A Greek Tomato Salad Recipe for Homecoming
It has been a while since I came back home from my vacation in Wisconsin, but let's rewind back to that place of homecoming for the moment, and this Greek Tomato Salad. A fine summer salad for a hot summer night, when you just do not want to cook.
If I told you that I came home from a week's vacation in Wisconsin, and immediately started cooking, I would be lying. This recipe I made, after food shopping at the coop once settled in at home, was more of a chopping and composing affair rather than something cooked. To honor August of this summer season, when tomatoes are most plentiful and at their peak, I adapted a David Tanis recipe recently featured in the New York Times, for a "Greek Tomato Salad." Despite it now being mid September already, I think you may still find some beautiful tomatoes in your market, with which to make this recipe. And if you see some of the corno di toro peppers recommended by David Tanis, grab them up.
It seems to me that most often, tomatoes recipes call for basil. Tomatoes and basil are like frick and frack. But in this recipe, David Tanis throws us a curve ball, and calls for mint, instead. Of course I perversely made his Greek Tomato Salad a bit more Italian by using a beautiful blue veined cheese instead of feta, because there was such a beautiful selection of blue cheeses in the coop at the time I went shopping.
What I discovered by this innocent food shopping impulse was that, if you want to go Greek, like Mr. Tanis, stick with the feta and mint combo. If you want your salad to have an Italian flavor, go with an Italian leaning cheese, more like a mozzarella or burrata, and match it up with some basil.
See end of post for a copy of the original David Tanis recipe.
Living in Nature in Wisconsin, and a Sense of Renewal....
"Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy dear to the eyes that have looked on them from childhood."
"Middlemarch" by George Elliott
We arrived at the house at Three Lakes in the evening, after an immediate stop for a Wisconsin burger, followed by frozen custard cones, and then about a three hour drive north.
The next day, my first morning, I woke with the light. I was given a wonderful bedroom in which to sleep, and I actually went to sleep early for me, at 11:39 pm. I would often stay up until 3:00 am in the city. Staying up to 3:00 am will ruin your life, as it is not enough sleep to stay healthy. Also it puts a big dent in the next day, half of it being over by the time you begin.
Waking up with the light, I heard lots and lots of different bird sounds. Eventually I also heard human life, stirring downstairs, including talking and entertaining other visitors with a two year old toddler and twin baby girls, six months old. Plinks of piano. It was time to go downstairs and say good morning, and start this country adventure, which would remind me of my own childhood summers at Sackett Lake.
Here are some highlights of my vacation week, in no specific order.
- Flying in a plane at cloud level, and seeing the varied geography of mother earth below;
- Hearing the sound of loons, and watching the loons dive and catch fish in the water;
- Taking a boat ride in a pontoon, and going from lake to lake. Three Lakes is one of the 28 lakes in the area. I was told that you could go from Three Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico, via connecting water ways. Wouldn't that be something to actually do that!;
- Playing with six month old twin girls, whose mom would already tell them that they could grow up to be President one day, and playing with their two year old brother, Teddy, who had a wonderful exuberance for life;
- Seeing a bald eagle sitting hidden in some tree branches, waiting to swoop in and steal a fish caught by one of the many loons on the lake;
- Watching the delicate walk of deer in fields along the sides of the roads, as we drove in the car in order to go food shopping and touring about. Little spotted Bambi's along with their moms and fellow deer;
- Discovering the joys of a Wisconsin Bloody Mary. A meal in itself, as all sorts of foods are speared onto skewers artfully arranged in the glass;
- Going to the Vilas County Fair, and getting a feel for the born and bred Wisconsin folk. The best thing at the fair, and something I would never have expected to see amongst the rides, fried cheese curds, games of chance, agricultural tents, and horse shows, was a Democratic table run by a woman who must have been in her early eighties. She gave visitors to the table three different colored chips, the colors corresponding to levels of importance. One was to place the chips into bottles signifying different causes for which one had concerns, such as climate change. They would total up what issues were important to the Wisconsin Democrats at the end of the fair;
- Hearing the sounds of the family swimming in a warm summer morning rain, during the only downpour of the week;
- Barbecuing on the pontoon, and watching the sunset over the pine trees of a preserve on one of the lakes;
- Holding babies Margaret and Frankie, and playing with toddler Teddie. Thrilling at watching Maggie crawl for the first time. She went to secure a line of cheerios laid out in a path, eating each cheerio one at a time, before crawling on to the next;
- Watching the family work together at the puzzle table, with the soundtrack of Hamilton playing in the background, as they completed a US Bird Map puzzle;
- Reading "Middlemarch" by George Eliot;
- Making progress on a knitting project, the Millrace scarf, pattern by Quince and Co.;
- Napping throughout the hot days;
- Lying in a hammock;
- Sitting in a lounge chair on the deck by the boathouse and watching the water;
- Looking at the night sky for the Pleides meteor shower and shooting stars;
- Canoeing and seeing a variety of boathouses while canoeing past them on the lake;
- Taking a hike in a State forest, and reading the words of an area naturalist along the path;
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Many thanks to the Santogade family for inviting me to be part of their family vacation, welcoming me into their home, and being such wonderful hosts during my stay.
It was soon time to head back East to NYC. Leaving the air-conditioned confines of the airport terminal, we entered back into another summer heat wave enveloping the city. A few days later, I was finally back to Cooking the Kitchen, by composing this Greek Tomato Salad. Dear Reader, I hope you will endeavor to compose this salad too, add your own riffs to it, and enjoy!
Greek Tomato Salad
- 3 to 4 pounds ripe tomatoes preferably heirloom
- 1 small red onion sliced thinly crosswise
- 1 or 2 small sweet peppers such as bell or corno di toro,sliced into thin rings
- Flaky sea salt such as Maldon
- 4 ounces Greek feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped mint
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Fruity extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Wash, core and slice tomatoes ½-inch thick. Arrange slices on a platter or in a shallow wide bowl.
Scatter onion and pepper slices over tomatoes and season everything with sea salt. Let sit 10 minutes to draw out juices.
Break feta into rough chunks and scatter over salad. Sprinkle mint and oregano over top, drizzle generously with olive oil and serve.