Tomato Avocado Mozzarella salad

I love cool, damp mornings before the sun has had a chance to evaporate the morning dew.  The birds are chirping, the downtown streets are relatively quiet, my plants are vibrant, and I can’t quite make out the horizon – just a haze of blue where Lake Ontario finds land again on the opposite shore.  I relish the freshness of an unmade day as I sit on my balcony, amid my tomato plants, and wait for the horizon to transform into the clear delineation of the Niagara Escarpment.

I look over at my tomatoes, wondering whether I should water them.  I decide to leave them.  This is my first year growing tomatoes, and over the past three months I have proudly seen them grow from seeds to three-foot-tall fruit-bearing plants.  I have also learned that gardening is a lesson in balance: too little water, and my tomatoes will wither and dry; too much water and the soil gets moldy, the leaves yellow.  My tendency has always been to over-act, so I over-watered my plants, the soil got moldy and the leaves turned spotted and yellow.  Early one morning when I realized what I had done, I sat on the ground scooping out the mold and replacing it with fresh soil, thinking about how gardening parallels the realization of our dreams: just as inaction leaves us standing still, too much action leaves us equally lacking and exhausted, trying to make our dreams come true through sheer force, instead of allowing Nature to do her thing.

The good news is that both plants and dreams can be saved.  The spotted yellow leaves and sheer exhaustion from trying to do too much may take weeks to heal, but they inevitably will.  All they need is time, patience and faith.

Here is a recipe that showcases the flavour of my now-recovered garden tomatoes:

Serves 2.  Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 field tomatoes (heirloom or vine-ripened are fine)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 green onion sprigs
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 oz buffalo mozzarella
  1. Mix first 6 ingredients in a bowl, until tomatoes and avocadoes have been coated with olive oil
  2. Slice and place buffalo mozzarella on top of salad
  3. Enjoy!

Greek Salad

Froot Loops, Cheez Whiz and Greek Salad.  These are the foods of my early childhood.

All day every day consisted of me and Pappou (my grandfather) finding ways to entertain ourselves until we picked Yiayia (my grandmother) up from work, and just as Yiayia had invented plenty of rules for me to follow, she had invented them for her husband too.  Rule #1: do not use any heating elements.  That rule was instituted early on, and reinforced after he broke it one day to make me french fries and accidentally set the kitchen on fire, just a little bit.  Rule #1 also explains our limited meal options, not that I minded.  My meal routine included twice-daily sugar rushes and a salad so tasty for lunch every day that I would soak up every last bit of dressing on my plate with my white Wonder Bread.

For Pappou’s Greek Salad, quality ingredients are the key.  Home-grown or local vegetables are best.  If you can’t find local or they are out of season, opt for organic where possible.  Olive Oil should be extra-virgin cold pressed, and have a slightly green colour.  The greener the better!

Greek salad_before
The ingredients

Here is the recipe:

Serves 2.  Prep time: 10 minutes

2 field tomatoes (heirloom or vine-ripened are fine)

6” field cucumber

1 green pepper

Kalamata olives

2 oz feta cheese

2-4 tbsp Olive Oil

Salt & Oregano to taste

Fresh bread

  1. Chop tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers in a salad bowl
  2. Add olives, olive oil and salt, and toss
  3. Place feta cheese atop tossed salad
  4. Sprinkle oregano over cheese and salad
  5. Eat! The tomato juice blends with the olive oil to make a delicious dressing.  Make sure you have plenty of bread to soak it all up!

 

And for those of you that are interested in re-creating a couple super-unhealthy and sugary 1980s mainstays:

Froot Loops for Breakfast:

1 bowl Froot Loops

1 glass homo milk

  1. Pour glass of milk into bowl of Froot Loops.  Eat Froot Loops, and drink remaining milk from the glass

Cheez Whiz on crackers for snack time:

1 tbsp Cheez Whiz

4 Ritz crackers

  1. Spread ½ tbsp of Cheez Whiz on each of 2 crackers
  2. Use remaining 2 crackers to create a sandwich
  3. Eat without a plate or napkin, leaving a trail of crumbs everywhere you go