A Summer Salad

Last week, after years of careful deliberation, I announced to Rich that my favorite of all berries was the raspberry. The best raspberries of all were the wild ones that grew on the bushes that lined the road to our house in Western Mass. Those bushes are all gone now, replaced with houses, but when I was a little girl my sisters and I would run down the small hill to collect the berries.

For Lilli, strawberries were in the berry lead in early June, but it looks like blueberries have now surged ahead. (Earlier tonight I overheard Rich telling her that she had to eat them one at a time and to stop cramming them into her mouth all at once.) Sometimes I share my raspberries with her, and it’s clear she loves those, too.

cherry herb salad

Longtime readers of this blog would have no idea about my raspberry love, or how much I absolutely adore all summer fruits, for that matter, because I tend to do the minimal amount of preparation to them. (Plums don’t count.) Why bake something, like a peach or cherry, into a pie when it’s already a perfect dessert (or snack, or meal)?

All this changed when I saw this recipe for cherry herb salad. I read the name of the dish long before I had a chance to read the recipe, and my first guess as to what herb it would be was tarragon. It turned out to be a cup of cilantro leaves, and it works. It works well enough that I’m sharing this recipe with you and plan on making it again tomorrow night. Cherries were on crazy sale at Star Market today – I was there this morning AND this evening refilling my supply.

in the kitchen

The recipe calls for a Holland chile pepper which the regular market clearly did not have. I did a bunch of googling and, honestly, use whatever hot pepper you’d prefer. I actually didn’t use the entire pepper in this dish, as I’m a bit of a wimp about spicy things. Although the original recipe claims that the broiling of the pepper takes four minutes, I found it took closer to 10 minutes in the toaster oven, where I also toasted a half cup of walnuts. I clean my cilantro by filling a large bowl of cold water and dropping the herb into it; the sand always sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Today’s bunch of cilantro was especially gritty; I needed to change the water five times tonight. As for prepping the fruit, many years ago Rich bought me a cherry/olive pitter. Money well spent, I say. I buy my pomegranate molasses at the Armenian shops in Watertown. My bet is any Middle Eastern shop in your area would have it, too. It would be right next to the rosewater.

We ate this tonight as a side to our roasted fish and brown rice. You should, too.

Cherry & Herb Salad – This recipe was featured in a May 2013 issue of Saveur within Gabriella Gershenon’s article The Promised Land. It’s credited as a Turkish recipe, but the article is about Israel and the Galilee. I’ve been thinking a lot about Israel lately. I bet many of you reading this are thinking about it, too. 

Ingredients

Up to two red Holland chiles, or chiles of your choosing

1 lb. fresh dark pitted cherries

1 cup cilantro leaves

½ cup walnuts halves, toasted and roughly chopped

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ Tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

Heat oven broiler (or toaster oven) to high. Place chiles on a baking sheet; broil, turning as needed, until charred and tender, 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your pepper.

Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit five minutes. Discard stems, skin and seeds from chiles; finely chop and transfer to a bowl. (I did this step wearing rubber gloves.)

In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, molasses and lemon juice.

Add the cherries, cilantro and walnuts to the bowl of chopped pepper. Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

With A Little Help From My Friends

When Sylvie was in college, she was co-founder and president of her house’s fruit club. I’m not sure if they had to officially apply to be fully recognized by the administration, but I do know they held their meetings following the house’s Friday afternoon wine and cheese hour, which followed the Friday afternoon tea. (And we wonder why college costs $55,000 a year.)

Because they went through the bother of founding a fruit club, she and her co-members steered away from eating the everyday apples and bananas. They enjoyed some fruits one usually reads about in Saveur magazine, like the Asian mangosteen and the New World custard apple, which has quite a striking resemblance to an artichoke if I do say so.

They also loved enjoying fruit that was complicated in its preparation, like the pineapple, the pomegranate and the pomelo. I’m going to assume you’ve probably heard of the first two, but chances are you might be unfamiliar with the third. The pomelo is a rather large citrus fruit from Asia, and oftentimes Israel. (You can find it locally at Russo’s.) Sometimes its skin is green, sometimes it’s more yellow, and it looks like a grapefruit on steroids.

However, if you picked up this mammoth citrus fruit, you’d be very surprised as to how light it is. The actual amount of fruit in a pomelo is more akin to a clementine or maybe a tangerine. And it takes a good 10 minutes to actually get to the fruit. First there’s the thick skin to cut through. Then there’s an almost impenetrable bitter pith that surrounds the fruit. I hope I haven’t scared you away from trying a pomelo, I promise you it’s a very nice refreshing fruit when you finally get to it.

That fruit, in particular, creates a lot of refuse. As Syl likes to kid, “If it wasn’t all compostable, I’d call the EPA about it.” But my friend Sara came up with a wonderful solution: candying it. Using a Martha Stewart recipe meant for the common orange, or maybe a grapefruit, Sara had the genius and foresight to do the same with the pomelo skin. I thought I would then dip the candied citrus in a ganache and make a pomellete (orangette, but with pomelo) but, honestly, it’s great as is.

