Triple Tomato and Feta Salad

Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulThe last time we were camping on Orcas Island, I was almost 7 months pregnant and we shared a shaded campsite with two other couples and their kids. I made banana bread and recall hoarding it from the kids (and, really, everyone); Sam and I snuck into town for strong lattes early in the mornings, spent a lot of time down by the lake and on easy ambling hikes, and took turns cooking over the fire each night for dinner. As is so often the case with camping, the days felt eternally long in that loose, listless way that only summer can gift us, and we came home with flip-flop tan lines and dusty hair.

Last week we took Oliver on his first camping trip to Moran State Park which was, as you can imagine, quite different. On the ferry coming home, while chasing Oliver through rows of tourists and travelers, we decided that you almost need to reframe and even rename activities that you once did before having a kid. I see a lot of friends who become quite disappointed and resigned — even depressed — that the things they once used to love doing are now a thing of the past. Hiking? Give me eight years. Camping or international traveling? See you in 2022. The list goes on.
Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet Spoonful

And it’s true: it’s a lot of work and planning and the truth is that summer never gifts you those drawn-out quiet, listless days when you’re camping with a small person. It just doesn’t. And hiking? On our last trip a few weekends ago, I ended up carrying Oliver most of the way up to the waterfall (although we actually never made it to the waterfall) after he refused to sit in his baby backpack. So we manage expectations. We don’t bring novels to the beach, we don’t think through the elaborate camp meals we once used to make, we eat more PB & J sandwiches than we ever thought we would, and we fill our flasks with pre-mixed cocktails.

Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulOur first night of camp, Oliver decided he was none too keen on sleeping in the Great Outdoors, or at least, on going to sleep. In fact, he straight up Freaked (this is our family’s very technical sleep term, signaling to one another that Shit Is Bad) so fully and completely that you could hear our camp neighbors sighing, getting out of their tents, whispering amongst each other. Flashlights clicked on. More sighing. At home, while we would’ve let Oliver cry for a bit and tire himself out, it felt disrespectful to keep the rest of the campground up, so Sam and O. hopped in the car and drove around the island, podcasting away, until it was clear the backseat passenger was sleeping soundly enough to transfer to his own private tent. This became the nightly routine: the menfolk would leave at dusk and I’d keep the fire stoked, get the tents ready, sneak squares of dark chocolate meant for s’mores and dip into my book awaiting their return.
Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet Spoonful

After what felt like a full night of me holding my breath, hoping we wouldn’t rouse our camp neighbors yet again, daybreak came — as it’s known to do — and over bacon and eggs, we talked about the day ahead. While we have so many memories on Orcas (Mount Constitution hikes, wood-fired pizza at Hogstone, oysters from Buck Bay), having a young child is funny because on one hand you’re excited to introduce them to all the things you used to do and, on the other, you know you can’t hike Mount Constitution or have any sort of a sane or restful meal at Hogstone. As I’ve said before, you rejigger. The things you used to do may not apply.
Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulSo we didn’t plan or schedule much in the way of activities, and instead found ourselves down by the beach more often than not, trying to teach Oliver how to build a moat and share ice cream cones. Our child became obsessed with water fountains, made a baby friend from LA, and took what must have been hundreds of trips down the slide at the park playground. Back at camp, dinner wasn’t something we stressed over: I’d spent a lot of time planning our meals so evenings could be easy. There was a spicy turkey chili and quinoa one night; vegetarian tacos the next; and on our last night we grilled sausages and corn over the open fire, and pulled together this triple tomato and feta salad, the MVP of summer 2017.

Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulA version of this salad made an appearance at our Fourth of July get-together: I’d made Samin Nosrat’s Summer Panzanella from her incredible book and, try as I might, I just don’t get panzanella salads. No matter how you roll the dice, you’re always left with really soggy bread. But the one thing that I was struck with was Samin’s perfectly-balanced tomato vinaigrette. At first it came off as a bit fussy (you have to grate a very ripe tomato and whisk it into the dressing), but it turns out grating a tomato is no big deal, and we’ve been keeping the dressing on hand to drizzle over sliced, ripe summer tomatoes for weeks now. It’s also a great dip for crusty bread and I imagine it’d make an all star appearance in a pasta or whole grain salad.Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulFor our camping trip, I made a batch of the vinaigrette at home and we just kept it in the cooler, pulling it out on our last night to generously pour over heirloom tomatoes with big spoonfuls of feta. It felt fancy even though it was all quite simple and we each had seconds, silently gearing up for what could possibly be a long night ahead.
Triple Tomato and Feta Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulThe next morning, we cooked the rest of our bacon, made some strong coffee and started to pack up. I ruffled around in my bag to find enough quarters to use the camp showers and Oliver dutifully pointed out every truck and motorcycle he could spot on the road below. We headed into town to share baked eggs and a brownie at Rose’s before catching the ferry back home, stopping only to run around the rocky beach in Eastsound, where Oliver lugged driftwood from the shore and pushed it into the water with genuine gusto. I snapped a few photos of him by the shore grinning, stood up, and thought I might as well lug a piece to the water, too. I can’t say that I’d ever done that before.

Triple Tomato and Feta Salad

Triple Tomato and Feta Salad

  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Inactive time: 10 mins
  • Total time: 20 mins

With Samin’s tomato vinaigrette, grape tomatoes and cubed heirlooms, this salad boasts tomatoes three ways. That being said, keeping it simple and drizzling the vinaigrette over sliced heirlooms with a sprinkle of flaky salt is still summer at its best. Here you’ll have leftover dressing; it keeps for a good four days and makes a great dip for crusty bread. This salad is best served room temperature the day its made, and if you want to really do it justice enjoy it right away.

Ingredients

Tomato Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup):

2 tablespoons diced shallot
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 large or two small very ripe tomatoes (about 8 ounces)
4 basil leaves torn
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
salt

Tomato Salad:

1 pound ripe heirloom or slicing tomatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
flaky salt, to finish, optional

Instructions

For the Dressing:
In a small bowl or jar, let the shallot sit in the vinegars for 15 minutes to macerate.

Halve the tomato crosswise. Grate on the largest hold of a box grater and discard the skin. You should be left with about 1/2 cup grated tomato. Add it to the shallot. Add the basil, oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Smash the garlic against the counter with the palm of your hand and add to the dressing. Shake or stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt or acid as needed. Let sit for about 10 minutes, and remove garlic before using.

For the Salad:
In a large bowl, combine the heirloom tomatoes, grape tomatoes and fold in 1/3 cup dressing. Top with feta and chives and a sprinkle of flaky salt. Serve immediately.

Comments

  1. Lori

    Megan, I LOVE this post for so many reasons. You've captured parenthood brilliantly, you've described the best of summer and its activities in a way that makes me want to pack the car right this minute and head to a campground and you've inspired me to make this tomato salad tonight! Oliver is beautiful. I remember when Josh was that age and it was exhausting for all of the reasons you describe. Now at 12 he's the perfect companion. He still would rather not hike far, but he will. Everything changes. Everyday. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Lori

    1. megang

      Aww thank you, Lori. So nice of you to say. I hope you all liked the tomato salad and YES car camping (or any camping, really) is the best! And how lucky you are to have a little hiking companion. That must be really wonderful. Hope you're all enjoying your summer!

  2. Kaitlin

    Totally know that feeling of adjustment!!! I have a six year old and a seven month old, and the gap between them is long enough that I completely forgot how much of a JOB it is to travel anywhere away from home. All the stuff, sleep is all over the place, so many compromises with schedules and routines! Good for them and us, though, to start experiencing the world, right? Thanks for sharing the delicious recipe!!

    1. megang

      Absolutely, Kaitlin. I totally agree - shaking it up is good for everyone (although, yes, exhausting!!)

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