Dinosaur BBQ Tomato Cucumber Salad

This has been a banner year for tomatoes, and I'm enjoying them as much as I can before the frost sets in. Since my 2008 post on the macaroni & cheese from popular local restaurant the Dinosaur Bar B Que has been one of my most well read, I thought I'd try making the restaurant's Tomato Cucumber Salad. As expected, it was great grub -- and thankfully not nearly as decadent as the mac & cheese.

Tomato Cucumber Salad
From The Dinosaur BBQ Cookbook

1 ½ lb tomatoes
Pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 medium cucumbers
1/2 large red onion
30 small fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Core the tomatoes and cut lengthwise into 6-8 wedges. Cut each wedge in half crosswise. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and wake them up with a big pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Cut the ends off the cucumbers and use a vegetable peeler to make long stripes in the skin. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Add to the tomatoes. Peel the onion and cut lengthwise into slivers. Dump the onions in with the tomatoes and cucumbers and give everything a good toss.

Clean and dry the basil leaves. Stack them on top of one another and roll lengthwise into a tight cigar. Cut crosswise into thin strips and stir into salad.

Throw together a batch of dressing. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over tomatoes and cucumbers. Marinate the salad at room temperature for several hours. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Recipe says this feeds six -- I suppose that's if you don't have a lot of sides.

Melissa d'Arabian's Pan Con Tomate

Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian has been the source of more recipes on my family's table than any other show on the Food Network. Her recipes are easy, approachable ... and, frankly, they're cheap! The reviews of her recipes on the Food Network website, however, are filled with debates about whether or not her menus fulfill the show's promise of feeding four people for ten bucks. Enough already. There's a wide disparity of food prices across this country of ours, so even a tightwad like me can give the woman some leeway.

For this reason, this review is only about the food, specifically her recipe for Pan Con Tomate from a recent episode. I served it once for lunch and another time for a light dinner with a salad.

The recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes. First, you toast baguette slices, then rub them with fresh garlic and tomato. I was surprised at how much garlic flavor came through with this technique. What was even more curious about this recipe was sauteeing deli ham in olive oil to substitute for the traditional (and more expensive) Serrano ham. I used thinly sliced "ham off the bone" instead of the boiled deli ham -- it's what I had on hand -- and wow, did it have a lot of flavor! I even used a crappy baguette purchased from Tops, and the recipe was delicious. I'm sure I'll make this again, particularly when tomatoes are in season and ham is hanging out in the fridge.

Bread with Tomato: Pan Con Tomate

Original recipe by Melissa d'Arabian

Serves: 20 toasts

1/2 French baguette
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 thin slices ham (she used boiled ham -- I used Wegmans "ham off the bone")
2 Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400. Slice the bread at an angle into 20 thin pieces. Using 3 tablespoons olive oil, brush both sides of each slice of bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, then flip until the other side is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes per side.(Melissa grilled hers -- see her original recipe if that's what you want to do.)

Cut each slice of ham in quarters. In a small saute pan, add the remaining tablespoon olive oil and cook the ham until crispy. Remove the ham to a paper towel to remove the excess oil.

While the bread is still warm, rub a clove of garlic on each slice of bread. Cut the top off the tomatoes and rub the tomato on the slices of bread. (She drizzled olive oil on each piece -- I skipped that step). Sprinkle with kosher salt. Top with a piece of ham.