Back in February, we turned ourselves into "snowflakes" and headed for Florida. (Snowflakes? Yes, snowflakes. Snowbirds head south for the winter. Snowflakes head south for a few days.) On the way back north, roadside stands beckoned: the "last" strawberries and the "first" tomatoes, the signs said. Still, I was dubious about the claim of local tomatoes. "Where are the tomatoes from?" I asked gently. "Are they from here?" "No! No!" said the woman with a shake of her head. "The tomatoes are from Immokalee!" ... that would be a town about 300 miles further south. Ha! Imokalee might not meet the "100 mile" standard for local food but in February, Florida is Florida.
The tomatoes, however, were lackluster, not the juicy ripeness of sun-ripened garden tomatoes that will grace our tables come late summer. So I had no qualms about tossing a few into a Mason jar with a few other vegetables and little more than vinegar and a few spices. Good? No! Fabulous! I wondered whether supermarket-variety Roma tomatoes would work too. Good? No. Fabulous! A winter tomato salad? It's a wonderment.
RECIPE for WINTER TOMATO SALAD
Time to table: 3 - 4 hours
Fills 1 quart canning jar, serves 8
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar or honey or something sweet
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix in a small bowl, stir to dissolve sugar and salt.
2 - 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped in bite-size pieces
1 bell pepper, yellow or orange for color contrast if you like, chopped in bite-size pieces
1/4 English cucumber, cut in bite-size pieces
About 1/8 small sweet onion, slivered, optional
Fresh herbs, optional
In a one-quart canning jar, pack a layer of tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion and herbs, then repeat. Press slightly to make room for more. Pour pickling liquid over top, cover the jar and tip up and down to distribute throughout the jar. Refrigerate for 3 - 4 hours, tipping occasionally if you think of it.
Best the same day but still good the second day.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
I think this would make a fabulous packed lunch, using pint jars instead of a quart jar, mixed in the morning, ready for lunch.
Experiment with different vegetables, aiming for color and crunch.
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