20 August 2011

Warm Gnocchi Salad with Carpaccio of Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Walking through the farmers market this time of year, you can't help but realize that tomato season has arrived.  Tomatoes are available all year round but it’s not until the summer that they really come into their own. When wandering you can literally feel the excitement at farmer’s markets and fruit stands all over the valley. Perfectly plump workhorse beefsteaks, pints of adorable cherry tomatoes just begging to be snacked on, and of course, the queen bee of the pack, the knobby heirlooms, in every shape and size imaginable, are just now making their noble debut.  The rich tapestry of colors, the diversity and depth of flavour, and the general beauty of the tomatoes provide an experience that your average grocery tomato just can't match.

In recent years, heirloom tomatoes have caught the fancy of an increasing number of gardeners and local growers making them more widely available.  These are the tomatoes that people have fallen in love with, and have deemed worthy of keeping from plants that have been grown year after year and handed down from gardener to gardener. Heirloom tomato seeds, like your grandmother’s china, are viewed as precious family treasures that have been passed from generation to generation. For an heirloom tomato to qualify for heirloom status it has to have been around for at least 50 years. Newer genetic variations are classified as hybrids.

Heirloom tomatoes have several advantages over hybrids. Most importantly they have outstanding flavour! They also come in a variety of colours, pink, yellow, orange, maroon, purple and may even be marbled or striped or have unusual shapes. Until the 20th century and the onset of hybrids tomato varieties were every shape but round. With names like Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Kellogg's Breakfast, San Marzano, Yellow Pear, Radiator and Charlie's Mortgage Lifter how can you resist!!!

Nature blesses perfectly ripe summer tomatoes with their own ideal dressing. Rich olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper are practically all that’s needed to bring out the sunny flavour of summer tomatoes and complement the sweet-tart acidity of their natural juices. In this salad thicker tomato slices might have made a prettier presentation but the slices here were cut as thin as carpaccio which is paper thin slices of a food  that can turn a simple supper into an elegant meal. A mandolin makes easy work of cutting the tomatoes paper thin so if your tomatoes are firm this method is recommended, otherwise cut each slice by hand for thicker slices.

Having some gnocchi on hand in the freezer makes this dish quick and easy with minimum fuss. The gnocchi turns into a summer-supper-on-the-patio type dish, a palate-twisting combination of different temperatures and textures. If Heirloom tomatoes are in season  this looks stunning with every colour of red and orange in the rainbow captured on the plate.

Back to the Future....

Over four years of blogging I have found many wonderful recipes to share on these pages. Some from my own kitchen, some from your creative blogs and web sites, and some from well known celebrities and chefs. I have been feeling a little nostalgic and was browsing these very pages just the other day, creeping back to the very beginning in 2006 when More Than Burnt Toast was in it's infancy and no more than "knee high to a grasshopper". We all have those stellar recipes from when we first started when we were lucky enough to find one comment and have maybe one reader; in my case even before I was taking photos of the dishes I prepared. My other motivation for reconnecting with the past is to create uniform formatting on this blog and this is a fun way for me to revisit past posts.

So here are a couple of flashback recipes from the very first baby steps here at MTBT with...

**Warm Gnocchi Salad with Carpaccio of Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil**
loosely based on a recipe by Michael Chiarello The Tra Vigne Cookbook

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
one small shallot, chopped finely
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, preferably a mixture of red, yellow, orange and variegated
4 handfuls salad greens
Ricotta Gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
About 1-1/2 ounces ricotta salata cheese or Parmesan cheese
1 handful basil

In a medium or large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Taste for balance and adjust with olive oil or lemon as necessary. Using a mandolin or sharp chef’s knife, slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible and arrange on a large platter. Season with salt and pepper and spoon a little of the vinaigrette over the tomatoes. Toss the lettuce with a little more of the dressing and arrange on top of the tomatoes.

Heat  2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan large enough to accommodate gnocchi without crowding (I used a non-stick pan.) When the butter becomes brown and fragrant, add the gnocchi to the pan and cook, turning as needed, until crisp and browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Scatter the gnocchi on the salad. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the salad. Sprinkle with torn basil and serve immediately.

