We went to Italy (Calabria and Sicily) on a food research trip. If you hadn’t been following that journey, you can scroll back to the posts tagged Italy. It was funny: many of the things we learned were less recipes to bring back and more ways to approach food.
We kept seeing this salad in Calabria. This one was at a casual spot on this dark road near the house we were staying at in Tropea. Plastic tablecloths, lots of families, menus in Italian, English and German. On the menus it would say “Tomato and red onion salad.” We thought it would have more ingredients. But when it came to the table it was just tomatoes and red onions. Sometimes a basil leaf, but mostly not. There were bottles of olive oil and vinegar at the table, and you dressed it with those. I can’t remember if there was salt and pepper on the table, but we didn’t even need it if there was. The tomatoes were sweet and salty on their own. The onions were sweet and crisp and melted in your mouth. They had no oxidized flavor notes.
Three things have to come into place for this salad to work. You have to have the best ingredients on the planet, at peak freshness. You have to cut them to order before each person’s salad. And you have to have a culture that respects simplicity.
We’re going to be thinking about this salad a lot this summer. How can we get our food closer to that salad?