Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ricotta Stuffed Tomato salad with Olive Vinaigrette

This is from one of my newer favourite cookbooks, Stir. It does require some patience (hollowing a tomato requires some delicate work), and it's best if you have a good mandoline to slice the radishes (I got a new one - Benriner brand from Japan). But, it's such a beautiful presentation and the taste is delightful. So go ahead and try it!

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 6 ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom yellow or green, peeled (see below)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh ricotta (not the stuff you get at Loblaws - go to a cheese monger or make it yourself)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 small radishes, sliced paper thin
  • 1/4 cup celery heart leaves
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves (try to use the smallest leaves first to leave them intact)
For the croutons:
  • 1 cup small cubes of good bread (I used baguette, but brioche would be good, too)
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
For the vinaigrette:
  • 2 tbsp golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise or other good black olives, pitted and chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or mild olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar as a substitute) 
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

For Vinaigrette:
Soak the raisins in hot water for 15minutes to plump them, then drain. In a small bowl, combine the all ingredients and whisk with a fork. This can be made a couple days ahead; just cover and refrigerate; bring to room temp before using.

For Croutons:
  1. Heat oven to 325F. Heat the olive oil over low heat; add the saffron and gently cook for about 1 minute to infuse the oil. Add the croutons and salt and toss to coat.
  2. Spread out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until golden and crunchy (about 10-15 minutes)

To peel the Tomatoes:
  1. Cut a small X in the bottom of the tomato, just through the skin (not the meat of the tomato). Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Have a large bowl of icewater (it's important you actually put ice in the water) beside.
  2. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds or until the skin starts to buckle. With a sieve or slotted spoon, transfer to the ice bath. The skin will then easily peel off.

For the salad:
  1. With a sharp knife, hollow out each tomato. Start by cutting a hole about the size of a quarter at its stem end and removing the core. Next, use a knife to cut out the membranes on the wall and discard those. Seed the tomato by using the handle of a spoon to flick out the seeds. Note: you don't need it to be PERFECTLY hollow ... I had some core left; you should try to remove all seeds, though.
  2. Season the ricotta with salt and pepper, and put the cheese into a piping bag or use a ziploc bag and cut the corner tip off. Pipe the cheese into the tomatoes. Place cut side down onto the serving plate.
  3. Ring each tomato with the remaining ingredients (radish, celery leaves, basil, scallion and croutons). Take your time to distribute the ingredients evenly; think of the plate like a canvas you want to have various colours around to make it pleasing to the eye. Drizzle the vinaigrette around when just ready to serve. Sprinkle some sea salt or fleur de sel on the tomato and serve!

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