Tomato, Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

pomegranate_salad_It’s got colder in recent days and lower temperatures reminded me of the upcoming end of tomato season. I’m preserving it for the winter (preparing especially my beloved Indian chutney) and I eat raw ripe sweet tomatoes every single day, sometimes even twice, trying to enjoy them as long as they last. Last week this side dish was added to my favourite duo (Tomato and Shiso Salad and Indian Tomato Salad) and I cannot get enough of its various textures, flavours and scents, all in just one bowl.

This is a vague interpretation of a tomato salad and probably also inspired by other cold dishes from Persiana. Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond by Sabrina Ghaynour, a wonderful book I was offered by a friend. As an avowed carni- and piscivore I was surprised to realise a rare phenomenon : vegetable dishes stayed most firmly engraved in my memory after leafing and leafing through it. The presence of pomegranate is also particularly visible, so, as someone who has been buying it quite rarely, I suddenly feel very inspired and plan to include it in many dishes. Persiana has also made me buy a bottle of pomegranate molasses and though it’s the only dressing/sauce I used in this salad, it was just perfect, just like the author said. I felt no need even for salt or pepper! Another product to play with in the upcoming months!

In case you wonder what else to do with ripe, delicious, end-of-season tomatoes….

Indian Tomato Salad

Indian Tomato Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

TIPS: Pomegranate molasses are simply thickened pomegranate juice, so if you buy it, read well the ingredients. If anything else (apart from pomegranate juice) appears (for example sugar), it’s not the real thing.

Emptying a pomegranate is not obvious at first. Until now the best tip I have found is cutting through the fruit in half and emptying it submerged in a bowl of water. The yellowish skins will float at the surface and thus will be easy to remove. Beware! Pomegranate juice stains clothes!

Preparation : about 10 minutes (if you have emptied your pomegranate)

Ingredients (serves two-three):

seeds from 1 small pomegranate

1 small cucumber (or 1/4 of a long cucumber) 

3 medium very ripe tomatoes

1/2 – 1 small red onion

kernels from 3-4 walnuts

a generous splash of pomegranate molasses

(fresh mint)

Cut the cucumber and the tomato into chunks.

Slice the onion finely (I have used a mandolin).

Chop the walnut kernels roughly.

Arrange all the ingredients in a bowl.

Add the pomegranate molasses and serve.

(This salad keeps quite well in the fridge for at least 24 hours though it’s best freshly made).

 

Baked Damson Plums with Yogurt

baked_plumspSo simple and soooo good! I wish I could say this more often about the dishes I love… I made this improvised sweet treat last weekend after bringing a big bag of my favourite plums and was really surprised to discover how excellent such an easy and quick dessert turned out. The same recipe can be made with any stone fruit, but for me the oval violet damsons are by far the best choice: the tart skin gives them quite a complex taste, especially when combined with very ripe sweet flesh and makes them perfect for baking. Seasoned with cinnamon, baked with a bit of brown sugar and served warm with chilled creamy yogurt, these roasted plums make a fantastic dessert I can sincerely recommend even to those who constantly watch their waistline.

In case you look for different ways to cook damsons or other plums:

Feather-Light Filo Tart with Plums

Feather-Light Filo Tart with Plums

Light Almond Cream with Plums

Light Almond Cream with Plums

Plum, Prune and Chocolate Jam

Plum, Prune and Chocolate Jam

Damson Jam and Chocolate Tart

Damson Jam and Chocolate Tart

Damson Plum Butter (without sugar)

Damson Plum Butter (without sugar)

TIPS: The contrast between chilled yogurt and warm fruits is very important here, so you can cut up the fruits and divide into individual portions well ahead and then put it into the oven when you serve the main course, for example. If you really have to bake this dessert in advance, reheat it just before serving. I tried it and of course the taste is slightly worse, but better than served cold.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure you can prepare it also with frozen fruits (I’ll certainly test it with frozen sour cherries because this is the only way I can get them here).

