By Tori Avey, The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Every summer, I get a “hankering” for tomatoes with fresh basil. The paring works so naturally together – it’s fresh and subtly sweet and wonderfully herby. The flavor takes me back to my grandpa’s garden, where as a child I used to help him harvest tomatoes fresh from the vine. Sweet freshly picked vine-ripened tomatoes… now that’s a taste you never forget. I can almost smell it now, those happy growing plants and the freshly turned earth.
Like most Americans, I grew up eating red tomatoes (roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, etc.). It wasn’t till college that I discovered heirloom tomatoes. I was quickly enchanted by the colors and flavors of the various heirloom varieties. Heirloom vegetables are plant varieties from original seeds that are over 100 years old. For an heirloom vegetable to be considered a true heirloom, the plant must have been introduced prior to 1951, when plant breeders began to hybridize inbred plant lines. The plant must also be open pollinated in a natural way– by insects, birds, wind or weather. Popular heirloom vegetables include squash, beets, beans, corn, lettuce– and, of course, tomatoes.
Ripe seasonal heirloom tomatoes are super flavorful, and this salad celebrates their natural goodness. You don’t need to add much in the way of dressing, just enough to make the flavors pop. There are all kinds of ways to dress the salad up. You can add some sliced sweet onion to it for crunch and spice, or some minced fresh garlic if you like. A little fresh mozzarella or crumbled sheep’s milk feta cheese wouldn’t hurt, either. Personally, I prefer the salad as written—simple and vegan, the perfect side dish for a summer meal.