And what’s even better is having friends who share them!When it comes to bounty from the garden, tomatoes are at the top of my fresh veggie list. Recently, my friend Sue Ellen invited us to have some of her family’s harvest. Her brother, Gary Hilton, raises a tremendous crop of vegetables and on a really lucky, summer day in Thomasville, North Carolina you might find him selling the delicious fruits of his labor from a stand near his farm. Gardening and preserving produce is a family tradition for the Hiltons. When my husband arrived to load the precious cargo, Sue Ellen’s mom had packed a large care basket of several varieties of slicing and heirloom tomatoes. There were reds, pinks, yellows and combinations.

Did I mention how blessed I am to have generous friends who appreciate great flavor? In the same week, my friend, Patti, gave me a bottle of  custom-blended Tuscan Herb olive oil from Green Gate Olive Oil Company. Now, when the heavens bring two friends into your life with gifts of the tastes you love, you’d better pay attention!

I ask you, what goes together better than good olive oil and fresh, luscious tomatoes? I couldn’t wait to put their gifts together! (Maybe I should introduce them.)

I make tomato salads in many variations, but on this July evening the inspiration went like this:

Heirloom Tomato Salad

  • red and yellow tomatoes cut into wedges
  • sweet Vidalia onions, sliced thinly
  • slabs of Italian-made, mozzarella cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil (or an herb-infused oil)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh-ground pepper and Kosher salt to taste

Mix, let rest 30 minutes and enjoy with a crusty bread and your favorite wine. (I’m hoping my friend, the Red Wine Diva, will chime in with a recommendation!)

General tomato salad tips:

Gently squeeze out some of the tomato juice and seeds. Seeds tend to add bitterness.

Oregano is one herb that is better dried than fresh, not to mention that its roots will take over your garden.

Don’t add much salt. Lemon juice is another good salt substitute.

Use approximately 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil.

Add the lemon juice first and then the olive oil.

Drizzle and taste until you get the desired amount. Too much will make soup. It’s a delicate balance.

This recipe is also nice with a good Balsamic vinegar instead of the lemon juice. I like a malt vinegar, drizzled on just before serving, however, I prefer the fresh, crisp taste of lemons when the weather is hot!

Enjoy your pomodori!