that excess heat.
It is on these days that when the hunger hits and one barely has time to stop and breathe, let alone eat a decent meal, I will pop into the cool room, grab a couple handful’s of the reddest tomatoes we have. I slice them a few times lengthwise, chuck them on a half dozen slices of toasted wood fired bread, sprinkle a bit of sea salt, freshly cracked pepper and a quick drizzle of virgin olive oil or a few flakes of shaved parmesan. I set the beat up baking tray out the back of the sweltering kitchen and one by one myself and the other chefs take the half-minute break required to devour a couple of slices. Work is no easier or cooler when you arrive back but a tomato that is fresh enough has been known to take us away from work and to the country side of southern Italy, if only for a very brief moment, and if that still doesn’t do it we can always pop our head into the dining room and pretend that we can feel the ocean breeze that, clearly tables 9 through 21 are enjoying.
In this recipe the most important thing is that you use only fresh and fully ripened vine ripened tomatoes. Tell tale signs of them not being vine-ripened are they are closer to pink than red, they do not give to a gentle squeeze and they lack in aroma. A fully vine-ripened tomato will be everything these are not. Once at home cutting them in half will be the final test. A vine-ripened tomato will be dense with seeds, juice and flesh as it received nourishment and moisture from the plant right up to the time of being picked, whereas the non vine-ripened variety can seem hollow once you cut them in half and the little bit of flesh and seed that are inside will tend to be entirely separate from the outer shell, like a shrivelled peanut inside a big shell.
The recipe described above is one you can knock up in a few minutes, and will be very tasty but quite rustic. The one explained in detail below is a little more labour intensive but also slightly more refined, you choose the mood.
- Slice the balls of cheese into 4 each.
- Cut roma tomatoes into lengthwise quarters (remove/discard seeds and juicy pulp).
- Dice remaining tomato flesh.
- Finely dice the purple onion.
- Slice the basil finely.
- Combine above ingredients with a few pinches sea salt, a few turns of the pepper mill and a few tbsps olive oil.
- Lightly toast or grill the bread slices, once toasted, rub one side with a peeled garlic clove.
- Place tomato mixture on bread slices and top with the slices of mozzarella.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.