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Last chance tomatoes in a Burmese-style salad

Even with a chill in the air, tomatoes are ripening on the vine in the garden.

By The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook / September 25, 2012

A late-summer tomato salad with fried onions and garlic and the crunch of roasted pistachios.

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

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Supposedly, summer bade us farewell several days ago.

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Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Patricia Tanumihardja writes about food, travel, and lifestyle through a multicultural lens and has been published in numerous national and regional publications. Pat is also the creator of the “Asian Ingredients 101” iPhone and Android app, a glossary on-the-go that’s the perfect companion on a trip to the Asian market. Her first book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens, will be available in paperback in September 2012.

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The signs are all there: the sun dips lower in the sky, shadows lengthen, and the occasional nip in the air gently reminds me that summer is winding down and autumn is nudging its way in.

However, all around me, nature is playing tricks on me. Blackberries still peek out from their brambly bushes. The Seattle sky remains clear and blue, with daytime temps lingering in the 70s. And the tomatoes in my dad’s garden continue to grow plump and heavy on the vine, their green hue merging into red.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m relishing each day I can still bare my legs and zip out the door without a coat on. And with every satay stick I grill on the barbecue, I’m hoping it won’t be my last just yet.

This past Saturday, we took a ferry across the Puget Sound and spent a sunny day in Poulsbo where we ate fish and chips al fresco and my son chased seagulls around the marina. The next day, I turned my dad’s ripe tomatoes into a refreshing Burmese-style salad. It was a lovely way to commit the last flavors of summer to my taste memory.

Truth be told, I’m not ready to say goodbye.

And you, how are you stocking up on summery memories?

Burmese-Style Tomato Salad

This tomato salad is loosely based on a Burmese salad Alvina Mangrai once made for me. She is one of those amazing women. Alvina is my friend Manda’s mom. She migrated from Burma in 1972 and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her salad comprised shredded cabbage, chopped tomatoes, lime juice, dried shrimp powder, fried garlic, and the fragrant oil leftover from frying the garlic. I took a few liberties, borrowing some ideas from this recipe on Pranee’s blog. Because I already had store-bought fried garlic bits in my pantry (and yes, because I’m lazy) that’s what I used. But I can vouch for the deliciousness of frying your own..

Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons lemongrass vinegar
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 medium tomatoes, cut into crescents
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 small sweet onion, cut into thin crescents, soaked in water for 30 minutes to tame its bite
1 tablespoon fried garlic, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fried onions, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon roasted pistachios (preferably unsalted), crushed, plus more for garnish
Chopped cilantro for garnish

In a large salad bowl, whisk the lemongrass vinegar, canola oil, and fish sauce together vigorously. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Sprinkle with fried garlic, fried onions, pistachios, and cilantro, with or without abandon. Serve.

Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Honey Walnut Shrimp

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