I am so thankful to have grown up with a love for fresh vegetables. When I was little, we would sit around a picnic table in my paternal grandparents' Virginia backyard during the summer, and shell peas or snap green beans from their garden with them, all for my grandmother to can for later use. It was a family event, and usually included a few neighbors or friends, and it was a happy, social gathering, all focused around the food. I even remember the first time I had green beans out of a can (like can from the grocery store), since we only ate the fresh green beans my grandmother picked and canned by hand for us, and thought how disgusting they were! I have grown to accept canned green beans, though I love to eat the freshly made variety any chance I get!
I think for me, that fresh vegetables and farmer's markets, and cooking with fresh food brings back those beautiful nostalgic memories of my granparents backyard, and all the wonderful family memories I have of a big typical Southern Sunday dinner, with Fried Chicken, green beans, fresh corn, fresh tomatoes, mashed potatoes, fried okra, homemade biscuits and bread, and homemade pickles, relishes and deviled eggs. Not to mention the coconut cake and peach cobblers for dessert.
I get that very same feeling when I make this very simple, but extremely delicious Summer Tomato Salad. The in-season tomatoes cannot be beat, and are sweet and acidic, so fresh and juicy, and just taste like summer to me. It's something I feel like my grandmother could've put together, with fresh tomatoes from her garden.
It's really easy to make, and I don't even really have a recipe for you, just more like guidelines. So here's all you need:
Fresh Tomatoes- we used small beefsteak, heirloom and golden sweet varieties (preferably fresh from the garden or farmer's market or produce stand, but the grocery store will work too!)
Fresh Basil (as much or as little as you like!)
Diced Avocado (totally optional, but I don't miss an opportunity to eat an avocado!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Your favorite vinegar (Balsamic is our choice, you could do red wine or white wine too)
Chop up your tomatoes in bite size pieces, add to a pretty bowl. Tear the basil and add to bowl. Add chopped avocado. Drizzle a little olive oil, add a splash or two of vinegar, and sprinkle with salt. Mix to combine. And voila! You have just made the best summer side dish.
We eat it with everything, including, but not limited to: roast chicken, hamburgers, ribs, fried fish, pork chops, roasted shrimp, fried chicken, ham, pimiento cheese sandwiches, you name it. I hope you'll try it with some yummy fresh tomatoes and include it with your family's summer lunch or dinner. And maybe you'll make some memories with your children that will last a lifetime!