Heirloom Tomato Salad from Harlem and Heaven

July  7, 2020
4 Ratings
Photo by Beatriz da Costa
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 8 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

In a perfect world, perfect tomatoes would be available twelve months a year. But it’s not perfect here in the United States, so you need to take advantage of August and September, planning every tomato dish like a delicious invasion. Step one: Find a good place to buy real heirloom tomatoes. I often have this flashback of being in Ghana at the first market there I ever went to. I remember thinking, “This tomato looks like it’s an heirloom tomato.” It was the same seed varietals that we see in heirlooms in the U.S. You could see it in the shape, the texture, the color, and the sizes. These were beautiful red, green, and orange tomatoes that they were selling for twenty-five cents. You’ll pay ten times that in the United States.

Thinking back to that market, I wanted to figure out how to highlight this tomato salad like you might have in Ghana.

Excerpted BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Copyright © 2018 by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Beatriz da Costa.JJ Johnson

What You'll Need
  • Tomato salad
  • 2 pounds colorful heirloom tomatoes, halved, or quartered if large
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil torn, plus small whole leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt (or 1½ teaspoons kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Curry Lime Yogurt Dressing (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup Pickled Red Onions (recipe below)
  • Curry Lime Yogurt Dressing & Pickled Onions
  • 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • Teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
  1. Tomato salad
  2. In a medium bowl, gently toss the tomatoes and basil with the salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Spread the dressing on a serving platter and top with the tomato salad. Garnish with pickled onions and basil leaves for an extra pop of color and flavor.
  1. Curry Lime Yogurt Dressing & Pickled Onions
  2. To make the dressing: Whisk together the yogurt, oil, curry powder, and lime juice in a medium bowl until the yogurt is completely smooth and the golden color of the curry powder is evenly distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to use.
  3. To make the pickled onions: Combine the vinegar, 1 cup water, the sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and coriander in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved, and bring to a rolling boil. Lower the heat and allow the pickling liquid to simmer gently for 5 to 8 minutes. In a nonreactive, heatproof pint-size container, carefully pour the boiling hot liquid over the onion, covering it completely. Let sit until cooled to room temperature. Once the onions have cooled to room temperature, cover with an airtight lid and store in the refrigerator until needed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tom Hocker
    Tom Hocker
  • Annette
  • Delise
JJ Johnson

Recipe by: JJ Johnson

James Beard-nominated chef, cookbook author, and co-founder of InGrained Hospitality

3 Reviews

Delise July 25, 2021
I used this recipe idea as inspiration and created a salad that would satiate my current craving for Mediterranean flavors. I added coarsely chopped green and kalamata olives, a small garlic clove, lemon juice, mint, basil and a glug of olive oil to the yogurt sauce. I pickled the onions with four-color peppercorns only (used agave nectar instead of regular sugar). I toasted/crisped chickpeas seasoned with salt, pepper, a bit of cumin and paprika in a cast iron skillet. I spread the yogurt on a platter, layered on the tomatoes, then the pickled onions, some crumbled French feta, the crispy chickpeas and garnished with coarsely chopped basil and mint. Served with a delicious, juicy grill roasted/smoked whole chicken. Really, really good and I think I might fool around with other interpretations of this recipe concept.
Tom H. July 29, 2020
I liked this very much, and loved the pickled onions. I added zaatar when I tossed the tomatoes with the torn basil because I am adding zaatar to practically everything right now. Works fine!
Annette July 26, 2020
The chili lime yogurt dressing appears to be green tinted in the above photo. I can’t believe that’s from anything in the dressing recipe. Comments?