We have entered a time of riches, the last handful of weeks where heirloom tomatoes sit upon the throne and rule with splendor.

Their fruit is ripe from long days soaking up sunshine, and scraggly scars etch across and through their skin like a river. They have grown from seed, traversing their equal need for and vulnerability to rain, warmth and sun. Not only have they survived, they have never thrived with more vigor than now. They rarely look perfect. I like to think they have abandoned the sentiment in exchange for unwavering grit and other more important, juicy character traits. This fact in itself is a gift because beyond their varied and often disheveled appearance, they are some of the most flavorful morsels of the growing season.

And still, despite all the obstacles it took to make it to the market table or grocery store display, their skin is delicate and soft. So I will forever have two questions rolling around in my head as it relates to this family of savory fruit: How is this possible? And wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we could all be more like heirloom tomatoes? They, like most (if not all) things found in the natural world, have much to teach us.

I’m calling this a salad because it can be enjoyed as one. But a part of me wants to call it a “smear” because truly this is what it begs to be, scooped and smeared on pieces of toasted bread, grilled salmon or chicken.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Total time: 1 hour; makes: 6 servings

For the whipped lemon cheese:

2 cups whole-milk ricotta

½ cup fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zested with a microplane and juiced

1 garlic clove, sliced

a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

For the herb green chile oil:

1 cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

¼ cup chives

1 fire-roasted green chile, peeled, seeded and diced

1 teaspoon honey

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

5-8 heirloom tomatoes, depending on size, sliced into rounds

1 medium loaf of crusty bread, sliced and toasted or grilled

Preparation: Make the whipped lemon cheese: Blend together the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve the salad.

Make the herb green chile oil: Blend together the basil, parsley, chives, green chile, honey and extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve the salad.

To plate salad: Spoon whipped lemon cheese in the center of a large platter or individual plates. Layer sliced heirloom tomatoes gently over top and drizzle all around with the herby green chile oil. Sprinkle the top of the tomatoes with coarse sea salt and a few cracks of freshly ground pepper. Serve with crusty bread on the side.

Marianne Sundquist is a chef and writer who in 2020 co-founded Stokli, an online general store. Find her on Instagram @chefmariannesundquist, and email her at marianne@stokli.com.

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