Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Aug

Heirloom Tomato Salad and Steak with Peppercorns and Purple Basil

Is it possible not to be seduced by the gorgeous displays of tomatoes dominating farmers’ markets during the summer? Their bright colors and unique shapes just make you want to reach out and give one or two a squeeze.

Summer is the time to enjoy juicy, sweetly acidic, full-flavored tomatoes. Before you know it, colder weather strikes and the sexy tomatoes of summer are replaced by bland  “tomatoes” with no personality whatsoever.

Although it’s tempting to be seduced by looks alone, it’s best to to keep your wits about you when buying tomatoes and focus on what really matters. A brightly or deeply colored tomato always seems to promise amazing flavor, but color isn’t always a real indicator of what the tomato will taste like. The word “heirloom” can also be misleading. Heirloom tomatoes are often delicious, but the word “heirloom” doesn’t guarantee much these days except that you’ll be paying top dollar. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which mean the birds, bees and wind are responsible for propagation, not human technology. When nature is in charge, anything can happen. A wide variety of flavors, colors, sizes and shapes emerge, which is a good thing. But if tomatoes from heirloom seeds are grown and sold without proper care and attention, you’re going to wind up with something that tastes no better than a rock-hard, flavorless, mealy, mass-produced generic tomato.

So when it comes to tomatoes, local is usually the first thing to look for (and the best example of local is a vine in your own backyard).  Organic is always good. And dry-farmed is too, which means water is withheld while the tomatoes grow so the plant produces fewer tomatoes with more flavor instead of tons of tomatoes with not much flavor at all.

Give tomatoes a little squeeze before you buy them to see if they are soft. More importantly, though, is inhaling the tomatoes’ perfume – if a tomato has absolutely no aroma, it probably has no flavor either.

During the summer, the best way to eat tomatoes is raw. There’s no need to cook them down to draw out flavor. Enjoy the classic combination of tomato, basil, olive oil and sea salt or try something new, like this Heirloom Tomato Salad with Peppercorns and Purple Basil. The sesame dressing drizzled on the tomatoes has a delicate flavor but also a spicy kick on the finish that makes the salad memorable. The kick comes from peppercorns, which lend their smoky, sweet, spicy flavor. You can use a blend of any type of peppercorns you like. The basic blend of pink, green, white and black peppercorns that is found in grocery stores is plenty flavorful for this recipe.

You’ll find purple basil in this dish, chosen because it has that great basil flavor we all love, but in a less aggressive way. It gives the dish flavor without screaming “basil!” so loud that it totally overpowers the tomatoes. The tomatoes, after all, are meant to be the star.

As much as we love them, however, tomatoes alone do not make a meal. Throw a steak on the plate with them, and then you’re really talking. This pepper-crusted steak pairs perfectly with this amazing summer salad. The combination is spicy and cool all at the same time.

So next time you’re at the market, don’t just ogle the tomatoes from afar. Step up and say hello. Try as many varieties as you can while the summer crop lasts, enjoying the unique color, flavor and aroma of them all.


  • Approx 2-4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds of tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamari
  • a handful of purple basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds of steak


Grind/mash the peppercorns and salt together using a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, rolling pin or knife. Set aside.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil with the olive oil, rice vinegar, tamari and 1/2 teaspoon of the peppercorn and salt mixture.

Rub steaks with the remaining tablespoon of the sesame oil and the remaining peppercorn and salt mixture.

Cook the steaks using your preferred method.

Cover the tomatoes with the dressing and purple basil.

Serve alongside cooked steaks.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Nothing better on a warm summer evening than a grilled steak and fresh tomatoes! I just recently bought some sesame oil for the first time, I can’t wait to try this dressing.

    Andrea wrote on August 20th, 2011
  2. That’s sounds good. Gonna have to try it. Thanks for the info on the tomatoes!

    The Primal Warrior wrote on August 20th, 2011
  3. This recipe sounds awesome.

    As a busy Dad, I’m always looking for quick, simple whole food recipes.

    I’ll have to give this one a go with some local Jersey tomatoes, localy grown & organic of course!

