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Jamie Oliver’s ‘Mothership’ Tomato Salad is so outstanding, it’s why I stopped experimenting with just any old recipe for my summer tomatoes.
I have adapted this slightly from Jamie’s original recipe, modifying the steps to increase the intensity of the herbs. 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 partygoers will be asking you for the recipe for this incredible tomato salad!
I have a habit of wandering farmer’s markets. Back in New Jersey, I’d day trip to local events and try to work in stops for independent farmers with roadside stands and cooperative farmer’s markets.
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 freshly baked pies and brown eggs. Seriously, fresh and with love, who could pass this up?
If you couldn’t already tell, I am a huge proponent of fresh, but especially of local. Jamie Oliver’s ‘Mothership’ Tomato Salad makes fantastic use of both fresh and local.
Open-air markets have it all. 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. Next time the opportunity arises, get out of your car…walk a market!
Ingredients That Go Into This Recipe
- Ripe tomatoes – source different shapes, different sizes, different colors and use fresh!
- Sea salt – used not only to flavor the salad, but also to hasten weeping of the tomatoes prior to the salad’s assembly, removing excess moisture.
- Black pepper
- Dried oregano flowers – these are a really good thing; ; their aroma is unmatched by any other herb or ingredient. It’s worth growing your own oregano JUST for the flowers, otherwise I’ve added a link to purchase directly in the recipe card! 😉
- Fresh oregano leaves – the basis for the vinaigrette.
- Fresh basil leaves
- Balsamic vinegar – Balsamic vinegar can be expensive, but it is worth it to seek out a quality aged product such as a Balsamic from Modena, Italy. The difference in flavor is very, very noticeable.
- Olive oil – good olive oil is made from whole olives, not from extracted oil. Choose cold-pressed and look for “extra virgin” on the label, as this is the highest quality grade of olive oil available.
- Fresh garlic cloves – heighten the senses and make experiencing the flavors in this dish more intense.
- Red pepper flakes
Substitutions and Variations
- Greek – add feta, cucumbers, and red onion. Serve with fresh oregano leaves.
- Caprese – add fresh mozzarella and basil to showcase the flavors of fresh tomatoes.
- Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes – roast ‘vine on tomatoes’ using balsamic vinegar and herbs, then garnish the salad with them to level up the depth of flavor..
- Grilled Tomatoes – a simple hack is to grill half the tomatoes, drizzling lightly with Balsamic vinegar as they char, adding smoke nuances to the finished dish.
- Tuscan Panzanella – tear uneven hunks of day-old bread and toss with the salad.
- Caprese Pasta – cook 1 minute past al dente and incorporate rotini pasta and Ciliegine mozzarella balls with the existing ingredients. Magnifico!
- Jamie Oliver’s The Mothership Tomato Salad with Burrata – a decadence familiar to ‘those in the know,’ and an outstanding way to enjoy summer tomatoes.
Why Do I Carry This Recipe in My Wallet?
Having a list of vegetables and fruits with me means I have an intentional plan for using them at the time of purchase. I carry this recipe (scribbled on an envelope flap!) with me in case I stumble across a roadside stand or market.
Step By Step Instructions
I hope deciding on this recipe will encourage you to visit a local farm or farmer’s market for the ingredients. Fresh is delicious, but also so much fun to shop for!
1: Begin by washing all of the tomatoes you will use in this salad. I recommend a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda per 1 quart water for 30 seconds. Ensure the produce is submerged by at least an inch of liquid.
2: Rinse with fresh cold water. Remove any tomatoes with cracks or blemishes and compost or discard. Turn out onto clean kitchen towels. Vinaigrette will not adhere to wet tomatoes, so dry thoroughly.
3: Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters, and others into uneven chunks.
4: My rule of thumb is to cut large tomatoes into ½-inch thick slices, while halving the cherry tomatoes and the Romas.
5: Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a hearty bunch of sea salt, a tablespoon or two at least. 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.
6: Do not skip ‘salting’ the tomatoes. The salt will draw the excess moisture from them, intensifying their flavor tenfold. I refer to this step as ‘weeping’ or ‘sweating.’ Don’t worry about the salad tasting salty. Not only does most of the salt drip away as the tomatoes weep but remember you’re also rinsing them.
