Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A perfect summer salad

I have a problem, if you can really call it that.  

I buy a lot of tomatoes at the farmers market because they're fresh and adorable and well-priced and they smell so good.  A couple of weekends ago, I bought tomatoes from 3 different vendors just because I thought they all had really great tomatoes.

The problem part is that I don't like tomatoes very much.  And I've been buying tomatoes all summer long.  And our sad little plants at the community garden have produced a few.  And I never turn down other gardeners' offers of tomatoes (or squash.  Or peppers.  Or pumpkins.  Or okra.  LOOK AT ALL THESE PROBLEMS I HAVE) or cucumbers.

We've frozen some tomatoes, and Cody usually makes one pasta-with-tomato-sauce dish a week.  But last week I decided we'd have a little salad with some cucumbers I'd picked and, naturally, Martha Stewart helped me out with my tomato 'problem'.

I made some substitutions because nothing is ever as it is in Martha Stewart Land.  Martha Stewart Land is a place where people work with quality kitchen utensils that have been handed down through generations or carefully purchased after a lot of research and bargain-hunting.  There's a lot of seafood coming from somewhere.  Outdoor markets sell a dozen different varieties of heirloom berries.  

Also, I think everyone has a vintage canoe propped up by the door of the vacation home.

Where I live, we don't have those things.  My land is so different from Martha Stewart Land that if she said 'find a regular mixing bowl' I'd have to search for 5 minutes before deciding to make do with a soup pot.  It's just the way things work sometimes (especially if I'm the one cooking).  But that's how recipes work.  You pick something based on what you want to eat or based on what you have, or both, and fiddle with things until you have something you'll enjoy.

Which is why what you'd eat in Martha Stewart Land now looks like this:


  • 1 small red onion Half of a yellow onion, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup) 
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine apple cider vinegar
  • 6 ripe medium tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges A couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, mini heirloom tomatoes, and Juliet tomatoes that are all over the place right now, washed and sliced in half if needed
  • 1 English cucumber, partially peeled lengthwise to create stripes, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, larger pieces halved
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil, larger leaves torn
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Toss onion with vinegar in a small nonreactive bowl. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Place onion with vinegar, tomatoes, and cucumber on a platter. Drizzle with oil, and top with basil. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
I've done this recipe twice and failed to pickle the onion both times.  Oh well.  Also, I keep forgetting about topping with basil, which is fine because we don't have a platter.  But a pie plate works just as well.  I just toss it a bit and serve and then Cody remembers that he doesn't like cucumbers.  But this is one of the few ways I can actually enjoy tomatoes (or onions) and I think I'll keep making it this summer for the reason I keep buying tomatoes--I like pretty things.

It seems like reason enough.

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