Tomato and Ricotta Salata Salad with Gazpacho Dressing

by cakeduchess on April 18, 2012 · 50 comments

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You see those white chunks with grill marks on them? That is ricotta salata. Salted ricotta cheese on a flavorful tomato salad. I could eat this salad every day for lunch.

Ricotta salata is one of my absolute favorite cheeses in the world. It is a ricotta cheese that has been pressed, salted, and dried and it is simply amazing!

It can be crumbled, sliced or even grated! I like it grated over some of my pasta dishes. I really like to eat it plain with a chunk of bread. There I go almost forgetting to tell you what tomatoes are doing here instead of a cake. My most sincere apologies. I will make it up to you this weekend with a delicious cake I made for a special birthday.

The tomatoes…you may remember (or not) that I participate in a Vintage Recipe Swap that my friend Christianna from Burwell General Store put together a couple years ago. It’s a cozy and casual swap where the group is given a vintage recipe to change up and make your own. The cool part of this swap is that the members every month stray so far from the original and get really creative. The fun part for me is seeing how far everyone runs with the original recipe. This is the original recipe:
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I will say it it was probably as unappealing as the Jell-O recipe. For that swap last month I made Orange Yogurt Mini Bundt Cakes.  It is a bread pudding…a tomato bread pudding. Really not that exciting or enticing. My mind was going in the direction of something very different. Definitely not a pudding variation. Different as in a tomato cake. A tomato cake is something I have never had before. A tomato cake is something I am now very curious to make. 
I was attracted to this vegan tomato cake recipe. A sweet tomato cake with olive oil and cinnamon. I’ve never dreamed of olive oil with tomatoes in a cake. Could it work? The blog’s author describes it as melt in your mouth soft with a crunchy crust. I need to make this soon and find out for myself.
The other tomato cake I was leaning towards trying was Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache. Rose Levy Beranbaum ‘s recipe appears in her book: Rose’s Heavenly Cakes . Rose created this cake for Campbell’s soup and she explains that the tomato soup adds both color and a zing to the cake.
But real life got in the way of my trying either cake recipe and at the very last minute (yesterday) I asked (pleaded) my super talented Italian executive chef husband (I can brag a little about him. God knows he deserves buckets of praise) to give me one of his recipes to make. Or rather, I had him make it for me. I asked if I could go by his restaurant before their lunches started and watch him make the salad. This is something I normally do not do as the kitchen is buzzing before the lunch and dinner shifts start. This is the the first thing that came to mind for Fabrizio when I asked him for something different and delicious to share here with my lovely readers.
The hearts of palm can be found at most grocery stores. The ricotta salata I have found at Whole Foods Market. If you are not into salty, aged cheese you could simply omit it from the recipe. But why would you do that?
Why one photo? Let’s talk about my “photo session” there at his restaurant. He plated up the salad and handed it to me, “Quickly do your photos before the lunch people start to come in.” I went over to the back room that is full of bright light and placed the dish on 4 different tables. I took about 25 photos. Nothing worked. It all looked blah! I looked down at a chair underneath one of the windows and placed the salad on the chair. The lighting coming from the top was perfection. I sat down on the flour and zoomed in (I was remembering Andrew Scrivani at IFBC NOLA last August telling us it’s ok to just focus on the food. And I know I looked ridiculous to the staff passing by behind me setting up for lunch). I zoomed a little more and that was it. My one photo that I feel shows how delicious this salad is. I still have a long road ahead of me with food photography. I keep trying.;)
He asked me not to photograph him. Of course I didn’t listen.
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It’s a simple salad full of wonderful flavors. The tomatoes have large sweet basil leaves nestled in between the layers. The sweetness of the tomatoes and basil married with the saltiness of the ricotta salata is all just magical. The crunch from the toasted pinoli and heart of palm give every bite a little extra surprise. The gazpacho dressing is perfect to eat alone by the spoonful. A healthy recipe to be enjoyed after the breads and tarts we had here during Easter. A little break sometimes does wonders. So does a good run!

Tomato and Ricotta Salata Salad with Gazpacho Dressing

Ingredients for Gazpacho Dressing:
8 ounces cucumber (about 1 cucumber), halved, seeded and peeled
3 ounces red pepper (about 1/2 red pepper), chopped
4 plum tomatoes
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (add more as needed for taste)
salt and pepper, to taste

for the salad:

1 beefsteak tomato, sliced thick
2 hearts of palm, sliced
1 tablespoon toasted pinoli nuts
4 basil leaves
3 slices of ricotta salata marked on the grill (if you can’t find this cheese, you can omit it)
handful of frisée lettuce (substitute with another lettuce if you prefer)

To make the gazpacho dressing:

Place the cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers in a blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth and thick liquid. (I suggest you add a little at a time and blend after each addition).
Add the tomato juice, vinegar and olive oil to the vegetables puree and blend. Check the flavor and if needed, add more vinegar a teaspoon at a time. Depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes, the flavor may be acidic. Check again and add another teaspoon of vinegar if needed. Add a little more olive oil by the teaspoon if needed. Season with salt and pepper taste and blend. Pour the gazpacho through a strainer into a metal bowl and let cool in the refrigerator for about an hour. 

