HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD
The hottest part of the summer is upon us and it’s just torture even thinking about firing up the stove or turning on the oven. Fortunately, this coordinates with peak tomato season here in Georgia. Really good tomatoes pack a great umami punch without the help of any cooking, they just need a little bit of salt and they are more than good to go.
I’ve chosen to pair them here with a lemon-spiked greek yogurt, black olive tapenade and some nice local butter (lima) beans. Tomatoes (which should ALWAYS be served room temperature for maximum flavor) have a natural warmth that goes really well with the cool, citrusy yogurt. The olive tapenade brings some salinity and provides another source of deep, savory flavor that makes this salad so filling and satisfying even without meat. I like butter beans here for the pop of color they provide, in addition to the protein and texture, but feel free to explore whatever interesting shelling or pole beans are looking good at the market. The blanching technique will work for any variety of bean and keep you salads looking good all summer long.
The last secret ingredient in this salad is salt. I use two different kinds of salt at two different times to ensure maximum deliciousness. If you only have kosher or table salt you’ll still get a good result, but a nice finishing flake salt will really put things over the top.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND BUTTER BEAN SALAD
SERVINGS: 4-6 — PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES — TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES *you will probably have leftover tapenade. This is a good thing!
INGREDIENTS FOR TAPENADE:
1 small jar pitted kalamata olives, drained
1 bunch parsley, chopped fine
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Small pinch of chili flakes (optional)
Throw everything together in a blender or food processor and pulse until you have a fairly smooth paste.
INGREDIENTS FOR LEMON YOGURT:
4 Tbsp pine nuts
1 cup greek yogurt
1 tsp salt
Zest and juice of two lemons
Whisk everything together and taste. Add more lemon or salt as you desire.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD:
1 recipe herby pesto chickpeas
2-3 ripe heirloom tomatoes, I like a mix of colors
1 cup butter beans or other shelling pea (or ½ pound of trimmed pole beans, cut into 1” segments)
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
Flaky finishing salt, to taste
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SALAD:
To blanch the butter beans: Bring a small pot of salted water (about 1 Tbsp of salt to each quart of water) to a boil on the stove. Add the beans and let them boil gently for 3-5 minutes, until they are softened but not mushy. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath in a bowl large enough to hold the beans plus about a quart of water and ice. Strain the beans and transfer them to your prepared ice bath. This is called “shocking” the beans and will stop the cooking process and help preserve the color.
Cut the heirloom tomatoes into roughly 1” cubes, discarding any parts with tough or browned skin around the stem area. In a medium bowl toss the tomatoes with the kosher salt, butter beans and 2 Tbsp of the olive oil. Make sure to scrape any juices and seeds from the cutting board into the bowl - that’s where most of your flavor is!
In the bottom of a large serving bowl, spread the lemon yogurt evenly, with slightly more on the outside edges to create a well for your tomatoes. Tip the tomato and bean mixture into the yogurt well and dot with teaspoons of the olive tapenade. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top of the salad and finish with a generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
If you aren’t a ninja warrior with a hatori hanso chef knife, a serrated knife (bread knife) is the way to go when slicing and dicing delicate, juicy heirloom tomatoes.