We’re about to hit peak tomato season – that special time of year from late summer to autumn when tomatoes ripen and hit their maximum juicy flavour stage.

This very easy five-ingredient recipe by iconic Aussie chef, Stephanie Alexander, makes tomatoes the star. “All one really needs for [its] success is great tomatoes and excellent extra-virgin olive oil,” writes Alexander in the recipe’s introduction, taken from her latest cookbook, Home.

In addition to those two ingredients, she adds basil leaves and salt and pepper, which helps enhance the acid from the tomatoes. She cuts hers thick, splashes them with olive oil, adds seasoning and the basil leaves, and lets it sit for about 30 minutes before serving.

“My favourite [tomato] for a salad is one of several varieties sold as ‘oxheart’ or ‘beefsteak’. They are meaty with tender skins and make a memorable tomato salad,” she says.

There are additions if you want, such as onion and cheese. If you add fromage it becomes a Caprese salad – also a glorious dish.

Tomato and basil salad
Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes (plus 30 minutes resting)
Cooking time: 3 minutes

Ingredients:
4 great tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 tbsp Australian extra-virgin olive oil
4 basil leaves
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices sourdough bread

Optional
1⁄2 red onion, very finely sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 preserved garlic cloves
4 balls burrata or fresh buffalo mozzarella

Method:
Place the tomato on a flat dish or plate with an upturned edge to allow for bread-sopping without spillage later. Pour the olive oil over the tomato and scatter on the torn basil. Set aside for 30 minutes.

If using the red onion as one of your “extras”, soak it in a separate dish with the vinegar for 30 minutes. Squeeze the onion dry and discard the vinegar before adding the onion to the salad. This simple tip removes the acrid bite of the onion without removing its crisp crunch.

Season the salad with salt and pepper and add any other extras, such as the preserved garlic or the burrata or mozzarella. The classic Italian insalata Caprese mixes thickly sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella and plenty of basil leaves and olive oil. If you are using burrata (fresh mozzarella filled with creamy curds), it is useful to know it will weep milky juices immediately when torn. I usually serve the burrata on its own plate and encourage my guests to serve themselves with the salad, and then to pick up a cheese and tear it over the salad on their own plate.

Grill the bread – preferably on a chargrill pan or a barbeque grill – and serve it hot with the salad. Sop up the delicious juices straight from the dish with the bread.

This recipe is from Home, by Stephanie Alexander, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $59.99, with photography by Armelle Habib. Buy it here.

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