Beautiful Summer Salad
Levon Wallace, executive chef, Proof on Main
Woodland farm heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers and ruby basil with pickled strawberries and marinated feta
1 pint strawberries, cut in quarters
¼ cup strawberry vinegar (see notes) or any light, fruity red vinegar
3 pounds mixed varieties heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges, rounds or whatever strikes your fancy
1 large heirloom tomato, sliced into one-half inch thick steaks
1 bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
1 bunch watercress, picked
1 lemon cucumber, sliced into wedges; or half an English cucumber, sliced into rounds
1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced and seeds removed
½ cup oil marinated feta cheese (see notes)
High-quality olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
Crunchy sea salt
In a large resalable food storage bag, combine strawberries and strawberry vinegar. Gently squeeze out as much air as possible and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Place tomatoes (except the large tomato cut in steaks), basil, watercress, cucumber, chilies and feta in a large mixing bowl and gently toss to combine. Season to taste, if needed; the feta will add plenty of saltiness and body to your salad.
Divide the tomato steaks between 6 chilled plates. Drizzle each with olive oil, crunchy sea salt and cracked pepper. Spoon the tomato-cucumber-feta salad over your tomato steaks and drizzle any liquid left in the bowl over these. Finish by sprinkling the pickled strawberries over the salads and a drizzle of more olive oil.
For strawberry vinegar
Place a couple of well rinsed strawberries in a sanitized mason jar. You can add a few sprigs if thyme or a few fresh bay leaves if you have them. Pour enough champagne or mild white wine vinegar to cover and leave in a dark place for a day or until the vinegar is bright red and smells of fragrant strawberries. Refrigerate and keep for a month.
For oil-marinated feta:
Toss 8 ounces of good quality feta with the following:
1 small garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Will keeping the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container