Tomatoes are a healthy source of vitamin C and various other compounds that have antioxidant properties. (Cooked tomatoes, in particular, concentrate lycopene, a known anticancer agent.) That said, nothing is easier than slicing and arranging fresh summer tomatoes on a plate. Tomato salads can be prepared up to two hours before serving. Do not refrigerate; it stops the ripening process and destroys the taste. The steps below will concentrate the flavors. (Turn the page for vinaigrette recipe.)
- Use a variety of local, ripe tomatoes with different flavors and colors—Brandywine, Beefsteak, and Green Zebras. Slice them at least a quarter-inch thick. Two Brandywines, two Beefsteaks, and three Zebras will serve four people (or two tomato lovers).
- Arrange the tomato slices on a platter, alternating the colors. If preparing more than an hour ahead, cover loosely with wax paper or plastic wrap. Remember, do not chill.
- About 15 minutes before serving, salt them lightly with sea salt, a natural flavor enhancer. Allow them to sit at room temperature, uncovered.
- A few minutes before serving, lightly dress the tomatoes with two or three tablespoons of vinaigrette. The key to vinaigrette for tomatoes is good wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Use red wine or sherry vinegar if you like a strong taste; white wine vinegars are lighter.
- You can serve just the basic salad, but if you like to accessorize, remember that tomatoes and basil have an affinity. Chop or tear fresh basil into small pieces and scatter over the sliced, dressed tomatoes. Parsley, mint, and fresh thyme are also friendly additions. After the salad is gone, soak up the leftover juices with crusty country bread.
John J. Kochevar has contributed many articles on flavorful vegetarian cooking to Yoga International.