Simple Summer Tomato Salad - with a classic vinaigrette, red onion, and fresh basil and mint

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Simple Summer Tomato Salad - with a classic vinaigrette, red onion, and fresh basil and mint

When you start with good ingredients, you don't have to try very hard to make a winning dish.

Consider, for example, how just a dollop of whipped cream combined with blackberries makes for a magical dessert.

Or that a piece of fresh fish only needs a hint of lemon to shine. Then there is this tomato salad.

Start with juicy, midsummer-ripe tomatoes, add a simple vinaigrette and a few herbs, and you've got a recipe you'll likely repeat until you run out of the last tomato of the season.

Choose good tomatoes

Job number one in making this salad is picking quality tomatoes.

The question is, how do you know you have a good one? Here are some tips to help you rate some stand-up products:

  • Buy locally grown tomatoes if you can find them. Farmers' markets, local farm stands, specialty markets, or your own backyard are your best bets. With that said, I brought home tasty tomatoes from Costco, Trader Joe's, and my neighborhood grocery store.
  • Look for traditional varieties, which tend to be juicy and full of flavor. Plus, the rainbow of colors makes for a gorgeous dish. I also like the Early Girl variety, as well as the Sungold cherry tomatoes (which are nice to sprinkle on sliced tomatoes).
  • Buy tomatoes that are firm to the touch but not hard. You want a bit of "give" when you press down with your thumb.
  • The fruit should feel heavy for its size and have a sweet, earthy aroma when you smell it near the stem.
  • Avoid tomatoes with blemishes, dark spots, or deep cracks that may be difficult to trim.

After you bring the tomatoes home, store them at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, stem side down until fully ripe.

Once ripe, store them in the refrigerator if you are not going to consume them right away. If you cut a real dud, there's not much you can do to salvage it.

I suggest roasting sub-average tomatoes to use in pasta sauces or sandwiches instead of using them in a salad.

A double vinaigrette

The vinaigrette in this recipe fulfills a double function, since it serves to marinate the red onion, which softens its spicy flavor, and also to dress the salad.

It has a two-to-one ratio of oil to vinegar, which is a bit more acidic than my typical salad dressing.

I think the acidity goes well with the tomato flavor and fresh herbs.

The sauce also has Dijon mustard and honey in it, giving it enough body to coat the tomatoes well.

Change your tomato salad

While this salad is delicious on its own, it also lends itself to many variations. Have fun with it and make it your own. Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Place fresh mozzarella slices, halved bocconcini, or burrata pieces between the tomato slices.
  • Alternatively, sprinkle crumbled feta on top.
  • Make an impromptu panzanella by adding toasted baguette pieces to the salad, making sure it soaks up some of the dressing.
  • Slice ripe peaches or nectarines 1/2-inch thick and top with tomatoes.
  • Cut the kernels from two boiled ears of corn and add to the salad while it is still hot. Add an extra drizzle of olive oil and a pinch or two of salt.
  • Cook a few slices of pancetta or bacon until crisp, cool, and crumble over salad.
  • Store leftover tomatoes in a covered container in the fridge and pile on your favorite sandwich the next day.
  • Add a source of protein to make this a main dish, such as halved hard-boiled eggs, canned sardines, or tuna in oil.
  • Layer sliced cucumber or watermelon (or both) with the tomatoes. Add an extra splash of vinegar and oil to the sauce and finish with a pinch of salt.
  • Cut a ripe avocado into slices, squeeze half a lemon and a few pinches of salt on top and place between the tomatoes.

What to serve with fresh tomato salad

In the height of summer, this salad can be served as a light lunch with a crusty baguette and a few slices of cheese.

For dinner, it makes a great addition to any summer dinner or barbecue, along with any of the recipes below.


For the vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad

  • 1/4 medium red onion, sliced very thin
  • 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, any and all varieties are welcome
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chiffon


Make the vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and honey until the honey dissolves. Beat oil until blended.

Marinate the red onions:

Add the sliced onions to the vinaigrette and stir into the sauce. Reserve to macerate while assembling the salad.

Cut the tomatoes:

Trim stem and stem base from tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices. If you include some cherry tomatoes, cut them in half.

Assemble the salad and serve:

Arrange the tomatoes on a large plate or medium platter and season both sides with salt.

Lightly sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Pour the dressing and onions over the salad.

Use your hands to gently work the tomatoes into the sauce and distribute the onions evenly.

Sprinkle with basil and mint. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.

Serve immediately.


This salad tastes best the day it's made, but can be enjoyed a day or two later if covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator.

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