Tomato salad with sumac

As a lover of tomatoes I am always looking for different ways to prepare and serve them that will enhance their already beautiful flavour. This recipe is based on one I read in an Ottolenghi cookbook – it used sumac as an ingredient – a spice I have been experimenting with for some time. Sumac is the fruit of a shrub or small tree which grows in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The berries vary in colour from brick red to dark purple, depending on where the shrub is grown. They are harvested and dried whole and then ground into a coarse powder. Sumac has a tangy taste with citrus notes and is a core ingredient in cuisines across the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean. I have found the best quality sumac is sold in Australia through Herbie’s spices, which you can get through their online store, or at a good delicatessan.

This salad works really well as part of a mezze, or to accompany grilled or slow roasted lamb. It is sweet, sharp and tangy, and utterly delicious. Have the tomatoes at room temperature for the best flavour – imagine bringing them fresh in from the garden, fully ripe and still a little warm from the sun – that’s the way to serve and eat fresh tomatoes!

Serves 4 – 6

  • 750 g ripe tomatoes, at room temperature. The widest variety of colours, shapes and sizes will make the salad look and taste amazing
  • 1 small red or pink onion
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • small bunch or fresh oregano, leaves picked
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • sea salt

Peel and slice the onion into rings, about 1 mm thick. Place in a small bowl and add the vinegar, sumac and a good pinch of salt. Set aside to let the onion soften for about 30 minutes. This method of preparing them removes all the acrid aftertaste of raw onion, and the red wine vinegar turns them the most gorgeous pale pink colour. Slice the tomatoes in a variety of ways – wedges, cross wise, length wise, in quarters or halves. Place in a medium sized bowl. In a small pan over medium heat toast the pine nuts until they are lightly golden. Just before serving add the pine nuts to the sliced tomatoes with the parsley and oregano leaves. Drain the onion and add to the tomatoes along with the olive oil and the lemon zest. Carefully toss together and then turn onto a serving platter.