Sweet: Tomato and Roasted Onion Salad


Right now we are eating the best tomatoes of the year. We pick them when they feel just a bit soft to the touch, and they are red through and through, dripping with flavor. The summer was just cool enough here that ripening was delayed just a bit, a week or two. Perhaps that was your experience?

While B.L.T.s are the favorite for tomato eating in this household, and practically a daily lunch during tomato season, I do make fresh tomato sauce for pasta, serve simply sliced tomatoes with a drip or two of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and, of course, preserve quarts of tomato sauce for winter. The cherry tomatoes rarely make it as far as the house; we look like chipmunks in the garden with our cheeks stuffed full of Sungold, and an interesting deep purple one whose name I have forgotten, so sweet.

Still, last night, we devoured a bowl-full of a tomato and roasted onion salad that I swear I read about somewhere, but when I went to find the recipe again, no amount of Googling or page turning could discover. All I remember is that it said to roast the onions, add them to chopped tomatoes, and dress with vinaigrette. It is all about really ripe tomatoes, and onions roasted so that they are sweet. All the zip here comes from the dressing.

This is one of those times when it is definitely worth fussing a bit with tomatoes–as in removing the seeds, which can be bitter, before cutting the tomatoes up. It might even be worth peeling them. In a perfect world, I would have thought about roasting the onions the last time I had the oven on. If I had a toaster oven, I would have used that. Henceforth, during tomato season, I promise myself to keep a little container of roasted onions in the fridge to add extemporaneously to a bowl of chopped tomatoes.

Another little do-ahead is the vinaigrette. I used my new favorite one, which I have nicknamed Better Than Normal, but go ahead and use whatever vinaigrette you have and love.

I calculate salad quantities by figuring that most of us can eat a whole, medium tomato, and that a quarter to a third of the salad ought to be comprised of onion. Onions here are not just for seasoning; they are part of the substance of the salad, but suit yourself to taste, and/or match the recipe to your supply.

Onions are not just seasoning in this salad, but add substance.

Onions are not just seasoning in this salad, but add substance.

There will be a lovely puddle of flavorful juice in the bottom of the bowl when you are done. Sop it up with crusty bread, or do as Toby did, spoon up the tomato and onion bits first, and drink it.

Tomato and Roasted Onion Salad

1 medium onion
Olive oil
2 – 3 very ripe medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, pureed
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Chop the onion fairly coarsely, dribble with olive oil, and spread in a thin layer in a baking pan. Roast for about fifteen to twenty minutes, stirring occasionally, until they soften and turn golden. Take them out and let them cool.
Core and cut the tomatoes in wedges, remove the seeds, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Add the onions to the tomatoes. Whisk together the pureed garlic, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil and add it to the salad, mixing gently so you do not mash up the tomatoes. Sample it and add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes two to three servings.

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Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.