I grew up in India where we used to buy our vegetables from local vendors on a daily basis. Most of the vegetables that were sold by these vendors were extremely fresh and often were harvested the very same day as they were cooked. We used to personally know each of the fruit and vegetable sellers and each day they’d advice my mother on what was fresh and worth buying and what was not recommended by them. So she would set the menu for the meals depending on what was fresh and in season and that is why everything tasted so good. So when I moved to the US, I found the supermarkets impersonal and intimidating. It took me a bit of time getting used to buying in bulk and storing the supplies in large refrigerators. Here, the produce was so plentiful and looked so unblemished and perfect but it lacked in flavor and taste. I missed the whole process of inspecting, haggling and then cooking with the fresh vegetables. In an attempt to recreate my childhood experience, I try to buy local produce whenever possible and so I visit the local farmer’s market often. Fortunately over the past few years there has been quite an increase in the popularity of farmers markets and that is why we have started to see a lot of variety of items being sold there. The one near my house now has a local cheese producer and an authentic French baker (complete with accent and body language that befits one of such exceptional talents!). On some lucky days we can also get some locally produced jams, jellies, honey and summer sausages! Among other advantages, I find that the tomatoes available here are sweet, juicy and taste like tomatoes and I try to use these in everything I make. This salad brings out the best in tomatoes. I also used fresh herbs and some fresh lettuce leaves freshly harvested from my little veggie patch.
1. 15-20 Multi-colored sweet heirloom baby tomatoes
2. 6-7 bocconcini (small-sized mozzarella) marinated in olive oil (or big ones cut into bite sized pieces)
3. Half a sweet red bell pepper
4. 6-7 fresh baby Romaine lettuce leaves
5. A few sprigs of fresh herbs – I used a few leaves of dill, sage, basil and Thai basil
6. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
7. 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
8. 1 teaspoon of sugar
9. ½ teaspoon of freshly grated pepper
10. 5-6 slices of hard salami
11. 3-4 garlic bread sticks
1. Wash the lettuce leaves and the tomatoes.
2. Cut the baby tomatoes and the bocconcini into halves and place them in a bowl.
6. Pour the dressing over the bowl containing the tomatoes, herbs, mozzarella and red bell pepper and toss the salad gently.
7. Sprinkle some fresh ground pepper on the salad and serve it with some lettuce leaves, sliced hard salami and garlic bread sticks on the side.