Pretty, Pale and Gorgeously Unusual – the Tilda Swinton of salads.
GREEN TOMATO, CHINESE PEAR, FETA AND HERB SALAD
This salad is like being at the airport going on vacation. Busting with happy vibes and all cares thrown out the window.
It started it’s life as a game that my four year old and I play in the supermarket. I ask him to pick out random ingredients and I have to make something from them. Give it a try, it’s always a good way to keep your creativity on it’s toes.
Even though ‘less than stellar’, is how I would describe the original version we made, it did lead to some new ideas and eventually this version, so I’ll take that as a win.
Cool whites, popping greens and pinks, sharp reds, it makes you happy even before you poke it with a fork. And it takes no time at all. You have nothing to lose really.
- 1 large green heirloom tomato
- 1 Chinese pear (roughly the same size as your tomato)
- 2 small radishes
- 1/2 a regular chilli (seeds removed)
- 40g Feta cheese
- 2 sprigs of mint
- 1 small sprig of dill
- 6 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- Pinch of Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small prig of fresh thyme
- Make the dressing first, so it has time to cool.
- 1. Put all ingredients for the dressing into a cold pan and place on the stove. Turn stove to medium heat, stir and gently simmer until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- 2. Cut tomato and pear into small rough chunks. Cut radishes into round slices. Cut chillies into 2cm pieces and then into very thin strips.
- 3. Combine them in a bowl along with the mint and dill ( torn into small pieces ), and add feta - broken into chunky pieces.
- 4. Sprinkle a half a pinch of salt and toss ( the feta will also add salt ) then add the reduced dressing with a splash of olive oil and toss again.
- Serve and you’re done.
- As always, feel free to add more or less of certain flavours to suit your tastes. Or replace completely.
- Make sure your pear is firm and has a crunch to it and not overly sweet.
- If you can't find a Chinese pear, a Nashi pear will be a good substitute, as long as it's firm and crisp.
READ ON FOR PICS AND TIPS
‘FOR THE FOOD NERDS’
Salads are a great place to experiment with new flavours and random ingredient pairings.
The way I approach a new dish is to work on the triangle theory (I just made that up, it’s not a real thing). I start with two flavour that I like and try and balance them, and then introduce a third one just to push it off balance again. The three of them should work in harmony but still feel a bit awkward. Like bringing a friend along on a first date.
Then I work on the amount of each ingredient. Each one needs to be bold enough to secure it’s place, but also leave enough room for the other two to join the party. From there I work on a second triangle of flavour that sits below the first. These are just hints and a lot more subtle. The ‘best supporting actors’.
In this dish, the tomato, pear, and feta are my sweet , sour and salty; the main flavours. And below that the herbs, chilli and radish are the support, which lend a herby and spicy lift to everything. And the reduced vinegar and olive oil then tie the two layers together with a bit of sweet sour richness and mouthfeel.
- I chose the heirloom tomatoes for this one because they had a subtle grassiness to them today, which I thought would work nicely against the subtle sweetness of the pear. All tomatoes are enormously variable in flavour, so what might work one day, won’t work in two days time. Tasting all your ingredients first is the best way to determine the direction of your dish. It may need subtle changes in a different direction.
- The Chinese pear in this dish gives and almost radish like crispness with the tiniest hint of sweetness.
- Feta brings it’s familiar saltiness, but also the rich texture of dairy to round out the three flavours.
- Reducing the vinegar and adding salt and sugar to it really intensifies the flavour and creates a syrupy dressing that really pulls all the other flavours together into a cohesive dish. It’s thickened and tart and perfect against the bright freshness of all the other flavours. The idea is loosely based on the Italian ‘Agrodolce’ dressing/sauce, which seems to go perfectly with everything and is infinitely variable in it’s make up.
If you don’t have a four year old to play the game I mentioned in the intro, and you’re struggling to come up with suitably random flavours, take a peek Niki Segnit’s – The Flavour Thesaurus. I recently bought a copy and have only just begun to dig into it. It’s an amazingly concise and very funny collection of flavours, pairings and recipes that will keep you in new ideas for years to come.