This couldn’t-be-easier salad was inspired by a now (sadly) defunct restaurant in my hometown: The Silo. My family ate many, many meals there over the years, hosted birthday parties, celebrated milestones, received sports awards and college scholarships there, all accompanied by the delicious Silo food.
The Silo first opened in the 1950′s, I believe…and some of that kind of service: vegetables served for the table, freshly baked bread, every meal coming with a soup or salad course…remained until it’s last day. One of my favorite of the ‘old-style-service’ traditions was sending out a little plate of mixed-vegetable salad along with the bread. It was never a leaf-lettuce salad (you got that later in the proceedings), but more of a three-bean salad or marinated crunchy vegetable mix. These snappily flavored mixes, along with that fresh warm bread and butter, really got your taste-buds humming and excited for the courses that lay ahead.
One night, out came that bowl – and it was filled with tomatoes and onions and jalapenos. And I looked at it warily. Those are pretty big pieces of onions and I’m not a raw-onion fan…. are those green bits peppers? No, jalapenos! This may be *way* too hot. Those tomatoes look like some gorgeous, fully-ripe summer specimens, oh gee, I hope the onions and jalapenos don’t overwhelm their gorgeous flavor. So at first I didn’t try it. Thought I’d wait for my soup or main course…just nibble on some bread in the meantime. But after everyone else had taken their share, the bowl ended up in front of me…and a moment or two later, between the amazing fresh-salsa smell coming up from that bowl, and the lip-smacking sounds of happy discovery from everyone else at the table…I just had to try it.
And thank goodness. It was so crisp, and juicy, and refreshing! The jalapenos brought a little bite to the mix, but had been seeded and stemmed, so not too much. The tomato taste still came through as I wanted it to, and even seemed a bit ‘deeper’ because of the brightness surrounding them. And those onions? Vidalia! So the amount of onion ‘bite’ was just right. And I realized after a few mouthfuls, this salad tastes like the way I always wished Salsa would taste. And now I knew it could.
So I went home and over the next few nights, played with the (very) simple ingredients, until I got it to what it was that first time. All it took for me to get it was for me to finally realize that less is more, and it came together in a snap.
Fresh Salsa Salad
2 large, ripe Tomatoes, stemmed and cut into large dice
1 cup Vidalia Onion (about half of an onion), cut into large dice
1 Jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, cut into large dice
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
Splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (You really don’t need much at all.)
Garlic Salt and Pepper to Taste
Cilantro – optional. (If you like it, use it and if you don’t, it’s great without.)
This couldn’t be easier, just put everything in a bowl, give it a stir and voila! A bright, vibrantly flavored and refreshing salad is at your fingertips.
You don’t want to make it *too* far ahead, as the tomatoes will start to break down a bit…but if you make it, say an hour or so in advance, the flavors will really have a chance to mingle and come together.
Even if you serve it almost immediately, you’ll be left with some deliciously flavored tomato water at the bottom of your bowl. This stuff is so good, I sometimes serve it in little shot glasses as an aperitif.
It’s just that good.