Friday, September 11, 2009

reicpe: french tomato salad

During the juicy splendor of late summer/early fall, insalata caprese is often the default mode of consumption for fresh slicing tomatoes. It is a truly wonderful salad. However, to add some variety to your repertoire, culturally and technique-wise, try this minimalist French version, which is more or less the same recipe that appears in Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook.

recipe: french tomato salad (salade des tomates)
*Serves 4 as a first course salad, or 6 as a side.


  • 2 lbs perfectly ripened heirloom tomatoes (don't mess around)
  • 2 shallots or one very small onion, sliced paper-thin
  • handful of basil or parsley leaves, cut into chiffonade
  • 1 garlic clove, slightly smashed
  • very coarse sea salt (fleur de sel would shine here)
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • strong tasting olive oil (my new favorite is Napa Valley Naturals)
  1. Using a very sharp chef's or tomato knife (I'm not a fan of specialty knives, but this is a useful one), cut the tomatoes in half, remove the cores, and slice the halves into wedges.
  2. Place tomatoes in a large colander (positioned over a bowl or the sink) and sprinkle with a good amount of salt (a word of caution: salt preferences vary, and you will brush some of it off later, but don't go overboard the first time you make it. You can always add more salt before serving). Let them sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes. Water and seeds will begin to drain through the colander.
  3. Put the sliced shallots or onions in a small bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit with the tomatoes.
  4. Remove tomato wedges from the colander, scraping any loose seeds out with your fingers, and put them in a wide, shallow serving bowl or dish. You also can brush off any large granules of salt.
  5. Add sliced onion/shallot to the bowl, brushing off any excess salt.
  6. Add the basil and drizzle everything with a generous amount of olive oil. Then drizzle with a smaller amount of vinegar. The key here is to minimize the amount of liquid in the salad, as you want the flavors to be intense. The tomatoes should absorb most of the oil and vinegar, and release a minimal amount of juice into the bowl.
  7. Toss lightly with a spoon, top with black pepper, check seasonings, and serve.

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