Full disclosure: This was all Sara. She did all the legwork on this one, from coming up with the idea, to patiently paring away the thick pith, to taking the photographs. I’m just not up to doing the standing that’s necessary to get a good angle on paring away the pith. Sara’s also got infinite amounts of patience for other extremely time-consuming, detailed tasks, like making blood orange marmalade or cultivating her own yogurt or baking sourdough bread from scratch every week. Oh, and being a lawyer and a mommy.

Don’t worry, I reciprocated as best I could this weekend, hosting her boys to enjoy some cupcakes I’d won off a blog contest. As you can see, H really enjoyed his.

Candied Pomelo Peels, adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2008

Please Note: Sure, you could also use this recipe for grapefruit or oranges, but try and find a pomelo. If you ask me, there’s nothing more exciting than trying a new food.

Ingredients

One pomelo (two grapefruits or three oranges or four lemons)

4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling

4 cups water

Directions

Using a paring knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of the pomelo, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Using a paring knife, remove excess pith from each strip and discard.

Place strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat twice.

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves, then stop. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from heat, and let strips cool in syrup. (Strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.)

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack, and let dry for at least 30 minutes.

Tomato Season

A few years back, inspired by some reading about eating locally and seasonally, I announced to Rich that we would not be having tomatoes on a regular basis. Tomatoes, I explained (OK, really declared), would only be eaten in the summer time, mostly in August, but the eating and serving of could begin in mid-July and last through the end of September. Perhaps some of October, if we were lucky.

kosher vegetarian

And that’s how it’s been, more or less, for a good while now. I think once or twice a plastic box of grape tomatoes snuck their way onto the counter and were used in a hearts of palm and avocado salad. But really, the first tomatoes I purchased this year were when Cousin David came the second week of July. They ended up on a platter of Caprese salad for the neighborhood potluck.

Two weeks back I received some tomatoes in the CSA. They weren’t quite ripe, light pink and still a little hard to the touch. I set them on the counter on Thursday night and walked away. By Sunday, I could tell by looking at them that they’d be ready to eat by Wednesday, nearly a whole week after they first hit the kitchen. Torture! I then spent the next three days thinking about my midweek lunch, which would be the tomato. No cheese, no bread, just a little pesto I whipped up Tuesday night with some basil I rescued from the fridge. I also found some leftover roasted garlic hummus in there, so I ended up alternating bites: ripe tomato with pesto, then the garlicky hummus. I was quite a happy camper.

For Thursday’s lunch, I ate the next tomato, this time with a perfectly ripe avocado that I peeled and sliced next to it. (And yes, I do see the irony of insisting on a local, seasonal tomato while eating a trucked-in avocado next to it.) I keep bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in my desk at work, so I drizzled a little of each on the two, and ate my lunch. There may have been some moaning; I’ve been told I have a problem making inappropriate noises when eating certain summer produce. There may have been an incident earlier this summer with a peach.

This past week brought a new batch of tomatoes to the house: Juliet, a type of heirloom grape tomato.

They look like a miniature plum tomato, and when I get near a plum tomato, I have the sudden urge to slow-roast it. Now, I know turning on the oven in August sounds questionable, but the nights do get cooler, and really, the oven is only at 250 degrees the entire time. The end result is more sweet than savory. The tomato proves itself to be a terrific fruit: It’s tomato candy, really.

I came across this recipe in Saveur magazine in 2007. It was a feature on the 25th anniversary edition of The Silver Palate Cook Book, a collection of recipes developed by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins in their little gourmet shop in New York City. I clipped the recipe and roasted a batch that very same week. And then I went and did something I don’t do very often: I went and bought the cookbook. No trial period with the library, just straight to Amazon. It turned out to be a great buy. Sometimes you can just tell from one simple recipe.

kosher vegetarian

As I mentioned, today I used the Juliets, but I usually do this with plum. I’ve read that people eat these on top of pasta, as a side to chicken and fish, or maybe on top of some beans. I usually eat them off the baking sheet. Once they made it all the way onto an antipasto plate, next to some olives, hard cheese, and roasted red peppers — once. Every other time, they’ve gone directly into my mouth. Today I tried to exercise restraint. I used some in a grilled cheese sandwich (fontina) and tossed on top of some greens and roasted radishes, with a sweet balsamic dressing drizzled on top.

Don’t let the number of tomatoes used in this recipe deter you: You can make it with fewer, just reduce the amount of oil and sugar for the whole tray. I don’t always have the fresh herbs on hand to garnish. Not that I’ve let that stop me.

kosher vegetarian

Oven Roasted Plum Tomatoes – The Silver Palate Cookbook

½ cup best quality olive oil

12 to 18 ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeded

2 Tablespoons sugar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Small whole Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves, or small fresh mint leaves or finely slivered basil, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 250F
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and oil it lightly. Arrange the tomatoes on it a single layer, cut side up. Drizzle lightly with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the sugar and pepper.
  3. Bake the tomatoes until they are juicy yet wrinkled a bit, 3 hours.
  4. Carefully transfer the tomatoes to a platter. Just before serving, sprinkle them salt and garnish with the herb leaves.