Recently, whilst on holiday, I enjoyed a Marinated Tomato Salad for the first time. The Italian café in the hotel in which I was staying served a version of this lovely salad and I have been enjoying it ever since.
Whilst I use tomatoes in a myriad of ways, I frequently serve fresh tomatoes in a very simple manner. A perfectly ripe tomato, fresh from the vine, requires little more than a few sea salt flakes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. However, this technique of marinating the tomatoes is a revelation.
I use these ingredients for my Marinated Tomato Salad:
There are few things better in the culinary world than a ripe, juicy tomato picked straight from the vine. However, this luxury is not available to all of us; it is more likely that we will be selecting tomatoes from a store.
To obtain the maximum flavour in this Marinated Tomato Salad it is important to use full-flavoured tomatoes at their peak of ripeness. After all, the tomatoes are the star of the show. If a tomato is floury, not fully ripe or over-ripe to the point the flesh is soft they will not be enjoyable.
When selecting tomatoes, you should look for those that are free of blemishes and bruises. They should have an intense colour and a firm texture which yields just a little when gently pressed. If a tomato is dull or pale it will most likely be lacking flavour.
Ideally, tomatoes are best stored at room temperature and not in a refrigerator as it will dull their flavour.
Red onions are suitable for both raw and cooked use. Their flavour is milder than brown onions and they are sweeter than white onions. One of the great attractions of the red onion is its colour; the beautiful red colour adds brightness and contrast to many dishes.
In addition, they have a number of antioxidants, along with sulphur compounds which have anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain vitamin C, iron, calcium and dietary fibre.
An interesting fact is that onions have evolved to produce an amazing defence system against predators. When slicing or chopping an onion two substances combine to produce a powerful repellent which is strong enough to deter most attackers. The chemicals released are extremely strong smelling and painfully irritating.
It is this same chemical reaction which causes us to “cry” when we are chopping onions.
Whilst still in its papery skin the onion is devoid of aroma or tear-causing qualities. However, chopping or slicing the onion activates this response.
Perhaps next time I chop an onion and I feel teary I will be more respectful of the onion and its amazing ability to defend itself.
When buying red onions, select those which are firm, without any shoots and with dry, papery skin. Store them in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place.
Capers are made from the flower buds of a shrub which is native to the Mediterranean. Although small in size the caper packs a powerful flavour punch. They are tangy and salty and provide a burst of flavour to a number of dishes.
However, because of their strong flavour, use them judiciously as they may overwhelm the flavours of a dish. Capers are available either brined or salted and in various sizes. I prefer the “baby” capers as they are suitable to use whole. The larger ones, which are the size of a pea, are generally best if chopped. If using salted capers they need to be well rinsed before use.
They are frequently used in Mediterranean and French cuisine, adding a salty, acidic note to many dishes. They are delicious with fish, in the classic Italian Pasta Puttanesca, in a cream sauce with chicken or in a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese.
I make the dressing for the Marinated Tomato Salad using:
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil:
To achieve the best flavour, and to obtain the maximum nutrients from olive oil, I prefer to use extra-virgin olive oil.
The oil has been naturally extracted by crushing the olive fruit. Crushing the olives releases the oil. This is an ancient method. Wikipedia advises that olive presses have been in use since the Greeks began pressing olives more than 5,000 years ago.
Some lower quality olive oils are made using chemicals or heat to extract the oil. For this reason, I prefer extra virgin olive oil.
Red Wine Vinegar:
Unsurprisingly, red wine vinegar begins its life as red wine which has been allowed to ferment. Fermentation times vary from very brief to lengthy. The length of fermentation determines the quality of the product. A brief fermentation produces vinegar which is acidic with a sharp flavour. Aging the vinegar takes away some of the acid producing a more subtle flavour.
Garlic is a plant in the Allium family. It is an edible bulb which is closely related to onions, shallots, spring onions/scallions, chives and leeks. It is a valued ingredient in the culinary world, lifting the flavour of many dishes. For instance, when making buttery garlic prawns the aroma of the garlic melting in the butter provides a glorious insight into the flavours to come.
Garlic contains a number of nutrients including Vitamin C, a number of B group vitamins, along with manganese and selenium. In addition, it is also a good source of phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copper, manganese and selenium.
Garlic contains a sulphur compound, allicin. Cutting or crushing a clove of garlic will release allicin. It is this compound which gives garlic its pungent aroma and taste. Garlic is thought to boost immunity, improve cardiovascular health and have anti-inflammatory properties.
When buying garlic, choose bulbs which are firm and not beginning to sprout. To prevent garlic sprouting, store it at room temperature in an open container in a cool, dark place.
And I use these delicious fresh herbs in the Marinated Tomato Salad:
Parsley is possibly the most frequently used herb. It is a very versatile herb, at home in most savoury dishes. Although often used as a garnish, parsley has. in-fact, got much more to offer than that.
There are two types of parsley which are commonly used; the curly leaf and the flat leaf. The flat leaf variety is known as continental or Italian parsley.
As with other soft herbs, it is best to add parsley toward the end of cooking to preserve the flavour. A cooking tip; don’t discard the stems, they have more flavour than the leaves. Add the stems to stocks, stews or soups and save the leaves to add just before serving. My preference is for the flat leaf parsley variety; I feel that it has better flavour and a better texture.
Parsley is a nutritional powerhouse; it contains vitamins A, C and K, as well as the minerals iron and sulphur. Further, it is a good source of magnesium, potassium, folate, iron, and calcium. Adding this versatile herb to your cooking is a great way to increase the nutritional content of many meals.
