Cooking with Grace, Deli, Food Artisans

Cooking with Grace: Michigan Tomato Salad Is in Season!

Welcome to Cooking with Grace! This is where Grace Singleton, a managing partner at the Deli, shares her favorite products and delectable home cooking tips with us. This week, she’s making the most out of some ripe, plump Michigan tomatoes!

Summer tomato season is here, and I always try to eat as many of those beauties as possible before it’s over. Although the go-to tomato salad everyone knows is the caprese with fresh mozzarella and basil, there are plenty of other alternative flavor combinations you can try.

We tasted Zingerman’s Creamery Aged Chelsea at one of our meetings this past week (one of the perks of working at Zingerman’s Deli is that we usually do food tastings at our weekly meetings), and I was really blown away by how great this cheese was tasting. I decided to use it in my tomato salad.

Zingerman’s creamery recently finished a very big renovation to their production and retail spaces, and all of their cheese has been tasting exceptional. They even won an award at the annual American Cheese Society awards last month! I brought some Aged Chelsea home this week, and after a trip to the Ann Arbor Farmer’s market Saturday, I paired it with local Michigan tomatoes, onions and a little olive oil, vinegar sea salt and wild pepper. I know most people understand how great fresh tomatoes are when they come into season—the flavor and texture is so very different than what we can get the rest of the year. But, the same seasonality and flavor variation also goes for onions (and potatoes, too, but that’s a topic for a different blog post).

Because onions store well under the right conditions, we don’t often get to taste fresh onions. However, this time of year when the farmers all have onions at the market, they are usually freshly picked and tasting much different than the onions we get the rest of the year. I’ve known several people who will eat a fresh whole onion like you eat an apple!

Summer is the best time to just play around with different flavor combinations and ingredients. If you can keep some basic (really flavorful) pantry staples in your kitchen, like extra virgin olive oil, traditionally made wine vinegar, good sea salt and black pepper, you can experiment with all sorts of very tasty flavor combinations depending on what’s in season and available at your local markets and farm stands.

Here’s the recipe:

Michigan Summer Tomato Salad
2-3 of your favorite fresh tomatoes
1/4- 1/2 of a new crop sweet onion
5-6 1/4′ slices of Zingerman’s creamery aged Chelsea
3-4 tablespoons Petraia extra virgin olive oil
2-3 teaspoons Gardeny Cava rose vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Trapani sea salt from Sicily
several grinds of Epice de Cru Wild Pepper from Madagascar

Slice tomatoes a little over 1/4-inch thick- lay on serving plate slightly overlapping

Cut onion slices about 1/8-inch thick, lay onion over tomato slices. Taste the onion to test the flavor—if it’s a strong onion, you may want to use a smaller amount of onion to tomato. If it’s a fresh sweet onion, you can use equal amounts of onion and tomato (if you like onions!)

Drizzle the tomato-onion layer with extra virgin olive oil—enough to coat the fruit, but not leave a big pool of oil on the plate.

Sprinkle sea salt and medium-ground wild pepper over the onions and tomato, then finish with a sprinkling of vinegar. You want to splash it across the whole surface, but again, just enough to lightly coat the mixture and not leave much excess pooling on the plate. Sprinkling the vinegar on after the salt and pepper disperses the spices and blends the flavor across the whole dish.

Slice the Chelsea into 1/4-inch slices and then cut them into small bite size pieces. Sprinkle the pieces across the top of the dish and garnish with fresh herbs or flowers as you like—thyme, basil, parsley or chives would be nice as would fresh nasturtiums, or garlic chive flowers which are just starting to bloom in my garden.


You’ll find much of what you need for this dish at the Deli. Just ask!