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

12 big damson plums (or the equivalent of any stone fruit you like)

2 heaped teaspoons brown sugar (or more, depending on the plum’s sweetness and on your preferences)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

thick yogurt or sour cream or quark/fromage blanc to serve 

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Remove the stones from the fruits and cut each half into quarters (if you use smaller fruits, such as mirabelles or cherries, simply remove the stones and don’t cut them).

Put the plum pieces into individual baking dishes, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake for about 30-40 minutes.

Serve hot or warm with very cold yogurt, quark or sour cream.

Indian Tomato Salad

tomato_saladpI was going to write about a completely different dish, but this salad turned out so fantastic, I had to tell you about it while ripe delicious tomatoes are still sold at markets because, as simple as it may seem, this is one of these rare dishes where average-tasting tomatoes just won’t do. The few other ingredients are there just to highlight the sunny, end-of-summer ripe tomato flavours.

I found this recipe in Meera Sodha’s Made in India, Cooked in Britain, a fantastic book I’ve already cooked from several times and recommend to every Indian cuisine enthusiast. This dish is a very precious addition to my growing list of easy and quick Indian dishes. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity; as I’ve mentioned above, if you use ripe, good quality tomatoes, you’ll discover a sophisticated and addictive side-dish you’ll never get tired of (I made it twice in one day!). Since I happened to have fresh green chilli peppers, I have used them instead of chilli powder to make the result even more refreshing. I’ve also changed the ingredients’ ratio, so make sure you check the original in Meera Sodha’s book.

For those who don’t like fiery dishes, here is another tomato salad I’m crazy for:

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Preparation: about 10 minutes+at least one hour in the fridge

Ingredients (serves two as a side-dish):

3 medium ripe tomatoes (not too soft)

1 medium shallot

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small green chilli (preferably not as hot as bird’s eye)

salt

leaves from 4 sprigs of coriander

Cut the tomatoes (don’t peel them!) into 0.5 cm/about 0.2 in cubes and place into a bowl.

Chop the shallot and the chilli.

Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

Give the salad a stir and place for at least one hour into the fridge.

Sprinkle with coriander leaves just before serving.

Baked Pasta with Aubergine, Eggs and Anchovies

bakedpastapI rarely eat pasta, almost never bake it and definitely never switch on the oven it when it’s 33°C outside! Yet, today something made me cook pasta, patiently simmer a sauce with vegetables, boil eggs and prepare a dish which turned out perfect for such a hot summery day. I didn’t follow any recipe, but simply opened my cupboards and improvised, adding this and that. I’m really proud to say I don’t hesitate to post this recipe because I’d love to share it with all of you (with a special dedication to anchovy lovers). It was extraordinary, and even more summery, served with peperoncini sott’olio I made yesterday after MJ, my blogging friend (MJ’s Kitchen) and fellow chilli addict reminded me of them:

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

TIPS: You can use any vegetables you like or simply have in the fridge, but I finally found aubergine the best suited for this dish.

Obviously, if you don’t like anchovies, skip them or add cut up ham for example.

You can use any easily melting Italian cheese here; smoked scamorza or smoked provola are my favourite (try to find those which are really smoked, i.e. don’t contain “smoke aroma” in the ingredients list).

If you don’t have or don’t want to make peperoncini sott’olio (above), this dish would be delicious with a splash of chilli oil.

Preparation: about 1h30 (but it’s definitely worth it!)

Ingredients (serves four):

750 ml tomato passata or tinned chopped tomatoes or fresh skinned tomatoes simmered until they become a thick sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 big garlic cloves, chopped

1 big aubergine or 1 small courgette+1 small aubergine, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small sweet pepper (bell pepper or long red pepper), cut into bite-sized pieces

3 hard-boiled eggs

150 g mozzarella, smoked scamorza or smoked provola (or any other melting Italian cheese)

100 g canned anchovies

3 tablespoons capers

salt, pepper, thyme

(grated pecorino or parmezan)

fresh basil

Heat the olive oil.

