Tomato Basil Salad–Color Matters

by Min Merrell
tomato basil salad

A fresh summer tomato basil salad is a lesson in color theory that Josef Albers would appreciate. I’ll call it “Homage to the Circle.”  

If you’re into color theory, which anyone who likes to make a salad must be, the Josef Albers IPad app provides hours of color theory fun. Albers was the Bauhaus designer/theorist/educator who came to Yale by way of  North Carolina. His very important work Interaction of Color fascinates me because it’s all about relationships and how color perception changes according to the color of the company it keeps. 

All the varieties of heirloom tomatoes offer incredible lessons and kitchen color theory fun. The subtle differences in shades of red are clear when they are close together. One will appear more pink, more yellow, more green. Albers would have loved a trip to the Nashville Farmers’ Market in late summer.

The color of the bowl or platter makes all the difference in perception, as well.  

Take my cobalt blue glass plate. The deep primary color makes the red and yellow tomatoes pop. Now add secondary purple basil and green basil. To make my Yin Yang Tomatoes, arrange the two colors of sliced or roughly chopped tomatoes, red and yellowish, on the round plate in a Yin Yang style. Sprinkle fresh purple basil leaves over the yellow tomatoes and green basil leaves on the red tomatoes.

The version in the photograph features a tangle of thinly sliced fresh zucchini. If they’re not dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, vinegar, and a generous pinch of salt, then a dish of fresh homemade mayonnaise is in order. A creamy white works with every color. Here’s how to make the mayonnaise:

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