This robustly seasoned, almost meaty tomato salad was inspired by Mexican salsa macha, a savory-spicy condiment made with dried chilies, garlic, nuts and seeds that are fried in oil, then pureed. We enhance the texture and flavor of the tomatoes by salting them and letting them stand for a bit before combining with the other ingredients. This ensures the tomatoes are thoroughly seasoned, enhances their natural sweetness and draws water out of them, concentrating their flavor.
For an especially colorful salad, look for heirloom tomatoes of different hues. Out of season, supermarket tomatoes tend to be flavorless and dull. A better choice are cherry and grape tomatoes, which are reliably sweet all year. You also can combine tomato varieties and sizes for more varied texture and appearance. When using smaller tomatoes, be sure to halve them so the salt can season the flesh.
When toasting the peanuts and sesame seeds, be sure to use a neutral oil such as grapeseed. Extra-virgin olive oil will lose its flavor when heated to the temperature needed to fry the peanuts. And when salting the tomatoes, kosher salt is best. The large granules distribute more evenly and won’t clump the way table salt can when tossed with moist ingredients.
Lightly salting watery produce, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant, before adding it to a recipe enhances flavor and texture. In addition to evenly seasoning, it draws out moisture for a meatier texture and concentrates flavors. Usually, the water is strained and discarded. But in some cases, the liquid can enhance a salad or dressing. For raw vegetables, such as tomatoes and zucchini, use ¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt per pound. For eggplant and zucchini that will be cooked, use ½ to ¾ teaspoon; consider adjusting the salt in the rest of the recipe.
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