There hasn’t been a summer of my adult life when I haven’t waxed poetic about tomatoes. Is there anything in the world like biting into a warm, sweet, juicy tomato, plucked fresh from the vine? It’s one of nature’s finest gifts. As I mentioned a few years ago, I have many fond memories of the tomatoes my grandfather grew when I was a child. It simply wasn’t summer until dinner included a bowl of my grandmother’s salad, made with the tomatoes Grandpa had grown in his garden. Josephine (“Nanny”) taught me that beautiful summer produce doesn’t need much in terms of “extras” to be enjoyed to its fullest. Her salad is a simple one, combining wedged tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, thinly-sliced Vidalia onions, fresh herbs, and salt. It’s a recipe that defines summer in my heart and on my palate, reminding me of warm evenings spent on my grandparents’ patio, and the abundance of love that was shared around their table.
With so many different and unique heirloom cultivars available at farm markets today, it’s easier than ever to create an artful tomato salad with a vibrant mix of colors and flavors. The salad photographed here includes selections from the “Cocktail Tomato Bar” at Sansone’s Farm Market in Hopewell, NJ (a recent find for me and a stop that I highly recommend if you’re in the area), and straight-from-the-garden organic tomatoes that my neighbor gave me. By tossing the salad and letting it rest for 15 minutes before serving, the salt will draw out some of the tomatoes’ juices, which will pool in the bottom of the bowl. Liquid gold, I tell you. Give me a wedge of crusty artisan bread for dipping and I’ve died and gone to heaven. We love to serve tomato salad alongside grilled meats and seafood, but I often eat it on its own, with a few slices of piquant, imported provolone or a round of burrata. Paired with cheese, tomato salad is perfect for a light lunch that is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat….