And I’d say, “Yech.”Or at least I used to. I’m not sure when the exact transition from terrible to tantilizing took place, but I can assure you it’s a food miracle. As a child, if any part of a raw tomato touched my plate, I couldn’t eat the item on it. The pulpy, soft texture, the runny pink juice – don’t even get me started about the seeds – was all like garlic to a vampire. The only thing that was (and still is) worse – the pickle. (How could they do that to the cool deliciousness of the cucumber?) But, I digress. You seriously could have tortured me by forcing me to take a bite out of one. I would have given up every secret I had before I ever put one in my mouth.
The tomato was my friend as long as it was cooked. Pizza, spaghetti, even salsa (I know it’s raw, but spices count for a lot) was enjoyed with pleasure. Gradually as I made my way into the world I became more embarrassed by my food quirks and stopped picking them out of things. If I could order something without the tomato, say a sandwich, I would. Though I didn’t like it I hated wasting a “perfectly good” slice I wasn’t going to eat. However, as I became more and more addicted to big, bountiful salads – inevitable for anyone who moves to California where there’s fresh produce year-round – I found leaving the tomato out was a much harder request.
So I began to swallow my disgust and just plow through, discovering that as long as there’s enough ranch dressing one can eat almost anything. The CPK BBQ Ranch Salad is one of the first tomato-filled items I remember craving and wouldn’t even think of altering in any way. In fact, I came to truly enjoy the burst of juiciness the chopped toms provided. The jicama I still don’t get the purpose of. Maybe my tastes were finally maturing…or my innate laziness was just getting the better of me.
In any case, I am now a total tomato junkie and Heirlooms are my crack. Wow. Who knew they came in so many different flavors and colors? Well, almost everyone but me, I’m sure. I can’t get enough. Yellow, green, striped, whatever’s ripe and available, I can’t resist. I’m making salads with such big chunks my former self would have run screaming from the table. Can you say Caprese? Heirlooms and Burrata mozzarella bring this simple Italian salad to a whole other flavor dimension.
Though my favorite so far is a salad I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe that really sent the tomato train in motion. It was so green, fresh, herbal, creamy and flavorful I was shocked into tomato submission. Even my husband Dave, who rarely comments on what he’s eating, was impressed. All I can say is don’t be scared of the rainbow-colored toms. They just might change your life. Well, your palate anyway.
Heirloom Tomato & Avocado Chopped Salad with Cilantro Dressing
4 cups butter lettuce or Arugula (if you want to spice it up)
3 large or 1 pint of cherry heirloom tomatoes
1 large avocado, peeled and diced
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sea salt, smoked if you've got it (to taste)
1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Cilantro Dressing (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
If you don’t have a Trader Joes nearby, you can make the dressing by hand. I’m lazy. You can find the recipe here.
Rip the lettuce into small bite size portions and place in large bowl. Chop the tomatoes into bite size portions. Sprinkle with salt. (Makes all the difference.) If you like pepper sprinkle some of that on, too, as well as over the chunks of avocado. Add to the bowl.
Toss with dressing to coat. Try not to be too skimpy. The abundance of cilantro makes the flavors come alive. Split onto 2-4 plates (depending on how much you want to eat) and add feta cheese on top.
Adapted from Cooking Light
Lisa Dinsmore is a writer and web programmer. She has her own wine blog called Daily Wine Dispatch. She lives with her husband Dave in Los Angeles.
by Scott R. Kline