A simple tomato salad dressed with a bright and tangy dressing in the German style is a way to enjoy the tomato crop at the height of the season, or well after, if you've stored some of your luscious garden-ripe tomatoes from the harvest. It's simple, fresh, and tasty, and complements many types of meals. (Skip to recipe.)
If you're tired of a plain old green salad, change it up with this wonderfully bright and tangy Tomatensalat. It's the German tomato salad I grew up eating often in the summer and fall when fresh garden tomatoes were at their peak, and in the winter whenever we could find nice tomatoes at the grocery store.
Simplicity itself, you can make this tomato salad just with tomatoes and a few finely chopped onions (green onions or chives will do, too). Add a bit of parsley if you want to be really fancy. Stir together a simple dressing of sharp vinegar and a dash of oil, a touch of mustard, salt, pepper, and sugar. It melds with the tomato juices to bring them most startlingly, vibrantly alive. Your taste buds will be dancing.
You'll find that this simple kind of tomato salad complements everything from a plain sandwich lunch to a variety of main dish meals. The dressing makes enough for a large salad or several smaller ones. Marinating the onions in the dressing for a short while first is the trick my mom always used to take away their bite - they become slightly pickled.
Our tomato harvest was fantastic this year - a bumper crop of sweet, juicy fruits ripening in our greenhouse. The seeds are an unknown variety saved by my friend in Germany, which she gave me on our visit there last Christmas.
They were the most amazingly sweet, large, juicy tomatoes we've ever grown. I've had boxes of tomatoes ripening on our basement floor for the last six weeks, since we picked them all before the frost came, and we've been enjoying them every which way - often just sliced and served with a sprinkle of salt, sometimes made into this bright tomato salad, and sometimes cooked into various dishes. I've canned many jars of tomato sauce, and we're now down to our last big bowl of fresh sweet tomatoes to enjoy.
This recipe for Tomatensalat comes from my German friend (and fellow teacher at the German School), Ruth, who is a fantastic cook and hails from the same area in Germany that my mom's ancestors come from (Swabia). Ruth's recipe is very similar to my mom's way of making a tomato salad, but mom has never had written-down proportions. I've never used a recipe, either, and my tomato salad comes out a little different each time, so when Ruth gave me her recipe, I was thankful to have the measuring-out done for me. I use her recipe now, too, and am happy to pass it on to you.
This bright and zesty tomato salad was a wonderful little reminder of summer, which seemed a long way away today, as we hunkered down for our first real snowfall of the season (we had a light snowfall a few weeks ago that didn't stick around). As the wind howled and swirled the snow into icy roads and a white world, I closed my eyes and thought of the warm tomato summer.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: This dressing has a higher ratio of vinegar to oil than normal - it takes into account the juices from the tomatoes to tone it down. If your tomatoes don't produce much juice or you prefer a milder flavour, just add a bit of water to thin it out. Start by adding a small amount of dressing to the tomatoes at first. After leaving the salad for a few minutes for the tomato juices to release, stir and taste it. If it's still too tangy, dilute it with a tablespoon or two of water and toss again. If not, add a bit more dressing to taste.
The dressing makes enough to dress a large tomato salad. Use the amount of tomatoes you need for the crew you are feeding, and use as much dressing as needed to flavour the salad to your taste.
Tomatensalat (German Tomato Salad)
The amounts for the salad are guidelines, and can be varied according to taste and the amount of servings needed
for the tomato salad:
- 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped onion, according to taste and the amount of tomatoes used
- 2 to 4 lbs (4 to 8 cups, diced/.9-1.8kg) of fully ripe tomatoes, according to how large of a salad you wish to make
- ~2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (optional)
for the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons mild-flavoured oil (I like avocado oil)
- 4 tablespoons (¼ cup/60ml) distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- a dash of pepper and sugar (about ¼ teaspoon of each)
Place the chopped onion in a bowl.
Mix together the dressing ingredients in a spouted measuring cup or a small jar and stir with a fork or shake well. Pour about a tablespoon of the dressing over the onions, just enough to moisten them, and let them marinate about 10 minutes (this removes their sharpness) while you cut the tomatoes and parsley.
Cut the tomatoes into wedges or bite-sized pieces and add them, with the parsley, to the onions.
Pour over a bit of the dressing to moisten the tomatoes and toss them gently to coat them. Leave them for 5 to 10 minutes so the juices released from the tomatoes dilute the dressing, making it more mild. Taste and add more dressing if you wish. You might not use all of the dressing. This amount of dressing will dress up to 8 cups of diced tomatoes (~4lbs). If using less tomatoes, use less dressing accordingly.
Leftover dressing can be saved for more tomato salad, or diluted with a bit of oil or water and used to dress a green salad. It will keep in the fridge for weeks.
Serve the Tomatensalat with a slotted spoon so the juices stay behind in the bowl, or serve it on the side in separate small bowls if you like to enjoy the juices, too.
Leftover salad will keep for several days in the fridge.
Serves 4 to 10, depending on how many tomatoes you use.
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I would take a big spoonful of this at any "Abendbrot" 🙂
Being a German myself, I was wondering what about this salad is particularly "German"? We are definitely not a country where tomatoes are typically grown - you can of course and many do, but it's not like in the Mediterranean area or Hungary where you expect there to be lots of locally grown flavourful tomatoes. Maybe it's the parsley? That I would associate with salads made by my family. Also, the even chopping of the tomatoes seems very neat 😉
By the way, my kids love to drink the leftover dressing from the bowl...
All the best - I envy you for the snow you're having already! Over here, it's rain, if at all.
Hi Sina, your question got me thinking. Not really sure why tomato salad is such a German thing. Here in Canada, among my Canadian friends it is not something you see often (usually green lettuce salads), but all my German friends enjoy it and make it. Growing up, my mom mostly made Tomatensalat with this kind of oil and vinegar dressing, but sometimes with a mayonnaise-based dressing, too. I loved it either way. I think it should be more popular - it's so simple, fresh, and delicious, and goes with anything.
And I'm with your kids - I like to drink the dressing, too! It's the reward at the end of the bowl 😉
The snow is still looking very beautiful here, but by about February, I'd gladly trade you for rain any day!