Once again, I’m attempting to grow tomatoes in my backyard garden. I love fresh, ripe tomatoes in the summertime and am not giving up as a gardener. This time I have a few green Heirloom tomatoes on my tomato vines. Hurrah! I’ll add a few more tomatoes from the market for a grand tomato salad because I’m getting tired of waiting for my tomatoes to ripen. I’m serving the tomatoes with my favorite salad dressing, “Classic French Vinaigrette.” This vinaigrette recipe has been my “go to” dressing for years for any type of salad greens or tomatoes. My dressing is “light” in flavor, adds just enough pizzazz to dress up the tomatoes and salad and includes one “secret ingredient.”
Growing Tomatoes in Louisiana
It’s not easy to grow tomatoes in Louisiana; there are many obstacles. I keep trying, however, because I love tomatoes so much. It is hard to find juicy, ripe tomatoes in grocery stores and that’s the best kind.
I’m finally getting the hang of growing tomatoes. This year I purchased large, sturdy seedlings and planted them in early April — which is late by Louisiana standards. I used a potting mix with fertilizer added and planted the seedlings in large buckets with pebbles, sand and drainage holes. I placed the buckets in the most sunny spot of my backyard garden so the tomatoes would get their required six hours of daily sunlight. Now, things get hot quickly in Louisiana. So I learned that tomatoes are “water hogs” and need to be watered every other day — I use multiple sprinklers that soaks the soil in the buckets. And I’m adding fertilizer every month. Well, I’ve done all I can think of to grow tomatoes.
Above is one of my garden Heirloom tomatoes. Can’t wait for it to ripen!
A heirloom tomato is an open-pollinated, non-hybrid type of tomato. Heirloom seeds are collected for the next crop and most seeds will show the traits of the original tomato because they usually self-pollinate. Heirloom tomatoes tend to be sweeter but also less disease resistant. They are found in a variety of shapes and colors.
The tomato on the left is called “Black Prince.” It is a deep garnet, slightly pear- shaped heirloom tomato which actually originated in Siberia. It grows in cooler climates. Go figure — this is my “star” tomato in my garden. On the right is a Celebrity tomato. Not a heirloom tomato but it is commonly grown in Louisiana.
“Classic French Vinaigrette Dressing” Recipe
My favorite dressing for salad greens and tomatoes is “Classic French Vinaigrette.” I’ve used the recipe for years and have tweaked and adapted the ingredients to meet my cooking style. The dressing is easy to prepare and is a very “light” yet flavorful. It includes a few ingredients common to Louisiana cooking plus a “secret ingredient.”
Here are the ingredients and several tips for making the dressing:
- The “secret ingredient” in my recipe is rice vinegar. This vinegar gives a very mild flavor to the dressing. The original recipe uses tarragon vinegar which, if you can find, would be delicious. A white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar could substitute for rice vinegar — but I always keep rice vinegar in my pantry. In any event, don’t use balsamic vinegar. This vinegar is too sweet and too strong flavored for the salad vinaigrette.
- I use a combination of vegetable oil and olive oil. Using only olive oil makes the dressing too strong, in my opinion. I use ratio of 1 part vinegar (1/4 cup), 1 part olive oil (1/4 cup) and 2 parts vegetable oil (1/2 cup). With this method, I can easily reduce or increase the amount of dressing that I make.
- The dressing must contain Dijon mustard. Not alot of mustard, but this gives the “pizzazz” to the dressing.
- I include a pressed garlic clove in the dressing. Wouldn’t be Louisiana without garlic. My handy kitchen gadget is very useful here for pressing the garlic clove — mincing doesn’t get the garlic fine enough.
- I use a generous amount of salt and a pinch of white pepper. Lot’s of recipes for French Dressing specify fresh cracked black pepper. However, white pepper seems to be just right for this dressing. Tomatoes need salt — although I’m getting used to smaller amounts.
- Optional ingredients are fresh parsley and/or basil. The original recipe specified blending up fresh parsley and adding it to the dressing. Now, I just add minced parsley and/or basil directly in with the salad greens or use them as garnish.
- I add in green onions to the dressing, although these were omitted in the above photo. I include the white part in the vinaigrette and chop the green tops for garnish. A shallot would be preferable, but I never have this type of onion in my pantry.
- I mix up the dressing in a small food processor or blender. This works well for blending and emulsifying the ingredients. Then it is easy to add just the amount of vinaigrette that you need to the salad. Store the remainder of the dressing in the refrigerator and shake to mix up before using again. You really don’t need a lot of dressing for a green salad — this recipe will make several servings.
Every once in awhile I’ll indulge on Heirloom tomatoes. This year, I’m hoping that my garden crop of heirloom tomatoes will ripen, too. My “star” Black Prince Heirloom tomato is in the center along with purchased tomatoes. And, I have a wonderful “Classic French Vinaigrette Dressing.” It’s my favorite. Enjoy!
Classic French Vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 green onions, white parts, green tops, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, mashed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp parsley, optional
fresh basil, for garnish, optional
Method and Steps:
- Add rice vinegar, Dijon mustard, white parts of green onion, mashed garlic clove, salt and white pepper to bowl of small food processor. Pulse several times to combine..
- Add vegetable or or olive oil. Pulse several times to emulsify.
- Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator. Shake several times to combine before tossing with salad greens or pouring on tomato salad.
- Store leftovers in refrigerator.