Baked Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad with Garlic Confit is an alternative, elegant, winter take on the traditional caprese. Contrasting temperatures of cold mozzarella and warm cherry tomatoes and the cleansing properties of baked lemon and fresh mint and basil make this salad a delicious, vegetarian appetiser or a lovely light lunch.
Last Saturday I managed to lock in some rain-free morning light in reasonably presentable shots of my forever tomato-mozzarella love story of Baked Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad with Garlic Confit. After clearing that plate my mood had improved by a notch!
The weather in Guernsey had turned sad and wet and for over a week now I wake up every day to gloomy skies and completely uninspiring rain-heavy, grey light. No, not liking it at all and miss the sun and fresh tomatoes more than ever! Luckily for me, good food can work like a charm for a bad mood caused by damp winter weather. The Baked Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad with Garlic Confit works especially well because it contains literally all my favourite things on 1 plate and every time I make it I can never have enough of it. I mean the salad, not the plate!
It has been a while since I made confit garlic. I tend to roast garlic instead if I want some nice soft, buttery garlic cloves for anything. The difference is that roasted garlic is more intense in flavour from the mellower, confit version and roasting garlic doesn’t produce any garlic infused oil I can use later on. So last Saturday I peeled 2 heads of garlic and poached the garlic cloves in olive oil with some peppercorns and a bit of thyme and rosemary. (Here is how to make and store confit garlic safely.)
Oh, let me tell you! This intense fragrance really wakes up the senses! Oil infused with spices and garlic makes the most wonderful base for dressings or simply a lovely, flavoured oil for general use. On this occasion I needed both the oil and oil-poached garlic cloves as key ingredients in my Baked Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad with Garlic Confit.
In the winter cherry tomatoes are definitely my favourite choice of tomato because of their punchy and full flavour, which is the closest to my beloved fully ripe plum or heirloom toms. Although cherry toms are quite small, they contain the whole world of a tomato flavour in essence, and remind me of summer and the sun I miss so much. So, I brushed them generously with the confit garlic oil and baked with a few slices of lemon at 160C for 20 minutes. The rest is just decorating over the super chilled mozzarella.
With warm, baked cherry tomatoes and well chilled mozzarella put together the contrast of temperatures delivers a great effect to the palate exposing both flavours boldly in this dish. I love how the buttery soft, mellow in flavour garlic cloves and super juicy and bursting with sweetness and acidity baked cherry toms work together. Chilled mozzarella, baked slices of lemon and fresh basil and mint cleanse the palate leaving a very pleasant satisfying, fresh feeling afterwards.
This simple salad could be the hit as a simple, elegant starter at a dinner party or a lovely light lunch. It could be served with a garlic confit oil brushed crostini. To create a nice contrast and interesting fresh feel to this salad make sure the mozzarella is very well chilled and don’t forget the mint leaves as I did in the photos!
Check out my other recipes with the use of tomatoes here.
- 10 cherry tomatoes on vine (approximately)
- 1-2 balls of mozzarella cheese (150g in total), very well chilled
- 2-3 tablespoons confit garlic oil
- 4-5 confit garlic cloves
- ¼ whole lemon sliced very thinly
- 5-7 large fresh basil leaves, sliced liberally
- 5-7 fresh mint leaves, sliced liberally
- Pinch of coarse Himalayan or sea salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Drizzle of aged balsamic vinaigrette of your choice
- Preheat oven to 160C (320F).
- Place cherry tomatoes on a baking tray and brush them with confit garlic oil. Top up with slices of lemon and bake for 20 min.
- When tomatoes are ready, take mozzarella out of the fridge, slice and arrange it on a serving plate.
- Top the mozzarella with baked cherry tomatoes, lemon slices and pour baking juices from the pan over. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle basil and mint leaves (and vinaigrette if you wish) and top up with garlic confit cloves.
- Serve as it is or with garlic confit brushed crostinis, which can be baked on a separate baking tray at the same temperature and in the same time as the cherry tomatoes.
Instead of garlic confit oil and cloves you can use raw garlic infused oil and baked garlic cloves.