Food on Friday: Tomato-avocado-mozzarella salad

There are two salads I’ve been eating nonstop this summer; one is a quote-unquote greek salad that’s just cucumbers and bell pepper marinated in a mixture of lemon juice and red wine vinegar, and tossed with some crumbled feta before serving. The other one is my adaptation of the cherry tomato salad from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen that I posted about yonks ago. What I’ve borrowed from the original salad is the idea of using the tomato juice from the tomatoes and cooking it down with balsamic vinegar to make a vinaigrette (actually I’m not sure if it’s an official vinaigrette since it doesn’t have any oil in it). But the rest of the ingredients are pretty different so I thought I’d write up my current version for posterity.

Tomato-Avocado-Mozzarella Salad
About 2 pounds of tomatoes*
2 ripe avocados
1 container fresh mozzarella, preferably ciligene (the bite-sized balls)
¼ c balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, diced, and/or 1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon basil, oregano, or rosemary, optional

*About the tomatoes: The original ATK recipe used cherry or grape tomatoes, perhaps because it was a winter salad and you can get decent cherry tomatoes all year round these days. I have found that cherry/grape tomatoes aren’t ideal because they don’t have much juice at all, and they’re really fiddly to cut in half. For this recipe I prefer slightly larger tomatoes, either the vine-ripened kind that are about the size of a baby’s fist, or Roma tomatoes or smaller beefsteaks cubed (large beefsteaks are too juicy and fall apart too much for this recipe).

Either way, cut up the tomatoes so the pieces are bite-sized, and put them in a colander with a bowl underneath or in a salad spinner. Salt and allow to drain. In a few minutes, spin the spinner, or shake out the colander and collect the juice – you need about a quarter-cup.

In a small saucepan, combine the tomato juice, vinegar and shallot and/or garlic and herb if using, and on low simmer reduce by half. Meanwhile, dice up the avocado# and the mozzarella, if necessary. When the sauce is reduced, let it cool a bit and then toss with the veggies.

#Avocado note: The avocado will brown a bit after it’s been in the air a while – it still tastes fine but it looks a little weird. If I’m making this dish for company I will toss the avocado with a little lemon juice before I put it in with everything else, which reduces the oxidation. When it’s just us chickens I usually don’t bother (the balsamic vinegar turns the whole mixture a little brownish anyway).

This salad is good fresh but I also love it as leftovers; it gets a little soupy and is great over a thick piece of bread or as ‘sauce’ with a grilled chicken breast.

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