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Building blocks: A 'high-rise' approach to a summertime favorite

By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Content Agency on

4 medium-to-large sun-ripened organic tomatoes

8 ounces (250 g) fresh mozzarella

12 leaves fresh basil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

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Several hours before serving, prepare the balsamic reduction. Put the vinegar in a small nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer until its volume reduces by a third to a half. Set aside to cool to room temperature; transfer to a covered glass container and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad, use the tip of a small, sharp knife to core the tomatoes. Trim and discard a thin slice from the bottom of each tomato before cutting each one horizontally into slices about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Drain the mozzarella, patting it dry with paper towels, and cut crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick. Stack the basil leaves and, starting at the side of the stack, roll them up tightly into a tube shape. Cut the roll crosswise into thin slices, separating them with your fingertips into julienne strips.

To assemble the salads on a platter or individual serving plates, alternate the slices from each tomato with slices of the mozzarella, stacking the tomato slices in the order you cut them starting with the trimmed slice from the bottom, and sprinkling each tomato slice with a little salt and pepper before placing the mozzarella on it. End each stack with a tomato slice, sprinkling it with salt, pepper and basil julienne.

Just before serving, drizzle each stack with about 1 teaspoon of the balsamic reduction. (Reserve the remainder in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months.) Drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil over each stack; serve immediately.



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