- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A good friend of ours, who entertains more than anyone I know, is not what I would call a passionate cook. She loves

to invite people to her home but never spends more than a few hours in the kitchen getting ready for her guests.

My husband and I love to go to her house. The table is always carefully set, the guests are without fail interesting and her joie de vivre permeates her gatherings. Oh yes, and the food, served buffet style, is tempting and never complicated.

How does she do it? Her philosophy is simple. She plans the menu for her dinner parties (usually at the last minute), then decides to focus on (read: cook) just a couple of the dishes. She buys the rest and accepts her guests’ offers to bring other dishes.

Several weeks ago she telephoned to see if we would like to come for a Saturday supper along with another couple from a nearby town. After accepting, I asked if I might bring something for the meal. “A salad would be perfect,” she quickly replied, explaining that her spouse was planning to grill steaks and that she was going to roast a medley of vegetables as a side and saute mushrooms to top the meat.

“No problem,” I said, and after hanging up the phone, started culling my files for a dish to complement her main course.

I found what I was looking for in a folder for a tapas class I was getting ready to teach. It was not a green salad but rather a red one. Sliced cherry tomatoes were topped with thinly sliced shallots, then drizzled with a dressing made with sherry vinegar and olive oil.

Crumbled blue cheese and chopped parsley were sprinkled over the tomatoes as a garnish. I had created this salad after being inspired by a similar combination of ingredients in a recipe in “Tapas — A Taste of Spain in America” by Washington’s Jose Andres (Clarkson Potter).

The sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes, coated with the slightly tart dressing and garnished with the salty cheese, made a fine counterpoint to the smoky and charred steaks.

The hostess liked this salad so much she asked for the recipe and was delighted to learn how easy it was to prepare. It might just find its way onto the menu for her next gathering.

Cherry tomato and shallot salad with blue cheese crumbles

1 pound cherry tomatoes, stemmed

2 large shallots (about 1/4 pound total)

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

Several grinds of black pepper

½ cup olive oil

A 2- to 3-ounce piece good-quality blue cheese such as Bleu d’Auvergne, crumbled

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley

With a sharp knife, thinly slice the tomatoes horizontally and arrange in a single layer in a glass or ceramic platter with a rim. Then peel the shallots and slice them crosswise into thin rings. Separate the rings and sprinkle them over the tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper. Then whisk in the oil.

Pour the dressing over the shallots and tomatoes. Garnish the salad with crumbled blue cheese and parsley. Let stand at least 1 hour (or up to 2 hours) before serving.

Makes 6 servings.


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