Cooking Fruits & Vegetables

How to Make Southern Tomato Cracker Salad

How to Make Southern Tomato Cracker Salad

Tomato cracker salad, using “soda” crackers (Saltines) might owe its popularity to TV cook, Paula Deen, but bread salads have always been favorites in frugal and savvy households around the world.

Some tomato cracker salad recipes exploit the freshest and ripest ingredients, much like an Italian panzanella filled with freshest tomatoes tasting of the sun, herbs, oil, and croutons of home-made bread.

Other versions of tomato cracker salad draw upon the simplest and, possibly, humblest pantry ingredients, like canned tomatoes, mayonnaise, and “soda” crackers.

This is Paula’s basic recipe for 6 servings:

1 sleeve Saltine crackers
1 large tomato, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 hard cooked egg
Salt and pepper

1. In a medium bowl, coarsely crush the crackers with your hands, leave big pieces.
2. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

* Some cooks suggest that canned whole tomatoes can be used for this recipe. Tomatoes should be crushed with your hands so that fairly large pieces remain.

* Canned tomato salad, with a generous addition of chopped dill pickles and hard-cooked egg are often served in lettuce cups as additions to a summer salad plate. Cooked and chilled small salad shrimp elevate the dish to an entree when served with hot crescent rolls or, believe it or not, more crackers.

* Sweet bell peppers (and a bit of jalapeno if you like things spicy) are nice additions, along with grated cheese (Cheddar gives the most Southern flair) or vegetables like crisp-tender green beans.

* Tomato cracker salad, when made with potato salad ingredients, is said to taste like potato salad. Use plenty of scallions, bell peppers, and sweet pickles.

* Use more eggs (some recipes suggest as many as 6), and it tastes like egg salad. Use as filling for cherry tomatoes on an appetizer tray.

* For an interesting Mexican twist, substitute crumbled tortilla chips for the crackers and some fresh sliced mushrooms. This variation benefits from the addition of a spicy black bean salsa in place of mayonnaise, and should be served immediately after being put together.

* Pickled artichoke hearts (use their liquid in place of all or part of the mayonnaise), chopped black olives, and a good sprinkle of Feta cheese make a delicious result.

Since everything depends upon the skill of the cook, tomato cracker salad is another opportunity to enrich your home-cooking repertoire of simple dishes. This is a dish that easily becomes your own as you adapt it and make it a part of your palate of flavors.