A Summer Salad from Paris

Several years ago Cory Van Horn sent me this photo along with an e-mail saying “I made your ‘Summer Salad from Paris’. . . . This recipe is delicious! I loved how all the flavors scream summer.” You can find more of his work at www.culinarycory.com.

Janis Adler is my sister-in-law.  When I went to France to do an apprenticeship in the late Seventies, Jan made the trip with me and we had a lot of fun banging around for a few days in Paris and Chartres before I had to start my job.  We’re both still huge Francophiles, although I know, all these years later, that her command of the language remains much surer than my own, which has shrunk to kitchen French.

In 1997, when Jan and her husband were settled in Portland, Oregon and their kids were young, they took in a young French student for the summer.  I’ll let Jan herself take it from here:

This Parisian teenager was foisted on us by well-meaning friends who had no inkling about the perpetual bedlam involved in running a household with a three- and a five-year-old.  I had a naïve pipedream this young woman would be some sort of mother’s helper, maybe even a sometime babysitter. I was wrong.  She had no interest in the children.  But she did like to cook, and so a deal was struck.  I was just as thrilled to have her help with the cooking as I would have been to have her help with the kids.  Sure enough,  she was a good cook and prepared meals for us about twice a week.  This salad was one of her recipes.

Of course, a tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad is a well-known classic of Italian cuisine – Italians call it Insalata Caprese (a tip of the hat to the Isle of Capri) – but the addition of avocado makes it new and even more delicious.  Every summer when the Adlers reunite, Jan and I make this salad for ourselves nearly every day for lunch.  It resides in this book’s appetizer chapter, however, because I know most carnivores wouldn’t consider it a meal in itself.

2 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes, or 5 plum tomatoes, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt
8 ounces lightly salted mozzarella (preferably fresh)
2 ripe Hass avocados
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Slice the tomatoes 1/3-inch thick and salt them on both sides. Set aside 10 minutes and then gently pat dry with paper towels.

Slice the mozzarella 1/3-inch thick and cut slices in half if large. Halve, seed, peel, and slice the avocados 1/3-inch thick. Coarsely shred the basil leaves or leave them whole. Layer all the ingredients decoratively on a plate and drizzle liberally with olive oil.

Yields 4 servings
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total preparation time: 15 minutes

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