HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Your Best Tomato Salad

At the moment I have an embarrassment of riches in the tomato line: homegrown Cherokee Purples, Early Girls, some yellow Beefsteak that I've forgotten the name of, and Sweet 100s cherry tomatoes (don't hate me - believe me, I've worked very hard and waited a long, long time for the stars to align like this).

What's the best way to totally overindulge in sweet tomato bliss, so that I can sample all these lovely tomatoes in one dish, that will showcase them to their utmost? My usual solution is a big tomato sandwich (one slice, consisting of about half of the largest tomato I can find, between two slices of good bread, with mayo and fresh-ground pepper, and a sprinkle of basil chiffonade) but that only features one kind of tomato at a time - I want total tomato overload!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I make a tart. You can use pate brisee, but biscuit dough is better. Top with a creamy filling...i like goat cheese and a whisp of Duke's mayo. layer with gorgeous colored tomato slices.

    How did you get tomatos this early?

    3 Replies
    1. re: danna

      Wow, that looks good! Thanks! I'm guessing you bake the crust first, then add the cheese mixture and tomatoes afterward?

      An advantage to living in Texas is early tomatoes. Disadvantages include a short season - it's already so hot they've stopped setting fruit - and many other problems....

      1. re: Bat Guano

        Correct. bake, the fill. The mayo makes it kind of a play on the traditional southern staple, the tomato sandwich, gussied up so my Yankee husband will eat it. I can even sneak a biscuit in him this way. ;-)

        Oooh...the Burrata mentioned below reminds me of a dish I had out in Truckee last summer...3 piles of different heirlooms, 3 tiny piles of different salts, a huge mound of burrata. Possibly the best thing I ever ate in a restaurant, no cooking skills required, only spectacular sourcing.

        My tomatoes are in the tiny green stage(SC)...and it's been in the hi 90's for days, no end in sight, no rain in sight...wish me luck.

      2. re: danna

        I also cook a tomato pie, however, different than yours

        I use a basic pie crust, bake it first, then spread some dijon mustard at the bottom, a layer of gruyere cheese ( I usualy use sliced, as not to put too much cheese), fresh garlic and then tomato slices to fill the crust, bake it again and voila !

      3. I really enjoy sliced maters and fresh mozzarella. I like a twist on a Caprese salad. I make a dressing with 2 parts EVOO to 1 part balsamic, fresh basil, garlic, S&P.
        Add some bresh bread for dipping and that's my idea of a great summer salad.

        1. Anything with balsamic and mozzerella will work.

          How about tomato sandwiches, a great Southern favorite. Just slice the tomatoes, toast your favorite bread, slap on some mayo and you're in the high cotton!

          1. Do it Greek style: chopped fresh tomatoes, diced red onion or shallot, diced cucumber, crumbled feta cheese, minced fresh oregano or marjoram, a glug of EVOO and perhaps a grind or two of black pepper.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mrbozo

              Oooh, I love horiatiki salad! But mine has to also include bell peppers and Kalamata olives. I rarely use herbs, just my very very best olive oil.

              For other tomato "salads," first off, if the tomatoes have exceptional and peak flavor, I love to eat them out of hand like an apple with some sea salt. For dinner, rather than pass everyone a whole tomatoe, I slice them, salt them, maybe a twist or two from the pepper mill, and a light drizzle of really good olive oil and balsamico.

              When you can find truly great tomatoes, enjoy them for what they are: Extremely rare!

            2. I am green with envy...cool spring, no ripe toms yet, and I am fighting the urge to start eating green tomatoes!
              I love a saute of bacon (with the fat of course) and sliced okra, then add chunks of toms or cherry toms, the more colors the better. Fresh thyme and a bit of garlic, too. I got this from "A Gift of Southern Cooking".

              I've also made BLT salads...sweet butter lettuce, loads of different toms, with crumbled bacon on top, some quick-toasted croutons, and a mayo dressing. Sometimes I cheat and just whisk some good EVOO and lemon into Best Foods to get something that tastes more like homemade.

              I'm going to sit in the corner and sulk now.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kmr

                You're further along than we are up here in Calgary AB Canada. I have flowers but no fruit on the tomato plants, and the very beginnings of some everbearing strawberries. The kids are getting impatient, and the birds are getting bold (the plants are in containers on my raised deck...which is usually not a bird hangout).

                I love caprese, I love tomatoes with balsamic and mozza as others have mentioned. I'm also fond of tomato cucumber salad with a sweet vinaigrette. There's also a tomato gratin recipe in Flexitarian Table that I've been meaning to try - it only requires chrry tomatoes but I'm sure a variety would also work.

                Since you have such a bounty I'd suggest canning some so you can enjoy them when the weather gets cold again. :)

                1. re: maplesugar

                  I've made that FT tomato gratin and it was kinda blah the first time around. Then I upped the herbs and spices and it was delicious! But you're correct, any tomato variety would work. Especially ripe ones from one's own garden.

                  I too like the traditional Caprese but I love tomatoes, mozz, basil and Genoa salami on slices of Scali with a drizzle of EVOO.

