Broiled Tomato and Blue Cheese Salad

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: About 30 minutes

Though fresh plum tomatoes are acceptable even in the off-season, they’re decidedly improved by being broiled for a couple minutes. Add blue cheese (or virtually any other kind of grated or crumbled cheese, like Parmesan, feta, queso fresco, Gruyère, or goat cheese) and you have a classy, restaurant-style presentation. And the recipe is so easy you might even want to gussy it up a little more; see the variations that follow.

Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing or spraying

6 plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces blue cheese, like Roquefort, Maytag blue, Gorgonzola, or Stilton

1 large head Bibb or Boston lettuce, leaves pulled from the core intact

1/4 cup Vinaigrette

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or parsley for garnish

01 Preheat the broiler and adjust the oven rack so it’s about 4 inches from the heat source. Brush or spray a baking sheet with olive oil. Put the tomatoes—cut sides up—on the baking sheet. If they won’t lie flat, use a spatula or your hand to press them gently until stable. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

02 Crumble the blue cheese into large pieces, flatten them a bit with your fingers, and put the pieces on top of the tomatoes. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let tomatoes cool down in the pan for a bit to set.

03 Divide the lettuce leaves among the serving plates. Top each with 3 tomato halves, drizzle with the dressing, garnish, and serve. (Or arrange everything on one platter and serve family style.)

Variations

Broiled Tomato and Blue Cheese Salad with Fried Sage Leaves. Glorious: Instead of the chives or parsley, use whole sage leaves. Before broiling the tomatoes, put 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet or saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Fry sage leaves for several minutes, stirring carefully, until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Use them to garnish salad.

Broiled Tomato and Feta Salad with Tapenade. Straight from the Mediterranean: Substitute feta for the blue cheese. Before putting the cheese on top of the tomatoes, smear each half with a little Tapenade (or good-quality store-bought); 1/2 cup ought to do the trick. Then top with the cheese and proceed with the recipe.

Broiled Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Pesto. Summery: Substitute fresh mozzarella for the blue cheese. Before putting the cheese on top of the tomatoes, smear each half with a little Traditional Pesto; 1/2 cup should work fine. Then top with the cheese and proceed with the recipe.

Broiled Tomato and Cheddar Salad with Onions. Good with a few chopped onions sprinkled in there: Substitute thin slices of cheddar for the blue cheese. Use Mustard Vinaigrette instead of Balsamic Vinaigrette if you like.

Broiled Tomato and Brie Salad with Almonds. Practically a main course: Substitute small slices of ripe Brie for the blue cheese. After topping the tomatoes with cheese, press a sprinkling of chopped almonds into each slice; 1/2 cup ought to be enough. Then top with the cheese. Use Vinaigrette with sherry vinegar instead of wine vinegar if you like.