Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

tomato-091002-0001Tomato season is almost over! We might have one more good week left here on the mid-Atlantic east coast before it’s gone.

This makes me sad. But fortunately for me, it’s been a great season for tomatoes.

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And fortunately for me, I’ve been getting these lovely bags of tomatoes the past few weeks from my CSA. There have been abundant heirlooms, romas, beefsteaks, cherry, and pear tomatoes. They have all been amazing, but it’s these little bitty cherry and pear tomatoes that really inspire me.

They have been showing up in mouth-watering shades of red, yellow, orange, and tiger striped. They are intensely sweet and delicious; I’d have to say that on the Tomato Flavor Scale™ of one to ten, these go to eleven. I love to eat them plain, but mixing them with a few other ingredients out of my CSA delivery really brings up their flavor.

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When I make this little salad, I tend to just leave it out on the counter and snack on on it as the mood strikes. Taking a few minutes to treat your tomatoes this way also makes them great to use for pizza topping or in wraps.

Also, I think it pays to take the time to chop your garlic by hand for this one. The texture and appearance is better than pressing it. It won’t take too much time to do this, I promise…it’s just one clove!

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you…

Tip: If you weren’t already aware, you should store your tomatoes at room temperature whenever possible for best flavor and texture.


Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

Ingredients

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  • 1 generous pint cherry, pear, or small roma tomaotes
  • 1 generous handful basil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (optional)

Method

Quarter your little tomatoes and put them in a bowl (romas may need to be cut into smaller pieces). Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt to start pulling out some of the juices.

Chop your basil and mince your garlic, and add it to the bowl. Give the whole thing a splash of red wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil (if using), and a grind of pepper. Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary.

Let the mixture sit in its own juices on the counter for about 30 minutes, if you can wait that long. (I often cannot!)

When ready to use, strain out the juices and set aside. Enjoy your tomatoes at room temperature.

tomato-091002-0001-2Tip: You can also add a few other things to play with the flavors here. I’ve tried this with different combinations of herbs, including parsley and mint. I’ve also tossed in some diced roasted red pepper when I’ve had it on hand, and a little diced jalapeno for some kick.

BONUS TIP: Don’t throw away that liquid once you’ve strained your tomatoes! Everything that has been sitting in the bowl and marinating has given some flavor to that juice. You can use the liquid to replace some or all of the cooking liquid in your pizza dough or a savory bread. Use it to make a light salad dressing. Or add it to your next batch of soup or stock. If you don’t think you’ll use it right away, freeze it and it will be ready when you are.

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Simple Savory Avocado

food-090930-0003Avocados were not a food that I grew up eating. In fact, I don’t think that I even tasted an avocado until well into my 20s. I wish I could remember the first time my face encountered a perfectly ripe avocado’s rich, velvety smoothness and clean taste, which has now become something I absolutely adore.

While guacamole is a pretty well-known and DELICIOUS way to serve avocados, I also like them more simply done up: they really come into their own when roughly chopped and sprinkled over a hot bowl of chili, sliced thin and laid out over a veggie pizza in lieu of cheese, or mashed into some crusty grilled bread with just a pinch of coarse sea salt.

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One of my favorite ways to serve avocados is this easy dish. It takes just a few minutes to prepare (you could probably even get to sub-minute times if you really practiced) and the dressing can be made days in advance.

You can make your own variation by subbing in ginger, or another kind of vinegar, or some hot sauce. No matter how you go about it, this is a really impressive way to showcase any creamy ripe avocados you can get your mitts on. I like to make up the dressing and keep it in the fridge, so that I can pull it out and splash it over avocado halves as the mood strikes. You really couldn’t ask for a quicker, more elegant, or more satisfying small dish.

TIP: If your avocados are hard when you buy them, leave them on the counter for a day or two until they yield slightly to gentle pressure. They should retain some firmness and NOT feel squishy. As soon as you think you’ve got one at the height of its ripeness, you can toss it into the fridge for a few days to halt the process so that it will stay perfect until you need it. I actually prefer to buy my avocados on the hard side so that I can control how soft they get before they make it onto my plate.

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Simple Savory Avocado

Ingredients

  • Juice of one lemon (you MUST use fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • Ripe avocados

Method

Prepare the dressing first. Combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic in a small jar (or bowl). Shake (or whisk) to combine. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

When ready to serve, halve, pit, and peel your avocados. Place in a bowl or on a platter, drizzle with the dressing, and garnish as desired (chopped parsley or a sprig dill are nice). Enjoy right away!

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