This is distilled from my latest Borough Market ‘Assemblies’ column — things that take just a few minutes to put together, and so make the most of seasonal market food to feed a crowd. It’s doesn’t follow the classic ingredient and method recipe format, but you’ll get the gist of how to make the dish if you read on.
You can follow the series on their website, along with the many excellent recipes and articles that are updated daily (browse the tabs marked, err, ‘Recipes’ and ‘Articles’).
Of course we all know how to Tomato Salad (verb), but I feel like we’ve one last shot at a seasonally appropriate platter of tomatoes. There are a few additions here which might appeal if you’ve had enough of basil for the year.
Celery is an under-appreciated ingredient. I make sure to grab a bulb that’s full of young, bright green and yellow leaves on the inside. I’ll finely dice a couple of stalks, let them steep in a sharp vinaigrette, and use them to dress the salad instead of going down the trattoria diced shallot approach. I like the nibbly-crunch and added layer of flavour shallot brings, but I know so many find raw onion too astringent, regardless of how allegedly mild it is. Diced celery will do a similar (superior?) job here, and I’ll also make use of the leaves, which provide a herbal version of celery’s unique flavour. More bright colours, too — this is a platter that we will first eat with our eyes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
To the celery and tomatoes I’ll add some good olives — ideally not too salty because I’m going to salt the tomatoes. A company called Oliveology do two varieties that fit the bill: one called throuba, which ripen to an intense, shrivelled and near-pastille type on the tree before being picked and get barely a light salting after that; and some unsalted kalamata olives, which ferment and cure in fresh water rather than a brine, and are absolutely stunning.
Oliveology also stock a beautifully pure and creamy cheese called galomizithra, and a feta that’s creamy and sharp, and again by comparison much less salty than most supermarket types (though in the supermarkets, I like the brand Odysea). This’ll be provide a finishing, and unifying touch to the platter.
First of all, at least 30 mins before you plan to eat, cut and generously salt 1kg tomatoes. Place them in a large mixing bowl and leave that somewhere warm (the tomatoes MUST be at room temperature by the time you eat them).
I slice each tomato differently, depending on the desired result and (more importantly) the shape of that tomato in the first place. This platter will work best if the tomatoes are kept chunky, and that suits the multi-shaped, multi-coloured tomatoes too. As a rule of thumb, halve them, and then chunk those halves into 2-3 pieces, depending on their size.
Strip out all the celery leaves from the middle of your bulb, pick them apart from any stalk and each other and set aside. Wash, trim, finely slice and then dice 2 stalks. Take your time on this—the smaller the dice (1-2mm ideally), the better. Put the diced celery in a bowl and add a pinch of salt, a pinch of caster sugar, 1 tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar, and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Again, set aside to steep. No need to de-stone the olives or do anything in advance with the cheese—your guests can do that as they eat, you’ve spent ages chopping celery and this is supposed to be a quick assembly.
When it comes to eating, drain (and reserve) much of the tomato juice from the salted tomatoes. Add the olives and the oil they came in, plus the diced celery, its vinaigrette and half the celery leaves. Mix, then decant onto a platter. Add some of the tomato water back (as much as you see fit). Use a teaspoon to spoon cheese into gaps between the tomatoes (you’ll need only 100g or so), scatter with the remaining celery leaves and finish with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.
We ate this with recently toasted pieces of sourdough, effectively DIY-ing tomato tartine/bruschetta.