Tomato and feta salad
by little red pen
Tomatoes are my go-to feel-better food. Mum said that as a small child all I would eat was boiled potatoes chopped up with tomatoes. Now I turn to thick tomato sauces, vine tomatoes roasted with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and olives, shakshuka, that sort of thing. They cure sadness, lethargy, over-indulgence, bugs and illnesses, stress, grumpiness, the lot.
And with the weather warming up, the nights lengthening and barbecue season starting, I’m hauling out my long-term favourite: tomato salad. This recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s; it’s easy, quick, cheerful and life-giving. Get into it! I can’t find her recipe online, but it’s in this book.
tomatoes (various shapes, colours and sizes if possible)
red or spring onion
salt and pepper
You know this is basically an assembly job, right? I make this on a flat plate or platter with a raised rim to catch the juices. I’m a ceramics fiend, so I have a few to choose from — just use something that makes you happy. This dish is all about the happy.
To cut the tomatoes, you will need a small, sharp, serrated knife. You will also need to remove the stalky bits. If you’re okay with those two requirements, my friend, I’m coming for dinner. This is a good opportunity to get a little bit creative and cut different kinds of tomatoes into different shapes — slices, wedges, dice, whatever. I would prefer that you are consistent within varieties, i.e., all the cherry tomatoes should be cut the same way, as should all the romas. But they can be different from each other. Also, don’t do anything too fancy. I’m a bit fussy about knife work in the kitchen. I know, I know, y’all thought I was really relaxed and not in the least bit uptight or picky. Being an editor and all. Sorry to burst that bubble. When you’ve sliced the tomatoes, jumble them on the plate, more or less in a single layer.
That’s the hard bit done. Now very finely slice a small amount of red onion or a larger amount of spring onion and scatter it over the tomatoes. I like red onion, but I cannot stand large slices of it. I don’t know why people do that. You’re eating a nice salad or a deeply satisfying salmon and cream cheese bagel and then there’s these enormous half moons of sharp onion in your mouth. It’s horrible. I would use about one-sixth or less of a red onion (a wedge) or pretty much a whole small spring onion. I have to say that I like the spring onion more at the moment. I think it’s really lovely with the feta.
Next, pour some olive oil over the tomatoes and onion. Praise the lord, I have no strong feelings about the quality or type of olive oil, but keep a light hand and get the olive oil on before the rest of the ingredients. It provides a nice base for everything else to adhere to, and I think it starts to mollify the onion a bit.