At the peak of ripeness, an in-season tomato is one of the things that makes life worth living. Happily, that season is upon us. And this recipe is my ode to that summer tomato.
All kinds of tomatoes are at their best just now, big and small, beefsteak and cherry. At the base of this salad are sliced beefsteak tomatoes, which are topped with chopped small tomatoes and drizzled with a tomato-based vinaigrette.
Given that this is an essence-of-tomato salad, it’s crucial that all of the tomatoes in the lineup be as ripe as possible. The best place to find them is at a farm stand or farmers market. How do you know if a tomato is ripe, ripe, ripe? Smell the stem end; its perfume should fairly shout, “Tomato!” And once you get them home, do not put them in the fridge. It will kill both flavor and texture.
You also can heighten that flavor by pre-salting your tomatoes and letting them drain for 15 to 20 minutes, as I have done here. The salt not only seasons them, but also pulls out water, thereby concentrating their tomato-ness.
I’ve teamed up the tomatoes with one of their best friends, an avocado, the creaminess of which contrasts beautifully with the tomato’s acidity. Come to think of it, tomatoes have many best friends. Certainly, there’s not a fresh herb that doesn’t play nicely with tomatoes. So if you don’t have mint in the house, feel free to substitute basil, cilantro, chives, oregano, dill, parsley, tarragon or any other fresh green herb.
I took the dressing in an Asian direction, adding ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar to a small chopped tomato. Because the chopped tomato adds so much body to the dressing, you can cut back on the usual amount of oil without any problem. The dressing still seems rich.
Topping the salad are some thinly sliced serrano chilies, which provide a jolt of heat to counterbalance the tomato’s sweetness. Obviously, it you worry that they might be too hot, just leave them out. The final touch? Some chopped peanuts for crunch. And that’s my ode to tomatoes.