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by Gazette staff

Food Forum

A Daily Gazette life blog
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Heralding arrival of tomatoes

In photo: Jeff Wilkin's hearty summer salad featuring tomatoes, chick peas, olives and steamed broccoli.

Tomatoes are coming. So are my favorite summer salads.

Tomatoes are always welcome in my house. I chop them up for chili con carnes, slice them for bacon and lettuce team-ups and simmer them for sauces. Without tomatoes, we would never have ketchup — truly, a nightmare scenario.

I expect fresh salads soon. I joined Capital Region Community Gardens this spring and planted about 20 tomato plants in a sunny lot during early June. About half of the beefsteaks and Jet Stars are waist-high now, and I’ve probably got about 25 green fruits on the vines. But with all that June rain, I think a lot of tomatoes will be ripening late this summer.

Once they’re red and ready, I will slice four or five into chunks. They will share top billing in my bowl, along with broccoli.

I’ve never been a fan of raw broccoli, so once I’ve cut stalks and florets to salad size, the pieces get about five to eight 8 minutes worth of steam. Softer broccoli is easier to chew and I think it’s tastier. I think it looks better, too — steam puts a real emerald color into broccoli.

Once red and green subjects are go, sliced onions are added to the mix. Then I’ll open cans of black olives and chick peas, pour the contents into a colander for a cold water rinse. If I have Spanish olives in the house, a handful of light green will go into the mix.

I use one of those bowls with a tight-seal cover, so this salad is shaken and not stirred. I also chill before serving, to make sure the broccoli is cool.

It’s not a light salad. There are no flimsy leaves of lettuce, so your fork is going to be heavy. But it’s all good stuff. Some researchers say tomatoes and broccoli may help prevent cancer. And because I’m steaming the broccoli instead of boiling it, the nutrients are staying right where they belong — in the vegetable.

I know some people pass on chick peas, but they’re full of nutrition. Olives and onions are also good for you — I just like the extra flavors.

I like this salad with light Italian dressing. And because lettuce has been left out, the salad will last two or three days in the refrigerator. Generally, my lettuce has wilted by then.

Most important for me, this salad is a great way to use fresh tomatoes. A healthy way, too.

“In & Out of the Kitchen,” a wide-ranging column about cooking, eating and buying food, is written by Gazette staffers. You can reach us at

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