When is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? (With apologies to Aristotle.)
I tasted her tomato-feta salad at a recent party she threw, and I was smitten. I nibbled at her tapenade, always a favorite, I snarfed up her asparagus and her Caponata, and I kept coming back to the tomato salad. I might have gone back for fourths (don’t tell anyone). She agreed to share it with you today. Enjoy! –Dorothy
A few weeks ago I was walking through the Santa Monica Farmers Market when I noticed a sign at a farmer’s booth — “World’s Best Tomatoes.” I walked over to get a better look.
“Oh well,” I said to him, “since they’re the world’s best tomatoes…” I bought a basket, even though I had already purchased other tomatoes that day.
Fast forward a week or so, and I’m planning the menu for the regular summer Rosé Fest (and here and here) I host at my home, where we sample several blush wines and the sun-kissed foods they were meant to accompany. The menu always includes a summery tomato, basil and buffala mozzarella or burratta salad, but this year I’m yearning for something a little different. I’m feeling the need for a bit more zing.
And the Sun Golds are haunting me. I can’t get the humble tomato and feta salad I prepare for myself so frequently out of my mind. It’s often a go-to on summer days when I don’t feel like cooking. I make a meal of it with hummus and pita, or with a couple of pieces of fried chicken from the fast food place down the hill (tomato salads happen to be one of my favorite sides with fried chicken). Do I go with my humble lazy-day salad?
“I love, love, loved that tomato salad,” says Dorothy, at Rosé Fest.
“Really?” I responded
“I could have made an entire meal of it. Would you consider doing a guest post for me?”
“It’s so simple as to barely warrant a recipe” I respond, “mostly an example of using great ingredients.”
Then Dorothy reminded me that I shouldn’t underestimate simple preparations. It’s true — I often do exactly that.
So I got to thinking about what makes the salad work so well. And yes, it’s also true that this salad owes its deliciousness to great ingredients — the contrast of the Sun Golds and Sweet 100 tomatoes with the zingy Israeli Feta, which when I discovered it, became my preferred Feta. It’s slightly creamier than other Fetas, and a bit less tangy. Add extra virgin olive oil, a hint of garlic, a great balsamic vinegar and sprinkling of mint, and voilá – a simple salad to love.
Recipe: Cherry Tomato and Israeli Feta Salad
Summary: A perfect marriage of summer-ripe cherry tomatoes and zingy Israeli feta cheese. You could make a meal of this during the summer!
- 3-4 large cloves of garlic
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 basket Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 basket Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Kirkland brand balsamic from Costco preferred)
- 2/3 cups kalamata olives, pitted
- 5-6 ounces Israeli Feta cheese (available at Trader Joe’s)
- 12-16 mint leaves, torn
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mince the garlic, then sprinkle it with a healthy pinch of kosher salt. Mash the garlic to a paste using the side of a knife, then stir it into the olive oil in a large mixing bowl.
- Mix the cut cherry tomatoes into the olive oil mixture.
- Pour the balsamic over the tomatoes, mixing lightly, being careful not to break up the tomatoes. Then mix in the olives.
- Crumble the feta cheese over the salad. Sprinkle with the torn mint leaves, and season to taste with the freshly ground black pepper.
- Makes 6-8 salad servings. Of course, if you are making an entire meal of it, all bets are off.
Gisele Perez from Small Pleasures Catering.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Diet type: Vegetarian
Diet tags: Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): 6-8
Culinary tradition: Italian