What should be a celebration of nature composed of a salad of ripe tomatoes, verdant, fragrant basil, garlic, salt and good olive oil with a few grates of black pepper has been over-complicated by websites. Here is the version I like to make at home, usually by the pool with grilled bread.
2 lbs of ripe tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic, skin removed
24 basil leaves (12 to cut up, 12 to use as garnish)
1 loaf good whole wheat or white bread
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, in a grinder
Black pepper, in a grinder
Chop tomatoes into uniform pieces, about 1/2 an inch by 1/2 an inch wide; place in large attractive bowl. Roll 12 basil leaves into cigar-like shape; using kitchen shears, cut into ribbons. Pour over olive oil. Grind generous amount of salt over mixture, about eight turns of grinder. Very delicately, using clean hands or rubber spatula, toss. I say delicately because you don’t want the tomatoes to break down too much. Place in the refrigerator for no more than 30 minutes.
Next slice up the bread. Now…many recipes online say baguette, that’s not what you see in Italy. There they use a hearty, wide bread, which we might call “peasant” or “country bread.” Slice bread into a dozen, one-inch-wide slices. Place on cutting board, head to grill with big bowl of tomato salad and serving spoon, six cloves of garlic, remaining basil leaves, large serving platter, and pepper grinder.
Make sure grill is good and hot. Place sliced bread on the grill and grill for 1-2 minutes on each side. Like a steak you want to see the “grill lines,” but you don’t want the toasts to overcook or burn. So, pay attention! Next, here comes the fun part, after toasts are finished take a clove of garlic and gently rub it on each slice of bread – the firm, crunchy toast acts like a fine grater.
Lay toast on the platter – garlic side up – then spoon generous amount of tomato salad mixture onto each toast. Place a whole basil leaf on top. Grate black pepper over everything.
The only “trick” about this recipe is to have the garlicky toast warm underneath while the tomatoes are slightly cold. Serve with a good, cold, dry, white wine!.