Tomato Stack Salad

4 large, ripe, red tomatoes, trimmed level on bottoms
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, rolled tightly and cut into very thin strips (chiffonade)
1/2 cup thinly shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped and preferably toasted (see note)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper, such as McCormick brand
Spring-mix greens, for serving

Lay the tomatoes on their sides on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to make 3 deep slits in each one, spaced evenly apart, being careful not to cut all the way through to other side. Stand tomatoes upright on cutting board, so slits are horizontal and stems are on top.

Combine the basil, mozzarella cheese and pecans in a medium bowl.

Whisk together the sugar, oil, vinegar, salt and garlic pepper in a small bowl to form a dressing. Drizzle a small amount of dressing into each tomato slit (just to moisten), then use the basil-cheese-pecan filling to fill slits in each tomato.

Place a small amount of the greens on individual salad plates, then place a stuffed tomato on top of each portion. Drizzle remaining dressing evenly over filling in each serving. Chill briefly, if desired, before serving. Use any remaining dressing to drizzle around greens on each plate.

NOTE: To toast nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 325-degree oven, shaking sheet occasionally, for 15 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.

— Recipe from Ellynne Brice Davis of Leonardtown, Md., first-place winner in The Washington Post's Top Tomato contest.


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