Ina Garten's No-Cook Recipe Uses Fresh Tomatoes for the Perfect Summer Dinner
When you hear reviews for a dish that rave, "I simply cannot tell you how good this is," "phenomenal" and "through-the-roof delicious!" you might imagine we're referring to a luscious ice cream, towering layer cake or perhaps a juicy steak.
But get this: All of these reviews are real, and they're about a simple tomato salad. Seriously! And we're already counting down until we can try this oh-so-summery creation from none other than our ultimate entertaining guide, Ina Garten.
This recipe for Heirloom Tomatoes with Herbed Ricotta resurfaced on a perfectly timed episode of Barefoot Contessa Cook Like a Pro called "Herbs All the Ways" that aired this weekend on Food Network. It can also be found in her Cook Like a Pro cookbook (buy it: $17.21, Amazon.com).
"I've had this garden for probably 25 years, and the one thing I always grow is basil. I plant the Genovese kind, which is really traditional," Garten explains in the episode, as she trims a few stems of fresh basil from her home garden. (Score some Genovese basil seeds online-buy it: $4.95, Amazon.com.)
"Heirloom Tomatoes with Herbed Ricotta is such a versatile dish. Sometimes I serve it family-style as a first course, it's great on a buffet and makes a really nice summer lunch," she says.
Start with heirloom tomatoes from your vegetable garden, farmers market or supermarket. Slice the larger ones into bite-sized pieces, and keep the larger tomatoes whole. If possible, Garten suggests utilizing a variety of hues: red, yellow, green, orange or multicolor.
"I love all of the colors together, and what's interesting is each one tastes a little different from the others," Garten says.
No matter which color, size or shape you use, "don't refrigerate tomatoes. It really changes the flavor and the texture," she advises.
Gently transfer the sliced tomatoes to a large bowl ("you have to be careful because they're very delicate," Garten explains as she scoops hers handful by handful to place them in a big glass bowl). Then add minced garlic, "good olive oil" (Garten adores Olio Santo Extra Virgin Olive Oil; buy it: $55.71 for two 16.9-ounce bottles, Amazon.com), salt and black pepper.
One of the keys to the salad, Garten says as she tosses the ingredients together to combine, is to allow it to rest for 30 minutes before serving. That way, the "saltiness can get into the tomatoes and flavor the whole thing."
Now it's time to turn to the ricotta. You can either make your own (once you do "you'll never go back to store-bought," she says) or buy some from the store. This recipe explains how to DIY, and whichever ricotta route you choose, the final step is to dress up the creamy cheese by folding in chopped chives, dill, scallions, salt and pepper.
To serve this salad family-style, scoop the herbed ricotta in the middle of a large plate or platter. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the salted sweet tomatoes in a ring around the ricotta.
"I like using really good ingredients, and just letting them taste like themselves," Garten says. (Preach, Ina!)
Lastly, garnish with more fresh basil, a little extra olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel (Garten recommends Le Saunier De Camargue Fleur De Sel Sea Salt; buy it: $9.47 for 4.4 ounces, Amazon.com). As she presents the platter to the camera for a final look at the masterpiece, Garten asks, "Now tell me you don't want to make that right now?!"