Tara O'brady tomato salad

easy basil dressing

6th August 2021

I printed this recipe in 2017 when I came across it in the Globe and Mail, published by Tara O’brady, and I have been making all sorts of variations since. Use fewer tomatoes or none, add bitter green leaves or cut the zucchini into thick slabs and grill until slightly charred, rather than eating raw. The dressing I keep the same as it is a gem! However, keep in mind if the garden is overgrown with dill, coriander, mint or similar soft herbs, they can be added into the dressing as well or instead.

I always like making salads with beautiful seasonal greens, herbs, and edible flowers picked straight from the garden. Different lettuces impart different flavours, and the best salads mix up two or three. Because this dressing is lively, pairing it with hardier and spicy greens, like arugula, rocket, mizuna, endive, or baby kale, is better. 

easy basil dressing 

serves 2 – 3

for the dressing

¾ cup/30g basil leaves

¼ cup/10g flat-leafed parsley

juice from half a lemon – approx 2 Tbsp

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 – 2 Tbsp honey or sugar

3 Tbsp olive oil

pinch dried chilli flakes

for the salad

2 slices rustic French bread, torn into pieces

2 Tbsp/20g olive oil, plus more as needed

salt and freshly ground black pepper

half lemon, preferably organic, well-scrubbed

3 – 4 handful of washed green leaves – arugula, rocket, little gem, mizuna, etc. (try to combine various leaves while balancing the more bitter ones with crisp and tender leaves.)

1 small/120g zucchini, sliced into thin rounds (the small zucchini have the best flavour)

3 Tbsp toasted, roughly chopped pinenuts and pumpkin seeds

preparation

1. Make the dressing by squeezing the juice of half the lemon into a small blender. Add the basil and parsley, then add a splash of vinegar, sugar and olive oil—season with salt and pepper, then puree. Taste, adjust seasoning and balance with more oil or vinegar as called for, and sweeten with sugar or honey if it’s too sharp. Rerun the machine, then add a pinch of chilli flakes.

for the salad

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F.

2. Toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of olive oil—season with salt and pepper. Scatter pieces on a small baking sheet.

3. Slice the half lemon into thin rounds, removing any seeds; if you have a mandoline (or patience), slice about 3 mm thick (1/8-inch.) Coat lightly with olive oil and arrange on another small baking pan. 

4. Place both baking pans in the hot oven. Toast the bread until golden and crisp, 15 – 20 minutes, tossing once. Roast the lemon until touched with char and deeply caramelized, 12 – 15 minutes. 

5. Arrange the salad, place the leaves and zucchini, then croutons, roasted lemon slices and seeds—top with dressing, offering more at the table.

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