              2. This is my favorite tomato salad of all time. It uses a variety of heirloom tomatoes, some sliced, some cut in wedges, and the smaller tomatoes halved. Beautiful presentation too and something I like to bring to gatherings in the summer. It's spectacular. It's best with burrata but fine with fresh mozzarella too:

                (scroll up in this thread for more reports and pics, but here's mine:)

                Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata, Torn Croutons and Opal Basil

                If you'd like the recipe, let me know and I'll paraphrase it, and then please send me some tomatoes ; )

                3 Replies
                1. re: Rubee

                  I was going to suggest this salad as well -- it is absolutely fabulous. Can't really think of a better use for really good Heirloom tomatoes.

                  Here's a link to the recipe itself:


                  1. re: Rubee

                    That looks like exactly what I had in mind. Yes, please put up the recipe. Thanks!

                  2. Thanks all for your help. I made the salad with burrata (subbed mozzarella, and subbed some more green basil for the opal basil) last night, and it was fantastic! My GF said it was the best salad she'd had; I think it was the first time she's had the full tomato experience. It definitely hit the spot.

                    I should have enough ripe tomatoes again in a few days to explore some of the other ideas. Thanks again.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bat Guano

                      Great! So glad you liked it. I might have to search out (pay!) for some heirloom tomatoes and make it this weekend.

                    2. I'm not sure what I love more than tomatoes. On the salad front, I've done a cold pasta salad with pasta, chopped variety of heirlooms, arugula, maybe some beans or other protein, and a homemade tomato vinagrette. Take about a cup of cherry tomatoes, a couple of chopped scallions, and blend them with evoo and a little rice wine or white wine vinegar. Season w/s&p and any fresh herbs you enjoy.

                      I also absolutely love oven dried tomatoes - slice them and bake them low and slow until they get nice and caramel-y. So good.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sasha1

                        I did oven-dried w/ my San marzanos last year. Perfect little wagon wheels looked like they were factory made. Didn't taste like it !

                        1. re: danna

                          I love the oven-dried so much - it is a vast improvement over any sun-dried I've had, which end up of shoe leather texture. It's the way I get through the 8 months of bad tomatoes yearly.

                          Oh and OP, I completely forgot to mention panzanella. Bread salad w/ lots of tomato, red onion, capers, balsamic vinagrette, basil. Unbelievably good.

                      2. One of my favorite ways to eat gorgeous tomatoes is simplye by slicing them, arranging on a platter & salt & peppering them, then drizzling w/ a homemade vinaigrette and sprinkling w/ Stilon bleu cheese. Yummm!!!!!

                        That or a tomato & bread salad like this one on Epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo.... I usually add capers or black olives to this.

                        I'm totally jealous!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lynnlato

                          The classic salade de tomates is very like unto that: tomatoes, salt, pepper, oil, a little vinegar or lemon juice, and whatever herb(s) you want. I'm not growing any - my last attempt failed miserably - but the farmer's markets are running over with real beauties, and I scored a few yesterday, along with a bag of great basil. I like to cut them in very thick slices, cut each slice in half, then each slice into four, cut straight across instead of wedges. This gives a nice variation to the size of the chunks. Had this last night with just a grilled flatiron steak - lovely meal!

                        2. If you have an excess of cherry tomatoes, use them as a side dish. Saute them in a large rimmed pan with a little (1/2 Tbsp is plenty) olive oil. When they start to pop, take them off the heat. Season w/ sea salt and a little pepper and sprinkle generously with chopped chives.

                          I'm growing cherry tomatoes and chives this year because I love this side dish so much!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: mimilulu

                            Also, an excess of cherry tomatoes is great roasted in a hot oven until just blistering with a tiny amount of olive oil and some bread crumbs, and tossed with hot pasta. Much more flavorful than the list of ingredients would suggest. I wonder if I could do this on the stovetop like mimilulu's side dish? It would be nice to avoid firing up the oven in August when I have enough cherries to make this.

                            1. re: dkenworthy

                              Very nice, Dk. I will be trying this as soon as my plant's cherry mater's ripen. Maybe w/ a little garlic, some Locatelli Romano & a splash of fresh lemon juice.

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                My father gardened and took buckets of cherry and yellow pear tomatoes to work for coworkers to snack on.

                              2. re: dkenworthy

                                similarly, in the dead of summer i like to pick the cherry t's from the vine (at that point they are around 95 degrees !) , slice them in half, salt them, tear some basil, drizzle some olive oil, and let them sit for a while and get juicy. Toss w/ pasta. no cooking at all except the SC sun....which is plenty.

                                1. re: danna

                                  Agreed! Except here it would be the NC sun. ;-) Even better is when the pasta is home made. You can even mix in some peppery arugula just for fun.

                            2. For something different, I like a Tomato-Watermelon Salad. A little red onion very thinly sliced, a vinaigrette and LOTS of black pepper. Maybe some basil.................

                              1. I suggest making a bruschetta with some of your tomatoes. I like to make mine with a variety of tomatoes, clove of garlic or shallot, evoo, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, and a delicious baguette.

