One Tomato Salad: Five WaysCasey Mullins
Last week I actually looked forward to eating a tomato, which is monumental because 10 months out of the year I won’t even look at the things let alone eat them. However, those two months out of the year when tomatoes are in season and available front and center at the grocery store (or your own garden if your thumbs aren’t black like mine?) Those two months have tomatoes on everything. Tomato salad! Tomatoes on salads! Tomatoes on burgers! BLTs! Tomatoes roasted with cheese! Canned tomatoes! TOMATOES EVERYWHERE. GIVE ME ALL THE TOMATOES.
My tomato love has also sparked a new and intense desire to always have a tasty, tasty salad in my fridge. You know the kind, the ones you can make with dinner at night and eat for lunch the next day? The ones that get better as they marinate all their tasty delicious dressings, sauces and juices together in your grandmother’s heavy glass bowl in the fridge overnight?
Let’s talk about my boyfriend salad. I made him for company one week and was mad everyone ate him all gone, meaning no leftover tomato boyfriend salad for lunch the next day. I learned my lesson and decided to make a batch of boyfriend salad just for me. Fresh heirloom tomatoes (you know, the ones that taste the way tomatoes should taste) a little salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, shallots, mozzarella and basil is all it takes. I realize you’re probably just thinking “Caprese salad, Casey. We all know what that is,” but I swear to you, this one is special. (Aren’t all boyfriends?)
Here’s what you’ll need:
3-4 large heirloom tomatoes or 2-3 pints of cherry tomatoes (go ahead and get different colors, makes it even prettier) cut into small pieces.
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8oz. fresh mozzarella, cut (or torn) into small pieces
1-2 finely chopped shallots
1T balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh basil, snipped smaller with scissors
Add the sugar and salt to the tomatoes in a big glass bowl and stir to combine. Stir every 15-30 minutes until most of the juice is at the bottom of the bowl (or leave covered in the fridge overnight.) Using a fine strainer, drain the tomato juice into a small saucepan, saving the tomatoes in the original bowl. (I’ve heard of salad spinners being used to remove a lot of the seeds, if you care about that, go for it. Otherwise, proceed.) To the tomato juice add the chopped shallots and balsamic, simmer until the liquid is reduced and bubbly. Pour the tomato/balsamic/shallot mix into a small bowl and chill before adding to the chopped tomatoes. Once the dressing is cooled, add it to the tomatoes. Toss in the cheese and a splash of olive oil, stir it around gently. If you like your basil recognizable wait until just before serving to add it. Toss in some salt and pepper if you feel like it needs it.
BUT. If you can wait? Wait. Let it sit overnight in the fridge (or at least make sure there’s enough leftovers to have some the next day because while it may be your boyfriend at dinner, it will be your lover salad the next day at lunch, says the girl who doesn’t like tomatoes 5/6ths of the year.)
Now that we have a good base salad, let’s work on all the fun stuff that can be added to it depending on who is coming to dinner.
Kid-friendly – Cook some fun pasta shapes separate and let kids mix the tomato salad with the pasta (my kids will eat tomatoes, but don’t appreciate them by the mouthful *just* yet.) Let them add in some mini pepperoni or olives or let them use little crusty bits of bread as spoons.
Southwest – Instead of balsamic, add a bit of southwest or taco flavoring to the tomato juice. Add a can of rinsed black beans, queso fresco instead of mozzarella, cilantro instead of basil and maybe even some diced avocado and crushed tortilla chips.
Southern – Trade out the balsamic for red wine vinegar, use crumbled blue cheese instead of mozzarella, add fresh sweet corn, thinly sliced red onions and some crispy bacon pieces. Yes, ma’am!
Greek – Red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, feta stands in for mozzarella, add Kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onion and cucumber. Serve with chopped romaine lettuce.
Let’s give this multitasking salad a hand, shall we? I’m even sensing a new trend of tomato salad bars! Make your own marinated tomato masterpiece!
But hurry, tomato season ends soon so make ’em up while they’re tops!
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.