Kitchn Love Letters

The Easy Summer Dinner Formula That Never Lets Me Down

published Jun 28, 2022
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Credit: Amelia Rampe
Tomato salad with grains, herbs and dukkah

I stock up all summer long on heirloom tomatoes. Some get sliced for sandwiches, some get eaten plain with just a little salt, and the bulk of them get turned into tomato salads. Tomato salad takes many forms in my house — I even have a simple formula that helps me turn each one into a more substantial meal. They’re essentially no-cook (assuming you do a little prep work ahead of time), they’re quick to pull together, they’re a great way to beat the heat, and they’re endlessly versatile. Here’s how I make my tomato salads.

I start with tomatoes. (As you might have guessed, considering we’re talking about tomato salads.) Next, part of my summer meal planning includes cooking up a pot of grains at the beginning of the week. I love the heartier grains like farro, wheat berries, freekeh, or barley, but sometimes I’ll make more tender grains like quinoa as well. Once I have pre-cooked grains in my fridge, the hardest part has been done. 

So it’s sliced tomatoes + grains. From there, I can take the salad in a few different flavor directions using the rest of my formula. The full formula: Tomatoes + Grains + Dressing + Toppings + Herbs. And it really is entirely customizable. The more you tweak and swap, the more different your finished dish becomes. You can have a tomato salad one night and then a very different one the next.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

The dressing: I rotate through a couple different types of dressings, depending on my mood. Sometimes I drizzle some tahini, make a yogurt/tahini dressing, or make a quick Caesar salad dressing. The dressing complements the acidity of the tomatoes. Sometimes I punch up the flavors even more with a tonnato, vinaigrette, or Worcestershire sauce. Sometimes I’ll dress the grains in the vinaigrette to help season the grains, too. Sometimes I will dollop leftover herb sauce all over.

The toppings: I like to look around my fridge and pantry to see what extra toppings I can add in. I always keep preserved lemons in my fridge. A few tablespoons of the chopped rind is delicious in the salad. I also like to top this salad with pepitas, nuts, dukkah, and anything that lends some crunchy textures.

The herbs: I always top off any tomato salad with all herbs I have in my fridge. If I have it stocked and it will go with the salad I am making, I will throw it in. In the summer, that could be parsley, dill, chives, basil, or scallions. We are almost there now! All we need is to do is season it all. I love flaky salt and spices like urfa biber to round out all the flavors. 

Credit: Amelia Rampe

And voila! Your salad is ready to eat! I promise this a very substantial, quick and easy summertime meal, but if you want to pair it with a protein, I love it with quick grilled items like fish, lamb chops, or a rib-eye steak.

Do you love summertime tomatoes? What do you do with them this time of year? Tell us in the comments below.