Here’s a simple, delicious and surprising salad. Oh, one thing – it is only worth doing if you have spectacular heirloom tomatoes and nectarines. It will be completely tasteless and sad if you make it with hard pink tomatoes and underripe, sour nectarines. You’l be very on trend if you make it; I’ve seen variations of stone fruit & tomato salads on a bunch of great restaurant menus lately.
Tomato season really has two halves. The first half is “don’t waste my time”, and the second half “good lord that is delicious”. I like to celebrate the latter by eating as many great tomatoes as humanly possible, almost all without any cooking at all. Pairing them with fruit is an interesting way to play on the fact that tomatoes are, of course, a fruit and not a vegetable. It tends to emphasize the sweetness and complex flavors and make you not take them for granted.
The idea for this dressing was based on wanting to find a simple first course to serve before these icy cold Korean noodles (jjolmyeon). It uses fine gochugaru, a Korean chili powder. The one I have is fruity/sour and not particularly spicy. Taste yours first and dial it back if it is too hot. If you don’t have gochugaru, you could try ancho chili powder as a substitute, or just use a pinch of cayenne and not worry about it. But I would recommend picking up gochugaru if you can, I’ve fallen in love with it and will be showing you other ways to use it soon.
Oh, and don’t feel like you have to plate this salad all fancy like in the top photo. Your guests will enjoy it just as much if you do it family style.
Tomato and Nectarine Salad with a Korean Dressing
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free
For the dressing
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted (Asian) sesame oil – not the pale colored raw stuff
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 to 1 teaspoon fine ground gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (in a pinch, rice vinegar)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, sesame oil, salt and gochugaru (start with the smaller amount). Whisking continuously, drizzle in the sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- 2 – 3 large, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes, at room temperature – kind of nice if they are different varieties
- 3 perfectly ripe, sweet nectarines, at room temperature (or peaches) – preferably a freestone variety
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (could skip these for the family-style plate)
- Baby arugula (just a few leaves if plating fancy; a couple cups worth if doing family style)
- A few paper thin slices of sweet onion (such as Walla Walla) (cut on a mandoline if possible)
- Flaky sea salt (Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt), preferably)
- Core the tomatoes and cut them into wedges.
- Cut the nectarines into segments. If they are clingstones, you are going to lose some of the flesh, but you can gnaw on the pit for a cook’s treat.
- Plate the salad as you see in either of the two photographs. Give the dressing a whisk and drizzle it over the top, being careful not to overdress. Finish with a few scattered flakes of sea salt and serve.