I recently attended a fundraiser dinner for the United Arts Fund. The dinner was catered by Chef Mario's. Everything was wonderful, but I'd especially like to get the chef's recipe for the appetizer salad of heirloom tomatoes on a crispy crust. -- W.W., Cary
One of the area's premier caterers, Chef Mario's (781-4141; www.chefmario.com) is the winner of the 2008 Great Chefs of the Triangle Competition. Chef/proprietor Mario Huante is happy to share the recipe.
Chef Mario notes that the salad really shines when heirloom tomatoes are at their peak of flavor, adding that he was able to take advantage of the last of the local crop for the fundraiser. With that in mind, the chef offers a seasonal variation of the recipe featuring poached pears and roasted fennel. You can find that version, which is just right for the wintertime table, online at www. newsobserver.com/lifestyles/ food_fitness/specialty.