Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

Moon River by Andy Williams
Today's recipe comes from a comment left by my Aunt Linda a few weeks ago.  When I was a little kid we often had family gatherings and they are some of my most cherished childhood memories.  These memories come with a soundtrack in my mind, no surprise!  I actually have a playlist in my iTunes library titled "Marvelous Matriarch Mentors" which contains 27 songs that remind me of my aunts and grandmothers.  It's heavy on the Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Elvis, and, my personal favorite, Bobby Vinton, but any song of the 60s would fit.  I actually had another song ready to go for this post but then last night I read about the passing of Andy Williams.  Andy Williams and his music and TV shows are as much a part of the fabric of that era as any other song.  To pay tribute to him, I'm going to go with Moon River today, that beautiful and haunting tune written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini - and crooned to perfection by Williams.  Doubters, and fans, can watch him sing this song on this YouTube video.  Grab some of those tomatoes out of your garden and take a trip back to my childhood in the 60s.

Family gatherings in my childhood were usually potluck affairs.  All the women were wonderful cooks and the serving table held all sorts of flavorful salads and side dishes.  Grandpa would have his chickens on the rotisserie and everyone would be driven wild with the smell of it all.  We ate well at those gatherings - very well!

I remember my favorite place was hanging near where the women were visiting.  They'd laugh and cackle, each one of them a natural storyteller, making something as routine as going to the store sound like an event.  I can scarcely think of a childhood memory without them in it somewhere.  I was a very lucky little girl!

Last month my Aunt Linda left a comment on my post about the Fresh Tomato Bruschetta.  That dish had reminded her of a salad my grandmother used to make which was very similar.  She asked if I remembered it.  After she refreshed my memory I do remember seeing it but am sure I skipped right on by as those were my "no-way-no-how" years with tomatoes and that bowl was filled with pretty much just tomatoes.

She gave me a quick run-through on how to make it and I couldn't stop wondering if I'd like it now.  
With my garden spewing forth tomatoes at an alarming rate, I thought I'd give it a try.

Wow!!!  Wow!!!

It just doesn't get any more fresh tasting than this simple, simple salad!  I would and could eat this every single day.  I thank my aunt for sharing this recipe from my grandma's kitchen.  I would like to pretend that I'm sharing a bowl of it with my grandma at her kitchen table.  We'd have a chuckle about something, her police radio scanner would be squawking in the background, and we'd be gazing out her windows with the binoculars close by - just in case there was something - or someone- that needed checked out just a little closer!

Take your tomatoes - I know you've got a bunch as well - and stun your tastebuds with the goodness and simplicity which is this salad!

Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad
serves 6
8 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 bell pepper, any color, halved
1/4 onion, diced
1 T. canola oil
4 sprigs fresh oregano or 1 t. dried oregano
salt and pepper

Fill a pot large enough to hold your tomatoes with water and put it on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil.

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

While the water is coming to a boil, take your tomatoes and make a little "X" with a paring knife on the bottom of each - like this:
When the water has come to a boil, place your tomatoes into the water.  It will only take a few seconds and you will see the skins pop and pull away from the fruit.
It's not the best photo, I know, but you can see what I'm talking about - the skins just split open and start to peel back.

At this point, you immediately remove the tomatoes from the hot water and place in the bowl with the ice water.  This will shock the tomatoes and stop the cooking.  You don't want to cook the tomatoes - they'll get mushy.  You just want to slip their skins off.

If you'd like, you can slip your bell pepper into the hot water for a minute for a quick blanch and then shock it in the ice water bath as well.  I think it mellows out the flavor a bit.

Remove the tomatoes from the ice bath once they've cooled and begin cutting them up.  I removed the seeds as I went but I wasn't fussy about it.  There were still some in the salad and it was fine.  Place the cut up tomatoes in a bowl.

Chop up the bell pepper and add to the tomatoes along with the diced onion.  Drizzle the canola oil over top and add the oregano.  If you're using fresh oregano, strip the leaves from the stems and give them a chop before adding.

Sprinkle with some kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  
Stir, cover, and let sit in your refrigerator for an hour or two.  The juices from the tomato will release and mingle with the canola oil making their own "dressing."  When it's time to serve, just give another stir and enjoy!  

My aunt says that my grandpa used to like to eat this salad with a piece of bread so he could sop up the juices and not waste any of it.  I don't blame him!  The juices - or "dressing" - is delectable!


  1. Thanks Janice for a trip down memory lane. Your the best!
    Aunt Linda

    1. Hey, thanks! I mean it! My aunties rock!

  2. Well Thank you, except this Auntie's body doesn't rock to much.
    Keep up this wonderful site.

  3. This is my favorite of my mother's salads.