BITE BY BITE
Conquering My Culinary Bucket List One Dish at a Time
By Emily Banks Wooten
There’s absolutely nothing better than fresh, homegrown tomatoes. We’ve tried numerous times over the years to grow them to no avail. We had a bumper crop one summer, maybe 50ish, but none were larger than the size of a ping pong ball and when we bit into them, they were nearly as hard as golf balls. After that, we just quit trying.
Fortunately, I have a sister in law, Cathy, with a green thumb like I’ve never seen before. This woman can grow anything. She works her tail off all spring and summer weeding, watering and tending to her gardens, but she produces a cornucopia of beautiful fresh produce each year – tomatoes, squash, okra, cucumbers, watermelons, eggplant, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, peas, blueberries, strawberries, black berries, fresh herbs, you name it. Her gardens are so prolific that so far this season, they’ve yielded six gallons of strawberries and 40 gallons of blackberries. You read that correctly – 40 gallons. Wow.
When she texted recently asking if we’d like some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, we couldn’t get out there fast enough. I’ve never cared much for cucumbers, but Hubby and Daughter love them so I was grateful for the offer. We took her a bag of shrimp and she gave us a sack of tomatoes of all sizes and colors, cucumbers, a jalapeno pepper, a jar of homemade salsa and a jar of hot pickles that she’d canned.
I came home and made a cucumber and tomato salad for Hubby and Daughter. As of this writing, he hadn’t tried it yet but she was wild about it. In fact, after her second bowl of it, she asked me if I’d teach her how to make it. Of course, I said yes. That thrilled me and was probably the best part of all. We tried the hot pickles and we all loved them. And the salsa was so good that I was eating it with a spoon.
With all these beautiful fresh tomatoes, I could barely wait to make a fresh Caprese salad. To those of you that do have green thumbs or gardening genes, I admire you even if I’m a little bit jealous. Keep up the good work. Happy gardening and remember to hydrate!
Cucumber and Tomato Salad
By Rachael Ray
½ English or seedless cucumber, diced
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ medium red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, a couple of splashes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Dress with vinegar and oil, salt and pepper, to your taste.
1½ pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, cored
1 pound fresh mozzarella
¾ to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup packed basil leaves, torn or cut into thin strips
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Slice the tomatoes and cheese into ¼- inch thick slices. Arrange the salad on a serving platter or individual plates in an alternating pattern, with two to three slices of tomato for every piece of cheese. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the basil leaves over the top and drizzle with the oil. Serve at room temperature.
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