Basil, which is a member of the mint family, is a highly fragrant herb, used as a seasoning in many dishes. Certainly, basil is well known for its use in pesto, the ubiquitous mixture of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese.
It is difficult to think of basil without identifying it with its role in Italian cuisine. However, there are many types of basil, and in-fact, basil is also used extensively in Asian cookery.
Basil has an impressive nutrient profile. It is rich in antioxidants, magnesium, vitamins A, C and K.
This is how I make the Marinated Tomato Salad:
To make this salad it’s as simple as slicing some tomatoes and marinating them in vinaigrette which is easily made. I cut them into thick slices; the larger surface area allows them to absorb maximum flavour.
Initially, I experimented with the marinade. Extra virgin olive oil was a given. Then I tried adding sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar but I finally chose good quality red wine vinegar. I feel that it perfectly accentuates the natural flavours of the tomatoes and adds just the right amount of acidity to counter the mellow olive oil. Whilst my normal ratio of olive oil to vinegar for vinaigrette is 3:1, I discovered that the tomatoes could take a much higher amount of vinegar; it balanced their natural sweetness.
Inspired by the flavours of Italy I found a small amount of garlic and some shredded basil leaves to be great additions. To these, I add some finely sliced red onion, some chopped flat leaf parsley, a generous quantity of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. I combine the ingredients and stir them vigorously. Finally, I pour the vinaigrette over the sliced tomatoes, cover them with cling wrap and leave them to marinate for 2 to 3 hours on the counter. If marinating longer they need to be in the refrigerator. As the tomatoes sit in the vinaigrette, the juices of the tomatoes mix with the dressing, developing tremendous flavour. Furthermore, if you do refrigerate the tomatoes ensure that you bring them to room temperature before serving.
Tips for success when making the Marinated Tomato Salad:
- Choose the best-tasting tomatoes that you can find.
- Always store your tomatoes at room temperature.
- For the best-flavoured salad use extra virgin olive oil.
- If you do refrigerate the salad, ensure that it is at room temperature for serving. Refrigeration dulls the flavour of tomatoes.
More suggestions for using these ingredients:
For more suggestions for tomatoes, we recommend you try these recipes:
- Roasted Cherry Tomatoes – delicious on pasta or as a side-dish;
- Quinoa Tabouli – a gluten-free, fresh salad;
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad– a twist on the classic Caprese Salad;
- Tomato Galette with Basil Whipped Feta by A Baking Journey;
- Creamy Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup by Whole Food Bellies
When it comes to serving:
It is best to serve my Marinated Tomato Salad at room temperature as refrigeration dulls the flavours. I like to add some fresh basil and parsley for serving.
Ideally, I prefer to eat the salad about 2 hours after marinating so the tomatoes retain some firmness. Marinating them for a longer time will result in softer tomatoes.
I serve the tomatoes as a side dish to accompany meats, poultry or fish. Further, they make a great topping for bruschetta, sometimes with the addition of bocconcini.
In addition, I like to enjoy them in a delicious sandwich by serving them on good crusty bread with some mayonnaise or I change the salad slightly and serve them Caprese-style by adding some sliced, fresh mozzarella.
This salad is as pretty as it is delicious. You can make it from large red tomatoes or a combination of large and cherry tomatoes. I have a feeling you will love this recipe as I do and this Marinated Tomato Salad will be a permanent fixture in your home.
Please let me know if you try making it.
Marinated Tomato Salad
Close your eyes and imagine Italy as you enjoy this brightly flavoured Marinated Tomato Salad. Marinating the tomatoes intensifies their flavour. As a side dish, the salad will accompany meat, poultry or fish. It’s ideal to take to a pot-luck as it travels well, or, serve it as bruschetta on crusty, toasted bread. There’s absolutely no effort involved in making this flavourful salad; ensure that you make it soon.
- 5 medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes *
- 1/3 cup olive oil * extra virgin
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 small red onion
- 1 clove garlic * finely crushed or grated
- 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley finely chopped, plus additional for garnish
- 1 tbsp basil leaves finely sliced, plus additional for garnish
- 2 tsp baby capers drained, optional
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- some additional chopped parsley and basil for serving optional
Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and arrange them in a large, shallow dish.
Cut the onion in half and finely slice into half-moon shapes.
Add the oil, vinegar, sliced onion, garlic, capers, parsley, basil, salt and pepper to a small bowl and mix well together.
Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and gently turn them to coat in the dressing.
Cover with cling wrap and marinate 2-3 hours on the kitchen bench. Gently turn the tomatoes in the dressing once or twice to ensure they are all well coated.
If you refrigerate the tomatoes, be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving. *
Transfer the tomatoes and their juices to a serving bowl. Add some freshly sliced parsley and basil to the top of the salad if desired.
Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the juices.
*Use the best tomatoes that you can find. They should be ripe, full of flavour yet still firm. Soft tomatoes will not hold up well in the vinaigrette.
* To obtain the maximum flavour and health benefitting nutrients I prefer extra virgin olive oil.
*Although I’m a lover of garlic, I prefer to not go overboard with it in this salad as the pungency of the garlic tends to dominate and override the sweet flavour of the tomatoes. Crush it or finely grate it on a Microplane.
*To slice the basil leaves, stack the large basil leaves together, one on top of the other. Put the smaller leaves on top then roll them all up tightly like a cigar. Slice the basil into thin strips.
*To enjoy the maximum flavour, it is essential that the tomatoes be at room temperature when eaten.
*The Australian tablespoon is 20 ml or 4 teaspoons. In many other countries, the tablespoon is 15 ml or 3 teaspoons. You may need to adjust the measurements accordingly.