July 21st, 2013

Tomato Towers


We are blissfully in the thick, luscious thick of tomato season in Tennessee.

At the farmers’ market, I am agog at the array of bushel baskets, heaped with Bradleys and Brandywines, Lemon Boys and Purple Cherokees. I’m tempted by Mortgage Lifters, if for nothing but cunning name alone, and those crazy striped Green Zebras that don’t taste green at all.

Have you ever tried the red and yellow variegated ones, sometimes called Candystripers? How about those delicate peach tomatoes with the fuzzy skins?


It makes me not mind the thick heat around here—as long as I can include these gorgeous heirlooms in our summertime dining.

So many tomatoes, so many ways to enjoy them, and a few glorious weeks to indulge in the bounty. Salsas, soups, panzanellas, pastas, deep dish pies and napoleons…like you, I’m ever on the lookout for another tomato-centric recipe.


Lately I’ve been in a building mode, constructions! inspired by this stack I found on Cooking Light’s website.

Artful towers of tomatoes get vitality (and height!) from myriad ingredients sandwiched between their slices. These structures require almost no cooking: a few strips of bacon fried crisp in the skillet, a half cup of balsamic vinegar reduced in a pot to a syrup.

That minimal stovetop time is a real boon in summer. Eaten with a fork and knife, the tomato towers have a meatiness that satisfies greedy appetites, while being cool and refreshing. They can be elegant. They are fun.


I’ve taken two different approaches in assembling my towers. The first is a natural–a vertical caprese, brandishing the colors of the Italian flag in tomato-fresh mozzarella-basil. Layer in a sliver of red onion, to give a little bite. I like to use balsamic vinegar reduction–the syrup is deeply sweet-tart and makes beautiful striping over the stack and plate. Use your best olive oil; this is what is was made for!

Going forward, you can get creative; change it up. Maybe add a layer of cucumber or zucchini. Substitute the mozzarella with a slather of ricotta or mascapone. Tuck in a ripple of prosciutto. No basil on hand? Try oregano or thyme.

Tower Two takes a Southern stance, layering elements of my favorite sandwich, the BLT, (actually, the BLTCA: bacon-lettuce-tomato-cheddar-avocado!) under a pour of chive-laced buttermilk dressing. How can you go wrong with that? It could only be improved with some grilled corn, cut off the cob, and strewn over the stack.

Remember–don’t refrigerate tomatoes! Chilling them changes their structure and makes them mealy.


a variety of ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 ” slices
a few cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, for garnishing
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4″ inch rounds
handful of fresh basil leaves
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup balsamic syrup
1/4 cup favorite extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
sea salt

Start with large flat tomato slices as your foundation. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a basil leaf (or two) on top, then a little bit of red onion. Cover each with a piece of mozzarella. Dot with good olive oil and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Repeat the layering, topping with cherry or grape tomato halves and more basil. Secure with a long toothpick or short skewer. Pour olive oil over each tower, along with a zig-zag of balsamic syrup. Serve.


a variety of ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2″ slices
a few cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, for garnishing
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp
1/2 avocado, sliced
4-6 slices sharp white cheddar (you may crumble or shred the cheese)
buttermilk dressing (recipe below)
salt and black pepper

Start with a large flat tomato slice as your foundation. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a slice or two of avocado, followed by bacon strip and cheddar. Spoon a little buttermilk dressing over the top. Repeat layers, spooning a generous amount of buttermilk dressing. Secure with a long toothpick or short skewer. Make as many towers as you would like, allowing one per person. Pass a few grinds of black pepper over the lot and serve.

1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 heaping tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

Pour buttermilk into a non-reactive bowl. Stir in lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit and thicken for ten minutes. If it clabbers, don’t worry. It will become smooth again when stirred or whisked.

Add granulated garlic, salt, pepper, and chives. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate. The dressing will continue to thicken and its tangy flavors will develop. (If you want it thicker, (and richer) whisk in a dollop or two of mayo. Whoa.

Makes one cup.



Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Vegetables

23 Responses to “Tomato Towers”
  1. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Gosh those look good! I’ve only seen little cherry tomatoes at their peak so far, but I’m looking forward to the large juicy varieties.

  2. ernestine Says:

    Oh my
    I am never disappointed with your suggestions.
    Always learning…
    I have tomato’s
    but with heat and lack of rain they are not
    as flavorable
    But I grew them and so they are still good.
    You remind me
    Farmer’s Market
    I am still visiting you.
    Seems when I drive to Nashville to babysit
    with granddaughter’s it too long a day to stop.

  3. ernestine Says:

    Oh my
    you have given me another idea.
    Have tomatoe’s but not as flavorable as other years
    because of heat and lack of rain. But I grew them :)
    Must make the dressing
    and have to go to Farmer’s Market.
    Seems when I drive to Nashville to babysit
    with young granddaughter’s I am too weary
    at end of day to stop.
    Will make a special trip is on my list.
    Thank you always for your ideas.

  4. Kath Says:

    These look so beautiful Nancy and are very inspiring. I tried your links to your other recipes but kept getting the dastardly 404 not found message.

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Kath–Many thanks for the heads-up on the broken links! I’ve fixed them. N.

  6. Julie Says:

    Agog, indeed! Thanks for another beautiful inspiration. I slow roasted some of my Roma bounty yesterday – tomato candy, I call such tasty little spears. Now I must be off to build some towers . . . :-)

  7. Adri Says:

    What beautiful tomatoes, and your towers are gorgeous!

  8. Beth Says:

    I can always count on you for beautiful pictures! Your towers are so pretty, and sound delicious.

  9. Patricia Says:

    I would be happy with either tower on my dinnerplate!

  10. Barbara Says:

    Love your towers, Nancy. I’ve never tried them with the buttermilk dressing…can’t wait.

  11. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Absolutely gorgeous.There is nothing like a fragrant ripe tomato on a hot summer day. I would love one of your stacks on my dinner plate.

  12. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    I’m anxiously waiting for the heirloom tomatoes to ripen on our plants. In the meantime I’ll just enjoy your terrific photos and dream. :)

  13. fluffy Says:

    I can attest to the goodness of these towers–a fave rave at the potluck.

  14. mark Says:

    The tomato towers were wonderful the other night. My mother would celabrate the summer with local grown Pa.tomatoes with slices of tomatoes, purple onion rings granished with fresh oregano, evoo, and red wine vinager. Every now and then durring the summer I make this salad and relive my childhood.

  15. Juliana Says:

    Nancy, these tomatoes towers look fabulous, I love the idea of pairing different kind of tomatoes…beautiful pictures as well.
    Hope you are having a great week my dear :D

  16. Dedy@Dentist Chef Says:

    Fancy lil appetizer!
    great photographed too….

  17. Tammy Says:

    That is such a fun idea! I love them and know that the man in my house would go ape over the ones with bacon. Great post Nancy!

  18. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    Nancy! Look at all your juicy mouthwatering tomatoes! I love them all and the colors are so vibrant and pretty. Summer fruit or some would argue vegetable at its best. I love your towers– so cute!

  19. Heather Says:

    Beautiful! Makes me want to have a picnic!

  20. FOODESSA Says:

    Artful towers indeed…and a mouthful of delights for sure.
    At this point, I’m still waiting for my own garden to splurge out in fresh tomatoes. It’s been a little fresher than usual in our parts of Montreal. I’ll have to be a little more patient. For now, I’ll dream of your creations ;o)

    Have a wonderful week Nancy.

    Ciao for now,

  21. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    I can attest to the delightfulness of these tantalizing towers…I enjoyed these fresh bites at Third Thursday potluck last week…among many other summery offerings these definitely stood out!

  22. Rach Says:

    It took me years to take tomato advice and keep them out of the fridge. Apart from looking delightful your towers are such a good idea. I have also made notes about reducing (you are the second person this week). Hope you are well, we are melting here and mainlining gelato and watermelon. Rx

  23. Aimee Says:

    I too was a slow learner. Tomatoes taste best ripening at room temperature.

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