I have missed my favorite tomato salad until these past two weeks, when our tomatoes finally decided to ripen. This recipe was going to be in my cookbook but it didn’t make it in the last cut, so here it is for you to try.
You might not think you need a recipe for tomato salad, but we Calabrians are particular about ours. The tomatoes must be firm, even a little greenish; we consider them too soft for salad when they are ripe. The onions must be red and sweet, like the elongated torpedo-like cipolle di Tropea or those labeled “Italian sweet.” Calabrians also use dried wild oregano in this salad, either home-dried or purchased at a farmers’ market. And most would add a generous amount of chopped fresh peperoncini (hot red peppers), but you can omit them.
I salt the salad 10 to 15 minutes before serving to draw out the juices; we always soak them up with bread. For an easy summer lunch, I sometimes fold in a jar of top-quality Calabrian tuna.
I could eat this salad almost every day!
Insalata di pomodori e cipolle calabrese
(Calabrian-Style Tomato and Red Onion Salad)
1 large red onion, ends removed, halved, and peeled
1 pound firm tomatoes, either plum or round salad type
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small fresh hot red pepper, such as cayenne or Thai, chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Slice the onion halves thinly from stem end to root end. Place the slices in a bowl and cover with cold water for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Core the tomatoes. Cut plum tomatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 2 or 3 wedges. If using round salad tomatoes, cut them in half through the stem end, then cut into wedges. Place the tomatoes in a non-reactive bowl.
Drain the onions and add them to the tomatoes along with the garlic. Add the oregano, crumbling it between your fingers as you add it, and the hot pepper, if using. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the olive oil. Toss gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to draw out some juices before serving.
Serves 4 to 6