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Early fall tomato salads

Mizeria — Polish tomato-cucumber salad (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

With a longer season and hotter summer, the tomato harvest was truly stupendous this year. Farm fresh tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are still abundant – but will be gone soon. They are the ingredients of awesome summer salads made without lettuce or other greens.

Horiatiki, or Village Salad, is a traditional Greek salad made with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, Kalamata olives and feta cheese, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. It’s traditionally served with warm pita bread. I like to add arugula to this salad.

In Israel, a salad is made with sweet bell peppers (or hot if you like), pickles, and tomatoes is popular. The only dressing required is a little of the liquid from the pickle jar; you can drizzle in a little olive oil if you wish. Another, better-known Israeli salad is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and parsley and seasoned simply with salt, lemon and olive oil. This salad has its roots in Turkish Shepherd’s Salad and Iranian Rainbow Salad.

In Turkey, Shepherd’s Salad — coban salatsi — is made with common, easy-to-grow ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and parsley, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. In the Ottoman Empire, the ingredients for this were chopped fine; some modern cooks prefer a chunkier texture with larger pieces.

Persian Rainbow Salad or salad shirazi, named for the ancient city of Shiraz, is made with seedless Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, fresh mint, fresh-squeezed lime juice, olive oi, salt and pepper.

Mizeria is a traditional Polish salad made with cucumbers, sour cream or plain yogurt, salt, and scallions or dill. Often, tomatoes are added for color. Hard-cooked eggs can be added to make it into a heartier main dish. I’ve also added feta (though this is not traditional in Poland!).

Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and onions are all full of water, low in calories, a good source of fiber, and fat free. Fresh tomatoes are a great source of vitamins C, A, and lycopene – which benefits the eyes and is a cancer-fighter as well. Cucumbers are a good source of vitamins B1, B2 and C, and minerals calcium and iron. Onions are rich in chromium, a trace mineral that helps cells respond appropriately to insulin. That is why they’re great for diabetics, helping to decrease blood sugar levels. They also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Sweet bell peppers are rich in vitamin B and fo6lic acid. When red, they contain the phytonutrients lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These nutrients protect against certain types of cancer and help protect eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration.

Fresh parsley is a great source of vitamin K as well as vitamins C, A, Folate, and other anti-oxidants. Yogurt is a probiotic. Olive oil provides a healthy dose of MUFA’s (mono unsaturated fatty acids) and can help with digestion. Lemon juice is a great source of vitamin C, antioxidants and potassium.

There are so many permutations of fresh tomato salad! It is a refreshing side dish that complements all kinds of main dishes. No matter which way you make it, these salads are delicious, healthy, and simple to prepare. The only tools you need are a good chef’s knife, cutting board, and mixing bowl.

Enjoy these salads before or season of fresh, local tomatoes comes to an end.

Polish Mizeria Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups diced cucumbers (prefer seedless)

2 cups diced tomato

1 cup diced sweet onion or scallion

1 teaspoon salt

1 or 2 Tablespoons sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

Slice or dice the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat and release juices. Fold in sour cream or yogurt. Serves two.

Pickle and Pepper Salad

Ingredients:

2 dill pickles, preferably homemade

1 large or 2 small sweet bell peppers, any color

1 small (or 1/2 large) sweet onion

1 or 2 tomatoes, depending on size, optional

Olive oil, optional

Feta cheese, optional

Directions:

Wash vegetables; remove seeds from peppers. Chop coarsely. Place in serving bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of pickle juice and drizzle with olive oil; stir to combine. If desired, garnish with crumbled feta cheese. Serves two.

Middle Eastern Shepherd’s Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups diced cucumber

2 cups diced tomato

1 cup diced bell pepper

1 cup diced sweet or red onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup minced fresh mint

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

Wash and chop vegetables. Place in salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt & pepper & toss. Add minced fresh herbs, and toss again. Drizzle with lemon juice; toss to coat. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Serves two to three.

Tomato Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

2 tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup fresh minced arugula OR

1/4 cup fresh minced basil

3 or 4 black olives

1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan (not the powdered kind)

Directions:

Wash and dice tomatoes. Place in bowl, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Stir to combine.

Wash the greens to remove clinging sand. Chop. Slice olives in thirds. Sprinkle tomatoes with greens, olives and cheese. Dig in! Serves two.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Author

Yvona Fast.