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Summer Celebration Salad

August 22, 2015

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This is a beautiful summery salad inspired by a summer salad I had at Quo Vadis last month. There are a lot of components to this salad, so it does take awhile to prep, but all can be done in advance. Lots of chargrilled flavours mingling with super sweet kernels of corn and tomatoes that can only be found in the summer – it’s a lovely way to use up a glut of courgettes and sweetcorn, and if you have the patience to shell loads of fresh peas and broad beans, they really add layers of flavour. Of course, you could swap them out for frozen if they’re not in season where you are, or if you can’t get your hands on ultra-fresh ones. I don’t judge. (I used frozen peas and broad beans.) I’d stress that this salad is very versatile – feel free to swap in whatever is in season, as long as you keep a somewhat similar texture and flavour balance in the overall composition. One of the best things about this salad is the slight bitter notes from the deeply charred courgettes and sweetcorn as well as from the broad beans, but this is contrasted by the super sweet tomatoes and peas. Don’t worry about the quantities here – they don’t have to be too precise. Go with the salad flow!

The one ingredient that I would say is absolutely vital is to get the best tomatoes you can buy. Sad, watery tomatoes just don’t have the same juiciness and intense tomato flavour. I bought these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from the fruit & vegetables vendor at Spa Terminus and they were on top tomato form. However, if again you have a limited selection of tomatoes, go for cherry or small baby plum tomatoes, as they’re likely to be sweeter and riper than the larger supermarket tomatoes.

For the salad:

  • 800g tomatoes, preferably heirloom/in-season
  • 500g courgettes (approximately 2-3 large ones)
  • 2 ears of sweetcorn (about 1.5 cups of kernels)
  • 2 spring onions
  • a handful of radishes
  • a head of little gem lettuce
  • 150g broad beans, shelled
  • 150g peas, shelled
  • a few slices of stale sourdough

For the dressing (makes approximately 1 cup, more than enough for this salad):

  • 3 tbps lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tbps water
  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup (to make it vegan)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil, like sunflower

Cut the tomatoes into 1/8 wedges, and then halve them again crosswise. Try not to lose too much pulp or seeds in the process! Toss them with some salt and drain over a colander for 30 min to concentrate the tomato flavour.

Roughly chop the courgettes into 1-inch chunks (irregular cuts are fine here – in fact, more surface area is good). Toss with salt and drain in a colander as above for 15-20 min. This draws out some of the moisture to avoid a soggy salad. Pat dry with a paper towel. Get a heavy-based pan that can withstand the heat (I used a cast iron skillet), oil it well, and toss the courgettes in when you see the oil shimmer. Don’t be tempted to stir too often; you want the char (but not to the point of burning it). Browning the courgettes could take anywhere between 5-10 min, and you may have to do it in batches so they don’t steam in their own liquid. Set aside to cool.

If your sweetcorn still has the husks attached, shuck them until they’re naked and using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the ears. I find it easiest to stand it in the centre of a stable mixing bowl, and running a small but very sharp knife down into the bowl. After you’ve collected all the kernels, use the back of your knife to scrape the milky corn juice into the bowl as well, and set aside. (Save the empty ears for stock, or corn soup!) Slice the spring onions and place in the same bowl as the corn. The corn & spring onion mixture undergoes the same treatment as the courgettes: high heat, smoking hot pan, and cooking until the corn takes on some wonderful colour. Set aside to cool.

Slice your radishes thinly, with a mandoline to make your life easier.

If you’re using fresh broad beans and peas, blanch them in a large pot of boiling water and shock them in an ice water bath, so as not to lose their vivid green colour.

Cube the sourdough and with your hands, toss with some salt and oil before toasting them so they take on some colour and crunch on the outside. I used the same cast iron pan as above, because I didn’t want to turn the oven on, but this actually took quite a while because there’s much less surface area in contact with direct heat. You could also toast these in the oven. Set aside to cool.

Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces with your hand, because rustic is so much better and you’ve done enough chopping already.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients into a jar with a tight seal and shake away until it emulsifies. Season aggressively with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Any extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

Now it’s time to assemble everything! Toss everything together into the biggest bowl you can find. You’ll probably use about half of the dressing but that’s entirely up to you. Let the flavours marry together for about an hour before digging in.

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