Tomato salad with purple basil

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

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.

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

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.

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

Fresh and simple tomato salad for summer.
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Salad, Side Dish
15 minutes
4 servings
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  • ½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 500 g tomato, the best you can find – a mix of different types and cut into different sized and shaped pieces is great
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 leaves purple basil, or any other herb you favour, torn or kept whole
  • salt and pepper

How I make it

  • 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.
  • Add the lemon juice, olive oil and basil. Fold gently a couple of times to mix. Serve immediately.
Did you make this recipe?I’d love it if you’d be kind enough to leave a rating and a short comment.

Hey, there!

I’m Vidar, a Norwegian food writer based in Istanbul since 2015.

Join me in exploring the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East.

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Photo: Bahar Kitapcı

Hey, there!

I’m Vidar Bergum, a food writer based in Istanbul since 2015. I’ve published three books on the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East in my native Norway.

This website and my newsletter Meze are the homes of my writing and recipes in English.

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