In the Spring Issue of PITH + VIGOR (purchase here) we met Julia Sherman who gave us a tour of her remarkable back garden makeover in Brooklyn, NY. Julia is an artist whose recent projects have included creating salad gardens on the roofs of MoMA PS1 in New York and The Getty museum in Los Angeles, CA. Her passion for art and salad also come together on her blog, Salad for President where each post tells a story of meeting with another artist or creative to make and eat salad (including the tomato salad below). It is an inspiring, recipe rich, visual feast.
In our print story we shared her recipe a salad of Watermelon and Fennel Micro-greens with Olive Oil and Sea Salt (and tips for window-growing tasty fennel micro-greens year round) but we didn’t have enough room to share the other recipe that we featured. But if you are wondering how to make the other salad featured in the story, here is Julia’s recipe:
Tomato Salad with Crunchy Cornmeal Croutons
PREP TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes
SERVES: 4 to 6 people
Unlike traditional croutons, these cornmeal croutons are complex. The coarse grind of the cornmeal creates a varied, salty, crunchy surface, while the inside is soft to the bite and hopefully still warm by the time you get to them. You can make the molded cornmeal a few days ahead, and then just cut it up and bake the croutons just before serving.
As with any tomato salad, this one relies on peak-season, sweet heirloom tomatoes, with their full spectrum of color and excess of juices. If it is not tomato season, go ahead and use these croutons with a wintry kale salad or tossed with roasted squash.
For the cornmeal croutons:
2 cups (480 ml) vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup (120 ml) tomato-based vegetable juice (organic is better)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (120 g) coarse-ground cornmeal (try Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
Pinch of flaky sea salt
For the tomato salad:
2 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 1 pound/455 g total), cut into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces
1 cup (145 g) heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
- In a saucepan, bring the broth, vegetable juice, 1 cup (240 ml) water, and kosher salt to a boil. Gradually stir in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pot and clumping. Continue to cook for 40 minutes, or until the grains of the cornmeal are soft to the bite. Remove from the heat and stir in the ghee and parsley.
- Pour the mixture into a well-oiled loaf pan and let cool for 5 minutes, then place in the refrigerator until the bottom of the loaf pan is cool to touch, about 45 minutes.
- Slide a sharp knife around the perimeter of the chilled cornmeal and turn the loaf pan upside down to transfer the cornmeal to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and pour the oil on a rimmed baking sheet, swirling it around to make sure the oil is evenly coating the surface. Place the baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
- When the oven reaches temperature, place the polenta cubes on the baking sheet, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, and bake for 15 minutes on one side. Using a spatula, flip the cubes. Continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cubes are lightly browned and crispy.
- Meanwhile, make the salad: Put the tomatoes, salt, garlic, onion, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Use your hands to gently combine. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have released some of their juices. Remove the garlic from the bowl and discard.
- To make the dressing, drain 2 tablespoons of the tomato juice runoff into a small bowl and add the oil. Whisk until the mixture is thick and emulsified.
- To assemble, arrange the cornmeal croutons in rows on a serving platter. Using a slotted spoon, top with tomato salad (reserve excess liquid for another use). Drizzle the dressing over the whole dish and season with salt and pepper. Roughly tear basil leaves and scatter on top. Serve immediately.
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