This is another case of stating what is glaringly obvious but often ignored, but a tomato salad is all about the tomatoes. All they need is a fruity olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper. If these are not too finely ground, all the better. Fresh basil is a tomato’s oldest friend and a few leaves will take the salad to sublime heights. For a few weeks in late summer we’re blessed with a selection of tomatoes, organic and sun ripened. Then there are plum, beef (nasty name for a tomato), tiny red and yellow cherry, the slightly larger gardener’s delight and the very cute pear-shaped, both in red and yellow. That’s eight different varieties, and they look stunning on a plate. My favourite salad tomatoes are the fleshier ones with fewer seeds, thickly sliced plums and the horribly named beef, but the smaller sweet varieties add contrasts of both flavour and colour. Even two or three will double the impact of your salad, but even then the flavour is the ultimate test. The tomatoes need to be perfectly ripe but not soft, and at room temperature. I won’t say there’s no point in making a tomato salad with under-ripe Dutch tomatoes, but it won’t raise many smiles. Salting the tomatoes before serving draws out their flavour and, in fact, about ten minutes beforehand would be ideal.
DEPENDING ON THE TYPES OF TOMATO you have, either thickly slice, halve or quarter them. Put them on four plates, then sprinkle some salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Tear the basil leaves coarsely and scatter them over the tomatoes.
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