ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Tomato Salad with Queso Fresco Edition

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As anyone who listens to Watch What Crappens knows, I recently took a trip to the Costco of Inglewood. At the time, it seemed like a prudent decision, and after witnessing a fight in the parking lot upon exiting, I realized it was actually a HILARIOUS decision too. A lot of weaves were pulled that day.

I’m proud to report that despite accidentally wearing gang colors (red), I survived my Inglewood adventure with my weave intact. Even more exciting: I emerged with two pounds of cherry tomatoes. Why? Well, why not? But truth be told, there was a method to my madness. I bought the tomatoes in bulk because I was eager to try yet another recipe from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday: Tomato Salad with Queso Fresco, Pan Roasted Green Onions, and Guajillo Chile Dressing.

Pictures, my friends, after the jump…

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As is often the case, we start with olive oil. Three quarters of a cup, in fact. Sounds like a lot, but remember, this is a salad, and we’ll be making a dressing.

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Aforementioned cherry tomatoes. Okay, technically they’re grape tomatoes, but who really cares?

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Okay, so some stuff has happened. First, once the oil was hot, I added some garlic and dried guajillo chiles. Actually, it was one guajillo chile and one pasilla chile (I had run out of guajillos. Drama!). The dried chiles only stayed in the oil for thirty seconds, long enough to darken and become fragrant. I removed them to a blender, took the pan off the heat, and left the garlic to simmer away as the oil cooled down.

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There are the chiles, looking like an errant piece of Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman suit.

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On deck is some balsamic vinegar.

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I blend the chiles and vinegar together to form a dark, moody mixture.

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Scary!

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Just choppin’ tomatoes.

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When the oil has cooled, I pour it into the Magic Bullet. A vinaigrette is imminent.

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The final product is not unlike something one might find at a BP offshore drilling site. Also, this dressing is DELICIOUS.

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Some green onions, lightly brushed with olive oil.

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I chop the scallions in half so they can fit in the pan, and then I roast them for a few minutes until they wilt and darken a little.

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Off the heat, I chop up the onions. The combination of my sort of dull knife and the slippery stalks makes for a very frustrating experience.

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The green onions go into a bowl with the tomatoes as well as some sea salt, the dressing, and some queso fresco. Unfortunately, I have no queso fresco, nor do I have goat cheese or bleu cheese. I resort to Bulgarian feta. Perfect for your standard Mexican-Bulgarian fusion meal.

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And there it is!

THE VERDICT:

This is a good one. A real good one. The kind of thing you make for a potluck and impress your friends with. And strangers too. Light, fresh, and full of bold flavors, this salad is great as a side or even a main (with perhaps some added protein like chicken). I’m sure a panzanella-esque addition of toasted bread cubes — CROUTONS, if you will — would be lovely too. Avocado, too.

Not only is this a healthy dish to whip up, it also yields plenty of dressing that can then be used on several future salads — tomato or otherwise. I speak from experience.

In terms of durability, this salad seems a bit delicate. It’s obviously best fresh out of the mixing bowl, especially with the contrasting temperatures. The warm dressing and scallions are a great counterpoint to the cold tomatoes and cheese. But after a day in the fridge, the flavors become slightly muddled, and of course, you lose that great range of temperatures. Don’t despair though — it still tastes great. Just a fair warning to anyone who has plans to nosh off this for a week.

Full recipe here (this version adds watercress).

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