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One Easy Step Boosts Supermarket Tomatoes for Mediterranean Chopped Salad

From Israel to Spain to Morocco, produce is so flavorful that many salads need only ripe tomatoes and cool cucumbers to be delicious. But the watery, bland vegetables in the average American supermarket too often disappoint to work this way.

That’s why we use a simple trick to give them a boost — salting the chopped vegetables for about 10 minutes before dressing them. Besides seasoning the vegetables throughout, salting draws out moisture, which concentrates their flavors and gives them a more substantial, meatier texture.

Just half a teaspoon of salt for about a pound of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers was plenty for this refreshing salad in our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region. For additional flavor inspiration, we merged two Mediterranean classics, Greek horiatiki and the shopska salata of the Balkan countries.

For additional punch, we soak slices of red onion and rings of fresh chile in vinegar to soften their bite, then whisk the infused vinegar with olive oil and garlic to make the dressing. Briny capers add another layer of texture, and creamy feta cheese contrasts with the crisp, cool vegetables.

Good-quality feta is key here. The pre-crumbled stuff is loaded with artificial preservatives and lacks flavor, so look for varieties sold in blocks and crumble it yourself.

After assembling the salad, don’t wait to serve it. The flavors and textures are best when fresh.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Capers and Feta

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

12 ounces ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 6 to 8 wedges

1 English cucumber, cut lengthwise into eighths, then crosswise into 2-inch lengths

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

1 Fresno or jalapeño chile, stemmed and sliced into thin rings

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)

1 tablespoon drained capers

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium garlic clove, finely grated

½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

In a colander set in a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cucumber and ½ teaspoon salt; let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the onion, chili, vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt; let stand for 10 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes and cucumbers to a serving bowl, discarding their liquid, then sprinkle with the feta. Using tongs, lift the onion and chili out of the vinegar mixture, squeezing gently and allowing the vinegar to drain back into the bowl, then scatter them over the tomatoes and cucumber; reserve the vinegar. Sprinkle the capers over the salad.

To the reserved vinegar, add the oil, garlic, a pinch of salt and and ¼ teaspoon pepper, then whisk to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with parsley. Toss to combine at the table.

Source : The Independent