Tasty Tomato Salad – Recipe and Rules:
One of the first dishes I remember eating in France was tomato salad. The French family I stayed with ate their lunch outside and it was usually made up left-overs from the night before, supplemented with various salads and fresh bread. Tomato salad featured frequently on the menu, but the tomatoes were nothing like the ones I was used to from home. Although we grew our own tomatoes, it was often hard to get them to ripen and the kitchen window sill acted as an informal greenhouse. In France, the tomatoes came from local farmers and were bought on daily forays for food. They were kept in a big bowl in the kitchen, covered with a piece of white netting. And, they were always ripe, juicy and very sweet.
Transforming them into a salad though, was something else.
In France, the tomatoes were sliced, salted, put into a serving dish with a little bit of crushed garlic, layered with very thin slices of red onion and then dressed with a vinaigrette of olive oil and white wine vinegar and with some finely chopped fresh herbs. Of course, back home in the 1970s, we didn’t have olive oil, nor did we have wine vinegar. And however hard I tried, it seemed impossible to recreate what was a magical dish.
Now, it’s quite possible to get close, even if you are shopping at the local supermarket. You DO need some good olive oil, wine vinegar and the best garlic you can find. You also need to buy the ripest vine tomatoes you can find and then make sure you never put them in the fridge.
One trick I learnt recently while cooking on the Terroir trip through the Cotes du Rhone, with ‘Les Aventuriers du Gout’ was to drain tomatoes just a little, exactly as you would do with aubergine. Sprinkling your sliced or diced tomatoes with a little salt and leaving them to drain for just 15 minutes will help intensify the flavour.
An easy pre preparable tomato salad.
Dietary Vegan, Vegetarian
- 4 Medium Tomatoes As ripe as possible. Never store tomatoes in the fridge.
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1/2 Banana Shallot or a handful of chives
- 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
- 1 handful Fresh 'soft' herbs e.g. basil, oregano, savoury, (Herbs of your choice depending partly on the dish the salad will be accompanying if any)
- 1 handful Black Olives Kalamata by preference
- 1 tablespoon Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon White wine vinegar
Dice or slice the tomatoes and place in a small colander or sieve. Sprinkle the salt all over and leave to drain over a bowl for up to 30 minutes. The salt will draw out excess moisture from the tomatoes
Chop the shallot as finely as possible and crush the garlic. Mix all of this together with the oil and vinegar and season with a little black pepper
Tear or chop the herbs.
Put the tomato mixture into a serving bowl and mix through the herbs, olives (if you are using them), and the oil and shallot mixture.
Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh herbs as used in the salad.
This is a recipe you can experiment with. I like adding black olives, replacing the shallot with thin slices of red onion or with chives, using a lemon and oil dressing or a few drops of balsamic vinegar. It makes a great side dish for the barbecue. With the addition of a little cheese and some slices of crusty bread, you’ve got an easy lunch dish too. Best of all, even when it has been dressed it will keep for a day, covered and put somewhere cool (worst case, in the fridge but preferably in a larder).
Why not pin this post for later and make it yourself!