Tomato Talk

My big fat Greek salad

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When I purchased 17 tomato plants at the annual Whatcom County Master Gardener’s Plant Sale in May, I was optimistic the culinary vegetables would give me plenty to work with later in the gardening season.

Thanks to a hot and dry summer, my edible expectations were exceeded. From the time the cherry tomatoes, midsize orbs and overly large specimens started ripening in mid-July, I’ve been incorporating the fruits of my labor into just about every meal I can. 

For breakfast, thick slabs of beefsteak or brandywine tomatoes atop toasted bagels with cream cheese is a tasty way to start the day. I’ve also been integrating them into omelets, adding as an accompaniment to fried eggs, or slicing and eating them on their own with a smattering of salt and pepper.

For the midday repast, nothing beats BLTs made with freshly plucked tomatoes and lettuce. On hot days, fresh mozzarella served with romas and topped with balsamic glaze has been enough to see me through to dinner. And when making grilled cheese sandwiches, it’s been a no-brainer to add a layer of you-know-what to the melted mix.

When it rained recently, I took a three-ingredient recipe for tomato soup and added leftover sauteed zucchini, corn and jalapenos to the butter, onion and tomatoes the formula called for. After simmering the ingredients for approximately 40 minutes, I used an immersion blender to mix it to a creamy consistency. After the first spoonful, my dining companion dubbed it the “one of the best soups” he’d ever consumed.

In the past two months, I’ve also made countless varieties of salsa, frozen many batches of a simple tomato sauce recipe I sourced from The New York Times, added the fruits to everything from pasta dishes to stir fries, baked them with zucchini and onion as an accompaniment to pink salmon, and thrown into many different salads.

And although I’ve given plenty of nightshades away since they started producing, I recently found myself overwhelmed by the amount of tomatoes taking up space in the kitchen. I’d been asked to bring a dish to a friend’s wedding, and decided a “big fat Greek salad” would be a way to use up a fair amount of the bounty.

On the morning of the nuptials, I chopped close to 30 mid- and large-sized tomatoes and placed the wedges in a giant silver bowl. Following a traditional Greek salad recipe, I then added thick halves of cucumbers, two jars of pitted kalamata olives, a green bell pepper and half-moons of red onions. Thick chunks of feta were placed on top.

Since the tomatoes were so ripe, a simple seasoning of olive oil and red wine vinegar, a pinch or two of salt and dried oregano were all that were needed to complete the salad. When the wedding was over, the bowl was empty and I’d created more counter space in the kitchen—meaning there’s room for the late-season tomatoes that are still in the garden.

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