Summer Tomato Salad

429px-Tomatoes-on-the-bush[1]Now that summer is winding down, tomatoes are at their best.  I am grateful to my friend who has shared her homegrown tomatoes with me!  Here is a recipe for tomato salad, with a couple of variations, to take advantage of them at their juiciest and ripest.

The salad will have the best flavor if you use a mix of different kinds–heirloom tomatoes preferred, and include yellow ones, striped ones, and cherry or grape tomatoes.  This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s “Mothership Tomato Salad,” but I changed it a bit.  His calls for dried oregano, which I’m not crazy about, and a fresh red chile.  I use fresh basil instead, and no chile.  Feel free to experiment!  The cucumber is optional.  I’ve made it with and without; both versions have their virtues.

Enjoy the end of summer…..

Summer Tomato Salad

2 1/4 lbs. mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors, or less than 2 lbs. tomatoes and 1 cucumber

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Several leaves of fresh basil, to taste

Red wine or balsamic vinegar

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and grated (or use the minced in oil kind, which comes bottled)

Slice up the tomatoes, some in chunks, some in quarters, and some in half if they are small like cherry tomatoes.  Put them in a colander and season with a good pinch of sea salt.  Give them a toss, season again with sea salt, and toss again.  The salt won’t be drawn into the tomatoes, so don’t worry that the salad will be too salty!

Let the tomatoes sit in the colander for 15 minutes and throw away any juice that drains out.  Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl.  If you’re adding a cucumber, cut it in thin slices or small chunks and toss in with the tomatoes.  Cut up the basil into strips (kitchen scissors are good for this) and add to the bowl.  Toss all this a bit.

Make a vinaigrette of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil and the garlic.  Add the dressing and toss lightly to coat the salad.  Add fresh ground black pepper to taste.

This would be terrific with some mozzarella or some rustic bread.


Small Pleasures, Summer Edition

Summer doesn’t officially end until the autumnal equinox on September 22, but for most of us Labor Day weekend spells the end of summer.  My teacher friends are already going back to work!  So this is a short recap of inexpensive summer pleasures.  I hope you’ve already enjoyed most of them.  If not, you have two weeks!

  • Pedicures.  There’s something about bright toenails that always cheers me up.  Getting your nails done is cheap in my area.  But I spent many a day in my youth with Revlon or Sally Hanson products, striving for the perfect red.  Boys, please don’t do polish unless it’s black!
  • Homegrown tomatoes.  The season is peaking here, but it won’t last much longer anywhere.  Get ’em from your neighbor, get ’em from a farm stand, but don’t miss that juicy flavor.  A childhood favorite:  Sandwich with toasted white bread, mayonnaise, thick slices of tomato, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add bacon to that, and you have heaven on earth.  Purely southern edition:  Hot biscuit with butter and thick slice of tomato, salted and peppered.
  • Re-read a favorite book.  Some of my friends think this is crazy, but I count a summer wasted that doesn’t include either Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion.  Romance novels and Agatha Christies count as well–whatever makes you feel relaxed and good.
  • Ride a bike.  Not a racing bike with all the paraphernalia, just a plain old bike like a beach cruiser with coaster brakes.  It’ll make you feel like a kid again.
  • See a movie in an actual movie theater.  Bonus points if you can find a drive-in and stay awake through the feature!
  • Go to one last free outdoor concert.  Especially since the heat has finally broken, it’s a great time to hear music in the open air.  This is a pleasure that definitely disappears when fall draws in.  It’s extra fun if you can bring a picnic, especially one that doesn’t take a lot of work.
  • Baseball.  They don’t call them the Boys of Summer for nothing.  If you’re not a baseball fan, then watch anyone do something that requires them to run around in the hot sun (and you to watch.)
  • Get one small thing that reminds you of this summer, whether it’s a photo, a postcard or a picture torn out of a magazine, and put it on your refrigerator or bulletin board.  Do not look at it until the first rainy day in November.

Let me know if there are any other pleasures I forgot.  Grilled hot dogs?  Watermelon?  Kickball?  And enjoy the remaining days before the leaves begin to fall.