Local tomatoes are amazing right now. Get them from the farmers market, the stand at the side of the road or your neighbor's back yard. But get them. They are incredibly delicious.
The tomatoes I have found at my local farmers market have been so wonderful, they don't need much adornment. A simple tomato salad or a tomato sandwich with your favorite dressing is enough. It's a perfect time to make a BLT; tomato-basil-mozzarella salad; or tomato bruschetta. The time is ripe for any recipe where the tomato is the star.
I use my homemade vinaigrette for a tomato panzanella salad, which is fresh tomatoes and toasted bread croutons. Panzanella is a great main dish when served with roasted chicken added to the salad, or a rustic side dish that pairs well with grilled steak.
Tomato Panzanella Salad
2 cups fresh prepared bread croutons
Variety of heirloom tomatoes or fresh yellow, orange & red farm tomatoes
Parmesan cheese curls
To make the croutons: Cut a loaf of Italian bread or a baguette into 1-inch cubes. Place the bread cubes onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with salt & cracked pepper. Using your hands, toss well to coat evenly. Place the bread cubes into a hot oven, set at 400 degrees. Toast in the oven until evenly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Cooled croutons can be stored in an air-tight container for 5 days.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
To make the vinaigrette: Place the Dijon mustard, honey, salt & pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the vinegar; whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.
To make the Panzanella Salad: Place the warm croutons in a large bowl. Cut the tomatoes into large 1-inch pieces to yield about 3 cups. Add to the croutons. Drizzle 4-5 tablespoons of vinaigrette (amount is to your preference) over the croutons and tomatoes. Gently toss to combine. Allow the tomatoes & bread to soak in the vinaigrette and tomato juices for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes. Garnish with curls of Parmesan cheese, fresh leaves of basil, or arugula salad greens.
I recommend you not refrigerate your tomatoes. Refrigeration can turn the flesh pulpy and reduces the great tomato flavor. Store them at room temperature on your counter.
When cutting tomatoes, a serrated knife makes slicing through the skin easy without mashing the shape. If you are using a straight edge knife, just make sure it is very sharp. You will have beautiful slices every time.
Toast or grill slices of bread. Once cool enough to handle, rub a clove of garlic over the toasted bread. Drizzle olive oil over the bread; top with fresh tomatoes, basil and grated cheese. Serve warm.