The cooking world lost one of its greats today when Marcella Hazan passed away at the age of 89. Hazan taught millions of Americans how to prepare the simple fresh food of Italy at a time when our idea of Italian food was a can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee’s Beef Ravioli.
Hazan had this to say about garlic in her 2004 cookbook “Marcella Says …” “The unbalanced use of garlic is the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking. It must remain a shadowy background presence. It cannot take over the show.”
I had the extraordinary pleasure of taking cooking classes with Marcella’s son, Giuliano in Verona, Italy a few years ago. He is doing a wonderful job of carrying on his mother’s legacy. We toured food markets, learned about wine, cooked our dinner, and had an all-around great time. My condolences to the family. I made this tomato salad perfumed with garlic to honor Marcella Hazan. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the end of the season’s fantastic tomatoes and honor a great lady.
Garlic-Scented Tomato Salad
4 to 5 garlic cloves
1-2 t. salt (or more to taste)
2 T. choice quality red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
2 lbs. fresh, ripe, firm, round or plum tomatoes
1 dozen fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Peel the garlic cloves and mash them hard with a knife handle. Put them in a small bowl or saucer together with 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar. Stir and let steep at least 20 minutes.
Skin the tomatoes raw, you can blanch them quickly then plunge them into ice water so they don’t cook, then slice them into thin slices and spread the slice out in a deep serving platter.
When ready to serve the salad wash the basil leaves in cold water, shake off their moisture and tear them into 2 or 3 pieces each and sprinkle them over the tomatoes.
Pour the garlic steeped vinegar through a wire strainer, distributing it over the tomatoes. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the tomatoes well, toss, taste and correct if necessary for salt and vinegar.