This post originally debuted April 2019, and with over 10,000 views, is now updated & republished March 2020 - ENJOY!
I've made many versions of tomato salad over the years, but I stopped experimenting when I found this one by Jamie Oliver.
If you need an idea for a 'bring a dish' party, try Jamie Oliver's 'Mothership' Tomato Salad. I can guarantee that not only will you and your salad bowl be a hit, but party-goers will be asking you for this recipe. Have you ever wandered a Farmers Market? Vendor after vendor of wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits, single batch specialty cheeses made from the milk of local goats and sheep, pots of herbs for you to plant at home, local artisanal producers of soaps and jewelry and fabric goods. I am a huge proponent of fresh, but especially of local. Jamie Oliver's 'Mothership' Tomato Salad makes fantastic use of fresh and of local.
Back in New Jersey, I'd day trip events listed in the Skylands Visitor Guide, and try to work in stops to the independent farmers with roadside stands. Many Jersey stands were on the honor system, and so you'd tuck your cash into the little box left out alongside the farmers best produce, and make your selection. There was even one roadside stand that featured fresh baked pies and brown eggs. Seriously, fresh and with love, who could pass this up?
I have adapted this slightly from Jamie's original recipe because I have modified steps to increase the intensity of the herbs.
Charleston, too has a Farmers Market. Every Saturday, rain or shine. Going to walk and browse is one thing, but going to buy with specific recipes to make is another. I always have two to three standard recipes I keep in mind whenever I hit a farmers market, and if I happen upon eggs or cheese, then I can add to that number. Jamie Oliver's 'Mothership' Tomato Salad is bright and super fresh and happens to be one of those recipes. I've made many versions of tomato salad over the years, but I stopped experimenting when I found this one by Jamie Oliver. It is without argument, the absolute best.
If you want to make it a meal, consider using a ball of fresh Burrata with cream as the centerpiece, or a handful of toasted pine nuts or crumbled Feta sprinkled over top, and of course a hunk of crusty baguette to mop up the juices. Unreal...
I have adapted this slightly from Jamie's original recipe because I have modified steps to increase the intensity of the herbs. In addition to the dried oregano flowers, I have chosen to add fresh basil. Serve as a side salad to barbecued chicken drumsticks or burgers on the grill. This salad is a texturally beautiful accompaniment to any homemade potato salad as well. If you want to make it a meal, consider using a ball of fresh Burrata with cream as the centerpiece, or a handful of toasted pine nuts or crumbled Feta sprinkled over top, and of course a hunk of crusty baguette to mop up the juices. Unreal...
- 2-ish pounds mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Handful fresh oregano stems, young green but not woody parts
- 8 to 10 whole fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup quality olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
For the Tomatoes
- There are two things to remember in this recipe. The first is that you should try to get a mixture of different, tasty, tomatoes in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Second, the flavor is brought out by salting the tomatoes, so don't skip this step. Salting leaves you with really intensely flavored tomatoes. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters and others into uneven chunks. Immediately this will give you the beginnings of a tomato salad that's really gorgeous to look at and to eat.
- Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a good pinch of sea salt. Use your hands to give them a good toss and coat the cut surfaces with the salt. After about 20 to 30 minutes, rinse gently and thoroughly under cool tap water and turn out onto paper toweling to drain a bit.
For the Dressing
- In Jamie's original recipe, he calls for dried flowering oregano because of the flavor it lends, but dried flowering oregano and plain dried oregano are very different. Dried flowering may be difficult to find (I've created text links and via the photo below for purchase through Amazon), so I oftentimes use fresh oregano, leaves as well as stems, but just young green stems, no woody parts; I too am going for an intense flavor profile here.
- Make a dressing in a mini chef prep or blender using the fresh oregano, 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar, 3/4 Extra-virgin olive oil, the garlic, the black pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Zing everything up until nicely smooth, and VERY aromatic.
- Transfer the now somewhat drained and dried tomatoes into a large bowl. Pour the oregano dressing over the mixture and toss well. This is where I like to let the herbs and tomatoes 'do their thing,' and hang out on the counter for several hours, covered with plastic wrap, and marry their flavors.
- Turn marinated tomatoes out on to a rimmed serving platter. Garnish with basil leaves. If desired, add fresh mozzarella or Burrata cream, crumbled Feta, or even toasted pine nuts.