This week has been the most delicious week for tomatoes. After a long summer in the sun, tomatoes seem to be at peak. They are sweet, juicy and bursting at the seam. I’ve eaten heirloom tomatoes, fully ripe, with salt and olive oil, I’ve picked tomatoes from the garden, still hot from hanging in the sun all day, and tasted fiery roasted cherry tomatoes, left on the vine, the leaves salty and crisp. This really is my favorite time of year for produce when you can enjoy fresh ingredients just as they are. Little preparation is required to experience the full flavors of the fruits and vegetables. You don’t need to roast, bake or sauté to increase the flavor, the essence lies within its natural state. Today I am sharing such a recipe that is full of my favorite summer fruits, this is my dad’s Summer Fruit + Tomato Salad.
Every year, at this time, my dad makes this salad. It has the character of a salad, but with tons of fruit, a few slices of onion, and a vinaigrette that pulls it all together. This recipe is all about fresh ingredients, and what better time to make it than now, when stone fruits, berries, melons, and tomatoes are at peak. This is far from a fruit salad, in that it’s more savory and can be enjoyed as a dinner or lunch salad. It is not the sad fruit salad at bbq’s that are often left warm and untouched. The remaining juices that pool at the bottom of the plate are best soaked up by a hearty piece of bread. Most of the ingredients are fruit, but what a young red onion introduced into the mix will do is cut the sweetness and sharpen the taste. A small red onion tends to be milder and slightly sweeter. Heirloom tomatoes are incredibly delicate and juicy. They are what elevates this from just a regular fruit salad (that and the vinaigrette). Perhaps it sounds a bit odd to add tomatoes with fruit, but it’s all quickly forgotten when you bite into the salad.The tomatoes compliment the fruits in texture and taste in a memorable combination — one that will have you making this salad every year!
The key with the tomatoes my dad says is to season them first before you add them to the salad. The first thing you’ll want to do is cut the tomatoes, place on a plate and season with salt, pepper, and olive oil. If you have special salt like fleur di sel, salt flakes, pink Himalayan salt, or sea salt that will really elevate the flavor. Any heirloom tomatoes will work, I found big ones at the market but the little ones are good too, in fact those are the ones my dad uses in this recipe. Watermelon, cantaloupe or any melon you can find, plums, peaches, blackberries, and blueberries are all called in this recipe, but whatever fruits look good at the market, you should use.
The secret is the vinaigrette. My dad uses the juice of the watermelon as the base of the dressing. You can get this when you chop up watermelon and place it in the fridge, it will release some liquid — reserve this for the dressing. If you are preparing it right away just blend a few cubes in a blender or pulverizer and that will work too. I also noticed when I was slicing up the fruit a pool of liquid formed at the bottom of the bowl, this juice from the fruit could work too. To the watermelon juice, add s olive oil, salt, pepper, mint, and a squeeze of lemon (zest too if you wish). The mint will works its way through the salad allowing some bites to have that surprise flavor. Balancing the sweetness and acidity will all depend on the fruit. If the fruit is slightly acidic and the watermelon not so sweet, use only a touch of lemon, if all the fruits are super ripe, add a little more lemon. The balance will all depend on your taste and the sweetness of the fruits. Because this dish has few seasonings, like olive oil, salt, lemon, and mint, it’s important to use the best you have!
This is the perfect end-of-summer dish. It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, and highlights all the sweet and juicy produce available. If you can get your hands on heirloom tomatoes, I would highly recommend it, but if not cherry tomatoes or any fresh tomatoes that look best that day would be good. Use whatever fruits are in season. This is what the dish is all about — a celebration of summer fruits. The moment is now to enjoy this salad and you won’t want to miss it! Happy eating!
Start by slicing the tomatoes into 1/4 inch round slices or in quarters, however you like. On a plate, season the tomatoes with your favorite salt (Himalayan pink salt, sea salt, salt flakes, fleur de sel, etc.). I used salt flakes, freshly cracked black pepper, and a drizzle of olive. Set aside.
Cut the fruit into corresponding slices/cubes. Add the watermelon, peach, plum, melon, blueberries, and blackberries to a large bowl. If you cut the tomatoes in thin slices, add them to the serving plate and later place the fruit salad mixture on top, if you are using chunks or 1/2 inch slices, you can add them to the bowl at this time (just be gentle as to not break squash them!). Slice the onion as thinly as possible and add to the bowl.
To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the watermelon juice, lemon juice (+ zest, optional), salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk continuously until combined. Stir in the fresh mint leaves. Taste to season — if needs more acidity, add lemon, more sweetness add more watermelon juice, etc. Slowly drizzle over the salad, (I used about 1/2 the amount and saved it for later, but use as much as you like), and give a gentle toss. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve and enjoy! You can store in fridge, just reserve the vinaigrette for last minute, right before you serve.
Makes: about 2-4 servings
Total Time: 15 minutes
1-2 (or 3-4 small) large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
2 heaping cups watermelon, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 peach sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 plum cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup cantaloupe or any melon, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup blackberries
to make the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup watermelon juice***
2 teaspoons or 1/2 lemon, juiced (and zested, optional*)
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few turns of freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh mint, teared
***(if you have cubed watermelon stored in the fridge, you can use the juice that has collected on the bottom of the container or puree your own using a few cubes of watermelon and a blender or pulverizer)