My intent was to buy string beans.
Instead, I walked out of the farmstand with chicken, two dozen eggs, some fermented coconut yogurt (totally weird by the way), fresh basil, and the most beautiful bunch of sunflowers perched right next to me as I type. Pretty hues of espresso, golden caramel, and burnt yellow compete for my attention.
I also walked out with the best impulse buy ever: a pint of baby heirloom tomatoes.
I grew up eating tomato salad, the Italian way.
Picture this: a big bowl of juicy tomato wedges tossed with with shaved celery, Vidalia onions, and a generous amount of salt (no vinegar). On the side, we served plenty of sesame semolina bread cut into neat little slices for dunking. Everyone in our family went crazy for this salad, especially when Grandpa made it.
This summer, I was inspired to switch things up a bit. I opened up the fridge and saw some tahini sauce and thought “Hey, this might work with something…’
The colorful baby heirlooms are tumbled around the rich tahini sauce, topped with fresh basil, sunflower seeds, olive oil, and crunchy chips to scoop it all up.
It’s like the “Bohemian-Italian version.”
The flavors are all juicy and crunchy, and it’s the type of thing you keep eating while nodding your head with approval. I would suggest serving this dish when guests come over or if you need to bring something quick, easy, and impressive to a party. It hits all the right spots and is vegan and vegetarian friendly.
So, here’s what you do:
First, if you live near a Trader Joe’s, buy their prepared tahini sauce which is in the refrigerated section right next to the hummus.
I’m NOT talking about straight up tahini, or tahini paste which is just pureed sesame seeds.
Tahini sauce (commonly served with Greek food) is a blend of sesame seeds with lemon juice, garlic, water and salt. It’s delicious. You can make your own tahini sauce, but if that’s not your thing I highly recommend the Trader Joe’s brand. Their version is well balanced, not too garlicky, and perfectly salty (in my opinion).
Once you’ve got the sauce, head over to the snack aisle and grab a bag of their Quinoa and Black Bean Tortilla Chips.
About the Recipe
Whenever I make a tomato salad, I always halve the tomatoes first and marinate them in salt, olive oil, and basil.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this technique adds THE BEST flavor to the tomatoes and draws out their precious juice, which is perfect for dunking. About 15 minutes is all you need for tomatoes to do their thing in the marination station.
In the meantime you can snack on some chips and check your email ;)
Once the tomatoes are ready, it’s time to assemble.
Grab a nice bowl (I got this blue one from Home Goods- it makes an appearance in my new book!), and add the tomatoes. Pour in the tahini sauce and wedge in the chips. Sprinkle the whole thing with sunflower seeds. Eat immediately! And don’t forget to breathe in between bites!
As you begin to scoop up the tomatoes, everything mixes together and it gets all yummy like one big Mediterranean salad.
You can even switch to a fork like I did to finish it off at the end.
My mom ate some too; she started with a fork and ended with a spoon to scoop up all that saucy goodness.
Tips: If you’re working with salted sunflower seeds, make sure to go easy on the salt when marinating the tomatoes. Remember, the tahini sauce has salt too, so you don’t want to overdo it. If your’e working with unsalted and raw sunflower seeds, I would toast them in a dry, non-stick pan before using for more flavor. Or, use roasted, salted sunflower seeds which you can find at Trader Joe’s. That’s what I do.
Also, the salad itself is served at room temperature but the tahini sauce is actually cold from the fridge. It’s nice this way, although you could bring the sauce to room temperature if you don’t mind it runny.
Substitutions: If you’re not a fan of tahini sauce, use your favorite hummus instead. You can also use whatever chips you want, or torn up pita bread would. I’d choose something wholegrain to complement the earthiness of the tahini/ hummus or whatever you’re using.
Make ahead: This recipe is so easy you don’t have to worry about advanced preparation. But if you’re inclined to do so, halve and marinate the tomatoes up to 1 hour in advance.
- 1 pint of baby heirloom tomatoes, assorted colors if possible
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A few sprigs of fresh basil
- 1x 8 oz container of tahini sauce
- 2 tbsp roasted sunflower seeds (mine were roasted + lightly salted)
- Quinoa and Black Bean Tortilla Chips, wholegrain chips, or torn up pita bread- it's your choice
- Halve the tomatoes and add them to a medium bowl. If they’re on the large side, cut them into quarters. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pluck the basil leaves, stack them on top of each other, and cut into ribbons. Add the basil leaves to the bowl; toss well to combine. Marinate at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
- To assemble, tumble the tomatoes into a nice bowl, off to the side (see top picture). Pour some of the tahini sauce next to the tomatoes (the exact amount is up to you). I used about ⅔’s of a cup for 1 pint of tomatoes. Then, wedge in the chips next to the sauce.
- To serve, sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the bowl. Enjoy at room temperature, right away.