Leni’s Summer Tomato Salad

The first big tomatoes are ripening on the vine; and we did eat three tiny cherry tomatoes yesterday . . . . . .  The cucumbers won’t be fruiting for weeks but I am dreaming of my favorite fresh summer salad.

Perhaps because I’m an opinionated and bossy person I have a personal rule about this salad.  I say it absolutely must be made with homegrown tomatoes (or at the very least with very fresh tomatoes from your local farmers’ market) – NEVER with store tomatoes.  Notice that ‘never’ is in caps and underlined! * Consequently tomato salad is a mid to late summer dish.  Seasonal.  Available several weeks a year at most.  No whining – get over it. The flavor will make it worth it.

And, the rest of the ingredients must also be as fresh and local as you can arrange.  I’m counting on you to be honest with yourself.  Don’t think you can make or serve this tomato salad in very early spring or real late fall or, God help us all, in the winter and have it taste its best.  I want you to think of eating this salad when the summer sun is setting at 8 pm or later, and made from ingredients you just picked (this is the best) only minutes earlier.  Ok now we have that straight. Whew!

Fresh tomatoes

Cucumbers (thin, small, with skins on)

Onion (yellow, purple, or Vidalia)

Red and yellow sweet pepper

Elephant garlic


Basil leaves


Fresh ground pepper

Kosher salt (or other fresh ground salt)

Balsamic Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cube the tomatoes with their skins on.  Save all the juice, put in bowl.  Cut all remaining vegetables into small dice.  Chop the herbs fine.  Toss all together well.

Dress with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Let sit for half an hour, stirring several times, before serving.

This salad will last in the fridge for several days.

Serve with fresh French or Italian style bread to sop up the lovely juices.

* Unfortunately research has proven tomatoes stored below 55 F. lose both flavor and texture consequently their quality suffers when stored in the fridge or the supermarket cooler.  In addition fresh tomatoes should be stored with their stem side up.  So eat tomatoes fresh and raw as much as possible during the summer season.  Then rely on canning, cooking and freezing as ways to store fresh tomatoes for later saving their superior flavor.


  • Garth Anderson

    Your recipe is how I love summer’s glory of tomatoes too. When I had the time to sail on the Chesapeake Bay I was able to make a varient of the recipe so that a half of tomato held all the ingredients and I could stay at the helm. A good can of tuna became part of the recipe when “protein” is needed.

  • jim

    Substitute serranos for the sweet peppers and add some lime juice – you just might have the best pico of all time.

  • Leni the cook

    It is one of the great culinary delights to have others riff on a recipe and make my mouth water!!

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