The Power of a Tomato Salad

Some of my fondest memories growing up transpired in a small garden, in a small town in Louisiana. Balmy afternoons turned into tranquil evenings as I sat under the shade and comfort of my grandmother’s porch. Adjacent to her porch was a tiny garden. I remember lying in the garden as the earth cooled, and I was surrounded with imperfect yet ripe tomatoes, cucumbers as long as my forearm, and okra that grew like fingers on their vines. The okra gently waves in the breeze as a hand waves on a porch swing, seemingly trying to catch the summer air.  Herbs spread across the garden bed as a covering, whispering sweet melodies from the earth to the tender Southern natives above. The fragrance of fresh herbs and the subtle aroma of spring onions filled the air. And I rest there on my back in the midst of the garden with my eyes closed, breathing in the sweet aromatics of the Southern summer. Every once in a while I plucked a tender orb off of its resting place and grabbed a handful of herbs and took one bite, one perfect bite of a sweet, juicy yet crisp tomato that still clung to the energy of the garden. It was in those moments that I felt at peace. This dish has the integrity and wonder of the small garden in which I became acquainted with food in such a powerful way.

Recipe: Serves 4

8 tomatoes, cut into thick slices

4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled

½ cup of chive dressing (recipe below)

2 cups of fried okra (recipe below)

Basil and chives, garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

To Assemble:

Stack the slices of 2 whole tomatoes on each plate. Drizzle the chive dressing over and around the tomatoes. Scatter both the bacon and the fried okra on the plate. Garnish with herbs and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining 3 plates.

Chive Dressing:

½ cup of good mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons of chives, finely chopped

Splash of red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Thin the dressing out with water until you have the desired consistence. Season with vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Fried Okra:

2 cups of okra, washed

2 cups of buttermilk

1 cup of cornmeal

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 pinch of cayenne

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Salt and pepper to taste

Place at least 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large skillet and allow the oil to reach 350o.

Pick through the okra, any okra smaller than the size of your pinky, leave whole. Cut any larger than the size of your pinky in half and at an angle. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and okra. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the cornmeal mixture. Combine cornmeal, flour, cayenne, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Stir ingredients together with a fork. Make sure that you put a good amount of seasoning in at this point, don’t be stingy. Drain the okra from the buttermilk and gently roll the okra in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off any excess breading. Carefully place the okra in the hot oil. Let the okra brown on both sides and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with more salt. Use immediately.

 

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5 thoughts on “The Power of a Tomato Salad

  1. I love the way that Amber incorporates fried okra with the tomatoes and ties it together with the chive dressing! Yummy yummy in the tummy 🙂

  2. OH. MY. GOODNESS. ! This is a party alone, it doesn’t need people, it’s happy and fun on it’s own. My mind and my mouth and my head and my teeth all agreed that this is a masterPIECE! yumyumyumyumyum

  3. I am a huge tomato lover, and such an unusual tomato salad recipe has never crossed my way – I´ll surely try the combination with okra soon!

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