Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summer Salad Smackdown: Feasting Chilean Style

I'd been looking forward to this particular evening for years, ever since I found out that one of my neighbors was from Chile. We'd see each other at the dog park, eventually sharing bottles of wine and dinners, and he'd promised that one day he'd make a real Chilean dinner for us.

That night finally arrived late this summer, and I'd volunteered to bring a salad to go with the pastel de choclo (a beef and corn casserole, left) and chanco en piedra (tomato salsa served with bread) he was planning to make. I asked if tomatoes would be appropriate, since they were ripening in our garden. He said tomato salads are very popular in Chilean cuisine, and I began researching various recipes online.

I ran across a website, Eat Wine Blog, written by an American woman living in Chile, Liz Caskey, that had a recipe that sounded very promising. I wrote to ask permission to use it on the blog and she wrote back immediately.

"This salad is a staple on every Chilean table," she wrote. "I am sure if you polled any Chilean, they would name this as a perennial favorite…The freshness of the tomatoes, mildness of the onions, and the herbs create crunchy, juicy, tangy, herby ecstasy in your mouth."

She added, "You'll be licking the plate, especially if they're heirloom tomatoes or the shirtsoakers we get here from Limache."

And you know what? She was absolutely right.

Chilean Tomato Salad
Adapted from Liz Caskey's Eat Wine Blog

1  red onion
1 tsp. of salt or sugar
6 c. chopped tomatoes, various colors and sizes
¼ c. cilantro, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Sea salt to taste
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Slice the onion paper-thin, cutting with the grain (lengthwise). Separate the sections with your fingers. To temper, sprinkle a teaspoon of salt or sugar, combine well with your hands to mix. Set aside for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the tomatoes into a large bowl. Traditionally, most Chileans will peel them, though it's fine to leave the skins on.

When the onion has rested and rendered its “milk,” rinse it well with cold water and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Arrange the onions on top of the tomatoes and top with the chopped cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly toss before serving.


jeffrey hannan said...

yum. love the cilantro alternative to basil.

Kathleen Bauer said...

As the old commercial said, "Try it, you'll like it!"

Portland Charcuterie Project said...

great recipe! I'll definitely give this one a try for our next bbq... I've been doing something similar but with basil, and i think this will be a nice change.