ugly tomahtoI am a fair weather tomato fan, and I mean that in the best way. I just think that the sad, cottony, flavorless orbs on offer in winter are simply not worth the trouble. I have learned to make due with grape tomatoes for the kids’ snacking and I am fine with tinned Romas for sauces. But I will never just buy a tomato from a grocery store in the winter and put it on a sandwich or a salad or anyplace else.

Flip the calendar to summer and I can’t get enough. All shapes, sizes and colors get thrown into salads, pasta, rice, eggs. Tomato sandwiches on toast with salt pepper and mayo? Perfection.

tomatoes, feta, arugula, basil, olive oil and sea saltThis salad is also perfection for me. We ate this every day last summer on a beach in Mykonos. True, cardboard probably tastes good on a beach in Mykonos, but this salad is the real deal and it is just as good back here in sunny Connecticut. It can be made passably with winter grape tomatoes but it is divine with the tomatoes overflowing the farmers markets right now. This week, the yellow Sunburst tomatoes from Sport Hill Farm were the undisputed winner of my 7 year-old girl’s rigorous taste testing.  Trust her.  She tried them all.

This isn’t so much a recipe as a combination of flavors and textures that works really well together. I regularly adapt it to suit the rest of the meal or whatever I have in the kitchen.

One note on the feta: consider getting the block and crumbling by hand over the salad and then tossing with your hands. It is messy, but it is gentler on the tomatoes, distributes the components more evenly and gets a little love into the dish. Also, the pre-crumbled feta doesn’t taste as good and has unnecessary ingredients to keep the crumbles dry and separated. I am all for convenience and am happy to pay for it, but pre-crumbling my cheese for me isn’t exactly putting more hours in my day.

Basic:
1 pint of tomatoes, cut in half
3oz of feta cheese (or half of a package) crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss together and leave to marinate and marry for 20-30 minutes. Toss again and serve.

Next level:
Cut good quality crusty bread into small cubes. Toss with olive oil, smashed garlic and salt.  Bake in a hot oven for a few minutes until beginning to turn toasty brown. Don’t walk away — no one likes burned croutons and they go from golden to brown/black in the time it takes to find the remote control. Remove from oven and allow to cool and become crunchy.  Mix into salad before the marinating stage so that the croutons soak up the tomato juices and olive oil.

Other variations (or how to make the same salad every single night without annoying your family):
Add roughly chopped arugula
Drizzle good quality balsamic on the salad
Add diced cucumbers, corn or avocado
Add chickpeas
Put leftovers in the blender and blitz into a creamy gazpacho

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