There's hardly a pleasure greater than taking the summer's first bite of a ripe, juicy tomato fresh off the vine. Whether it's a tiny pear-shaped tomato or a perfectly round red slicer, a tomato at its peak is about as good as it gets. One of my favorite ways to showcase the tremendous variety of tomatoes that are available at the height of summer is in a tomato salad.
Tomato salads let me get creative by allowing me to choose from a wide variety of ingredients and seasonings: fresh herbs (parsley, mint, chives, cilantro, basil, oregano, savory), cheeses (feta, mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta salata, Gorgonzola), vegetables (corn, lettuces, green beans, peppers, cucumber, avocado)—not to mention ingredients like pine nuts, olives, capers, prosciutto, bacon, fish, shellfish, smoked meats, and pasta that add texture and substance. The combinations are limitless. And the effort is minimal: Make a vinaigrette, chop the herbs and other ingredients, slice the tomatoes, and you're pretty much done. Serve as the first course, or add a loaf of bread and you've got a meal.
Don't refrigerate tomatoes
No matter what kind of tomato, keep it out of the refrigerator. Chilling destroys one of the tomato's key flavor components—(Z)-3 dexenal—and it also makes the texture mealy. Ideally, tomatoes should be stored away from light at about 50°F.
Choose a kaleidescope of colors and sizes.While you can make a delicious salad with just one or two varieties, don't limit yourself. For instance, I sometimes layer sliced red, green, yellow and orange tomatoes with red grape, yellow teardrop, and green cherry tomatoes. And I aso experiment with slicing. Depending on their size, and whether I want a chunky, rustic salad or a pretty layered one, I'll cut tomatoes into wedges, slices, or halves. I almost always halve cherry tomatoes, as they're hard to eat whole.