Now that it's tomato season, I wanted to post a little inspiration for utilizing those beautiful heirloom tomatoes. You can pick up some tomatoes and have a stunning and delicious salad in minutes. You really don't need a recipe or more than a few ingredients; you can enjoy them with as little as a sprinkle of salt. A tomato salad can be altered with different vinegars, olive oils, cheeses and herbs, or with whatever you have on hand. It's also a great way to use those flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars that you have in your cabinet and aren't always sure what to do with them. Don't forget a crusty bread for soaking up the delicious juices.
One rule is to always buy the best tomatoes you can find. Just remember that good food costs a bit more, so you really don't want to skimp on quality and buy cheaper tomatoes. Buy from your local farmer's market, or if you are in San Diego, you can check out the huge selection of tomatoes at Specialty Produce. Wherever you buy, ask the produce clerk for a sample. They will almost always be happy to cut open cut open the tomatoes for you to taste before you buy. You don't want to go home with tasteless tomatoes that you paid a lot of money for.
Pick out a variety of colors and sizes. You will start to find your favorites and it's nice to have a combination both for flavor and for the beautiful presentation.
Lots of fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley and thyme are wonderful with the tomatoes. I happen to love frying leafy herbs, which gives a crispy texture to the dish and something unexpected. To make fried basil; carefully place them in 350 degree canola oil for about 30 seconds. Be very careful as the water in the leaves will splatter, so you will want to make these with a splash guard or outside. Sprinkle with just a little bit of salt and they will be green somewhat transparent goodness that is a really beautiful garnish.
Something that I have learned about tomatoes is that the sweetest part of the tomato can be at the bottom, because of how it hangs on the vine. With that in mind, you can slice them from top to bottom rather than crosswise in order to get the sweetest part in every slice instead of just the bottom slice. The thing with heirloom tomatoes is they are often most beautiful when sliced crosswise, so that's how I sliced these.
- heirloom tomatoes
- high-quality extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and fresh thyme
- fresh mozzarella cheese or goat cheese
- shaved parmigiano-reggiano
- coarse salt
- freshly ground pepper
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut the tough tops out of the tomatoes (if present).
- Slice the tomatoes.
- Season with plenty of coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, drizzle olive oil and vinegar, top with herbs and the cheeses.