The difference between you and me is that you could make this delicious Spanish-inspired tomato salad on the first try. It’s really very simple and straight-forward. No strange ingredients. Nothing requiring more than a basic ability to read English and just a smidge of linear thinking.
Me though. I put in too much of that and too little of this. Over-seasoned it all somehow, and then, for my trouble, violently sliced through the top of my thumb. And that was before I was done quartering all those cherry toms. Ouchie!
That said, the salad didn’t turn out as bad as it could have. Indeed, not bad at all for a first try, rushed for time as I was, and so very gravely, tragically injured …
It was a little soupy though.
And everyone agreed: a little too tangy. Perhaps it was a portion issue. I’m famous for those. Maybe too much red vinegar or too few tomatoes … maybe my garlic cloves were too big… who the heck knows what I did wrong.
Because how easy-peasy is this one?
The recipe: (courtesy of Eating Well Magazine)
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked (in fact, insist on smoked paprika.)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat (for God’s sake just make your own: I cut the crusts off two pieces of whole wheat bread and rubbed them against a grater over a plate. Fried all that up in a little olive oil. Worked great.)
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 pounds tomatoes, cut into wedges (I used two clamshell cartons of organic heirloom cherry tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, cut into halves or quarters depending on their size)
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
16 caperberries (WTF? I used capers. 1/4 cup. rinsed.)
Heat 1/3 cup oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and paprika and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, but not brown (good luck with that) — about 20 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring, until crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. I let them cool off, then crumbled them into a jar for later use. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a plate.
Whisk vinegar, pepper, sugar and salt into the garlic-paprika oil. Add tomatoes, parsley, caperberries (or capers); gently stir to combine.
Transfer the tomato salad to a platter and top with the fried breadcrumbs.
I added some cucumber. I tried some crumbled feta cheese on top of the breadcrumbs. Naw.
Of course the sample neighbor Robin brought down earlier this week was a revelation: fresh and piquant, a vibrant red. She then made savory vegetable pancakes with which to serve this salad on, and sent me a cell phone picture (which I unthinkingly deleted or I would show here…) with the come hither message: They’re hot. Come and get one. And I unquestioningly obeyed, and was rewarded with a meal I would happily have paid $20 for at any bistro in Silverlake.
But that’s her. She’s in the Kitchen Goddess classes. Where I got the idea that I could make this same meal for my mother-in-law before she returned to England today has me wondering what I was smoking. Robin knows what she’s doing. She even calmly talked me through the prep. To no avail. And I ran out of time to even think about making the savory pancakes.
But again, not as bad as it could have been. And delicious enough for a do over, maybe as soon as next week (as soon as the thumb heals…)
Lessons for next time: Don’t try this again during summer vacation, when one half of the children are in the next room screaming instructions to some fellow Halo-player in Bolivia and the other half is texting you demanding to be picked up NOW from her 48-hour playdate. And your Mother-in-law is about to board a plane in four hours, and there is a major egg recall, compelling you to keep one eye on the computer for work the whole time.
Don’t do it when you don’t have a single bottle of beer to fortify you on a 90-degree day.
Try it again and don’t try to season expertly or improvise with the ingredients. Just follow the damn instructions.
And next time, schedule an hour for the pancakes …