Ensalada Chilena

Rick Cooks Home Ensalada Chilena
Chilean Tomato and Onion Salad

The following is a paraphrased translation of a Spanish description of this salad by the Chilean gastronome Roberto Marín Vivado.

An alliance of tomatoes, onions, and green ají, dressed and accompanied best with fried fish. The onion must be thinly sliced and unsoftened so as not to lose its flavor and dash. It's best not to use a strong onion variety, such as the Valencia, with its lingering aftertaste, but one of the more "friendly" varieties which have recently become available. The tomatoes may be peeled, sliced if small, or cut into strips if large, and drained if excessively juicy. The ají should be seeded and deveined, of summer or fall harvest when they are the mildest, and diced and served over the salad as well as on the side for those who prefer more piquancy.

The salad is dressed just prior to serving simply with salt and oil. If the tomato acidity is weak, add a few drops of vinegar.

The ratio between tomato and onion depends on the intensity of the flavor of the onion. The prudent ratio is 3 tomatoes per medium onion and one green ají.

The strong Valencia onion Sr. Marín refers to is our yellow, or Spanish onion. Many Chilean cooks will slice this onion and soak it in warm water to remove most of the sulfuric acid, softening the "bite". Sr. Marín disapproves of softening the onion, which he says should be crisp and flavorful. Fortunately, we have the red onion, Vidalia onion, and Maui onion, all of which are excellent in a raw salad such as this.

The tomatoes should be meaty, ripe, flavorful, and acidic. In winter, usually only Roma tomatoes will do. The ají can be substituted with a mild green chile, such as Anaheim or Jalapeńo.

I also prefer to add some green in the form of fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, or basil. In effect, we have most of the ingredients used to make Pebre.

Chilean salad dressing is always simple, consisting of coarse salt, salad oil (olive or grapeseed), and for acidity (as required by green salads), either lemon juice (if tomatoes are sweet) or vinegar (if tomatoes are tart) are used, but not both.

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Ensalada Chilena

Chilean Onion-Tomato Salad

*Serves 6*

3 sweet ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 Vidalia onion, julienned
4 T chopped cilantro
1 ají chileno (or jalapeño chile), seeds and ribs removed, finely diced salt
olive oil
lemon juice

Arrange tomato slices on platter and season with salt. Arrange onion slices over tomato. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Allow to macerate for 15 minutes. Serve at room temperature with diced chile on the side.