Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tomato, Mint, Pumpkin Seed and Pea Salad

One of the nice problems to have with my garden is that it is currently producing more tomatoes than I know what to do with.  This week alone, I collected probably 2 quarts of tomatoes!  Needless to say, I ate tomatoes almost every single day this week and still had so many left this weekend that I didn't know what to do with them.  Apparently my plants don't care that it is over 100┬║ outside, they want to ripen and nothing is going to stop them.  Ripe on tomatoes.

Last night, my wife and I decided to go with one of our favorite dinners, called "snacks for dinner."  At its core, it's a fridge cleaning dinner.  We usually have some cheese in the fridge, so generally snacks for dinner consists of sliced baguette, cheese, some sort of cured meat, some sort of salad, and maybe a couple other wildcard side dishes, and always wine.  It's basically just small plates but we try to put as little effort into dinner as possible.  Seeing that we had enough tomatoes to feed a small country, I decided to put together a tomato salad.  I complimented it with leftover frozen peas, mint from the garden, leeks, pumpkin seeds for crunch, and a vinaigrette.  It turned out great so I wanted to post it here.  If you need something nice and bright to keep you going through this abysmal heat, this is it.

Juliet and Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Cherokee Purples

Tomato, Mint, and Pea Salad
1 large leek, washed, halved lengthwise and sliced ¼" thick
1 lb tomatoes (grape or cherry or even roma)
¼ c toasted pumpkin seeds
1 c frozen peas
1 tbsp butter
1/4 c canola oil
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 c mint
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Start by heating up a frying or saute pan over med heat.  Clean and slice the leek.  Add the butter and the leeks and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring often.  Don't let the leeks brown, you want them to kind of melt.  If they begin to brown, turn the heat down some.

While the leeks are sauteeing,slice your tomatoes into ¼" coins, widthwise, and add to a large mixing bowl.  Add the salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, and mint.  Toss well to mix the ingredients.

When the leeks are soft and melty looking, turn the heat off but leave the pan on the burner.  Add your frozen peas directly to the pan and stir well.  Basically we want to thaw the peas but not cook them so we will just use the residual heat in the pan to do the defrosting for us.  Adding the peas here also helps cool the leeks quicker - we don't want to add hot leeks straight to our salad, we want them to cool until warm or even room temperature before adding them.  When your leek/pea mixture has cooled, add it to the tomato mixture and toss well to combine.  Add the pumpkin seeds at the very end for a little toasty nutty crunchiness.  They really tie the room together.

That's all there is to it!  You now have a nice sweetly acidic salad that you can do almost anything with - serve it alone, on toast, garnish some nice halibut, it goes with almost anything.

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