Tomato Salad, Egyptian Style

We are at the tail end of summer and I, once again, have been a bad blogger.  I am making the effort to right that wrong by posting some lovely, easy recipes that are great for dining in the last few hot weeks of summer.  First on my list is this Egyptian tomato salad.  It’s fairly simple, but packed with flavor, and it only gets better with sitting for a while, so make it today and eat it tomorrow. I will admit, I don’t know what makes it Egyptian, perhaps the garlic and shallots?  In any case, it’s very tasty.

Table of bounty

The original version of this recipe requires that you blanch and peel the tomatoes, and you can still do that, but I find that marinating them, in particular if they are burstingly ripe, as most tomatoes are at this stage of the summer, you’ll be fine without peeling.

If you decide to peel, it’s easy enough.  In a wide deep pot, boil some lightly salted water.  Score the bottom of your tomatoes with a shallow x, as somewhere for you to grab the skin to peel away.  Once the water has come to a rolling boil, take it off the heat and pop your tomatoes in for 5 minutes.  Take them out with a slotted spoon, and plunge into an ice water bath.  Let them sit there until you’re ready to peel them.  Honestly, the peels should slip right off in your hands, fairly easily, especially if they are as ripe as they should be.  Let them sit if they are still warm until at room temperature, and proceed with the recipe.

For my attempt this time, a lovely person I work with (Thank you, Karen Tyler-Ruiz!) gave me a beautiful pint of her own garden fresh cherry tomatoes, and I am using them in addition to some big juicy ripe tomotoes I got from the farmers market.  All you need do is cut them in half.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil, best quality
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 5 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 lemon, for juicing
  • Maldon or Kosher course (we’re going for flaky and crunchy)
  • 1 handful chopped fresh herbs (chervil, basil, parsley, your choice)

In the bowl of a food processor, place the shallot and garlic, and pulse 4 – 5 times until chunky.  Add the olive oil and process again for 2 – 3 pulses, so everything is combined, but not pureed.  Add in the Kosher salt and pepper, stir and set aside.

Cut your tomatoes thickly, and lay on a platter in one layer.  Use a spoon to top the tomatoes with the shallot mixture, being sure they all are well covered with it.  Cover and set aside to marinate. At this point, you can chill them, but be sure to take them out and set them at room temperature for an hour before serving.  If they’re cold straight from the fridge, you miss the whole delicious flavor!

Once at room temperature, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle lightly with the crunchy salt and strew with your fresh herbs, and you’re all set.

I would eat this as a side dish, with grilled chicken or fish, or even a steak, but also would include some crumbled feta to make it a meal all of it’s own.  Now grab some crusty bread and a nice glass of chilled Rosé, sit out in the garden or on your patio, and enjoy!

Marinating the salad

 

Have you ever heard of Lemon Curd? If you haven’t then read on!

My mother, as I have mentioned before many times, is Irish.  And when I used to visit there without her, I’d ask what I could bring back and it was always a jar of “Little Chip” marmalade, and a jar of lemon curd.  Now, American’s might get lemon curd if I liken it to the filling for a lemon meringue pie, but seriously, this is so much better and much more liquid.  The main difference between the two is that lemon meringue filling uses corn starch to thicken it, and that sets up as a much more solid texture than curd.  It’s much more silky, almost custard-like and less jelled than the filling. It’s also refreshingly tart, but with sweetness that stops you from the pucker.  Lemon curd is just something you have to experience to believe.  You can also make lime curd, blood orange curd, pretty much any citrus will make a good curd, and I have even seen raspberry and dulce de leche curd recently!

A few Sunday’s ago, we had breakfast at Brooklyn Street Local, one of our favorite breakfast spots in Detroit.  They’re wonderful, and they have poutine, which is uniquely Canadian (although I hear they also do it well in Wisconsin) and wonderfully indulgent, plus they do vegetarian (yay Hubby) and meat eater versions.  They use locally sourced food and lots of Michigan products including their wonderful coffee.  If you’re in the D, this is for sure a place to go!   We changed our usual routine and had the scones as a sort of breakfast appetizer.  It’s not the first time I have had them, but it was for the Hubby, they are served with a local jam, and some kick ass lemon curd.  It put me in mind of a cake I made for Mothers Day many years ago.  I won’t go into the excruciating details, but suffice it to say, I can not make white chocolate ganache to save my life.  However, I made the most wonderful lemon curd for my curd loving Mom.  The cake ended up being a lovely springy sponge, with whipped cream as the frosting, blackberries as the garnish and a lovely, rich lemon curd as the filling.  I think I remember my mom loving it.  In telling the story to the Hubby, he asked in a very accusatory fashion, “Why haven’t you made it for ME?”  And so, I am.

Now, before we start, some practical matters.  It is much easier to zest a lemon before you juice it, so refrigerate the lemons after you have washed them in hot soapy water, to remove any wax that may have been applied.  Let them get good and cold.  Then use a rasp if you have one, or a box grater on the fine side and lightly grate the yellow zest off.  You can even use a vegetable peeler, but once you reach the white pith, stop.  Pith isn’t going to do anyone any good in this recipe, or indeed in most others, so stop a few seconds after you start, and move to another area.  Another traditional thing when making this is that you use a double boiler.  But this time, I am going to say don’t do that.  Just keep the flame low, and whisk all the time.  It will make for more work, but it’s less fiddly.

Zested Lemons

This is how your lemons should look after zesting, before juicing!

Some ideas for the curd are pretty simple and easy.  Spread it on toast, with butter.  Fill a cake with it.  Use it for a pie filling. Fold it together with whipped cream for a light and lemony side to fruit salad.  So, here it is, lemon curd.

Lemon Curd

4 lemons (for 3 for zest and 4 for juice)
1/2 cup lemon juice (from above lemons)
1 stick unsalted butter melted and cooled completely
4 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if you’re using salted butter)

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, off the heat, whisk everything together.  Don’t be alarmed if it looks curdled, that’s OK.  This is what it might loom like:

photo 2

After everything is well mixed, and the sugar is dissolved, put it on a low heat, and start stirring.  Set your timer for 9 minutes, and don’t stop stirring.

After about 8 minutes, you should start to feel a slipperiness on the bottom of the pan.  That is a great sign, it means it’s starting to gel.

photo 3

It will start to look slightly grainy, and as though it is starting to curdle, but it isn’t, that’s the zest plumping up and rising to the surface.  Keep stirring, and when your timer stops, stop stirring and see if it starts to bubble.  If so, you’re almost done!  Keep stirring for another 3 minutes or so, and you’ll see it transform from a runny yellow liquid to a smooth and creamy custard-like consistency.  It’s exactly where you want it.  Take it off the heat and pour it into a waiting glass container.  You should immediately cover this with plastic wrap and press it onto the surface all over the exposed top.  You’ll prevent a skin forming.  Then let it completely cool at room temperature.  Once it’s completely cool, you can spoon it into jars, or a bowl with a lid, and store it in the fridge for up to a week.  Mine won’t last that long, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner!

My completed bowl!

photo 4