Tomato Salad with Lemon Vanilla Dressing

About two or three years ago, at a stage where I had decided not to buy any more cookbooks because I had realised I wasn’t using them much apart from for inspiration, I came upon the most beautiful cookbook which was displayed prominently in the bookstore of my choice. The book is called Tafelfreuden (which could roughly be translated as culinary delights). Unfortunately the colours in the “Look Inside” link don’t do it justice.

I fought a bit with myself before buying it because it’s quite pricey, I had never spent – and haven’t since – that much on a cookbook. But in the end I bought it, because I knew I’d cook – or want to cook – a lot of the stuff in there. And I have it on display on the coffee table a lot, because I just love picking it up and looking at the beautiful pictures. I’ve also cooked a few things from it already.

The book is divided into seasons, and the first recipe under summer is this Tomato Salad with Lemon Vanilla Dressing. I’ve been meaning to make it ever since I bought the book, but every time I thought of it, it just wasn’t the season. This time, though, I had invited people for dinner in July, the perfect time for this salad.

The sensational bit about this salad is, of course, the dressing. It’s only got three (or four, if you count the olive oil) ingredients, but every single one is clearly discernible. If you’re being served this, you might be quite surprised because even if you’re told what the dressing is, you just don’t expect its taste. For me it was like this: I took a first bite and tasted the vanilla. Then I became aware of the lemon, and that it was citrusy but not in a sharp way, sort of neutralised a bit by the sugar. All combined and brought together with a good olive oil, it has a very pleasant and soft taste.

Reading this last sentence, I realise this “soft” bit might not make sense to anyone else, but that’s the best I can describe it. My recommendation is: go make this!  It is so worth it, and so quickly done. The only thing I regretted a little is that when we finished the salad, most of what was left over from the dressing were the vanilla seeds, and it seemed such a pity to pour them down the drain…

Tomato Salad with Vanilla Lemon Dressing

2 vanilla beans
juice and zest of 2 organic lemons
3 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp olive oil
10 – 12 ripe tomatoes of different size, colour and shape
50 g pine nuts
150 g feta cheese
roughly chopped basil, or very tiny leaves

Serves 4

Slice the vanilla beans lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Mix vanilla seeds, lemon juice, zest, and sugar in a small pot, and boil down to two-thirds at medium heat, until it’s syrupy. Whisk the olive oil into the syrup, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Wash tomatoes and remove stalks. Thinly slice the tomatoes, and arrange on a large platter, or 4 individual plates.

Roast pine nuts in a frying pan without fat until golden brown, then let cool.

Drizzle the lemon vanilla dressing over the tomato slices. Crumble the feta cheese over the tomatoes, and sprinkle them with the pine nuts and basil.

Enjoy the colours & the taste!