This salad makes me so happy because A. it’s quick & easy and B. I get to use my mortar and pestle for the dressing. If you have any amount of stress in your life, you need a mortar and pestle. You can not only pull twice the flavor out of herbs and spices than you’d get with chopping but also grind grind, grind your cares away, all at the same time.
Whenever I do a simple salad like this, I try to elevate it by making an interesting dressing. It’s really easy to get bored of salads so you’ve got to mix things up once in awhile, keep it funky fresh. Today’s dressing is a take on a basic basil vinaigrette but instead of black pepper, I’ve substituted grains of paradise. Grains of paradise are pretty new to me and so far, salad dressings seem to be one of my favorite applications. They’re peppery (although they are seeds and not berries like traditional pepper), slightly sweet, woody, and just a tad citrusy. Which makes it a perfect addition to my Heirloom Tomato & Grapefruit Salad.
Using a mortar and pestle is the best way to care for the grains of paradise. Although a spice mill would work well, too. Combined with sea salt, the coarseness of the grains help to create an abrasive effect on the garlic and herbs in the dressing, releasing flavor in a way you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Finding heirlooms in season is so much easier these days than it used to be, and at more affordable prices too. I love to get them at the farmers market when the weather is warm, which should be possible pretty soon. Although for now, I picked these lovelies up at Trader Joes.
When putting together raw salads, you really want to find ripe produce and with tomatoes, getting a variety of colors really does give the salad a different depth of flavor. I’ve found that yellow and orange tomatoes are slightly sweeter, while green tend to be a little more tart or acidic. Balancing a tomato with a super sweet grapefruit rounds out the flavors so well and actually enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. The shallots give it a little kick and the microgreens some great additional nutrients.
Serve this salad at room temperture for greatest enjoyment (not that you would be refrigerating your tomatoes anyway, right?). I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Do you enjoy experimenting with new spices? What’s your favorite way to use grains of paradise? I’d love to hear your tips.
Heirloom Tomato & Grapefruit Salad
1 lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 large grapefruit, sliced lengthwise and pulled apart
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
drizzle basil & grains of paradise dressing (recipe below)
coarse sea salt
Arrange all ingredients on a large plate and drizzle with dressing. Serves 2-4 depending on serving size of choice.
Basil & Grains of Paradise Dressing
large handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1t. grains of paradise
1 clove garlic
coarse sea salt
3-5 T. EVOO
juice of 1/2 small lemon
drizzle of raw honey
Using a mortar and pestle, crush grains and garlic well with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. Add basil, EVOO, fresh lemon juice, and honey and continue to grind together until basil is broken up and the mixture is well emulsified. Will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
Note: if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until well combined.