7: Make vinaigrette dressing in a food processor by combining fresh oregano, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cup olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Mixture will be somewhat thick. Here I have also added fresh parmesan cheese prior to emulsifying with the olive oil. By adding the oil last, you determine the viscosity.
8: Transfer the now somewhat drained and dried tomatoes into a large bowl. Pour just enough of the oregano dressing over the mixture to lightly coat the contents of the bowl and toss well. Add chopped basil here, too. Cover with plastic film and allow the ingredients to marry on the counter for about an hour, longer if you like up to three.
9: Turn marinated tomatoes out onto a rimmed serving platter. Garnish with dried flowing oregano, basil leaves, and if desired, add fresh Ciliegine or Bocconcini mozzarella, Burrata, crumbled Feta, or toasted pignoli nuts. Pass the remaining oregano dressing tableside.
How to Serve Mothership Tomato Salad
- Serve this simple salad as a side dish to barbecued chicken drumsticks or burgers on the grill.
- “Beef it up” with Ciliegine mozzarella balls, paper thin slices of red onion, additional minced garlic cloves, and uneven chunks of day-old bread to create a Panzanella salad.
- Make this a meal and add Bocconcini or Burrata with cream as the centerpiece, a handful of toasted pine nuts, or a briny crumbled Feta sprinkled over top, and of course, a hunk of crusty baguette to mop up the juices. Unreal…
Need to Make This Salad Portable?
Prepare yourself for ‘ooh’s and ahh’s and OMGs’ when you plunk this visual feast down at a potluck. Keep the components separate to port; tomatoes marinating in a small fraction of the oregano vinaigrette in one container, torn herbs in another, and the reserved vinaigrette in a Mason jar to re-shake right before assembling on site. Add-ons such as mozzarella or torn bread should also be ported separately and added last. Remember to bring a platter or large bowl along in case the hostess doesn’t have a spare!
- This salad is best enjoyed the same day it’s assembled. In case you do have leftovers, put into an airtight container with tight-fitting lid and store overnight only.
- It goes without saying that this is not freezable.
Jenny’s Recipe Pro Tips
- Assemble FRESH! If serving to guests who aren’t due to arrive for another hour, wait to assemble so it’s assembled fresh.
- If adding mozzarella, seek quality! Smoked mozzarella, Ciliegine, Burrata, and Buffalo mozzarella are all excellent choices.
- Use good balsamic and good olive oil. It makes every difference in the world in terms of taste in your recipes.
Both Solanum lycopersicum ‘Golden Sweet’ and Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Candyland Red’ are purported to be among the sweetest of small tomatoes.
Jamie Oliver is a British chef who achieved global fame with his television shows The Naked Chef (1999) and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (2010–11) and as author of a number of cookbooks with numerous culinary themes.
To intensify the flavor of tomatoes and ensure that your dressing is the only liquid in the bowl, salt the tomatoes and let them drain in a colander for 15-20 minutes before combining them with other ingredients.
More Amazing Salads You’ll Love
Jamie Oliver’s “Mothership” Tomato Salad
- 2 pounds tomatoes fresh and ripe; source different shapes, different sizes, different colors
- sea salt
- 1 tablespoon flowers from dried oregano
- 1/2 cup oregano fresh stems; young green stems and leaves but not woody parts
- 10 basil leaves fresh
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic or more to taste
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
- black pepper freshly ground to taste
- Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters, and others into uneven chunks.
- 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.
- Make vinaigrette dressing in a food processor by combining fresh oregano, 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar, 3/4 Extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Emulsify on high nicely smooth, slightly thickened, and VERY aromatic. NOTE: In Jamie's original recipe, he calls for dried flowering oregano because of the flavor it lends, but dried flowering oregano and more common dried oregano leaves are very different. Purchase through this link or simply use fresh oregano, leaves as well as stems, but just young green stems, no woody parts. I make a point of using both.
- Transfer the now somewhat drained and dried tomatoes into a large bowl. Pour just enough of the oregano dressing over the mixture to lightly coat the contents of the bowl 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 onto a rimmed serving platter. Garnish with dried flowing oregano, basil leaves, and if desired, add fresh Ciliegine or Bocconcini mozzarella, Burrata, crumbled Feta, or toasted pignoli nuts. Pass the remaining oregano dressing tableside.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.