Several years ago, a dear friend of mine was going out of town and casually mentioned that he had–easily–a “metric shit-ton” of fresh tomatoes and garlic in his garden that needed to be eaten, and I was welcome to help myself. As he was walking out the door, he said, “They make great tomato salad…!”
So I toddled on over and picked myself as much as I could reasonably carry, and headed home to get to chopping. Adding a few fresh basil leaves from my own little herb garden resulted in just about the most tasty thing I think I made that summer.
My friend is gone now, sadly, as is his wonderful garden. But every year when summer rolls around, I find myself thinking of that first wonderful tomato salad, and I can hardly wait for the things to get ripe so I can start enjoying them again.
I know, I know…I’m really hanging on by a thread here, but I just can’t seem to let go of summer yet. I’m sorry…this time of year is great and all, and has its own special appeal. But I always have trouble saying goodbye to all the great stuff that goes along with long, warm days and late afternoons spent dining on the patio. Included in that picture, of course, is all the great FOOD…mounds of glistening lettuce, fresh carrots, sparkling cucmbers…all heaped into a gorgeous salad. Golden corn right off the stalk, giant zucchini, sweet peas…oh my.
What I really want to talk about today is tomatoes. Specifically, those beautiful, curvy beauties in shades of orange and yellow and even purple…they just beckon to me from the table and beg me to buy them. Because they know what I know: that their gorgeous destiny is to become a tomato salad and help protect me from cancer and other inflammatory diseases.
Ok, maybe they don’t know that, but I sure do. So I pick out a few of the best, most beautiful specimens and put them in my bag.
Most people know by now that tomatos are a good source of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that can help protect you from cancer. But lycopene can also help with a variety of other things that are less well-known. It helps build bone health, as well as lowers your total cholesterol and your LDL levels (the bad stuff). It helps prevent unwanted clumping of platelet cells, which means a lower risk of atherosclerosis. And tomatoes also contain a variety of other good stuff: vitamins C, A and K, as well as potassium, molybdenum, manganese, and other trace minerals.
Besides all this, they taste friggin’ good.
Don’t think about what you get from the grocery store; somehow, even the “heirlooms” you get from mainstream groceries taste different, not as good. When you get true, fresh tomatoes…maybe from a farmers’ market, maybe from your garden or that of a friend…the taste is so much richer and more rewarding. Therefore, your salad will be also.
So go ahead. Give this one a try, and squeeze a little more summer out of it.
Scott’s Tomato Salad
At least 2 good-sized heirloom or homegrown tomatoes (you can use store- bought,but you will have to use a little more salt)
A few cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (optional)
A few leaves of fresh basil, shredded (you can use dried, but it’s not as good!)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed or chopped small
One garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
–slice up the larger tomatoes and toss them in a medium bowl or tupperware (it helps to have a lid for mixing)
–add the cherry tomatoes if you’re using them
–throw in the mozzarella, basil and garlic
–dash in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and add the salt and pepper.
–mix all ingredients thoroughly. If you are using a tupperware, put the lid on and turn it over and over.
Notes: Obviously, the fresher your ingredients are, the better your salad will be. That being said, you can use store-bought tomatoes, dried basil, and regular mozzarella, but your results won’t be quite as good.
–Go easy on the garlic (even if you really like garlic)…it might taste ok at first, but as the salad sits (in your fridge, in your bag, on your table), it will get increasingly garlicky and overwhelm the rest of the salad.
–This will keep for at least two days. I like to make a little extra when I make it as a side dish for dinner, then take the rest for lunch the next day.
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