If you can let it chill for an hour, that is great because the more time it gets to rest, the more flavorful it will be.

Assembly:
The tomato slices are stacked. Place the first tomato slice in the center of the plate. Place two basil leaves in between the first tomato and the second. Place two more basil leaves on top of the second tomato slice and top with the last tomato. Scatter the hearts of palm slices around the plate. Place the frisée lettuce on top of the tomatoes and stack the ricotta salata slices against the lettuce. Drizzle your chilled gazpacho around the salad (drizzle according to your taste. If you like more dressing, go ahead and pour instead of drizzle). Sprinkle on the toasted pinoli.

Buon Appetito!

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

ophelia1983 April 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

it looks delicious!!!

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Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef April 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

That’s the most beautiful styling! I’d hate to mess it up by eating it. (I would though!)

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Mary April 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm

This is gorgeous! You are so blessed to have a chef husband. What a fun story and recipe for the swap!

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Sara Grace April 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

oh my! that looks delectable!

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Jennie @themessybakerblog April 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Oh my, this salad looks super yummy, and it’s stunning.

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Ken│hungry rabbit April 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

A delightful course as we step into warmer weather. If only you could sneak a douse of booze into the dish, then it would be 110% perfection,

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Kiri W. April 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Oh wow – what beautiful, beautiful plating :) This looks utterly luxurious :)

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Suzi April 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm

This is a beautiful salad. Funny I was looking for that cheese yesterday and could not find it. Lovve the Gazpacho Dressing
.

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The Cozy Herbivore April 18, 2012 at 6:53 pm

What an awesome salad– although I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled for a tomato cake from you. Now I’m intrigued too!

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A Thought For Food April 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I’m so ready for tomato season! And that ricotta salata looks marvelous. Those grill marks! Fabulous!

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Alex April 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm

perfect salad. love the photos!

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marla April 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I could eat this everyday for lunch + dinner too!! Beautiful Lora :)

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Sandra M. April 18, 2012 at 10:41 pm

That is just gorgeous, Lora! You are lucky girl having hubby for a chef!:) Thank you for sharing sweetness and have a lovely day!!

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Reeni April 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I think your picture is stunning! I never grill my ricotta salata and I can see how wrong I’ve been. I want to eat this everyday too! xoxo

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Marnely Rodriguez-Murray April 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Love the composition! Gorgeous!

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Junglefrog April 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I can almost picture you sitting under that table trying to find the right light for that delicious looking salad..;0) It looks very good!

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Paula - bell'alimento April 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Ah Ricotta Salata…Ottimo!

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Reem | Simply Reem April 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

God!!! I am sure this is the most stunning picture I have seen for a salad…
Gorgeous!!!
The recipe looks lovely!!!

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Shulie April 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Love this post Miss Lora. As much as I love the vintage recipes idea I went tomato pudding?! I love your fresh springy twist on the recipe and your restaurant chronicles. Sometimes it takes one good photo to convey the feel of the dish and you did a beautiful job at that. I also think F’s photo plating the dish illustrates so much. Real good snap shot telling an entire story.

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The Dusty Baker April 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I WANT A HUSBAND THAT CAN DO THIS FOR ME!!! :) That does look like a beautiful salad – mmm! A friend made a gorgeous tomato bread pudding – fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, all cheesy and crisp – but I had to go with my craving for this one. Bravo to you both (and this one pic definitely is gorgeous).

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Pola M April 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Perfect styling! And must be delcious too!

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Barbara | Creative Culinary April 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Love this story…how nice that your husband participated in your efforts and how nice for us that we got to see:

1. The gorgeous salad he made and…

2. The gorgeous hubs.

Thank you for both. :)

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Rachel April 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I’d eat ricotta salata every day too if I could! It’s definitely one of my favorite cheeses.
What a wonderful husband you have. This post is such a great window into your life as a food blogger – inspiration, great ideas, so much to do, wonderful husband, and eventual success in a way you didn’t envision at first.