Fry the garlic for one minute.

Add the sweet pepper and the aubergine (if you use courgette, add it raw to the dish just before baking).

Stir-fry for several minutes.

Add the thyme and 1/2 of the tomato sauce/chopped tomatoes.

Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In the meantime cook short pasta, taking it out of the water 3 minutes before the time indicated  on the package.

In a baking dish place a layer of pasta, cover with vegetables cooked in tomato sauce.

Add courgettes, if using.

Add the remaining tomato sauce.

Cover with half slices of the eggs, capers, chunks of cheese and grate some pecorino/parmezan on top (if using).

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and slightly golden.

Just before serving sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and torn basil leaves.

Serve with pepperoncini sott’olio, if you have them.

Bacon, Shiso and Pepper Rolls

shiso_baconrollsThis year I succeeded to grow my beloved shiso (perilla) from seeds for the first time. After several years of total failure, in spite of different methods, I was quite pessimistic this spring too, so it was a shock to see dozens of seeds germinate and then the majority growing into beautiful big red and green plants (write to me if you also have problems germinating shiso; I’ll give you – hopefully – successful tips). Now, with a jungle of shiso on my balcony, I could enjoy it every single day, if I wanted, and, strangely, I don’t get tired of its beautiful strong aroma. Apart from the dishes I learnt throughout previous years, I obviously experiment and certainly will do it more throughout the summer.

Since shiso leaves are quite big (and can be as huge as your palm, if you grow them on your own), so they are perfect for wrapping around other ingredients and for being a part of different kinds of cute rolls I’m so fond of. This weekend I found some streaky smoked bacon in my freezer and decided to use it with shiso and sweet peppers. Instead of pan-grilling, as usually, I used my oven broiler and it worked even better, allowing me to eliminate more melted fat. Three ingredients, about ten minutes of grilling and the result was fantastic!

In case you wonder what to do with a big bunch of shiso:

Super Light Spring Rolls with Cucumber, Shiso and Chicken

Super Light Spring Rolls with Cucumber, Shiso and Chicken

or maybe some of these….

Vinegar infused with red shiso

Vinegar infused with red shiso

Japanese raw aubergine salad

Japanese raw aubergine salad

Pork Rolls and Shiso in Tempura

Pork Rolls and Shiso in Tempura

Chicken and Shiso Dumplings

Chicken and Shiso Dumplings

Chicken and Shiso Balls

Chicken and Shiso Balls

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang

Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang

Shiso and Bacon Fried Rice

Shiso and Bacon Fried Rice

Garlic and Shiso Infused Soy Sauce

Garlic and Shiso Infused Soy Sauce

Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)

Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)

Ume Shiso Chicken Skewers

Ume Shiso Chicken Skewers

TIPS: These rolls taste wonderful with Japanese tangy ponzu sauce, but make sure you don’t buy the cheapest brand because the difference is huge. I can also advise my gochujang and sour cream /yogurt sauce, adding a Korean accent, but frankly these rolls are perfect on their own, if you use smoked meat.

The bacon slices must be really thin (like Parma ham), otherwise the rolls might become soft and soggy.

A tip for chilli pepper lovers: put some fresh chilli among the sweet pepper strips.

Preparation:

Ingredients (makes 10 rolls):

10 big shiso/perilla leaves (red or green)

10 super thin slices of smoked bacon

1 big bell pepper

Cut the bell pepper into thin strips and then cut them in two lengthwise.

Divide into ten equal portions.

Preheat the oven broiler or a grill.

Spread a slice of bacon, place the leaf, then strips of pepper and roll very tightly.

Grill on a grill or under an oven broiler or on a pan until golden brown.

Turn once for one-two minutes.

Place on paper towels to remove excess fat and serve as a snack or as a lunch (with rice for example or bread+salad).