Tomato, Avocado and Sweet Corn Towers with Cilantro Pesto

by Hilary Gauntt on July 31, 2015

Cookbook author Susan Russo wrote a lengthy article for our San Diego paper extolling the virtues of heirloom tomatoes. Unlike supermarket tomatoes, they are bred for flavor not durability, and picked fully ripe. Now is the time the farmer’s market tables are loaded with the multi colored and oddly shaped beauties with charming names like brandywine, yellow gooseberry, and big rainbow. They are necessarily expensive as they ripen slowly and require hand picking, but are worth every penny due to their exceptional color, flavor and juiciness.

Susan included a number of recipes, and this one was a knockout! A combination of the best of summer’s bounty it would make a stunning first course or a wonderful side dish for grilled meat or pizza. If you are not a cilantro fan, any type of pesto would work well. Lots of “wow'” factor here for the amount of effort required.

Makes 2 towers, enough for 2 large or 4 small servings

2 large, round heirloom tomatoes, such as brandywines or giant pinks, each cut into 4 or 5  1/2 inch thick slices

1 medium to large ripe avocado, pitted, each half cut into 5 or 6 slices

1 small to medium ear of sweet corn, kernels cut from the cob and sauteed (recipe follows)

cilantro pesto (recipe follows)

3 to 4 tbs. queso fresco cheese, crumbled (about 2 ounces)


Cilantro Pesto

2 tsp. olive oil, plus 1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced; or 1 whole one if you like it quite spicy

2 cups fresh cilantro, lightly packed

2 Tbs. toasted unsalted slivered or chopped almonds

1/8 tsp. salt

To assemble the tower, place a tomato slice in the middle of a plate, top with 1 to 2 avocado slices, and a dollop of cilantro pesto. Repeat until you’ve used all the tomato slices. Sprinkle 1/2 the sauteed corn and queso fresco on and around the tower.Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh cilantro  and torn basil. Repeat for the second tower.

To make the corn, pour 1 tsp. olive oil into a small skillet over medium heat. Saute kernels  until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

To make the pesto, pour 2 tsp. olive oil into a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and jalepeno and cook until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor. Add the cilantro, almonds, salt and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and puree. If you’d like the pesto to be thinner, add warm water or olive oil by the tablespoonful  and puree until desired consistency is reached. You will likely have leftover pesto.If so, place in a small airtight container and refrigerate.

I made this twice and couldn’t decide which picture to use, so here they both are!

tomato towertomato stack

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

pat randall August 31, 2015 at 12:23 pm

These are worth the effort! I served them as a main course for two with a loaf of warm bread–delicious!


Hilary Gauntt August 31, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Hadn’t thought of this as a main course, but perfect for this hot muggy weather!


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