Downright Reckless

July 16, 2008

I adore recipes. I’m sure, given the 200-odd recipe-driven posts that have preceded this one, that this is not exactly an earth-shattering announcement. But I really love them. I love to read them: glancing through the ingredients, composing mental grocery lists; visualizing my way through the instructions; imagining the flavors in the finished product. I’ve come to love writing them too: making little notes and tips on butter-stained, sugar-dusted scraps of paper as I go along.

But, most of all, I love to follow recipes. There’s something incredibly satisfying about assembling a list of ingredients and following a firm set of instructions, confident that the equation you’re following will yield a delicious result. It’s the same (nerdy) reason I liked algebra growing up: plug in the variables and you’ll get the right answer.

So, recipes usually suit my concrete-sequential (some might even say “uptight” … “obsessive compulsive” … “anal retentive“) side. For the bar exam (a mere fortnight away, people!!!), this approach is pretty much essential: know the legal rule, apply it and bingo! you’ll get the right answer. But when you spend hour after hour every day doing just this, even the algebra lover in you (you know s/he’s in there!) grows a little tired of it. So much so that I’ve been shrugging off recipes in the kitchen with wild abandon. And to the recipes I have relied on, I’ve re-arranged and edited and made-over. I’ve been downright reckless, I tell you.

Take this tomato salad, for instance. Late last Friday afternoon, about T minus 2 hours from our pre-concert picnic, I decided we needed a little salad of sorts to tuck into our picnic basket. A quick rummage through the fridge revealed a half-pint of grape tomatoes, a nub of red onion and a couple stray basil leaves. I oiled up the tomatoes and slid them, salt and peppered, into the oven. While they roasted, I sliced the basil and onion into thin ribbons. Once the tomatoes were hissing and popping, I pulled them out and, while they were still piping hot, drizzled them with a stream of balsamic vinegar. Next, I added the onion and basil, along with a generous pinch of coarse sea salt.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

At our picnic, I was delighted with the chilled results: the tomatoes were wrinkly red orbs that had absorbed the balsamic vinegar, which made for a surprising burst of the vinegar with every bite (a sensation, for the fellow children of the 80s out there, that was not all that unlike Bonkers candy or Gushers fruit snacks). The red onions added a nice crisp bite and the basil a jolt of brightness. It was almost too good. It might just lead me to go cold turkey and give up recipes all together.

And, because I know you and your inner-algebra-lover want it, here’s the recipe:

Balsamic Tomato & Basil Salad

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
pinch coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the tomatoes in the olive oil and transfer to an oven-safe baking dish. Roast the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to burst. While the tomatoes are still hot, drizzle on the balsamic vinegar. Stir in the onion and basil. Sprinkle with the coarse sea salt and serve warm. Alternatively, allow the salad to cool slightly, cover and refrigerate.

14 Responses to “Downright Reckless”

  1. eggsonsunday Says:

    I loved algebra for the same reason. So satisfying to, as one teacher used to say, “plug and chug.” This salad looks like it would be summer personified: can’t wait to try it with some cherry tomatoes from our garden (when they finally ripen!) –Amy

  2. Mary Beth Says:

    I am printing this out right now to make for dinner – was going to do an old standby with grape tomatoes but this sounds so much better (and I have 1/2 a red onion to use up). I tried the Devilish Angel Foodcake last night – soooo good!

  3. Johanna Says:

    … while reading, I just decided this will be my birthday brunch salad on Monday. Sounds delicious!


  4. This is very similar to how I make tomato salad, except I don’t roast the tomatoes first. What was I thinking? I can’t wait to try it this way!

  5. Aggie Says:

    Very nice!! I love that you thought to roast them!

    I have an award waiting for you in my blog! Come by and pick it up! 🙂

  6. Aggie Says:

    Good luck on your exam by the way!!!

  7. joythebaker Says:

    Yum! These tomatoes look just luscious! I too love recipes, but I don’t have very much love for algebra or law… yikes! I’m glad you went reckless for this dish- great results!


  8. Nothing simpler, nothing better.

  9. Dragon Says:

    Your salad is lovely and your photos are really good. Good luck on your exam!

  10. Sarah Says:

    Oooh, I couldn’t be more different! I think I’m incapable of following a recipe… even a freaking box mix LMAO! I cannot WAIT for our baby tomatoes to hurry up and grow though, just so I can try this out! I’ll have to leave the oil out of my version though, sigh, since I can’t eat it anymore, but the version for the ‘rents will have their *smuggled* Italian stuff gracing the plate!

    Thanks for the deliciousness, and hope the exams went well!


  11. Amy: When your tomatoes do come in, you’ll have your own basil too. Sounds like a no-brainer “plug & chug” to me.

    Mary Beth: Hope you like it! Let us know how it goes. And I’m glad you liked the cake too! I’d like to reprise that one soon, I think.

    Johanna: Happy early birthday!

    Dawn: Yes, the roasting made the salad. I can generally pop raw cherry tomatoes like candy, but I loved them roasted here: soft, bursting, wrinkly.

    Aggie: Thanks (both for the award & the well wishes)!

    joy: Well, there goes my algebra-lover = recipe-lover theory!

    js: So summer, isn’t it?

    Dragon: Thanks (to both)!

    Sarah: Hmm. Between you and Joy I suppose there might be fewer algebra lovers/rigid recipe lovers in the world than I originally thought. Hope you give this (or some variation on it!) a try when your baby tomatoes arrive.

  12. joey Says:

    My inner algebra lover thanks you🙂 What a delicious looking way with tomatoes!

  13. Amy Says:

    Where to start? I just started reading your blog today from the taste spotting link and it’s fabulous. Love the recipes, the pics, everything.

    Next, wish I read this when you first posted! I am now a 1L and am soooo terrified about the bar…and it’s like 3 years off! Hope yours went ok, belated well wishes!

    Finally, you mentioned having been in DC. I just moved into the city for school and was wondering if there are any not too pricey, but good tasting places you’d recommend?


  14. Amy: Don’t be terrified yet! And enjoy law school! These might be a little outdated, but I loved 2Amys, Matchbox, Zaytinya, Jaleo, Five Guys (the fries …), Ben’s Chili Bowl, Meiwah, Moby Dick (for falafel), Breadline, Pasta Mia, Pizza Paradiso … and I could go on and on and on. I miss it!


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