The best tomato salad in the world
Not my words, though I think they're true, too.
The entire day had been building up to this moment. I’d come on a last-minute trip to Tel Aviv to visit dear friends and at some point, I’d let it slip that I wasn’t particularly fond of fresh tomatoes.
What?! A foodie1 who doesn’t like tomatoes? Someone who otherwise adores exploring new flavours? This needed immediate rectification. Composed and level-headed, Talia immediately booked a table for that night.
—Their tomato salad will change your life, she promised.
“The best tomato salad in the world”
I’m not sure who was more in awe of the moment. Talia, who’d heightened her promise by calling it “the best tomato salad in the world” as we waited for it to arrive, or me, terrified of disappointing her by finding it anything less than spectacular. And now, on a white table cloth, by the window with a sea view, it was right in front of me. A small, apparently simple tomato salad.
There was, of course, no need to worry. The salad was everything that Talia had promised – and more. It was the moment where I discovered why tomato salads have such a special place in many people’s hearts. And it was a moment which forever changed my relationship to the humble tomato.
Good tomatoes, of course. Preferably an array of varieties, for visual and textural diversity.
But also of carefully crafted layers of flavour. Savoury, salty, zingy, herby. Enough supporting ingredients to make every bite exciting and slightly different from the previous one, but not so many they detract from the dish’s true stars: The tomatoes.
The recipe below is my version of this very same salad, recreated from memory and adjusted over the years, but always made with the very best of summer’s tomato bounty. It strikes, in my view, the perfect balance of all of the above, letting the tomatoes shine while ingredients like za’atar, feta cheese, rocket and lemony onions add pops of excitement.
You can enjoy this with any summer food you like – it’s excellent with fish or meat, especially grilled, but also works well alongside legume based salads. Personally, though, I prefer it just the way I had it in Tel Aviv. On its own, as a starter. White tablecloth optional.
Salad | Middle Eastern inspired | 4 servings