In my kitchen, there’s nothing that screams “summer” more loudly than juicy, delicious heirloom tomatoes. I love them. I eat them plain, bite into them like peaches, pop the little one right in my mouth, make sandwiches, salads, panzanellas, uncooked sauces, and pies. The other night, I had some small heirloom tomatoes hanging around and made a delicious quick easy salad.
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The secret to a quick and easy salad is using really fresh simple ingredients. And heirloom tomatoes are the star in this recipe. My favorite thing about tomatoes is finding heirloom tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. That’s not as easy as you would think it might be. If it looks like a tomato, it should taste like a tomato, right? Wrong. Most of today’s tomatoes have been hybridized to look pretty and to travel well for long distances. This makes them uniformly round, red, hard and mealy. And it certainly doesn’t make them edible. This is why I love heirloom tomatoes. So the one thing that I insist on when you make this recipe is that you use heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are beautiful, colorful, and they just plain taste like tomatoes!
If you can grow your own heirloom tomatoes, all the better. And growing your basil is really easy! It’s really cost effective if you’re like me and use fresh basil all summer long in just about anything. It’s definitely worth growing – even if it’s just in a pot right outside your door. Every year, the boys and I attempt growing organic heirloom tomatoes – and every year they morph into the world’s most juicy and delicious squirrel, bird, and rabbit food. Sigh.
Heirloom Tomato, Cucumber & Basil Salad
- 2 c cherry heirloom tomatoes diced
- 1 c cucumber diced
- 3 T minced red onion
- 10-12 large basil leaves sliced in chiffonade or roughly chopped
- 3 T Basil Infused Olive Oil
- 2 T Champagne Vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 c fresh spinach or arugula
- parmesan cheese shavings optional
- 2 t gorgonzola cheese crumbles optional
- 1/2 c cubed fresh mozarella optional
- Lightly toss all salad ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, wisk together all ingredients for the dressing.
- Combine dressing with salad ingredients and toss lightly.
- Serve over a bed of spinach or arugula.
One thing you really need to make the most of this recipe (and, frankly, any of your cooking) is a really good sharp knife. Ever tried to slice a tomato and ended up crushing it because your knife is dull? It’s also a safety issue. Seriously – when you knife is dull – you push down with a LOT more force. Ouch! With a properly weighted, sharp knife – you use very little force to cut even the hardest veggies. One super versatile kitchen knife is the answer. I don’t have a whole set of knives and I don’t need them. I have one seven inch Santoku Chef’s knife that I use for absolutely everything except the smallest of jobs (hulling strawberries, for example). A great knife make cutting and prepping food so much easier, safer, and faster. I’m completely incapable of using one of those fancy steels to keep my knife sharp. So instead, I use a really easy knife sharpener that gets the knife sharpened at the proper angle and really can’t be messed up. Even by me.
I love cooking and because of that, rigid recipes tend to get me down. I like to mix it up. In fact, you’re not likely to ever get the exact same dish served to you twice at my house; there are just too many variations to try! I’m a fan of “if not this, then that” when it comes to recipes. My desire to switch things up is your good fortune. Here’s a bonus recipe! As written, this recipe for heirloom tomatoes is fabulous on its own, but here’s a great way to switch it up. Making the following switches would give you an entirely different salad, but equally delicious: switch cilantro for the basil; switch cilantro, chive, or garlic infused olive oil for the basil infused oil; switch lime juice for the vinegar; and switch chopped Romaine lettuce for the spinach or arugula. Maybe throw in some diced avocado and a touch of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo and Voila! You have a great new summer salad with terrific Tex Mex flavors and a little hit of heat. This second recipe would be wonderful served with warm tortillas and a fast and simple homemade guacamole. And if you wanted to add an easy soup recipe for a main dish, a quick and easy Tex-Mex veggie soup would do the trick!
Let me know which version you made and how you liked it!