Tomato salad with purple basil - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Colourful and punchy salad, perfect for the barbecue season.

With a few friends coming over, we finally inaugurated this year’s barbecue season over the weekend.

Whenever we do barbecues, I always make a few mezes to start. Meze are small dishes meant for sharing, little appetisers to get the taste buds – and the conversation – going. If you follow me on Instagram (@vidiberg), you’ll already have seen my choice of mezes this time around.

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At this time of year, tomato salad in some shape or form is, in my view, mandatory in any meze spread. They are now in season, at least here in Turkey, and approaching a flavour so sweet and delectable even I, who never really liked raw tomatoes much, can eat them just as they are, like I’d eat a fruit.

With ingredients as good as this, it’s important – however difficult – to impose restraint. Let the seasonal ingredients shine. Add just a few ingredients. Enough to lift and develop the flavour, but not so much it gets lost or overpowered.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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The herb stall at my weekly market sells purple basil – a reasonably popular herb in Turkey (they call it reyhan). It’s a little sharper and has a more spiced flavour than the regular green variety; almost liquorice-y. It’s a perfect match with flavoursome sun-ripened tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon. If you can’t find it, I’d imagine regular basil and a little fresh tarragon would yield a similar effect, though I haven’t personally tried it. Of course, you could use just regular basil, too. Or, indeed, any other fresh herb you favour.

This tomato salad is perfect for barbecues, but also works well as a side dish to almost any summery food. Yields a medium sized bowl, enough for 2-4 as a side dish, more as part of a meze spread.

Tomato salad with purple basil - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Tomato salad with purple basil

Click to pin recipe.

Ingredients

  • 0.5 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 500 g mixed tomatoes, the best you can find, cut into different sized and shaped pieces
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 leaves purple basil (or any other herb you favour), torn or kept whole
  • salt and pepper

My method

  1. Add the red onion to a bowl, then the tomatoes. Add a little salt and pepper. Leave for 10 minutes to allow the tomatoes to release some of their juices, and the onion to soften a little.
  2. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and basil. Fold gently a couple of times to mix. Serve immediately.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

My books

I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

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Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him
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Get free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul.

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Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him