Celebrate the season with a triple-tomato salad

At the peak of ripeness, an in-season tomato is one of those things that makes life worth living. This recipe is my ode to the summer tomato.

At the base of this salad are sliced beefsteak tomatoes, which are topped with chopped small tomatoes and drizzled with a tomato-based vinaigrette.

Given that this is an essence-of-tomato salad, it’s crucial that all of the tomatoes in the line-up be as ripe as possible.

How do you know if a tomato is ripe? Smell the stem end; its perfume should fairly shout, “Tomato!” At home, do not put them in the fridge. It will kill both flavor and texture.

You also can heighten that flavor by pre-salting your tomatoes and letting them drain for 15 to 20 minutes, as I have done here. The salt not only seasons them, but also pulls out water, thereby concentrating their tomato-ness.

I’ve teamed up the tomatoes with one of their best friends, an avocado, the creaminess of which contrasts beautifully with the tomato’s acidity. Tomatoes have many best friends.

Certainly, there’s not a fresh herb that doesn’t play nicely with tomatoes. So if you don’t have mint in the house, substitute basil, cilantro, chives, oregano, dill, parsley, tarragon or any other fresh green herb.

I took the dressing in an Asian direction, adding ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar to a small chopped tomato. Because the chopped tomato adds so much body to the dressing, you can cut back on the usual amount of oil without any problem. The dressing still seems rich.

Topping the salad are (optional) thinly sliced serrano chilies, which provide a jolt of heat to counterbalance the tomato’s sweetness. For the final touch, add chopped peanuts for crunch.

Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows.

She stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

Tomato and Avocado Salad With Gingered Tomato Vinaigrette and Toasted Peanuts

Serves 4. Recipe is by Sara Moulton.

2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1⁄3 inch thick

1 cup chopped assorted small tomatoes

Salt and ground black pepper

1 small ripe tomato (4 to 6 ozs.), coarsely chopped

1/2 small clove garlic, smashed

2-inch piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

2 tsps. low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbls. rice vinegar

2 tbls. vegetable oil, preferably grape seed

1 firm ripe avocado, halved, pitted and sliced

1/2 to 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)

1/4 cup shredded fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts

1. Sprinkle beefsteak tomato slices lightly on both sides with salt, then arrange on a plate and let stand for 15-20 minutes. In a small strainer, toss chopped tomatoes with a bit of salt and drain for the same period.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the small tomato, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar and oil. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Pat the tomato slices dry and on a platter arrange alternating slices of the beefsteak tomatoes and avocado. Drizzle tomatoes and avocados with most of the dressing, then top evenly with chopped small tomatoes. Scatter the serrano slices, mint and peanuts evenly over the top. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories (170 calories from fat = 71 percent of total calories); 19 grams fat (2 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 16 grams carbohydrate (6 grams fiber; 7 grams sugar); 6 grams protein; 420 milligrams sodium.

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