The evolution of a great salad: heirloom tomatoes, peaches, herbs and chèvre.

Inspired by both my Boulud Sud salad and the fact that we are thick in the middle of tomato season, I made this beauty last night.

Heirloom tomato, peach, herb and chevre salad with shallots and apple vinaigrette.

Heirloom tomato, peach, herb and chevre salad with shallots and apple vinaigrette.

Heirloom tomatoes that were so tomatoey I hardly knew what to do (because how rare in this hybridized age is a tomatoey purchased tomato?!), paired magically with peeled and sliced peaches, young chèvre, a handful of chopped herbs from my garden and a lovely apple vinaigrette that I made with a Granny Smith Apple Balsamic I bought at Williams-Sonoma just yesterday. Diced shallots provided a bit of kick. 

If you want to test the freshness and piquancy of your shallots, slice one. If it makes you cry, you're in great shape for kick. If not, you'll have a much tamer but still lovely flavor.

Aren't those tomato hearts surreal?

Using fresh herbs is such an underrated means of boosting the flavor and beauty of most any dish. And do they ever love tomatoes. In my scrumptious Herby Tomato Tart, I use equal parts parsley, basil and chives. Last night I used a similar blend: two types of basil, thyme and chives.

This salad is definitely best when no part of it beyond the cheese has ever been cold. Please, please, I beseech you: DO NOT store your tomatoes in the fridge. You will kill all flavor and texture and make me feel so sad. 

I used a very young chèvre that is creamy, tangy and just solid enough to maintain itself at room temperature. I also let it sit on the counter for a good half-hour before serving. 

You want to use peaches that are definitely ripe but not mushy. They need to have the slightest hint of crunch so that they stand up to the soft tomato flesh and cheese. Overripe peaches tend to lose not only their marvelous texture but also their flavor. Blech- mealy peaches are as awful as mealy apples.

As far as vinaigrettes go, I like to keep mine simple: equal parts oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. If you have an especially strong vinegar or want to include mustard, you'll likely want to use a higher ratio of oil to the tangy elements: 60/40 or so. But keep things basic, use good quality stuff and let the fruits and veggies shine. 

The Granny Smith Apple Balsamic is really delicious, and I highly recommend it. If you don't want to buy any because you don't get misty-eyed over new vinegars as do I, substitute white Balsamic or Champagne vinegar or maybe a blend of those. 

This recipe will be posted momentarily in Salads.