Tomato-Olive Summer Salad

The spice is right

Originally appeared in the July 29, 2010 edition of the Southside Times.

Summer menus are peppered with lighter fare—specialty salads, succulent fruits, and vibrant vegetables.  It’s also a season when our personal menus aren’t quite as “heavy.”  Yet all too often I hear complaints that some low-fat, low-sodium recipes are too bland or too boring.  Here’s a solution:  using fresh herbs and dry spices is an ideal way of eating “lighter” without sacrificing flavor.  More after the jump:As most know, herbs are the aromatic leaves of herbaceous plants, and spices (almost always dry) are seeds, roots, bark, buds or berries.  Some plants—like coriander and dill—yield both herbs and spices.

This recipe calls for a combination of the fresh herb, cilantro (sometimes called Chinese parsley), and the dry spices of coriander and cumin.  Coriander has a musky, lemony scent, and the cumin is slightly bitter.  Along with the pine nuts, the whole spices add a crunchy contrast to the delicate texture of the tomatoes and olives (black olives are ripe and tender, green olives are unripe and firm).

The herbs, spices, olives and oil are all very Mediterranean—a cuisine closely associated with healthful ingredients.  It’s a perfect accompaniment for many summer menu items.  Best of all, it’s far from boring.

Tomato-Olive Summer Salad

Serves 4-5

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 dry, arbol chile, seeded, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes or currant tomatoes
  • 1 seeded, diced yellow tomato
  • 1 large dice heirloom tomato
  • ½ cup halved black olives
  • ½ cup halved green olives
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • To taste, queso fresco or feta cheese
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  In a small, dry sauté pan, toast coriander, cumin, chile, and pine nuts over medium heat.  Continue heating until spices are aromatic and nuts are slightly golden.  Remove spice mixture from pan and place in a bowl.  Pour olive oil over spice mixture (the oil will take on some of the mixture’s fragrances).

2.  In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, olives, and cilantro.  Pour spice-and-oil mixture over the tomato-olive salad and stir gently.

Fold cheese into salad.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Chill salad for thirty minutes.

3.  Serve tomato-olive salad over watercress (pictured), arugula, or other fresh greens.

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Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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