A tomato and mozzarella salad for when the shops fail you

I didn't like tomatoes until I went on a package holiday to Greece circa 1995. I had always associated them with what I call 'salid' - salad type ingredients served straight from the fridge, tasting of the cold, served possibly with a tin of something. Tuna, corned beef or pink salmon on a normal day and red salmon at Christmas. Perhaps some quarters of hard boiled eggs too, adorned with ground white pepper, not forgetting the pickled beetroot to stain the Heinz Salad Cream magenta.

You know you're getting older when you start to have an affection for all things reminiscent of your childhood. So of course, with the eye cream comes an affection for 'salid' as it reminds me of my Nanna's house on a hot summer's day. However, these days the tomatoes live in the fruit bowl until they're called upon, in a bid to warm them and develop their flavour, in homage to the Greek salads enjoyed 15 years ago.

This is a version of tomato and mozzarella salad for when the shops fail you, which they did on this occasion. For some reason Leicester is experiencing a fresh basil shortage. I even broke my own rule and made a special trip out to look for the stuff. Someone, somewhere in the Midlands is making a truck load of fresh pesto. I hope they enjoyed it. I'd still have preferred the fresh stuff, but for when you can't find it, this isn't a bad substitute.

- 3 large tomatoes, left out of the fridge and smelling really nice and tomatoey
- 2 fresh blobs of mozzarella, left out of the fridge for at least 30 mins to take off the fridge chill
- a good squeeze of balsamic reduction or vinegar (Morrisons do a fab reduction in a squeezy bottle that's cheap as chips.)
- 2 tbsp of olive oil, extra virgin if you have it
- 1 tbsp of basil from a squeezy tube
- freshly ground black pepper
- a sprinkling of salt (The rock stuff looks best but common salt is okay too.)

Pretty self explanatory but here goes... slice the tomatoes and cheese and arrange to look pretty or artistic, depending on your mood. Then make the basil dressing by mixing the squeezy basil with the olive oil. Drizzle over the salad, then make pretty lines, in a Masterchef fashion with the balsamic reduction. Finally pop some freshly ground black pepper over the top and then salt on just the toms. Serve as a starter or as a main, upping or downing the portions accordingly.
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