In life, there are classics. Think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Or Bert and Ernie, if you’re more of a Sesame Street kind of person. Or peanut butter & jelly, for those of you who don’t get out of the house much.
The point is, there are certain combinations – pairings– that just sing. They work. They’re tried and tested. Are you with me?
Mozzarella and tomato salad is one such classic. It takes the very best mozzarella cheese, pairs it with the finest tomatoes and tucks in some fresh basil for good measure. A lick of extra virgin olive oil and you’re done. End of story, culinary happiness and everyone rides off into the sunset.
But we like to mess around with classics, here at the ranch. Not too much, but enough to give it the kiss of life. And no, I don’t mean mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – I’m talking about the kiss of chile. For this one, we top tomatoes with a mix of chile, a bit of brown sugar and some salt. Slow cook them in the oven until the flavor is intense and lip smackin’ good. Then plate them up with some burrata – kind of like mozzarella on steroids – basil leaves and you’re in business.
Any extra tomatoes can be placed in a glass jar, topped up with oil and popped in the fridge – ready for the next time you feel a classic coming on.
Preheat oven to 250°
3 lbs plum tomatoes
1 Tbsp mild chile molido
½ Tbsp hot chile molido
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
Slice the tomatoes in half lengthways. Make a small v-shaped incision to remove any core. Place the tomatoes snugly together cut side up on a large baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over them.
Mix together the chile powders, brown sugar and salt and sprinkle over the tomato halves. You’ll probably have more chile powder mix then you’ll need but stop complaining – you can dust it on pasta, mix some with mayonnaise for a sandwich or keep it in a jar for your next batch of tomatoes.
Cook the tomatoes for a couple of hours, then gently flip the halves so they’re now cut side down. Cook for a couple hours more – we’re talking 4-6 hours in total. They should have lost most of their moisture.
Serve with burrata (or plain old mozzarella), some basil leaves, and a healthy glug of olive oil and a few flakes of chile pequin, if you’re so inclined.