For the past two weeks I’ve been stuffing my face full of as many tomatoes as humanly possible. Sure, tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. But that’s only part of my face-stuffing rationale. It has much more to do with the fact that the fruit (that’s right, I said fruit) is in season right now and ripe-for-the-picking – pun intended. Even your average-Joe corner stores are stocking gorgeous and delicious tomatoes. The flavour of a vine-ripened, locally-grown, in-season tomato is very, very hard to beat. You know those tomatoes you get the rest of the year (in Toronto at least)? Those things pale in comparison. They’re dry, bland and sometimes have the texture of a kitchen sponge. They’ll make do in your Greek and Garden salads but they’re nothing like these Heirloom beauties right here. Sadly, tomatoes have a very short season and their disappearance marks the unofficial end of summer 🙁 That’s why you’ve gotta get in while the getting’s good.
These tomatoes are commonly categorized as Heirlooms because they are grown from seeds that have been preserved from the previous year(s), hence they are regarded as ‘heirlooms’ passed down year to year. There are a number of Heirloom tomato varietals, such as Green Zebras, Red Zebras, Garden Peaches, German Greens (my favourite), Brandywines, Early Girl’s, and a bunch more. You can also get a hold of heirloom cherry or plum tomatoes, equally delicious and visually stunning. These particular fatties were bursting with tomato flavour. I could taste the sun in them and when an ingredient is naturally this good you treat it with a certain amount of reverence.
The plan was to keep things simple and highlight them with their bestest friend, basil. Fact: things that are in season at the same time go well together on your tongue. Because I wanted every bite to be a tomato-basil party in my mouth, I decided to blitz together a quick pesto that I could smother overtop of the salad. Not gonna lie, I already had everything I needed for this 4-ingredient, dairy-free pesto on hand so it was a no-brainer. If you don’t have pine nuts, don’t worry, just roughly tear a couple of handfuls of fresh basil leaves by hand (chiffonading is so 2015) and scatter them all over the tomatoes along with the rest of the ingredients. I guarantee it will still be delicious.
As for the pesto, if you think you need Parmigiano-Regianno to make a great batch you’re wrong. Sorry, but you are. Before you throw a foodie-fit just hear me out. Obviously, EVERYTHING tastes better with cheese. I’m not crazy, just paleo. Nonetheless, in the case of this salad, I don’t think it’s 100% necessary. The combination of herbaceous basil, sharp garlic, floral extra virgin olive oil, unctuous prosciutto di Parma and juicy tomatoes is so wonderful that you won’t notice the missing dairy. If however you want to throw in 1/2 cup of grated parmesan in the pesto, go ahead. I feel you dawg.
Because I wanted this to be an entrée salad, I draped some prosciutto di Parma, sliced some avocado, and sprinkled hemp hearts everywhere (excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids), which not only added some nutty flavour but also made the salad look awesome! Highly recommend hemp seeds here and just about everywhere else.
One mistake I made is I sliced the tomatoes too thin. I got a bit carried away with my Miyabi 6000 MCT 6″ Gyutoh,** which sliced these babies like a hot knife through butter. I think the salad would taste much better with thick-cut tomatoes though. Nothing crazy, 1/2″ slices should do the trick.
I think you guys will really love this salad and would love to hear your thoughts if you take the time to make it. Just drop me a line in the comments box below or give the recipe a rating by clicking one of those stars.
Oh, and happy Labour Day long-weekend to my North American friends!
Heirloom Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Pesto Salad
2lbs heirloom tomatoes – the uglier the better!
100gr prosciutto di Parma – look for all-natural ingredients: salt, water & pork
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts – lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil – preferably cold-pressed
1 avocado – pitted and sliced
2-3 tbsp hemp hearts – for garnish
salt and pepper
- Set pine nuts in a dry pan over low heat. Toast the nuts until slightly browned and fragrant (approx. 12-15 min). Remove from heat immediately and set aside to cool.
- Once cooled, add pine nuts to a food processor along with basil, garlic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. Remove the lid of the food processor and scrape down the sides. Close the lid and set to low speed. With the machine running, add all of the EVOO in a steady drizzle. Blitz until smooth. Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper as required.
- Slice tomatoes in 1/2″ slices and layer in a serving dish. Slather tomatoes with the pesto. Top with prosciutto di Parma, sliced avocado and hemp hearts. Serve the salad immediately!
**Full Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links that help me to support my food blogging.