By Larry Levine –

People who cooked once a week, or once a month, or never … Now they’re cooking every night.

Most are getting by. Some will become proficient. Some may come to enjoy it and try to do it more frequently once it’s time to get back out of the house. Some are involving their kids.

That’s one of the nearly universal by-products of the times in which we live. Restaurants are closed. Delivery gets expensive and the timing can be undependable. Take-out means going out to pick it up and there’s a limit to how often you would want to do that. And there’s only so many cans you will want to open or frozen dinners you will want to put in the microwave. So, you learn to cook, or you expand on the knowledge and ability that already was part of you.

If you don’t have cookbooks, you go online for recipes. Then, on you forays to the market, you buy what you need for those recipes. (Shameless self promotion: my book, Cooking for a Beautiful Woman, has 104 delicious recipes for the home cook.

My mother had a favorite saying: “necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s something handy to remember in this time of necessity. Be inventive in the kitchen. Fortunately, I’ve been cooking for going on 66 years and I love the kitchen.

This came in handy two years ago when doctors put Jennifer on a blood thinner that required her to avoid greens and anything containing more than trace amounts of vitamin K. That meant no more spinach salads, one of her favorites. For that matter, it meant no salads that included greens.

We each enjoy salads, so I invented a new one, a salad with no greens, a tomato salad. Jennifer has switched medicines now and greens are back on the OK list. But we love this tomato salad so much that I’ve kept in in our menu rotation. Now, as we are staying at home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus and I’m cooking dinner every night, this is a welcome change of pace.


10 oz container of small tomatoes *
Red onion (to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil (to taste) **
Balsamic vinegar (to taste) ***
½ pound of bay shrimp
7 oz ball of Buffalo mozzarella cheese in water
1 avocado (optional)
Fresh basil (optional)

*The tomatoes I buy are packaged under the name of Cherubs. They are the size of cherry tomatoes, but these are oval in shape.

** Make sure you have a very high quality olive oil, the kind that stings the back of your throat when you taste it from a teaspoon. You don’t want adulterated oil that’s been cut with peanut oil or some other such stuff.

*** You want balsamic vinegar from Modena Italy, carrying the PDO seal, seal and aged as long as you can find and afford. The older the better and more expensive. If you don’t want to spend as much as the PDO costs, at least make sure it has a PGI label.

Wash and dry the tomatoes. Cut them in half, lengthwise, and put them in a class bowl. Sliver in the red onion, as much as you think you want, certainly enough to notice when you’re eating it. Jennifer and I love raw onion, so I sliver it on generously.

Toss the tomatoes and onion slivers together. Sprinkle on some olive oil. Enough to coat all the tomatoes and the onion. Sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar. A tablespoon or so should do it. Toss the tomatoes and onion in the oil and vinegar.

Let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

Add the shrimp and toss everything together to make sure all the ingredients are coated in the oil and vinegar. Taste a piece of tomato and add more oil or vinegar to taste.

Drain the cheese and cut it into chunks, not too small. Put the cheese on top of the tomatoes and sprinkle on a little more olive oil. Toss everything together and serve.

If you are using the avocado, peel it, cut it into bite sizes and mix it gently into the salad.

If you are using basil, it must be fresh. Chop some basil, maybe a tablespoon full, and stir it into the salad.

This makes two nice entrees for dinner, or four to six appetizers.

Eat it this way or with a favorite bread, preferably something crusty.

See? Invention. Easy.

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