Do you ever just have a day where everything you do seems like deja vu, like you've done it before, and like it's the same thing you do everyday day in and day out? Well, I do and I did yesterday except on my way home I walked through the Union Square green market as it was closing and came across an end of the day sale as the farmers were pulling out of the city with their trucks and going back to upstate new york or to some faraway land where trees and grass and vegetables grow and people get natural tans. Tomato season is over but the farmers still had some big red ones that looked amazing and were dirt cheap. I also got a bag of fresh Thai basil and a container of homegrown mint sprigs for just 5 bucks. I wondered all the way home what I was going to use it for (I normally only buy groceries after I've made plans) other than open the lid of the basil on the subway to mask the b.o. of the guy next to me.
We have a recipe in our book for Dai Tomato-Mint Salad--It's a salad from Xishuangbanna, a region of Yunnan Province in southern China, and in the recipe the spearmint sprigs are left whole and tumbled
with a little chili oil, juicy cherry tomatoes, and punchy garlic. I ended up doing a variation on this recipe yesterday with my green market spoils but I used more tomato, less mint, and added a little Thai basil (Thailand is not far from the Xishuangbanna border and Dai cooks use a lot of Thai spices like basil). I think the salad tastes even better today after the the tomatoes marinated in all the flavors in the fridge overnight.
This calls for chili oil. You can buy it or if you want to make your own, see our chili oil recipe.
yunnan tomato salad
4 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup mint leaves
1/3 cup Thai basil leaves (or regular basil)
3 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tablespoon chili oil
Slice the tomatoes into small wedges. In a large mixing bowl, combine the garlic, mint, basil, green onions, salt, and chili flakes. Use a wooden spoon to mash the contents of the bowl until all the leaves are crushed and bruised. If you think you've mashed too much, keep going.
Toss the tomatoes into the herb mixture and then drizzle the chili oil over the tomatoes. Use the wooden spoon to lightly mash the tomatoes until they lose their structure and are limp. Chill the salad for at least an hour before serving.