Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Last Days of Summer... Tomato Basil Salad

Today I woke up missing my grandmother and the feeling of her - her presence - has been with me all day. Dropping off the kids. Going to the farmer's market for fresh veggies.

The market is right next to where she used to live and we'd go there often together. So it was no surprise that the tomatoes were not only on special, but good and plump and calling my name. As were the Italian peppers that will be making their appearance tonight in one of her most famous dishes.

However, I don't want to wait until tonight to make something that reminds me of my Nonna. Smells like her. Tastes like her cooking. Well, almost. No matter how many times I make her food, it never comes out quite right. Not like grandma used to make.

And her food was famously good...and good for you.

Well, as I type this, I have her Insalata Pomodoro - Tomato Salad - marinating on the kitchen counter top and making my mouth salivate.  THIS is the secret to great tomato basil salad: letting it sit, the flavors marry.

From the peck of tomatoes I got from the farmers market, along with a bunch of basil and 1/4th of a gigantic locally farm raised red onion, I made a lunch worthy of my grandmother's presence. I just wish she were here to enjoy it with me.

Tomato Basil Salad - Insalata Pomodoro

* 3 cups free cut ripe tomatoes (see below for free cut)
* 1/4 cup sliced red onion
* a bunch of basil, riped
* 1 1/2 cup olive oil
* salt to taste (I use a lot of salt, you do what you want)

  1. Wash the tomatoes and, over the salad bowl free cut the tomatoes into bite sized pieces. THIS is the other secret to perfect tomato salad. Never use a cutting board, as all the juice from the tomatoes will just sit there on the board when you want the juice in the salad. That's the best part - sopping up the left over juice with a good piece of bread :)
  2. Next, slice the onions and add to the bowl. I like mine in long, skinny slices. "Cut them how you like," is what my grandmother would say.
  3. Tear the basil up into bits and pieces over the bowl. Let the aroma carry you away and don't bother with the cutting board. Cutting basil bruises it and it just doesn't taste the same as when you rip it up with your fingers.
  4. Lastly, drizzle all your warm, lucisous olive oil over the salad and add salt. Like I said, I use a lot of salt, probably about 2 teaspoons or so. Why? It neutralizes the acidity of the tomatoes and THAT is what makes this salad so scrumptious - the smooth bite and flavors.
  5. If you're in a hurry, go, eat. But if you have time, stir all the ingredients together and let them sit in the bowl for a few minutes to meld together. The longer, the better. This salad is best served at room temp.
And that's it!

One final summer dish during these last days of summer...