                                1. For home grown tomatoes, just tomatoes, sweet onions (the Vidalia type), a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt/fresh garlic or garlic powder.

                                  Anything else, including olive oil, starts to cover up the flavor of the tomato.

                                  We also used to eat fresh tomato slices on home made pumpernickel, with salt only.

                                  Lucky you!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mlgb

                                    I agree with the panzanella suggestion. The day after tomato sandwiches, let your bread dry out a bit, then throw together a bread salad with basil, the tomatoes, some onion, and a nice dressing.

                                  2. I grow 60 heirloom tomato plants...from seed.

                                    An array of freshly picked tomatoes sliced and topped with balsamic or a nice vinaigrette, then topped with Kosher (or Malden) salt and fresh ground pepper is a simple and flavorful salad. I like to tear Genovese basil atop. You can also add fresh mozzarella. For a "company" salad, I also add sliced red onions (marinated in lime juice for a while to reduce pungency).

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Funwithfood

                                      Yes, soaking the onions in lemon or lime juice does reduce the burn. If you just use citrus juice rather than a salad dressing, the leftover juice is good enough to drink.

                                      1. re: mlgb

                                        I know some folks like to soak them in milk. I like soaking my onions in red wine vinegar (or any other vinegar) before using them in a salad or inside a sandwich. I always try to soak my onions before using them in grilled Italian paninis. Gives the sandwich great crunch!

                                    2. Simple.

                                      Tomatos cut up in pieces. Not too small.
                                      Good Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil - don't use any other kind
                                      Fresh Basil
                                      Some garlic
                                      Crusty and dense Italian bread.

                                      1. Mix tomatos, oil, basil, salt and garlic until the mixture tastes like heaven.
                                      2. Dish out into a bowl - don't forget some of the juice/liquid at the bottom.
                                      3. Dip bread into juice/liquid.
                                      4. Eat bread.

                                      1. Chunk up those tomatoes, add chopped parsley, slivered red onions, crumbled blue cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

                                        1. Oh man, I have to profess my jealousy like many of the other posters. We are having the coolest, wettest spring and my tomato plants look so sad :(

                                          But, in anticipation these are my favorites:

                                          panzanella, as has already been mentioned. Lots of variations out there.
                                          Often I will slice different colors of tomatoes and layer on a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette (smashed garlic clove processed with basil, olive oil, dijon and red wine vinegar) and then crumble goat cheese over it.
                                          We love brie and tomatoes on bread, open face like bruschetta, and often make an entire meal of just brie, bread and tomatoes
                                          And there is always bruschetta!
                                          I only cook or slow-roast when I have a ridiculous amount that can't be eaten fresh. There are so many others...I can't wait!

                                          Enjoy those tomatoes!

                                          1. My favorite is very simple.
                                            Cut juicy ripe tomatoes into rough chunks over a glass bowl. Be careful to not lose any juice.
                                            add a little chopped Vidalia onion to taste
                                            chiffonade or torn fresh basil to taste
                                            salt and pepper to taste
                                            a little olive oil
                                            gently mix and allow to sit for a few minutes to let flavors meld. Delicious with crusty Italian bread.
                                            Got this from an ex-boyfriend's mother. This recipe may have been the best legacy of that relationship.

                                            1. Sliced tomatoes, sliced peeled valencia oranges, sliced sweet onion, oilve oil, Sherry vinegar, oil-cured olives, salt, pepper, chopped cilantro

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: HSBSteveM

                                                Oranges! Cilantro! That's unusual. Might work, though.

                                                1. re: Bat Guano

                                                  That's my Spanish version. Originally, I discovered a simple orange and olive salad at an Italian restaurant and kept tinkering. The flavor combos are great, especially in the warm weather.

                                              2. I can't wait for my tomatoes! So many great ideas... My usual salad is with balsamic vinegar, a good olive oil and slivered basil. The tomatoes are sliced thin. With cherry tomatoes I halve them, spread in a baking dish, sprinkle with a combo of bread crumbs, garlic and Parmesan, sprinkle with olive oil and bake for about 35 minutes. Pine nuts and string beans are also good additions. When it's done add your favorite cooked pasta with a handful of basil leaves,
                                                snipped or torn.

                                                1. If you have cherry tomatoes on hand- this is delicious and so easy. The ingredients might make you think it's tart, but letting it sit for a while allows the flavors to mellow and marry nicely. It's a geat taste of summer! http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                  1. tomato, cilantro, fish sauce, black pepper.

                                                    1. My favorite, next to just eating them with fresh basil, s&p, and balsamic, is an Orzo Salad...
                                                      Cook the Orzo, let cool. Add EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar, salt, pepper, your chopped fresh tomato, and some feta or fresh mozzarella. Serve at room temperature. I add fresh basil too, as I have that growing. And add me to the list of those who are jealous!!!

                                                      1. For a while I took cherry tomatoes an hummus to work for lunch nearly every day. On vacation in Mazatlan I ate tomatoes and avocado with a pocket knife on the beach.