Tis the Season… for Tomatoes!

9 Sep

If you’re a tomato-eater, you can appreciate the difference between in-season tomatoes (plump, juicy, and sweet) and middle-of-winter tomatoes (mealy, watery, and flavourless).  We’re in the middle of tomato season in Ontario– a reality that officially registered with me this past weekend.  I was at a rest stop in upstate New York, en route to Connecticut for a weekend visit with my parents.  The food options were limited: Tim Hortons (we were still fairly close to the Canadian border at this point) or a burger-and-fries joint known as Checkers.  I grabbed an uninspired salad from the latter– iceberg lettuce, a slice or two of cucumber, and a dash of grated cheese with a microwaved chicken breast on top.  Yum.  But hiding beneath the chicken were two bright red tomato wedges.  Not the greenish-orangey tomatoes that I’ve come to expect from fast food joints.  They were juicy and ruby red throughout… and they actually tasted like tomato!

Wanting to take advantage of the abundance (and affordability!) of great tasting tomatoes available in grocery stores at this time of year, I sifted through my cookbooks and came across a recipe for a tomato salad.  It called for 3 different kinds of tomatoes (plum, field, and grape), a handful of olives, a small amount of bocconcini cheese, all topped with caramelized onions, fresh basil, and a creamy yet light balsamic dressing.

Grape tomatoes grown in Ontario... what a treat!

I had a couple of girlfriends over for dinner (who asked to be referred to as N, S, and M) and they were all in love with this salad.  The sweet tomatoes and caramelized onions paired wonderfully with the salty olives, creamy bocconcini, and the tangy balsamic dressing.  The fresh basil was the cherry on top– the salad still probably would have been wonderful without but it added another dimension of flavour (and colour).

Tomato Salad (it tastes better than it looks... I promise!)

Tomato Salad with Caramelized Onions, Bocconcini Cheese & Olives
(adapted from Rose Reisman’s Family Favorites)

The recipe said to arrange the tomatoes, cheese, olives, and onions on a serving platter, then toss with the dressing.  I couldn’t figure out the logistics of tossing on a serving platter so I placed all of the ingredients into a bowl instead.  The presentation wasn’t very pretty so next time I might use a platter and simply drizzle the dressing over top.

Also, if you’ve never caramelized onions before, don’t be intimidated.  This was a first for me and it was incredibly easy!  A good non-stick pan is important, and make sure you stir the onions at regular intervals.

2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 large sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
2 large field tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
60 grams (2 oz) bocconcini cheese, thinly sliced (about 2 mini balls, or 1 large ball)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tbsp light mayonnaise
1-1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

  1. Over medium heat, lightly coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and add the oil.  Saute the onion slices for 10 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.  Add the sugar and saute for another 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Arrange the tomatoes, bocconcini cheese, and olives on a serving platter.  Place the caramelized onions on top.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the oil, sour cream or yogurt, mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, honey and garlic until well blended.  Pour the dressing evenly over the salad and toss (see tip above).  Garnish with basil and serve.

Salad can be prepared earlier in the day and refrigerated until ready to serve.  Dress at the last minute.

Makes 4 large servings.  Per serving: 247 kcal, 15 g fat, 3 g fibre, 320 mg sodium

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