We’re nearly to the peak of tomato season, and if you’re enjoying daily tomato salads, you’re doing summer eating right! My tomato lover’s tomato salad is piled high with summer’s best heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with a to-die-for smoky tomato dressing.
Hi, tomato-lovin’ fans! I may or may not have lured you here under false pretenses. Or, slightly false pretenses.
Because the truth is, while this tomato salad is the bomb, you really can’t go wrong anytime you wedge up a summer tomato and fork it into your mouth, one delectable chunk at a time.
Flavor goodness, guaranteed, with those juicy-fresh summer tomatoes.
What I really wanted to share today is the dressing that goes with this salad. Yup, I’m one of those people, who likes to make their own salad dressings. You might not have noticed haha but next to soup, a good salad is one of my very favorite things on this earthly spinning orb, and the last thing I want to do to undermine all the healthy, crunchy bennies of a veggie-loaded salad is to pour some crazy oil- and sugar-loaded goop all over it.
But, I get it. I get you. Time is short, and not everyone wants to spend 5 minutes whipping up something they can pull out of the fridge in 10 seconds and be done with it.
So, it has to be worth your time, right? It has to be pretty speshul. And friends, this dressing is both.
With a base of fresh summer tomatoes, tangy white balsamic, and the perfect pinch of smoky paprika, this dressing has unexpected hints of BLT flavorings that will drive you right over the edge of obsession. Lip-smacking BLT tastiness in a vegetarian package. Good and good for you!
So when you take a simple salad with the summer’s best tomatoes, plus crispy cucumbers, fresh herbs, and a light portion of feta cheese, and you pour a smoky, tangy dressing over the top, you’ve got one amazing salad! (Or, for us tomato salad lovers, a meal!)
I specifically crafted the tomato dressing for my tomato lover’s tomato salad to use very little oil, because I wanted the freedom to douse all of my summer salads in pools of this smoky tomato brilliance, without guilt, without worry about the healthfulness of such a drenching.
Because here’s the thing about oils: we’ve been culturally conditioned to love our oils — coconut, olive, canola, avocado — and you can’t browse the interwebs without stubbing your toe on some study that touts the health benefits of this oil or that oil. But, the truth is, oils are loaded with calorie-heavy fats. Empty calories, at that. Whether you buy into the story of medium-chain triglycerides (coconut oil) or monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil) as sources of health and vitality, either way, you’re still consuming extra fat and calories: a tablespoon of each has about 120 calories – all of it from fat. Have you ever measured out a true tablespoon of salad dressing? It’s pitifully skimpy, when added to a bowlful of salad.
If your family history of heart disease looks like mine — a dense, multi-branched tree of relatives on all sides, etched with clogged arteries, strokes, and early deaths — fat is more foe than friend. The human body does, indeed, need polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids) to maintain good health, but consumption beyond what is necessary flirts needlessly with artery-lining cholesterol and waist-lining fat.
Personally, I use only extra virgin olive oil these days, but very sparingly in recipes where it does not need to play a starring role. And when I make this dressing just for myself — because, hello, personal dressing stash — I don’t use oil at all.
And in typing that sentence, I just realized that I do, indeed, have a personal stash of salad dressings in my refrigerator. Lol. When did I become that person?
Tomato beauty is skin deep
I hope you’ll also indulge me a sec while I veer off on a little tomato prep soapbox. I’ve seen one too many recipes this summer that call for peeling tomatoes, or — major eyeroll — running them through a food mill.
Now, I don’t mean y’all can’t peel your tomatoes for your world famous salsa — although, the thought of that still makes me a little sad. But I hear ya: texture issues.
However, when you’re blending tomatoes for soup or sauce … or this dressing … please, just don’t. Especially if you’re using the season’s most beautiful and flavor-loaded heirloom tomatoes. Respect the whole tomato — the skin, the seeds, the gel sac surrounding the seeds — and use every last bit of it. A tomato’s nutrition and tangy flavors are in the skin and the seeds/gel, and by milling it all out, well, you might as well just use a pale, bland grocery store tomato, and get it over with. No heirloom tomato should be sent through a food mill.
If your blender leaves behind unacceptable residues of skins and seeds, I would argue that you need to invest in a better blender (for all-around cooking, not just tomato recipes), not in a space-hogging food mill that has limited use — sell the food mill and upgrade your blender! (I owned a food mill that saw the light of day for a total of about five minutes, when a fancy food magazine convinced a much younger and less knowledgeable me that I wasn’t a serious cook until I had one. It felt really, really good to finally get rid of that thing. That, and the pretentious food magazine.)
I don’t own one of those awesome high-speed mega blenders myself (I just envy them on Amazon), so I use my handy-dandy little NutriBullet blender, which I use almost everyday to create beautiful dressings and sauces and smoothies with just a teensy bit of clean-up. I’ve never had problems with unblended bits of tomato — look how smooth that dressing is above!
Oh, this bowl of fresh tomatoes, people! If there was one thing I wish we could preserve for the winter, it would be fresh, whole, homegrown rainbow cherry tomatoes, ready for salads and random snacking. Summer is winding down fast (whut!), so enjoy your tomato lover’s tomato salad while you can!
Tomato Lover's Tomato Salad
- 24 cherry tomatoes , quartered
- 1 pickling cucumber , chopped or sliced thinly lengthwise and rolled into curls
- 1 ounce reduced fat feta cheese , crumbled
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 heaping tablespoon fresh basil sliced chiffonade (4 to 5 leaves)
- 2 tablespoons Smoky Tomato Dressing (below)
- Combine the tomatoes and cucumbers in a large bowl. Top with the feta cheese and herbs, and toss lightly. Drizzle with Smoky Tomato Dressing.
Smoky Tomato Dressing
- 1 heaping cup roughly chopped fresh tomatoes , shallowly cored (4 small, 2 medium, or 14 or cherry)
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water or vegetable broth (if you have extra lying around)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 teaspoon chopped shallot
- 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until perfectly smooth. Use immediately and refrigerate any extra (makes about 1 cup - a serving is 2 tablespoons).
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