Thursday, August 20, 2009

Veggie Might: Peach, Tomato, and Basil Salad, a.k.a. Salad Redeemed

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

Like most people, I hate to waste food for fiduciary and children-starving-in-Africa-and-right-here-at-home-reasons. So when I improvise in the kitchen, I stick to a few basic tropes:

garlic + greens + beans
ginger + vegetable + grain

lemon + vegetable + pasta

They all = awesome, and the mixing and matching make me feel like there is variety in my diet.

Recently, I picked up some fresh fava beans from the farmers' market. They were a special treat because they were A) expensive and ii) I'd never had them before. Once home, I browsed my cookbooks for guidance. I didn't trust myself to go it alone.

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian had a delicious-sounding fava bean salad with mint, and I fortuitously purchased just the right amount: 2 lbs still in the pods. I put a sticky note on the page for later.

The next day, I was drooling over the food porn at The Kitchn. A peach-tomato salad with basil caught my eye. "Must. Have.," I thought. I put a star next to the entry in my blog reader for later.

Later...I found myself in the kitchen with the primary ingredients for both salads. That's where it all went south. I thought, "Hey! The secondary ingredients in these salads are similar. Plus, mint and basil are nearly interchangeable with fruit. I'll just combine the recipes. They will taste great together!"

Never have I been so wrong about food. To begin with, I overcooked the beans, so they came out of the pods (and then the shells--so much work) all grey and mushy. If we eat with our eyes first, mine got food poisoning.

Despite appearance of the beans, I pressed on. The smell should have clued me in next. I can't exactly say why, but the beans just smelled like they didn't belong there. But still I proceeded with my plan. And as you can likely guess, the flavor combo did not work. The rich, creamy beans were almost nauseating paired with the bright, tangy peaches and tomatoes. It wasn't so much that it tasted bad; it just tasted wrong.

But the peaches and tomatoes were delicious together, tangy and sweet, even stuck in the fava bean muck. I picked out the fruit and ate it anyway, then immediately made another salad with only the stars.

It was glorious; I was redeemed. It felt good try, fail, and try again. And someday, when I'm feeling less queasy about fava beans, I'll give them another go.

Peach, Tomato, and Basil Salad
adapted from Chef Rowley Leigh, courtesy of The Observer
serves 3

2 small to medium peaches (about 10 oz combined)
1 large tomato (about 12 oz)
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1) Place the tomato (or tomatoes) in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for about 30 seconds. Run under cold water and peel off the skin. Repeat with the peaches.

2) Cube the tomatoes and peaches and place in a medium bowl.

3) Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over the fruit. Sprinkle the chopped basil leaves and toss lightly. Salt and pepper to taste.

4) Serve with confidence and a nice sauvignon blanc.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
62.7 calories, .8g fat, $.84

2 peaches: 118 calories, 0g fat, $1.24
1 tomato: 44 calories, 0g fat, $1.11
juice of 1/2 lemon: 6 calories, 0g fat, $.12
3 basil leaves: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/2 tsp olive oil: 20 calories, 2.3g fat, $.02
salt and pepper: negligible calories and fat, $.02
Totals: 188 calories, 2.3g fat, $2.53
Per serving: 62.7 calories, .8g fat, $.84

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