Wednesday, August 4, 2010

white bean pesto and heirloom tomato salad stacks

These things, which I'm calling salad stacks, are really, really delicious. You can't really go wrong with fresh, homemade pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and arugula. Yum! This recipe is based on, and almost exactly the same as, the recipe for Heirloom Tomato and White Bean Pesto Torte from the Millennium Cookbook. I renamed it mostly because I think it's weird that this is called a torte, especially since it obscures the fact that it is, despite its excessive prep time and excessiveness in general, a salad. There's even salad dressing involved. Why hide? Salads are awesome!

The main difference is in the preparation of the garlic. The Millennium Cookbook seems keen on avoiding oil, and their version of preparing the garlic in an oven, with broth and herbs to avoid the oil, took over an hour or something. I'm much more interested in cutting down on oven time (and prep time, for that matter) than I am on oil. So I looked up a way to prepare garlic in a similar way, but faster. I ended up basically doing this, though my specific instructions for this recipe follow. This braised garlic was SO AMAZING, it would be fantastic just spread on toast or pasta. 

One more thing: I made these several weeks ago, and have been putting off posting them. This is a pretty complicated recipe, almost overly complicated in my opinion (that's The Millennium Cookbook for you), and while worth it, seemed like it would be complicated to type out as well! Those of you subscribing to this feed via rss aggregates might have gotten an empty version of this post last week, with just the pictures, and for that I apologize. Plus, the last picture kind of sucks. I almost left it out, but I figured y'all needed some indication of what the final product looked like, however poorly lit. For all my complaining about photographing beige things, I didn't do so hot with this beautiful and colorful dish, mostly because after an hour of roasting the tomatoes, almost 20 minutes of braising garlic, and all the other prep time, by the time I had this assembled, there was no more natural light! You can see how lovely the natural light was in the photographs of the produce.

Oven-dried Tomatoes: 
6 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
1/4 tsp sea salt 

Stovetop-Braised garlic:
1-2 heads garlic 
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary 
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
olive oil

White Bean Pesto: 
1 cup cooked white beans
stovetop-braised garlic, above
2 tsp minced garlic (separate from the braised above) 
1 1/2 cups fresh basil, or as much as possible! 
1/3 cup water 
1 tsp ground pepper 
1 tsp sea salt 

Bean Salad: 
1 cup cooked white beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato 
1 scallion, sliced thin 
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley 
1 tsp minced lemon zest 
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/2 tsp sea salt 
1/2 tsp ground pepper 
1 bunch arugula, stemmed 
1/3 cup vinaigrette dressing, store-bought or homemade

To prepare the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 250F. Place the tomato slices on a rack set over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 30 minutes, then gently turn the tomatoes over and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The tomatoes should be pretty dry, though mine didn't seem very dry and turned out fine. Let cool to room temperature. 

To prepare the garlic: Trim the root and top ends of the garlic head. Separate the cloves, but don't remove the peels. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a frying pan (cast iron works best) to almost smoking point, then turn down heat as low as possible. Add the garlic, skin and all, to the pan. Roll the cloves in the olive oil and cover the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes. Then check the garlic, it should be light brown and smell absolutely amazing. Shake the pan to turn the cloves. Cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes. After this, add the rosemary and time, then leave the lid off as you carefully stir the garlic for another 5 minutes. The skins should be falling off as you stir, and be incredibly fragrant. 

To make the pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine the beans, the braised garlic, minced garlic, basil, water, pepper, and salt and blend until smooth. Set aside. 

To assemble the salad stacks: In a medium bowl, toss the beans, tomato, scallion, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the vinaigrette, then divide the arugula among 6 serving plates. Place a dried tomato slice over each mound of arugula, then top the tomato with 1 tablespoon of the pesto, followed by a tablespoon of the bean salad. Repeat the procedure 2 more times until you have 3 layers of filling between 4 tomato slices. Serve immediately after assembling. 

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