Recipe: Summer Standby Tomato Salad

It has been a looooong time since I’ve posted something from my Little Big Kitchen series, and to make up for it I’m sharing a recipe that celebrates summer in all it’s garden-bursting glory.  When we have tomatoes in the garden I perpetually have a container of this in the fridge at all times. It’s the best way to use up a surplus, or a constant garden-supply of cherry tomatoes, though it is made just as easily with chopped tomatoes of any size. I always use cherry tomatoes because I’m very good at growing them, while I’ve had dismal results with several varieties of regular tomatoes in the past. This year I didn’t attempt to grow any due to the double problems of drought and ill-health, but I still made it whenever we had tomatoes on hand that weren’t earmarked for anything else.

In some of the photos you’ll notice that I added shredded carrots. I was adding them to a green salad in that case, which was fabulous, but I consider those and add-in, as is the avocado. Once you learn the base recipe for this salad, you can go crazy with the add-ins.

So, to get to the point of this recipe: the tomato salad is a combination of tomatoes, chopped red onion, herbs, spices, a little bit of oil, and a healthy dose of citrus juice and/or vinegar. The whole thing marinates together in your fridge and the onion mellows, losing its harsh bite, and the tomaotes and all the other ingredients soften and meld together to make a really flavorful salad. But that’s not where the story ends. You can absolutely enjoy this salad as-is, eaten as a vegetable side dish or straight out of the fridge with a spoon, but that undersells this salad completely. The brilliant part is once you have it on hand, you add it to everything: tomato salad + avocado + baked potato = easy, healthy dinner. Tomato salad + shredded carrots + leaf lettuce = amazingly flavorful salad. Tomato salad + goat cheese + toasted baguette = speedy bruschetta. Eat it as nachos! Add in grilled corn! Put it over poached fish! You get the idea. Having this on hand means you are so close to putting delicious food with complex flavor in your mouthhole. It’s also really healthy and stays fresh in the fridge a long time thanks to the preserving action of the acid or vinegar.

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The amounts of ingredients here are an estimate, and it’s all very flexible with what you have on hand.

  • a large handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves or fourths; or regular tomatoes, roughly chopped into large dice
  • a fourth of a red onion, diced
  • a tablespoon or two of chopped parsley
  • the juice of two limes, or one large lemon, or two tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • a few drops of olive oil, the nicer the better
  • pinch of salt, generous grinding of black pepper

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–Start with the tomatoes, and add everything else a bit at a time, especially the vinegar, to find the balance you like. If the lemon or lime is just too mouth-puckeringly sour, don’t add less, just add a pinch of sugar or two until it balances out.

–Mix everything in a lidded refrigerator container. It will be delicious now, but for full effect, let it sit overnight in the fridge so the flavors can get friendly with each other.

–I like to add flat-leaf Italian parsley as the herb because it doesn’t overpower the dishes you pair it with, but I have a serious dill addiction and have added fresh dill, too (though it’s not so great in nachos that that point). Other fantastic choices would be cilantro or fresh basil.

–Again, thanks to the acid component it keeps in the fridge a long time. This is also a great dish to take to work because the onions are softened so you don’t get onion breath after eating!

Thrifty Giving: Soup For You

This year, for Christmas, I took a different route for presents than I normally do. As always, short on time and money before the holidays, I decided to give everyone the gift of soup. I make a lot of soup, and I’m pretty good at it. That’s the great thing about soup: if you keep making it long enough, you are bound to improve. Soup seemed like the perfect solution for gifts: I could spend an hour or so whipping up these menu gift cards and wouldn’t have to cash in on time or money until after the holidays, when we have slightly more of both.

I included six options on paper, but the sixth option was a wild card, in case they wanted something particular that wasn’t on the list. I wanted to let them know I could make something special just for them while still keeping the gift one regular letter-sized page. (If you find it difficult to read you can click on the image and enlarge it in my flickr stream.)

Angela created the border for me, but since this was her Christmas present, too, I kindly asked her to forget she saw it.

I ended up giving this present to six or seven people on my friends list, all who appreciate good food and won’t say no to a home cooked meal.

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