Tomato Basil Abundance Salad
Continent-transporting (Ciao Italia!)
…and the most delicious way to enjoy your ripe tomatoes (ever.)
Oh simplicity. Oh perfect, Italian simplicity. This tomato salad takes me back to the bumpy cobblestone streets of Orvieto, Italy; a town I lived in while studying abroad in college. The main street, il Corso – the only main street, was always lined with fresh fruit and vegetables shops showcasing their most beautiful seasonal produce on makeshift crate tables that spilled out right into the street. It was at these produce shops where I found my Italian bliss. As the seasons changed in Orvieto, so too did the vegetables, fruits, and my knowledge on real food. Of course I couldn’t find fresh strawberries in January, but when they arrived in March I understood that all good things come to those who wait. I discovered this with seasonal tomatoes as well. On a warm, sunshine-filled day, tomatoes miraculously appeared in every shape, size, and color imaginable outside shop-fronts. They were stacked in baskets, laid carefully in wooden crates, and displayed proudly for every Italian to see.
Not wanting to miss out trying a single variety of tomato, I bought every new kind I could find. Heirloom after heirloom, day after day, I discovered tastes and flavors I had never experienced before in a tomato. Each taste led to a new happy dance and a new respect for true food, seasonal eating, and fresh, local goodness.
This recipe became my lunch and dinner staple. Often times I would substitute tender arugula (or rocket, as its called across the pond) with fresh spinach, dandelion greens, or even watercress. Beans became my cheap protein source, so of course the cannellini variety was added to these salads too. I would fill a big bowl with fresh greens, slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes, torn basil pieces, beans, the occasional slice of buffalo mozzarella, and of course a drizzle of delectable olive oil and basil dressing. Fresh and beautiful simplicity.
Before you make this salad on your own, I need to talk your ear off about olive oil, specifically, high quality olive oil. Olive oil is filled with goodness like anti-inflammatory antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to lower high cholesterol and risk of heart disease. It’s also a pantry staple: I learned this by way of the Italians. Not only can you use olive oil to cook with nearly everything, you can also use it as a daily moisturizer, hair mask, and eye-makeup remover. Whereas I do all of these things, my favorite way to use olive oil is in simple salads and vegetable dishes. When the recipe is made up of a few plant-based ingredients, you can truly taste and appreciate the quality of the olive oil at hand. This means you should save the good stuff for recipes like this one! The good stuff, by the way, is always extra-virgin, organic, and cold pressed; and may cost you a bit more than your run of the mill olive oil. Some of these lower-end olive oils may have originated with poor quality olives, been mixed with other low-grade oils like hazelnut or safflower or have become rancid in the long shipping process. Rancid oils create free radicals in the body and can even deplete certain B Vitamins.
So what in the world kind of olive oil should I buy?
1. Look for organic, extra-virgin, and cold pressed always.
2. Look for a harvest date. Unlike fine wine, olive oil does not get better with age. In fact, olive oil goes rancid in about two years. Definitely throw away any old bottles on your pantry shelves!
3. Look for dark glass bottles of olive oil, as light breaks down many important polyphenols found in the oil.
4. Be prepared to splurge a little. I use a really delicious high quality olive oil for salads and such. I use a cheaper, but still good quality, olive oil for cooking and other things.
The freshest tomatoes, gorgeously green and vibrant arugula, protein packed beans, delectable evoo, and fragrant basil come together to create the most delicious salad ever. This one will take you to Italy!
Tomato Basil Abundance Salad
¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Sea salt & pepper to taste
2 large handfuls arugula
3 cups sliced heirloom tomatoes*
1 cup cannellini beans
Handful of fresh basil leaves
In the base of a food processor, combine olive oil, garlic, and fresh basil leaves. Pulse until combined and add in sea salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl add in arugula, tomatoes, and cannellini beans. Drizzle with olive oil and basil dressing and stir to combine. Divide between plates and garnish with additional fresh basil leaves. Devour!
*Please only attempt this recipe with the freshest, most quality heirloom tomatoes you can find. If heirlooms are not available yet in your neighborhood – please wait until they are in season! This ensures that you will make the most delicious salad ever!