Sunday, June 18, 2006

An interesting salad

I was at work the other day, just starting my day and drinking yet another cup of substandard but free corporate coffee and really trying to decide what the heck I was going to make for dinner. I knew I was going to be dining alone due to the boyfriend's working schedule, I wanted something a bit spicy and a bit exotic and a bit fruity... Opening up Bloglines for my morning fix of news, I found my answer in the Epicurious New Recipes RSS feed - Cucumber, Tomato and Pineapple Salad with Asian dressing. I had just bought a ton of limes, serrano chilies and new garlic, but I had a few things I had to pick up (along with some pork loin chops for grilling with my current favourite sauce/marinade - Memories of Tuscany Balsamic and Fig sauce) but nothing I couldn't find quickly.

One quick trip to the market later I had the English cucumber, vine ripened tomatoes, freshly peeled and cored pineapple (SO expensive for some reason when I could have easily and gladly done the work myself for less than half the price if they'd offered me a whole one), some mint, cilantro (mmm... fresh cilantro is a beautiful thing, isn't it?) and the ubiquitous fish sauce (I can't believe I didn't have any in my pantry! what has my stocking skill come to?)

A little bit of chopping, whisking and folding gently so as not to completely mush the very ripe veggies - a quick taste for seasoning (I found I needed a little more lime juice to get the right balance for my palate) and I set it aside to meld as I went to the rooftop to grill the pork.

Now, I'm the first to admit that when it comes to grilling, I'm really not that clued in. I'm nervous about lighting the barbeque to begin with and I'm more nervous about ensuring the doneness of the meat - so much so that I get into a bit of a panic over it. Is it better underdone and I'll just quickly zap it in the microwave or do I just let the thing char a bit longer on the grill and call it well flavoured? In this instance, I decided to put my recently acquired thumb fleshiness knowledge to the test. (I'll find the link for it somewhere, but basically its about the firmness of the pad below your thumb created by touching different parts of your fingers and comparing the feel of that to the resistance of the meat - trust me, its easier than it sounds).

Got the grilling done, plated up a nice little chop (actually, they were a great size), scooped out a bunch of salad (bit of a surprise as to how much liquid the dressing pulled out of the veggies, I'd almost suggest less salt to prevent some of this, but perhaps its the pineapple?) and ate. Holy serrano was it ever tasty! I have never really been confident in the power of mint to do anything for me but remind me of toothpaste and nasty powdery tisanes but in this instance it totally works. The bit of heat from the serrano mixed with the sweet/tart pineapple against the cool crunch of the cucumber was just amazing. It really did remind of a few things I've eaten in Vietnamese restaurants (but surprisingly, not so much Thai as I thought it would). The cilantro added that great herbal hit and the garlic (which I normally can't stand) actually just mellowed right out and blended into the background.

The second day of the salad was even better, if possible. A bit more crunch to the cucumbers now that they'd lost most of their water and became nearly picked in the asian-esque brine created by the dressing and the pineapple juices. My boyfriend took a huge bowl of it on the plane to eat for dinner, offering a taste to a colleague upon which she advised him to keep me around for a good long time (he told her I'm not going anywhere any time soon). Thanks Epicurious, for a great recipe, a terrific dish and for solidifying my relationship. Two happy thumbs up!


At 1:39 a.m., Blogger lucas mirĂ© said...

Funny! I added this to my recipe box at Epicurious this week, and now seeing your review, I'm super excited to try it! Thanks, Eric!!

At 1:56 p.m., Blogger Eric said...

Hey Lucas! Its a REALLY good recipe - I heartily encourage you to try it out! As I mentioned, I'm not a huge fan of mint, but the combination of all these flavours? Wow!

One note I might make is that I don't think that this recipe would turn out all that well should you try to use canned pineapple. Go for the real thing in this one!

Good luck - and let me know how you like it!!!



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