    Tim wrote on August 20th, 2011
  4. Not a fan of sesame oil but love tomatoes

    Wayneuk wrote on August 20th, 2011
    • Is this a joke?!

      Lol. My favorite flavoring oil is sesame. No oil I have tasted comes even close. It is full of omega 6 so I do not have it often but oh do I love it!

      Primal Toad wrote on August 20th, 2011
  5. MMMM summer steak… Definately should have eaten lunch before reading this article

    Michael wrote on August 20th, 2011
  6. Hi Mark,just read an article in the British Medical Journal about lectins and how they are adding the rubber tree gene’s to tomatoes as a fungicide.If you allergic to tubber beware modern tomatoes and stick with the heirlooms.
    Will mail you the excerpt and link.

    dave wrote on August 20th, 2011
    • oops should proof read,that’s rubber not tubber lol.

      dave wrote on August 20th, 2011
  7. I don’t love the taste of sesame oil but everything else about this recipe is awesome. August tomatoes, nothing really can compare.

    katie wrote on August 20th, 2011
  8. Mark, I’ve heard that tomatoes should always be cooked to unlock many nutrients, especially lycopene, that are otherwise trapped within the cell walls – but here you are recommending eating them raw. Any validity to this or did I come across bunk info?

    Doug wrote on August 20th, 2011
  9. Peppercorns on just about anything are amazing to me….

    Dennis wrote on August 20th, 2011
  10. That looks amazingly delicious. Gotta try it.

    Mary Hone wrote on August 20th, 2011
  11. i’ll sub the sesame oil for flax, thank you.

    Dasbutch wrote on August 20th, 2011
  12. In the process of making this right now — grilling the steaks and but using the suggested dressing on a BAS loaded with tomatoes instead of just the tomatoes.

    Purple basil is growing in my herb garden along with a couple of other varieties of basil (Thai and Lime).

    Not everyone here likes lots of sesame oil, so I’m cutting back on it and subbing with more olive oil and I added more tamari.

    Will serve the steaks (cooked rare and cooled) served side-by-side on a plate with the salad. Also made a small steamed yam, cooled it, cut it in ~1/3 inch slices and put a few slices on each plate sorta/kinda under the salad to take advantage of the dressing.

    We’ve been doing a variation of this for ages with salmon and chicken as well as the steaks. This flatass rocks.

    PrimalGrandma wrote on August 20th, 2011
  13. You can also grow tomatoes in a big flower pot. I have a cherry tomato plant and a beefsteak tomato each in a pot out on the patio and have been enjoying them for weeks. Just get the biggest cage you can find to prop them up.

    Ted wrote on August 20th, 2011
  14. Yumm Yumm! Lots of beautiful color too!!

    Richard wrote on August 21st, 2011
  15. Tried the tomato salad today with some tasty chicken sausages from Whole Foods… it was amazing! My husband and kids loved it too! Thanks for the recipe!

    Rachel S wrote on August 21st, 2011
  16. What about the known benefits of cooking tomatoes, making them healthier?

    andrew wrote on August 21st, 2011
  17. I have been oogling at tomato’s from a distance for too long with a puzzled look on my face wondering “what can I do with them?”

    Armed with this new recipe, let me see what magic I can get up to in the kitchen tonight!

    Thanks Mark

    Alex "Dude Wheres My Muscle" Siddy wrote on August 22nd, 2011
  18. Why would it be a joke? As you said yourself,its full of om6 so thats why im not a fan.Pretty obvious.

    Wayneuk wrote on August 23rd, 2011
  19. Hi

    I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try, looks delicious.

    A colleague gave me some of her home grown tomatoes today, they look great.

    I gave up growing them a few years ago as they kept getting blight. The supermarket tomatoes in the UK are a bit hit and miss.

    Actually more miss than hit!!!!



    kim wrote on August 24th, 2011
  20. I’m always searching for delicious (and easy to prepare!!) meals. And this one looks really great! Since I live in Florida I enjoy eating fresh veggies even more. They just taste way better than the stuff you get in Germany :)



    Jen - Personal Trainer Miami Beach wrote on August 25th, 2011

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