Posts Tagged ‘cherry tomato salad’

Be it the bleakest winter or the height of summer, there are always tomatoes.

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I’m not trying to be cloyingly obvious with the statement but surely if it’s in the sunnier months where the vegetable (or should I say fruit?) has had months of intense heat and sunshine to help it ripen and fill it with the goodness of the fertile soil and summer sun, it follows that this is when a tomato is at its best.

Each fruit or vegetable has a prime time when it’s at its seasonal best. That means extra flavour, extra crunch, extra juiciness.

So why is it that walk into any supermarket, grocers, corner shop, in the middle of winter, you will always find a tray, box or pack of plump, red tomatoes?

They have been engineered for efficiency and convenience.

They have probably been cultivated in a polytunnel/greenhouse. ¬†This artificial environment grows tomatoes that may look the part but do they actually taste like a tomato should if they haven’t been exposed to sunshine? ¬†Simple: No. These tomatoes will be firmer (able to withstand transportation bruising), full of water and tasteless!

Take for example my simple yet delicious summery, tomato salad. ¬†It’s not so much a recipe as a couple of ingredients and seasonings in a bowl:

Tomato Salad

Chop tomatoes into different sizes depending on their variety, chop a couple of cloves of garlic, season, and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.  Tear basil leaves and mix everything around so that the flavours get to know eachother.  Do not serve cold. 

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Admittedly, in summer is when you are going to get different variety of tomatoes in supermarkets and there are so many varieties around that each time you make the salad it will be slightly different.

Serve this salad in winter and firstly it won’t be that appealing but mainly you will have a tasteless, watery salad. ¬†However, in summer the flavour will be much sweeter, juicier and the colours of the different varieties will make your salad come alive!

So why eat seasonal?

If taste alone is not convincing you that eating seasonally is best then here are a few other reasons:

1) Cost Effective: as the produce is in abundance, prices are lowered to shift the volume that has been grown – any not sold get thrown out!

2) Nutritious: as grown in respective conditions, the product exhibits all its natural nutrients as the phytochemicals that give the fruit/vegetable its colour and give it its antioxidant properties are developed to their most effective.

3) Environmentally Friendly: seasonal fruit and veg don’t have to travel as far as when off season therefore reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport them. ¬†Chemical washes and wax coatings (used to protect the produce on long journeys) can be dispensed with.

4) Supporting the Community: Normally local producers are responsible for selling seasonal produce – its the large supermarkets that import from all over the world and charge an excessive price for tasteless fruit and veg.

5) Break the habit: Try to get into the habit of buying your fruit and veg from the public market or independent shops in town rather than from supermarkets.

In Gibraltar we may not have areas for people to grow enough fruit and veg to sell but there are several people who try to grow their own produce. ¬†I know of a couple who purchase an organic veg box from a local gentleman who will supply them with a variety of his produce at a very reasonable price. ¬†Opening the box is like Christmas-come-early in anticipation of what you’ve got to cook with!

calendarseason copyFollowing the seasons can be difficult if you are already in a cooking pattern.  But with a little imagination you might find that you rediscover something you always enjoyed eating but have stopped cooking.  This not only applies to fruit and veg but to meat and fish too.

I was once told by a fisherman to only eat sardines in a month without an R, namely May-August. ¬†The main reason being that April is spawning season hence we shouldn’t fish sardines before then for fear of depleting stocks and making it an unsustainable food source. ¬†Lamb becomes a desired menu item in Spring. Cheaper cuts can be served all year round but a joint of lamb is at its most flavoursome in Springtime.

Eating seasonally leads us into a more sustainable eating system.

Our main difficulty in Gibraltar is that most of our food is imported from the Uk or Spain by supermarkets.  Buying organic is not necessarily buying seasonal.  The fact that nothing sold is grown/reared here means that very little food we get is local.  Our nearest sources of food come from Morocco and Spain.  There is very little space to make ourselves available of allotments and ground share initiatives to grow our own.

To find out what foods are in season at the moment click on the following link: www.eattheseasons.co.uk¬†¬† It’s a great site that not only gives you foods which are in season at the moment but also which wines are best during these months.¬†

With summer being the season of abundance now might be the time to give this a go.

You might find, as I am sure I will, that you never eat a wintry tomato again.

