Here come the tomatoes, and my first fennel!
I picked my first cherry tomatoes from my plants this week, and this is what really marks summer’s beginning to me. Of course, the farm stands are full of beautiful heirloom fruits of many colors, tempting me into making Salad Caprese with local fresh mozzarella, Bruschetta with a fruity olive oil and touch of garlic, and the long-awaited first tomato sandwich with a little mayo, salt, thick slice of tomato and nothing else. We’ll make any number of other wonderful and quick sides and main dishes. Oh, that flavor!
A quick sauté
I was thinking about a salad my niece Jess made for us. It was a simple corn salad, but she sautéed the onions lightly first and it was such a welcome change to a raw, and sometimes too strong, onion. I thought I’d use the technique with a basic tomato salad, and the results were delicious.
A new crop
I also picked my first couple of fennel bulbs, pitifully small really, but packed with delightful flavor. I’m still quite proud of them! I sliced those thinly as well and tossed them in with the onions for a quick sauté, and used the fronds in the vinaigrette. I resisted the urge to add other herbs to the mix, preferring to keep a clean fennel flavor.
It held up well, and I enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day.
Tomato and Fennel Summer Salad
- 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- 6 tbsp. fruity olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp. fennel fronds, finely minced
- 2 small fennel bulbs, sliced thinly
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp. pulverized fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ lb. heirloom tomatoes, chopped
In a large bowl, combine the vinegar and 4 tbsp. (1/4 cup) olive oil. Add a pinch each of salt and freshly ground pepper, the fronds, and whisk together.
Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet and add the fennel and onions, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Cook just until they start to soften and add the garlic and fennel seeds. Sauté another minute or so until fragrant. Remove to the bowl and mix with the vinaigrette.
Chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl, mixing gently. It’s all right if the onions are still a little warm. If your tomatoes are extremely juicy, squeeze out a bit of the juice first. Correct seasoning.
Chill for at least an hour, place on a bed of lettuce, garnish, and serve. You can add croutons if you like, or make it a meal with a protein of choice.
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