Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad with Herb Dressing

The tomato plant is native to the Americas, and was cultivated by Aztecs in Central America as early as 700 A.D. The earliest tomatoes probably resembled the cherry tomato, with small fruits growing in clusters on vines. Cherry tomatoes grow vigorously and produce copious amounts of fruit even when grown in containers. For best results, plant tomato transplants outdoors after danger of frost has passed. Tomato plants need warm temperatures, bright sunlight and even soil moisture. Early varieties are ready for harvest in 60 days or fewer, but most tomato crops mature in 70 to 80 days.

Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator — flavor and texture begin to deteriorate at temperatures below 54 degrees. Store fresh tomatoes away from direct sunlight at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, until ready to use.

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad with Herb Dressing

1 1/2 pounds slender green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

3/4 cup chopped seeded tomatoes

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup chopped fresh
Italian parsley

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water and cool. Drain well. Place in large bowl.

Mix next 5 ingredients in small bowl; stir into beans. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and cherry tomatoes.

Makes 8 servings.