Serves 4

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. oh val this is just the perfect dish for summertime dinner.
    i love love love this.
    tomatoes when they are thinly sliced are heavenly.

  2. It's fun looking back at our early posts! This looks like a very delicious salad. I haven't tried heirloom tomatoes yet but definitely want to

  3. Val.,Val this look amazing you know I love gnocchis....gloria

  4. I am always SO inspired by farmer's market tomatoes. They make me want to buy a batch, head straight for the kitchen and get cooking. Loving this gnocchi salad!

  5. Love the revisiting - and this beautiful tomato celebration!!

  6. This might be your most beautiful photo yet Val. I love tomatoes and they are probably my most favorite food. I cry when summer ends. Where would we be without our precious heirlooms.

  7. Dang, that thing is gorgeous! I'm already looking toward Labor Day and lamenting September, when our truly wonderful tomatoes start to dwindle. More the reason to make this now, right?

  8. The comforting yummy gnocchi sound so good with the fresh heirloom tomatoes and aromatic basil!

  9. You nailed this one, Val! How could I not love it? It combines my two favorite food groups...pasta + salad.

  10. I am with Joan..two favorites together...mmmm good!

  11. You're absolutely right, tomatoes this time of year are incredible! This looks like a fantastic use for them!

  12. Greetings. This is my first time on your blog, but you have a terrific one. I am always on the look out for new blogs, new ideas. I especially appreciate all the details you d0. Great photos makes it seem like anyone can replicate the recipe!

    A friend of yours asked me to contact you about posting recipes. We offer many services, not the least of which is an electronic recipe card file (an eRecipeBOX) that stores links (not the recipes, but links to your blog). Someone you know would like to see you posting your ideas.

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    And of course, once you get the hang of it, make us a daily habit. We are inclusive and would love to host ALL of your recipes (no arbitrary “judging”).

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    in addition, all photos, recipe titles as well as your blog name would link directly back to your blog. Thus giving you new attention and potentially new readers.

    Or, if you just want to take a look at a lot of fellow food bloggers all in one place. A great learning experience to get ideas about how to establish your own blogging voice!

    And we get visits from lots of first time bloggers. Established pros are always welcome to show the newbies… “How it’s Done”!

    Please take a look. If you have any ideas or questions, please do not hesitate to write


  13. What a lovely creation. I could almost taste those flavors playing on my tongue. You've outdone yourself with this summer's bounty. I also enjoyed the trip back through time. You were good even then :-). Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  14. Interesting way of preparing tomatoes. I'll try slicing thinly the ones I have. This is definitely my favorite time of the year in terms of what's available at the market.

  15. Dear Val,
    I just love this recipe as it is a perfect marriage of ingredients and use of in season vegetables/herbs. I really enjoyed reading your blog. Take Care, Bobbi

  16. I love this gnocchis look amazing and delicious congratulations,hugz.

  17. So many things to like about this recipe, but I particularly like the browned gnocchi. But the real winner here is the peek back to "the early days" Thanks GREG

  18. Beautiful and delicious!

  19. What a beautiful dish. I love the combo of the gnocchi and the fresh summer vegetables. Just perfect.

  20. What a beautiful, elegant salad! I love heirloom tomatoes as well, and am also fascinated by their names and origins. Also enjoyed your flashbacks! :)

  21. what an exquisite dish, val! i like the line about nature blessing ripe tomatoes with their own dressing--so true. :)

  22. This is definitely a new way to think about gnocchi, especially as they're paired with heirlooms. So sweet. Love those tomatoes!

  23. I wish heirloom tomatoes were easier to grow at home but at least they are plentiful at the farmers' markets. This is a wonderful way to use them and I happen to have some gnocchi too!

  24. Hopefully the draw towards heirlooms will mean a return to those older, better seeds in other fruits and veggies.

  25. I love it! I have so many tomatoes - white, green, yellow, even a few red. And love fried gnocchi. I see this as a starter this weekend!


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