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Heirloom Tomato & Grapefruit Salad

This salad is a feast for the senses.

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by Angela Gallardo in Recipes, Sides & Snacks

heirloom tomato

This heirloom tomato salad makes me so happy because a) it’s quick and easy, and b) I get to use my mortar and pestle for the dressing.  If you have any amount of stress in your life, you need a mortar and pestle.  You can not only pull twice the flavor out of herbs and spices than you’d get with chopping but also grind grind, grind your cares away, all at the same time.

Whenever I do a simple salad like this, I try to elevate it by making an interesting dressing.  It’s really easy to get bored of salads so you’ve got to mix things up once in awhile.  Today’s dressing is a take on a basic basil vinaigrette but instead of black pepper, I’ve substituted grains of paradise.  Grains of paradise are pretty new to me; so far, salad dressings are one of my favorite applications.  They’re peppery (although they are seeds and not berries like traditional pepper), slightly sweet, woody, and just a tad citrusy.  Which makes them a perfect addition to my heirloom tomato & grapefruit salad.

Using a mortar and pestle is the best way to care for the grains of paradise, though a spice mill would work well, too.  Combined with sea salt, the coarseness of the grains help to create an abrasive effect on the garlic and herbs in the dressing, releasing flavor in a way you wouldn’t get otherwise.

Finding heirlooms in season is so much easier these days than it used to be, and at more affordable prices too.  I love to get them at the farmer’s market when the weather is warm, which should be possible pretty soon.

When putting together raw salads, it’s important to find ripe produce and with tomatoes, getting a variety of colors really does give the salad a different depth of flavor.  I’ve found that yellow and orange tomatoes are slightly sweeter, while green tend to be a little more tart or acidic.  Balancing a tomato with a super sweet grapefruit rounds out the flavors so well and actually enhances the flavor of the tomatoes.  The shallots give it a little kick and the microgreens provide some great additional nutrients.

Serve this salad at room temperature for greatest enjoyment (not that you would be refrigerating your tomatoes anyway, right?).  I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Heirloom Tomato & Grapefruit Salad

Serves 2-4

  • 1 lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 large grapefruit, sliced lengthwise and pulled apart
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • handful microgreens
  • coarse sea salt


  1. Arrange all ingredients on a large plate and drizzle with dressing.

Basil & Grains of Paradise Dressing

  • large handful fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 clove garlic
  • coarse sea salt
  • 3-5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • drizzle of raw honey


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush grains and garlic well with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.
  2. Add basil, EVOO, fresh lemon juice, and honey and continue to grind together until basil is broken up and the mixture is well emulsified.  Will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Note:  if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until well combined.

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1 Comment
  1. Mary says:

    I love heirloom tomatoes. I've never used them like this, that's for sure. I'm gonna give this a try the next time I have some heirlooms. Your pictures are great. Thanks!

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