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TOMATO and CUCUMBER SALAD
with BASIL FLOWERS
(from Flowers in the Kitchen Cookbook)
"This dish is a great appetizer accompanied by a glass of wine and a crusty loaf of bread. Or better yet, make it lunch with a bowl of olives and some sardines. It is best made with fresh imported mozzarella, but a domestic mozzarella will do."
2 medium ripe tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
1 medium sweet onion such as Vidalia, Walla Walla, or Texas
8 ounces mozzarella cheese
About 3 Tbles olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup basil flowers (cut the flower stems in between each whorl as described below)*
Core and chop the tomatoes into 3/4-inch dice. Peel the cucumber, ½-inch dice. Combine all the vegetables in a bowl.
Cut the cheese into ½-inch dice, or if using fresh mozzarella , shred it into bite-size pieces. Add the cheese to the vegetables and toss.
Drizzle the oil over the vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables with the basil flowers and taste for seasoning. Add a bit more olive oil if the salad is not moist enough. Let the salad marinate at lease 30 minutes, and as long as a few hours, before serving. Refrigerate it in hot weather, allowing it to come to cool room temperature for serving.
*The best way to remove the florets from the basil plant is to snip the stem closely above and below each flower whorl, discarding the stems in between which are sometimes bitter.