Towards the end of summer it seems like the tempting mounds of fruit and vegetables demand more attention than one cook can possibly provide, yet one cannot ignore. The bounty becomes an embarassment of riches right when the weather heats up and elaborate cooking becomes impossible without air conditioning. The perfect tomatoes you have waited all year for, are everywhere, but especially at the farm markets. Here in drought-parched, California we see what has become my favourite, dry-farmed Early Girls, a medium size with the perfect firmness and juiciness, never mealy. Fall apples are already showing up, wildly wondeful varieties and old friends, even our much ignored orchard has pears and, possibly, persimmons soon. Cucumbers and zucchinis come home with me nearly every shopping trip. This week I found gorgeous pink and purple radishes, and of course more Hatch chiles, coming from New Mexico. I will tell you more about those, as promised, real soon! Today the heat will come from the radishes and the last days of August.
As the temperature hit over 90° F here Saturday, my appetite and ambitions plumeted. Still, we had to eat…and while I have been on a tear with gazpacho and other green soups, and even had the makings for a red one, I had no patience and didn’t even want to run the blender. Chopped salad to the rescue → 5 minutes and done. Made this twice – once it was lunch, next it was half of dinner.
The next day? I might substitute peaches for the watermelon, or add another type of melon…or even use the blender and make it an instant gazpacho!
chopped salad for perfect tomatoes – serves 2
2-3 medium tomatoes (dry farmed, Early Girl if you can find them),
quartered and then halved to make up approximately 1 cup
1 tart green apple, cut in quarters and then sliced, about 1 cup (135 g)
1-2 slices of watermelon, cut into 1 – 1½” chunks, about 2 cups (300g)
2 Persian cucumbers (about 5-6″ long), quartered then roughly chunked, 1 cup (185g)
2-3 radishes, roughly diced or chopped (¼ cup)
juice of ½ lime
drizzle of EVOO and balsamic vinegar
¼ cup loosly packed lemon basil leaves (OK to substitute other varieties of basil or mint)
Combine the prepared vegetables in a medium size bowl, tossing gently with the lime juice. Chiffonade the basil and add to salad, then drizzle lightly with the olive oil and balsamic and serve, dusting the top with a bit of Malden sea salt (flakes).
Note: you don’t want to make this too far ahead, but the watermelon and cucumbers are lovely if they are really cold, straight out of the fridge, and the apple hasn’t had time to discolour.