Saturday 24 October 2009

Moroccan-style Tomato and Preserved-Lemon Salad with a Tomato & Paprika 'Broth'

Made with red onion, preserved lemons, capers, radishes and green olives, this Moroccan-style salad is not for shrinking palates. But I love these boisterous flavours, and would be happy to eat a bucketful. The picture below, taken in fading light, doesn't do justice to the brilliant colours of this salad.

If you're not sure your family will go for this, treat it like a rough-cut salsa and serve each person just a dollop to pep up grilled chicken, spicy fish or steak. Cubes of mild creamy feta cheese (look, Greece is not that far from Morocco) might entice kids and teens to try it. If you're presenting it on its own as a starter or snack, provide plenty of hot pita bread to soak up the juices.

Perfectly red, ripe tomatoes and fresh paprika and cumin are essential if the dressing is to taste like the knees of the bees (and there should be lots of dressing; it should be like - without wanting to sound poncy - a cold broth). The pips and pulp are scooped out, but they are squished through a sieve to make the dressing (British chef Heston Blumenthal recently proved that the wobbly inside bits of tomatoes are packed with the elusive fifth flavour, umami; see my notes about this here.) If you don't have preserved lemons to hand, leave them out.

Tomato, Onion and Preserved-Lemon Salad with Tomato & Paprika Dressing

6 ripe, very red, but not mushy tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled
half a preserved lemon (or more, to taste)
6 radishes
12 green olives
a small bunch each of fresh coriander, mint and flat-leaf parsley
3 T (45 ml) capers

For the dressing:
2 red, ripe tomatoes
about 4 T (60 ml) olive oil
the juice of half a lemon
one and a half tsp (7.5ml) fresh paprika
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly ground cumin

First make the salad. Cut a cross on the stalk end of each tomato and cover with boiling water. Leave for a minute or two, and then, as soon as you see their skins begin to furl and loosen, scoop them out of the hot water and slip off their skins. Set a sieve over a separate bowl.

Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out the pulp and pips with a teaspoon, and place the pulp in the sieve to drain. Cut each tomato half in half again, or into thirds, if you are using big tomatoes. Halve the onion lengthways, place the halves cut-side down onto a board, and slice finely into crescent-moon shapes. Rinse the preserved lemons under running water to remove any excess salt. Using a sharp knife, held parallel to the chopping board, slice away any pulp and white pith. Cut into fine slivers. Slice the radish into thin discs. Depip the olives and cut them in half.

Finely chop the coriander, mint and parsley. Put the tomatoes, onion, lemon slivers, radish, olives and chopped herbs in a salad bowl, add the capers and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the dressing, quarter the two tomatoes, place in a liquidizer or food processer and whizz to a chunky pulp. Pour the pulp into the sieve containing the reserved tomato pulp and pips. Using the back of a soup ladle, press down on the mixture to extract the juice. Discard the pulp. To the tomato juice, add all the remaining dressing ingredients. (You may need to add more olive oil, depending on the size of the tomatoes you've used.) Whisk well and pour over the salad. Toss well, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes for the flavours to mingle.

Serves 6.

This recipe was inspired by a salad from Moroccan: A Culinary Journey of Discovery by Ghillie Basan.
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Nina Timm said...

This is a bold dish with vibrant flavors. I think my family willlike his with a grilled something on the side...Beautiful!!!

Koek! said...

Mmm. This looks like real soul food.

Jeanne said...

Whoa!! What a facbulous array of flavours you have there! It sounds like a sunny mediterranean day in a bowl :)