By Anna Thomas
What are your favorites? Brandywine? Black Krim? Oaxacan Jewel? How about Mortgage Lifter? The names themselves are a treat, conjuring up not only the flavors and textures but the history of these heirloom plants. I hope the Mortgage Lifter did pay off the farm.
When gorgeous tomatoes flood the farmers’ market all summer and fall, I choose Purple Cherokees and Brandywines, along with Early Girls, an abiding favorite. Find the tomatoes that do best in your area, the tomatoes you love, and then make this simple salad, a celebration of ripe summer flavor. Throw a few cherry or grape tomatoes on top for sheer visual fun.
1 1/2 lbs. mixed tomatoes, heirlooms and others, all colors
1/2 oz. fresh basil leaves
a few thin slices of red or sweet onion
3 Tbs. fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
cured black olives
large shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or thin slices of ricotta salata
Cut the tomatoes in wedges or fat slices. Small cherry tomatoes can be left whole. Tear the basil leaves into large pieces or slice them in a chiffonade. (To make a chiffonade, roll the large leaves into a tight cylinder and then cut in very thin strips.) You should have about 1/3 cup.
Combine half the basil with the tomatoes, onion slices, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and black pepper to taste, and mix very gently. Use your hands so the tomatoes do not get bruised. Arrange the salad on a platter, scatter the remaining basil over the top, and garnish with shavings of cheese or a few olives if you like.
In a Mixed Menu . . .
Tomato salad starts the party, with fresh goat cheese and perhaps some duck pâté. Grilled Ratatouille follows, paired with an option of Garlic-and-Herb-Rubbed Lamb Chops.
But I have to admit that on some hot evenings, I like the simplest meal of all: this heirloom tomato salad, a wedge of cheese, my favorite bread, and a glass of wine.