Heirloom Tomato Salad

If you're lucky enough to live near a farmers market, don't forget to thank your local farmer and gardener for that sparkling-fresh produce, especially those who grow heirloom vegetables and fruits. In addition to growing delicious produce, they're cultivating history, right on the vine.

Though there are some differences of opinion about its exact definition, an heirloom variety of fruit or vegetable is generally agreed to be one that has been cultivated for at least 50 years. Beans are an heirloom veggie ever-growing in popularity, but the food that truly sings of summer is the tomato.

Heirloom tomatoes are beginning to appear in gardens, at roadside stands and lining produce aisles. In honor of the unique flavors and colors of these beauties, beyond the jump is an original recipe for a summer tomato salad: history you can eat. But remember to save some seeds -- preserving them is the least we can do for these species that give so much to us.

Heirloom Tomato Salad Recipe

Using a good quality, large-grained salt is essential, as the large pure crystals will draw the correct amount of moisture from the tomatoes while providing a nice snap on the palate. Flaky grey sea salt is best, but kosher salt will work just fine. If you have one, a tomato knife does a great job of coring and slicing tomatoes.

  • 1 pound assorted heirloom tomatoes, such as Persimmon, Brandywine, Black Krim or Lillian's Yellow
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 small white onion
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small bunch of a soft, fragrant herb such as chervil, parsley, tarragon or savory
  • Large-grained salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse the herbs (you will only be using the leaf ends) and set aside to dry on a double layer of paper towels.

2. Drizzle the bottom of a shallow serving dish large enough to hold the tomatoes in one or two layers with the olive oil and splash with a teaspoon of the vinegar. Sprinkle with rock salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Place in refrigerator to chill.

3. Remove the stem and cap ends of the onion; remove peel. Mince the onion to measure 1/2 cup and splash with the remaining vinegar. Set aside to soften.

4. Roll the herbs in a fresh layer of paper towels to dry them. Discard the paper towels and roll the herbs into a tight bunch at the leaf end. Chop off the stem ends and set aside for another use. Mince the leaf ends.

5. Core each tomato by running the sharp point of the knife around the button where the tomato was snapped from the plant; remove and discard. Slice each tomato crosswise into rounds. If you are saving seeds, remove some of the fleshy pulp and set it aside for de-seeding and drying.

6. Place the tomatoes in layers onto the chilled platter, sprinkling each layer lightly with salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and a scattering of chopped fresh herbs and alternating layers with the onion-vinegar mixture.

7. Cover loosely with wax paper and chill until the tomatoes have released their juices, approximately 15 minutes. Serve.

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