Marinated Tomato Salad

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.

Marinated Tomato Salad

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.

Marinated Tomato Salad

I use these ingredients for my Marinated Tomato Salad:

Tomatoes:

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 Onion:

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.

Baby Capers:

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:

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:

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:

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.

Marinated Tomato Salad

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.

Marinated Tomato Salad

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.

Marinated Tomato Salad

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.

More delicious salad recipes for you to try:

  • Radish, Cucumber and Feta Salad
  • Orange, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad
  • Quinoa, Mandarin and Spinach Salad
  • Broccoli, Bacon and Cashew Salad
  • Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint

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.

Marinated Tomato Salad

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.
Alex xx

Marinated Tomato Salad

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