As a cooking coach, and text/twitter-friendly mom, I often get the social media equivalent of a culinary SOS. “What can I make that is simple, quick, and delicious?” In the summer, my response is often another question, “Do you like tomatoes?” Because if you do, let’s start there.
This time of year, farmers market vegetable stalls are brimming with huge heirlooms and perfect cherry tomatoes; tomatoes grown in dirt and hydroponically; red, yellow, and even orange ones.
You can’t go wrong with a juicy, ripe tomato. And though I’m not a southerner, I have grown to love fried green tomatoes too. But my favorite tomato-centric dish of all is one from my grandfather. His Greek salad, with a nice hunk of crusty bread, takes only a few minutes to prepare, and works just as well in small quantities as in huge bowlfuls. If I put a container of Greek salad in the refrigerator, it’s gone in a flash, whether there is a crowd at home, or just two of us.
My grandfather died when I was 10 years old and I learned the recipe from my mother. When she made it, the salad had only 3 main ingredients: tomatoes, green pepper, and celery. As an adult, I asked her why it didn’t include feta cheese and olives, typical Greek ingredients. My mom replied that because she and her sister (my aunt) disliked them, my grandfather omitted the cheese and olives in deference to the wishes of his children. I’ve gone back to the original version, except when my mom comes over for dinner.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
- 4 medium-large tomatoes or an equivalent amount of cherry tomatoes
- 1 green pepper
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 tsp. of granulated sugar
- Salt (preferably kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
- ½ cup of chopped or crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup of chopped or sliced black olives, oil or brine-cured
- Chop the vegetables into small pieces, all roughly the same size and mix them together. (Cherry tomatoes can be either halved or quartered, depending on their size.)
- Add the sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Chop the feta cheese and olives and add them to the salad.
- Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour (and preferably longer) to allow the flavors to meld together.
At the market, you can get the tomatoes from produce vendors, including Toigo Orchards, Mock’s Greenhouse, Twin Springs Fruit Farm and Bending Bridge Farm. All Things Olive has several varieties of wine vinegar, and Blue Ridge Dairy Co. has delicious feta.
Laura Kumin is a cooking coach and the creator of MotherWouldKnow, a website that offers tips and other guidance to cooks (especially beginners), budget-conscious recipes and answers to food-related questions. She also blogs for Huffington Post and writes occasionally for other websites and blogs.