Seeing as we’re in the midst of heirloom tomato season, I would be amiss if I didn’t discuss these delicious vegetables (or are they a fruit?) at least once. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of raw tomatoes – I prefer mine lightly cooked/heated through or pureed into a sauce or soup. The main exception being heirloom tomatoes which come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, textures and tastes. Some are sweet, some are acidic, but the one thing almost all heirloom tomatoes have in common is strong depth of flavor.
Before I go much further, I should answer the common question “what makes a vegetable heirloom?” The general rule is that it has to have been in existence for at least three generations and must have been open-pollinated, meaning non-hybrid or genetically-modified. Heirloom tomatoes are sometimes referred to as “heritage” and just like commercial tomatoes are excellent sources of vitamins A and C.
I was thinking about this the other day as I was sorting through the many bins of heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market. To me the heirloom tomato is indicative of summer with its fresh and bright flavors and is the only tomato I wouldn’t cook simply because it’s not necessary (same with fingerling potatoes, but I’ll get into that another time).
Unfortunately I got there a little late, so the tomatoes were fairly picked over, however I was happy with my selection of three small tomatoes, each a different variety, for the salad I was going to make. I’m note sure exactly which types I purchased, but I know one was red brandywine and I think another was purple Cherokee. Whatever the varieties, the mix of flavors couldn’t be beat in my Heirloom Tomato & Avocado Salad. If you choose to make this salad, buy whatever tomatoes look, feel and smell the best (they should be firm to the touch, smell fresh and be void of bruises).
Heirloom Tomato & Avocado Salad with Chicken Breast (Serves 2)
1 garlic clove, grated on a zester or microplane
1 Tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
8 to 12 ounces heirloom tomatoes (about 3 small)
2 cups mixed greens
6 ounce cooked chicken breast, skin removed and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons toasted almonds, chopped
To make the vinaigrette, combine the grated garlic and champagne vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and sugar. Set aside.
Remove the core of each tomato and cut into quarters. Remove the seeds and discard. Dice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a mixing bowl.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Use a paring knife to make diagonal cuts along the inside of the avocado, each 1/2-inch apart. Turn the avocado 45 degrees and make more cuts so that the inside resembles diamonds. Now take a large spoon and scoop out the inside of the avocado and add it to the tomatoes. Pour 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the vegetables and gently toss.
To serve, divide the mixed greens between two plates and top each with half the tomato and avocado mixture, followed by the chicken and almonds. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the top and serve.