I found myself thinking about my grandparents a lot over the last few weeks. I guess it's fitting since this week is three years since my grandma left and it's been over five since I said goodbye to my grandpa. The memories are triggered by my garden. Every time I see a red jewel-coloured tomato, pulling the vine close to the ground, heavy from all the juices and flesh, almost bursting when touched, I remember my grandparents and their cottage-dacha. It was their passion, their love, their life. They spent every moment they could there. Staying until the latest fall, cleaning every corner, turning ground, covering trees and bushes. They went there early in the spring to check on damage, fix things, prepare for the summer. And they spent long winter months discussing merits of various kinds of tomatoes, black, red and white currants, carrots.
When I was little we had a game. I'd climb under the covers late at night, close my eyes and my grandma and I would come up with different dreams about our dacha. We would dream how we'd go there for the first time in the summer, what we'd plant, what we'd eat. And after a few minutes dreams became memories and instead we'd remember last year and how happy it was. Years later, already in Canada, my grandma asked me if I remembered that game. The dreaming game.
I remember my grandma covering windowsills in their apartment with little containers of soil and growing seedlings. Checking every day if there's a new little green leaf. I remember her planning how to plant vegetables so that we'd have them all through the summer, finding the perfect combination of plants that ripen at different months. I remember one year coming to visit my grandparents and finding out that grandpa bought a dozen tiny chickens who lived in a large card box in the kitchen. He wanted me to have fresh eggs in the summer. I remember finding the first egg in the coop that he made. I remember eating snap peas right from the vine. I remember pulling fresh carrots and turnips from the ground. I remember going to the well once a week to get a supply of fresh, clear, cold water before the pipes were installed. I remember eating outside on the veranda. I remember.
Last week I was talking to my mom and she told me how she bought black currants and red currants. Not the cheapest or easiest berries to buy around here. "I buy them once a year," she said, "to remember." She paused for a minute. "It's been three years..."
So, this salad is in the honour of my grandparents, who would have been so proud that there are tomatoes in my backyard, who would have given me countless advice on how to grow them properly.
Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook by Ina Garten
makes 2 servings
Variety of fresh tomatoes - 1 pound
Blue cheese - 70 g
Dill, chopped (or other favourite herb) - 1 tablespoon
Greek plain yogurt - 1/4 cup
Mayo - 1/8 cup
Wine vinegar - 2 teaspoons
Salt, pepper to taste
- In a small food processor add half of the blue cheese, dill, yogurt, mayo and vinegar.
- Process until combined, but still chunky.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Slice big tomatoes into thick pieces. Halve or quarter cherry tomatoes if using.
- Crumble the other half of blue cheese over the tomatoes, sprinkle with chopped dill and serve with the dressing.
- I love making this salad with different kinds of tomatoes as I find multiple textures really make this salad interesting and unique.
- As you can see from many previous recipes, I love using dill, but you can use other herbs such as parsley, cilantro or chives.
- You can use a bit less or a bit less vinegar. It gives the dressing a nice sharp edge, so adjust it to your taste.
- I have made this salad with Feta as well. It tastes different, but equally delicious. I actually think that goat cheese can be used as well, but I haven't tried it.