At the moment of writing this post, I’ve been holidaying on Naxos island since the first week of August. The other day, my boyfriend and I visited a local little biological farm about a fifteen-minute drive away from our house. We were delighted to find that not only could we purchase a variety of homemade cheeses, marmalades, liquors and tomato sauces (both regular and spicy), but we could hand-pick a variety of biologically grown vegetables straight from the field to take home (quite cheaply too).
As we visited the farm quite late in summer we were too late to pick from a great variety of vegetables (the several varieties of okra had already gone, sadly) and a bit too early for the bright-orange pumpkins at the back of the field and the various mushrooms growing in the barn. There was however an impressive array of tomatoes and chili peppers, so I took several brown paper bags and disappeared into the scorching hot fields where halved tomatoes were laid out to sun-dry on vintage metal beds, which made the landscape feel quite fantastical, only to return when said brown paper bags were filled to the brim with differently-colored and shaped tomatoes.
When you have the luxury of hand-picking, purchasing, or growing your own fresh tomatoes, it is crucial that you immediately take them home and turn them into the most delicious, refreshing tomato salad you’ve ever eaten. This summer-y salad that I’ve made with my fresh tomatoes is sweet and tart, yet salty and briny from the salted anchovies. It’s great as a refreshing starter, a light lunch, or as a side dish.
While this salad’s flavors and ingredients are very simple, sadly, you can’t really make a great tomato salad without amazing tomatoes. Whichever tomatoes you use – the type doesn’t really matter; cherry-, roma, grape-, heirloom, any tomato will do – it’s imperative that your tomatoes are ripe, plump, aromatic and fresh. Of course, we don’t all have a garden full of tomatoes or a local farm where we can pick some, but, if you can, purchase only the ripest, sweetest tomatoes (that really smell of tomatoes) from the farmer’s market or supermarket if you plan on making this salad. Even more important: to ensure your ripe tomatoes do not lose any of their flavor, texture and plumpness, do not store them in the refrigerator if you are planning to use them within a day or two*. Very cold tomatoes just don’t taste as good.
When you’ve got delicious summer tomatoes, you don’t really need a lot of extra’s to make a good salad. However, a couple of leaves of aromatic basil are known to be a tomato’s best friend and I believe that the briny salted anchovies are also an important addition to this salad as the little salted fish both serve as a perfect savory counterpoint to the tomatoes’ tartness and sweetness and they perfectly match the tomatoes’ umami components — and because I just really love salted anchovies in salads.
*Tip: should you want to use tomatoes that have been refrigerated, leave them out of the refrigerator for a day or two before using.
Salted Anchovies and Mixed Tomato Salad
- 1kg mixed small to medium sized ripe tomatoes, room temperature
- 15 salted oil packed anchovy fillets
- 15 fresh basil leaves
- 1 small garlic clove
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Wash your tomatoes and slice them in half, or quarters. Roughly tear the fresh basil with your hands and roughly (or finely, whatever you prefer) chop all but 3of the salted anchovy fillets. Add tomatoes, basil and anchovies to a salad bowl.
- To make the dressing: in a small food processor, or pestle and mortar, process the olive oil, vinegar, garlic clove and the 3 reserved anchovy fillets until well combined and almost smooth.
- Drizzle dressing over the chopped tomatoes and anchovies and toss to coat evenly.