Simple Peach Tomato Basil Salad was the happy result of my CSA (community supported agriculture) bounty. This month, my most flavorful peaches and tomatoes are snuggling up in this salad. Making it takes less than the time I spent picking out the fruit and it tastes – well, simply like summer on a plate.
The US government defines a CSA as “one type of direct marketing, consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation ….”
In my case, I subscribe to the Norman’s Farm Market CSA, run by the Norman brothers. Each week, I pick a “small share” from a selection of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Although I’ve had good produce from grocery stores, I’ve also had grocery store produce that is less than optimal. That’s putting it kindly.
By contrast, Norman’s produce is always top notch.
I’ve made lots of sweets with fruit from my CSA haul. (Summer fruit galettes are the best!)
And savory dishes too. (This one a Hetty McKinnon special from her new book, Tenderheart.)
But recently, I’ve realized that one doesn’t have to choose between team sweet and team savory. This Simple Peach Tomato Basil Salad proves that. It melds the best summer peaches and tomatoes with a light, slightly sweet vinaigrette dressing.
By the way, did you know that tomatoes are a fruit? In fact, so are eggplants, avocados and cucumbers. Why? Because botanically speaking, they have seeds surrounded by “flesh.” Of course, nutritionally and culinarily, they are usually considered vegetables. So maybe the technically correct answer is that tomatoes are both fruits and vegetables, depending on what criteria you use.
The basil leaves that adorn the salad show that pesto may be delicious, but it’s not the only way to showcase this herb. If yours are large, consider tearing or cutting them in half.
I call this a recipe, but it’s really a template. Make more or less depending on how many you’re feeding. Change up the dressing proportions to your liking. Out of Maldon salt or don’t keep it in your pantry? Try another salt – kosher, coarse sea or a speciality salt.
This salad goes with virtually any main course. In my house, that often means pasta or a roast chicken. But this time we had unbelievable paella, courtesy of Mark and Carole, whose guacamole recipe is one of my favorite appetizers. And for dessert, I used the lemon verbena from their garden to make David Lebovitz’s lemon verbena ice cream, with Irvin Lin’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars. (Yes, I did add a bit of extra granola with the streusel on top of the bars.) Not bad for a weekday evening, I must say.
Although the salad is best eaten shortly after it is made, it makes for scrumptious leftovers. Just make sure to refrigerate it in a tightly closed container. And you may want to inspect the basil leaves as a few are bound to darken overnight.
As written, this recipe is vegan. But if you add fresh mozzarella I wouldn’t complain – and that means it has protein, making it the centerpiece of a lovely vegetarian meal.
Tips for Making Peach Tomato Basil Salad
- The plate or platter and serving spoon. Use a plate or platter flat enough to display the half moon pieces of peach and tomato. Also, it should have a ridge or a “well” to catch the dressing. There will be liquid at the bottom of the salad, so use a serving spoon that can catch all that wonderful “stuff” at the bottom, not a slotted spoon.
- Use ripe peaches and tomatoes. This is a salad best made when peaches and tomatoes are in season. Use the best ones you can find. Freestone peaches are easiest to pit and I prefer yellow over white peaches. But use whichever types (of both peaches and tomatoes) you love.
- Fresh basil. I got mine from our deck, where we grow herbs in what my friend Domenica Marchetti would call a “garden of neglect.” Get yours from wherever, but make sure it’s fresh. If you clip it more than a few minutes before you make the salad, put the sprigs of basil in water as if they were flowers. That keeps them from browning.
- The dressing. This is a riff on simple vinaigrette. But it’s even easier because you don’t have to shake or emulsify the ingredients. Pomegranate molasses is key to getting the touch of sweetness that takes the salad up a notch. Find it in the international/Middle Eastern section of a grocery.
Simple Peach Tomato Basil Salad
Make this simple salad whenever you have great produce and some fresh basil. It's a perfect main course for a light luncheon or dinner. Add slices of fresh mozzarella and it's an even heartier meal. And of course, it's a perfect summer salad with any main course you choose to make.
- 1 Large fresh tomato, cut into 1/2-inch slices, then halve each slice see note about quantities
- 1 Large peach, preferably freestone, cut into half, then cut each half into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 – 1 & 1/2 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon Pomegranate molasses
- Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn or cut in half if large
- 2-3 Large pinches Maldon sea salt see note about salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Using a dinner-size plate (approximately 11-inches) with a ridge or "well" to catch the dressing or a similar plate, lay out the peach and tomato half moons in a circle along the edge of the plate, alternating to make a pretty pattern. Insert a small basil leaf on top of each slice of tomato and peach.
Drizzle on the oil first, then the balsamic vinegar and finally the pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper
To make a larger salad, simply use a larger plate or platter and double or triple the ingredients.
As a substitute for Maldon salt, which has flat, large crystals, use kosher salt, coarse salt, or a speciality salt with large crystals.