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I know that there is a chance that you will have stopped reading once you read the five letter word in the title and I know that it seems a bit odd to follow a BBQ Carnivore blog with its Salad Omnivore counterpart but as with everything in life, balance is key. ¬†Here goes…

With the soaring temperatures suffocating us into the early hours of the morning, an absolute essential antidote to the summer heat is replacing water lost through perspiration.  We drink more fluids (sometimes more alcoholic than thirst-quenching but the intention is there) and we turn to food which has a higher water content.  And what food has got a higher water content to volume ratio?  Lettuce.  There, I said it, lettuce.

Heirloom and Cherry Tomato Salad

In hot climates, salads are not just full of water but delicious; they are colourful and made with natural ingredients that have been kissed by the long periods of sunshine until their ripe juices are ready to burst.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans dined on mixed green leaves as a way of putting water back into their diet.  They served their mixed leaves with a dressing of olive oil and brine as replacing lost minerals is also necessary Рnot too dissimilar from the salad dressings used nowadays.

Salad, from the Latin ‘sal’ salted; ‘salted things’ roughly translated into ‘salted herb.’

Ancient Times had their ‘mixed greens’, the Renaissance Period the ‘Salmagundi’ (a salad comprising of cooked meat, seafood, fruit, leaves and nuts) to the Modern Day ‘Chef’s Salad’.

Ultimately, the basic salad has remained the same: a bed of mixed greens. ¬†The remainder of the ingredients added to the salad being up to the chef’s discretion. ¬†The original ‘Chef’s Salad’ devised at the Ritz-Carlton was of smoked ox tongue with watercress leaves! ¬†As a result of this creation, hotels and upper class restaurants started presenting their own salad concoctions. ¬†Each trying to outdo the other.

As well as salads having a variety of ingredients assembled together to surprise the discerning eater, chefs started to add warm ingredients to salads.  Such as warming eggs to create a dressing for a Caesar Salad or boiling potatoes still served warm in a Tuna Niçoise salad.

It may seems as if pretty much anything goes is the only rule to follow when making a salad.  It can be cold, warm, vegetarian, seafood, meat, chicken, bread, fruit and nuts (sounds a bit like the Renaissance version!)

Every salad – no matter its ingredients – is only as good as its dressing!

Here are some recipes (more assembly instructions) you must try to help restore your faith in salads.

Mozzarella, Jamón Serrano and Peach Salad

Mozzarella, Jamón Serrano and Peach Salad

1st: Tear the mozzarella balls and places around the plate you are going to serve this on.

2nd: Cut around the peach and remove the stone.  Then likewise tear the peach into pieces that are similar in size to the mozzarella.

3rd: Tear strips of cured ham and drape in and around the pieces of peach and mozzarella.

4th: Add rocket leaves to the dish.

5th: DRESSING: squeeze the juice of a lemon over the dish and add a generous glug of olive oil.

6th: SEASON: sprinkle some freshly cracked black pepper over the plate.

NB: Make sure that the peaches are at room temp before assembling this salad as you don’t want to be in tooth sensitive pain as you bite into this! ¬†If you can’t get seasonal peaches then swap them for conference pears which are great in this recipe. ¬†Use any cured ham your stomach or your pocket desire. ¬†As a starter at a dinner party serve with a french baguette to soak up the juices that your guests will be fighting for that have collected at the bottom of the dish!

Watermelon and Greek Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon and Greek Feta Cheese Salad

1st: Cut a small red onion into rings and place in a bowl to steep in the juice of a lime and sprinkle with Maldon salt.

2nd: Cut the watermelon flesh off its rind and remove as many black pips as you have the patience for!  Place watermelon chunks onto your serving plate.

3rd: Cut a block of feta cheese into chucks and add to the serving plate.

4th: Add the red onion to the dish.

5th: DRESSING: Pour the now pink lime juice and olive oil over the dish.

6th: Add flat leaf parsley and some mint to the dish and SEASON with freshly cracked black pepper.

OPTIONAL EXTRA: add black olives to the salad.  

NB: Mix everything gently so as not to break the feta or watermelon too much.

I’m not suggesting we all start chomping rabbit food until bushy tailed but salads can be a delicious, filling, refreshing light lunch as well as an accompaniment to any evening meal.

Some of my favourite salads are just one ingredient doused in olive oil and sherry vinegar and chopped garlic, such as the tomato salad at the top.  Unlike baking, assembling a salad is free from restriction, just think about flavour combinations you like and how to best present them in their simplest form.

Why not have a go?

Feel free to reply with your favourite salads.