I had all kinds of designs for the basket of hothouse tomatoes from yesterday’s market (roasting and tossing with pasta, stuffing with rosemary breadcrumbs, etc.) before I knew how delicious and fragrant they were. As soon as I realized that they tasted like actual tomatoes, I knew a raw dish would be the ticket. But what to do? My other lovely market purchases included asparagus, garlic-dill chévre, grass-fed gouda, two kinds of pasta, onions, shelling peas, kale, and cukes. I kicked around several ideas, but here’s what actually happened: An herbed tomato and pea salad with chèvre.
And it was so good! I tossed three tomatoes (diced) with four handfuls of peas (blanched, then shocked) and a handful of chopped herbs (mint, parsley, and dill). After plating, I drizzled a bit of good olive oil, crumbled a little chèvre, and added few grinds of pepper and a little sea salt. Perfection.
Okay, okay. Palmfuls and sprinkles and bits aren’t really a recipe. But I tend to just buy what’s gorgeous and go from there, so there is hardly ever a recipe in mind before I shop or even while I’m cooking. Don’t kick me off of the blog just yet though. I seem to make salads like this quite often and after some thought I realized that I use the same basic formula for each one.
Salad = 2-3 veg or fruit +1 acid +1 fat + 1-3 herbs +1-2 garnishes
I find that this simple formula keeps me from overly complicating things. Stick to the formula, add a bit of salt and pepper if needed, and it’s delicious! Here are a few that I have made in the past couple of months that all stick to the basic formula:
Roasted acorn squash and carrots with a lemon dill-tarragon vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts and feta
Fresh pineapple and cucumbers with lime cilantro-mint vinaigrette and diced hot chili pepper
Grilled corn, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes with basil-parsley vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts
Strawberries and shaved fennel with basil balsamic vinegarette, crumbled blue cheese and toasted walnuts
Obviously , I use the word “vinaigrette” WAY loosely. It just consists of a handful of chopped herbs, the fat (usually a drizzle of olive oil) and the acid (usually fresh lemon or lime juice). If I am using a particularly ripe, acidic fruit (e.g., tomato) I usually count the juice it will give as my acid and ditch the juice or vinegar.
I have found through some trial and error that there are ways to make that formula work better. For example, always get the best ingredients that you can afford because each one is important when there are so few competing flavors. Also, use the garnishes to only to provide contrasting textures or flavors (I usually employ the garnishes for crunch or creaminess or heat). As you can see above, my favorite garnishes are toasted nuts and semi-soft cheeses, but could you imagine crumbled bacon? The vegetarian kryptonite that is crispy, salty bacon? I totally could. I mean, I would if I weren’t mostly vegetarian. Right. That’s the story I’m sticking with.