Beefsteak Tomato Tower

Beefsteak Tomato Tower Recipe courtesy John Greeley, executive chef of ‘21’ Club, New York City

Beefsteak Tomato Tower

2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¼ cup grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil
2½ cups blue cheese, crumbled, divided
2 tablespoons buttermilk
¼ cup whole basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves, plus more whole leaves for garnish
2 beefsteak or large heirloom tomatoes, blanched and peeled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
Salt, to beefsteak tomato tower taste
8 slices thick-cut bacon, halved, cooked until crisp
2 cups chopped green-leaf lettuce
1 cup homemade croutons, plus more for garnish (recipe below)

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallots, pepper and marjoram. Slowly whisk in ¼ cup of olive oil and the grapeseed oil to form a vinaigrette.

In a food processor, purée ½ cup of blue cheese with the buttermilk until smooth. Set the blue cheese purée aside in a holding bowl.

Clean the food processor, then purée ¼ cup whole basil leaves with 2 tablespoons chilled extra-virgin olive oil. Set the basil purée aside in a holding bowl.

Cut off the ends of each prepared tomato and reserve, then slice each tomato into 4 thick slices. Season each of the tomato slices with 2 tablespoons of chopped basil, chervil, salt, pepper and a touch of the vinaigrette. Let the tomatoes marinate for a few minutes.

To serve, place a tomato slice in the center of 4 salad plates. Create a stack by topping the tomato slice with bacon, crumbled blue cheese, lettuce and croutons, and season with salt and pepper. Layer on the second tomato slice and continue to evenly stack the Beefsteak Tomato Tower ingedients. Finally, place an end tomato piece atop each tower to reform the tomato shape. Drizzle on more vinaigrette, and dab the blue cheese and basil purées around each plate. Garnish with more croutons, basil leaves and fresh black pepper. Serves 4.

Homemade Croutons
1 small fresh sourdough boule, crust removed, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat an oven to 400˚F.

Place the bread cubes into a medium mixing bowl, and drizzle with the olive oil. Season the bread cubes with salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly.

Spread the bread cubes on a large baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven until the croutons turn golden brown and crisp, approximately 20 minutes. Store the croutons in an airtight container until service.

Wine Pairing: Phil Pratt, wine director for ‘21’ Club, suggests Lucien Crochet’s 2009 Le Chene Sancerre: “It has beautiful acidity, which cancels out the acidity of the tomato, making the ‘fruit’ of the tomato more apparent. And whites can be a wonderful match with cheese.”

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