It’s August. Ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden are at their peak flavor, color and texture. Peak tomatoes shine when simply prepared. Summer’s essential Fresh Tomato Salad requires only a gentle tossing of ripened tomatoes with your best olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. These ingredients inspire improvisation—no recipe or cooking required.
A small green book
Many years ago I worked in an upscale French restaurant. One day the chef pulled a small green book out of his back pocket. Handing it to me, he called it a “cookbook for chefs.” All the classic European dishes were included in that small book.
The one catch? There were no “recipes.” No headnotes, no temperatures, no timing, no instructions, no suggestions. The name of each dish accompanied solely by a list of its ingredients without quantities. This was a reference book for professionals. A far cry from typical cookbooks with their detailed quantities, directions and colorful photos.
As you like it
For today’s Fresh Tomato Salad I’ve taken a cue from that small green book. Though only a cue. I couldn’t leave you comfortless. There is a list of ingredients along with a few tips and suggestions and photographs. As summer’s essential Fresh Tomato Salad easily serves one or 20 or more, quantities are omitted. Sprinkle on enough salt to enhance the flavors. Drizzle with enough high-quality olive oil and vinegar to have tasty juices to mop up with crusty bread. May you feel inspired to prepare summer’s essential Fresh Tomato Salad as you like it.
Such a delight to bite into a tomato picked ripe from the vine. Afternoon sun-kissed tomatoes become especially fragrant, juicy and flavorful. Over the past two decades we’ve seen so many wondrous tomato shapes, sizes, colors and tastes. Heirloom varieties in greens, stripes, yellows, oranges, purples and shades of red. As they’re not great travelers, we take pleasure in planting them in our own gardens or purchasing them from local farmers. We get to enjoy them at their peak of flavor, sun-kissed, ripe and most delicious.
Store tomatoes at room temperature
To retain the fresh-picked flavor of homegrown tomatoes, store them at room temperature. Actually store all whole tomatoes at room temperature. Due to a change in their “volatile aromatics” (the chemical compounds responsible for the way a tomato smells and tastes), the intensity of their flavor quickly disappears when tomatoes are refrigerated. And, according to French researchers, tomatoes left to ripen on the counter continue to improve until the tomatoes are fully ripened.
It’s not only the flavor that suffers when you refrigerate tomatoes. After a day or two their texture also transforms. They often become mealy and mushy—two most undesired qualities in a fresh tomato.
Links to more of summer’s fresh tomato salads
- Green Bean Salad w/ Tomatoes & Herbs
- Greek Village Salad —“Horiatiki Salata”
- Healthy Salade Nicoise w/ Salmon—Summer On a Platter
- Thai Rice Noodle Salad
- Tabouli Salad w/ Quinoa, Avocado & Feta
Choose from the following ingredients and/or add your personal favorites.
My sister suggests a few toasted pine nuts. Another friend recommends pitted Nicoise olives. Enjoy this Fresh Tomato Salad as you like it. Vegan and naturally gluten-free.
Serves 1 or 20 or more
Start to Finish 5+ minutes, depending on how many you’re serving
- Ripe tomatoes, a selection of colors, shapes and sizes
- Balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Coarse salt such as fleur de sel, Celtic or Himalayan
- Freshly ground pepper
- Your best extra virgin olive oil
- A few capers, optional
- Fresh basil, thinly sliced or torn
- Additional and optional fresh herbs: flat leaf parsley, fresh thyme leaves, thinly sliced chives, very thinly sliced green onions
- Optional: Crumbles or cubes of fresh goat cheese or feta
- Slice some of the tomatoes and cut others into wedges. Smaller tomatoes can be halved or quartered. (I like a combination of all sizes and shapes.)
- Sprinkle cut tomatoes with vinegar, a good amount of salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Drizzle with a good amount of your best extra virgin olive oil.
- Gently mix the tomatoes together with the capers, basil and optional crumbles or cubes of cheese and additional herbs.
- If you can wait a few minutes to eat, do so. Waiting allows the flavors to marry.
- Serve at room temperature.