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Lana April 20, 2012 at 12:36 am

I am going to hide now because I have never tasted ricotta salata and I LOVE cheese! This will have to be rectified soon as this dish is too beautiful to miss. Simple, fresh, great quality ingredients – who can ask for more?
And it is a gorgeous photo, truly:)

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Cake Duchess April 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

lol! Lana…it’s ok. I think it’s not as common here as the other ricotta;)Now you need to find some and try it!:)Thank you:)grazie:)

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simple baking April 20, 2012 at 5:11 am

Love the grill marks on the ricotta.
First time visiting your space and it’s lovely.

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Jeanette April 20, 2012 at 11:55 am

Gorgeous presentation – you’re so lucky your husband is a chef! Beautiful photo.

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Cake Duchess April 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I am blessed for sure. Thanks, Jeanette!:)

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Bunkycooks April 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I am so happy that Fabrizio was willing to prepare this beautiful salad and share the recipe. This is something I know we would enjoy. It could not be better timing as we will soon be seeing beautiful Heirloom tomatoes in the Farmers’ Markets!

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Cake Duchess April 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Luckily this is the prime of our tomato season:) I’m happy you like the salad;)

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Paula April 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

The food makes the dish of course but the presentation is what makes you want the food. Great presentation…mouth-watering actually.

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Natalie Atick April 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I was intrigued by your blog name and coming over here did not disappoint!!! Exactly what I was expecting pure elegance and gorgeous presentation! Love the dish!

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Cake Duchess April 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thank you, Natalie:)So happy you came by to visit. I appreciate your support!

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Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) April 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I think I can eat this salad all the time, too, and don’t sell yourself short–your picture is beautiful!

Have a great weekend, Lora!

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Cake Duchess April 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thank you, Jean:)You have a wonderful weekend, too:)

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Karriann April 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm

That’s soooo divine! The presentation is love :)

“Spice it Up”

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Jen @ The Scrumptious Pumpkin April 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I absolutely love hearts of palm, but never think to cook with them. Thanks for this delicious-sounding dish!

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Claudia April 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I adore cooking with ricotta salata! This just dances – and then the gazpacho dressing just make me feel like spring.

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Lisa April 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm

This is a brilliant recipe, Lora, especially with summer and all the beautiful tomatoes looming. I adore ricotta salata and the gazpacho dressing sounds wonderful – so creative! Gorgeous photo of it too! Good to know just focusing only on the food is ok, because that’s all I’ve got right now – sans natural light.

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Becca April 22, 2012 at 12:47 am

That is so beautiful, it makes me want to eat healthier! Thanks for sharing :)

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Jersey Girl Cooks April 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm

What a gorgeous looking salad! I am sure it is delicious and healthy too.

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Lizzy April 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Time to pick up some ricotta salata! I could eat this beautiful salad day after day. And your photo is just stunning…I need to take your advice and find some sun and focus on the food :) Thanks for sharing this deliciousness, Lora!

PS…your husband is a keeper for sure!!! xo

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Magic of Spice April 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm

What a stunning salad! And I cheese I have yet to try, will have to pick some up next time I go to WF,
sounds delightful :)

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Monet April 22, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Now if this isn’t a stunner, I don’t know what is! Talk about GORGEOUS presentation. Amazing flavor too, I’m sure. Thank you for sharing. Your post has whetted my appetite, and now I need to get creative and make dinner. I hope you have a wonderful start to your week!

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Chic & Gorgeous Treats April 23, 2012 at 2:19 am

Oh wow! What a stunner.. I loved all the colours on the plate ;).. Must try grilling my own ricotta “provided I don’t burn them myself” LOL.. Have a good week Lora!! xoxo

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Chic & Gorgeous Treats April 23, 2012 at 2:19 am

Oh wow! What a stunner.. I loved all the colours on the plate ;).. Must try grilling my own ricotta “provided I don’t burn them myself” LOL.. Have a good week Lora!! xoxo

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Chic & Gorgeous Treats April 23, 2012 at 2:19 am

Oh wow! What a stunner.. I loved all the colours on the plate ;).. Must try grilling my own ricotta “provided I don’t burn them myself” LOL.. Have a good week Lora!! xoxo

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Chic & Gorgeous Treats April 23, 2012 at 2:19 am

Oh wow! What a stunner.. I loved all the colours on the plate ;).. Must try grilling my own ricotta “provided I don’t burn them myself” LOL.. Have a good week Lora!! xoxo

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Alli Shircliff April 24, 2012 at 3:50 am

What a lovely picture! Totally understand that feeling of taking 25 pictures, which lead up to the 1 perfect one :) Ricotta Salata with hearts of palm…now that is my kind of salad!

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Ivona Poyntz May 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm

The ricotta sald looks amazing: your presentation is superb, and so healthy too.

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