[VIDEO]: Heirloom tomatoes for the win

Warmer weather not only means fresh produce, but it also means more entertaining and outdoor gatherings. I recently had a few friends over for dinner and was brainstorming light, fresh, and seasonal recipes. The chef in me knows that tomatoes are at their peak in the spring and summer, but it wasn't until I stumbled upon the gorgeous display of heirloom tomatoes in the store that I remembered just how incredible and delicious these beauties are. Life cannot go on until I share this goodness with you.

<< If you need more tips on what to eat this spring, skim my freebie list and read up on why eating seasonally is important, >>

Heirloom tomatoes are what tomato dreams are made of. They taste so distinctly, well, TOMATO, that they put those conventional red fruits to shame. The food industry has gotten to a point where you can find almost any fruit or vegetable in the store year round, tomatoes being one of the leading players. In order to sell tomatoes in December, they're often over-fertilized, crossbred to maximize yield, and flown in from far off countries. Translation: NO TASTE.

Heirloom tomatoes are the granddaddy of all tomatoes. The seeds must be at least 50 years old, and growers pass their seeds down from generation to generation. The crossbreeding and over-fertilization isn't nearly as prominent, meaning their roots soak up more of the soil's nutrients. Translation: SUPERIOR TASTE.

I don't know about you, but if I'm going to eat healthy, it has to taste amazing. Can I get a HELL YEAH?!

When you're buying heirloom tomatoes, check for 3 things:

  1. Take a big whiff. They should smell distinctly tomato. If they have no odor, they aren't ripe!
  2. Gently press your fingers into skin, and they should give slightly, meaning extra juicy and delicious. Don't press too hard, or you'll bruise these beauties.
  3. Make sure the skin isn't broken or torn. Rough brown "seams" are completely normal and safe to eat (in fact the more of this, the more beautiful and unique each individual tomato is); you want to make sure there are no open wounds.

Watch more about heirloom tomatoes, the health benefits, and how to cook with them in this week's Michelle's Monday Minute. Then go ahead and try my fool proof, easy recipe for an Heirloom Tomato Cucumber Salad below the video. Share your creations with the tag #MichellesMondayMinute, and you'll inspire others to prepare simple, healthy home-cooked meals of their own. Everyone wins!

Heirloom Tomato & Cucumber Salad
Servings: 4 side portions

Ingredients:
4 heirloom tomatoes, large dice
4 Kirby cucumbers (or 1 English cucumber), sliced thin
Handful fresh basil
Handful fresh mint
Handful fresh parsley
Juice of half a lemon
High quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt/pepper

Directions:

  1. In a colander, sprinkle one whole handful of sea salt over sliced cucumbers (be generous with the salt), and give it a toss to evenly coat all slices. Place a heavy bowl or pot on top, and let sit in the sink for at least 10 minutes, or until most of the water is drained out.
  2. In a separate colander, repeat with the tomatoes. Set aside in the sink.
  3. Meanwhile, wash all herbs. Give the parsley and mint a rough chop.
  4. In a large serving bowl, mix cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and mint. Add lemon juice, a light drizzle of olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste for seasoning (add salt to bring out more flavor, or add more lemon juice to balance out the saltiness).
  5. Just before serving, tear basil with hands and mix in. Save this for last, as the basil will otherwise bruise. Garnish with a few whole fresh herbs.