Heirloom and Cherry Tomato Salad with Creamy Anise Hyssop Dressing

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) photo by Wayne Ray. Salad photo by Stacy Ventura.

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Heirloom and Cherry Tomato Salad with Creamy Anise Hyssop Dressing

  • Author: Recipe by Brian Ventura | Photo by Stacy Ventura
  • Yield: Serves 3-4 1x


Chef Brian Ventura created this recipe in 2015 when he was executive chef at the Growlers Arms, a fun but short-lived Irish gastropub–style eatery in Oakland. His inspiration for this recipe came a year earlier while he was touring the Irish countryside: “I could see the farmer making his cheese and fresh buttermilk and growing the herbs and tomatoes in his garden. At least that’s what I would do if ever I’m blessed enough to have a real farm.”

Chef Brian’s habit at the time was to shop for fresh produce at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, where he especially enjoyed choosing fresh herbs from White Crane Springs Ranch, a former vendor at the market. Various market farmers may be selling fresh anise hyssop, but since lovage might be harder to find, we asked Chef Brian what to substitute, and he said to use the inner leaves from a head of celery.


Units Scale
  • 2 handfuls frilly red mustard greens
  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes (choose a mix of colors and flavors)
  • 1/2 basket cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch lovage (You can substitute the inner leaves from a head of celery.)
  • 1 bunch anise hyssop (leaves plus flowers)
  • 1/4 pound Coolea Cheddar
  • Maldon sea salt


For the dressing:

  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup aioli
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon chopped anise hyssop leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped lovage leaves (or substitute the inner leaves from a head of celery)
  • Maldon sea salt


To prepare the dressing, combine the vinegars and lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk in aioli, Dijon, buttermilk, and crème fraîche. Finish with the herbs and salt to taste.

In a large bowl, salt and dress the mustard greens with some of the dressing, then arrange them on a large serving plate. Cut the large tomatoes into bite-size wedges and the cherry tomatoes in halves. Toss the tomatoes in a bowl with additional dressing, salt, and 3–4 torn lovage (or celery) and anise hyssop leaves. Arrange the dressed tomatoes over the mustard greens, shave some Coolea Cheddar on top, and finish with some anise hyssop flower petals.


  • Category: Salad