Recipe of the Week: Roasted Tomato Salad

Summer is the time I like to sing the praises of tomatoes - especially fresher, more local (maybe even heirloom) tomatoes. So when I saw this recipe for a really great, inventive salad that incorporates lovely small heirloom and/or cherry tomatoes (both raw AND roasted), spicy harissa (an aromatic and spicy chili paste from North Africa), caraway seeds, goat cheese, and a touch of sweetness from brown sugar or maple syrup, I was sold! Sooooo, this week's featured Recipe of the Week is Roasted Tomato Salad from 101Cookbooks.com.

First, let's talk harissa for a moment. You may be wondering what the heck it is. Well as I touched on above, it's a spicy, smoky chili paste that generally originated in North Africa and the Middle East. It's usually a blend of spicy chile peppers (often smoked), garlic, olive oil and different spices. Caraway, coriander, cumin, and mint are often used. You might have to look at a Middle Eastern market or the international foods section of your local market to find it.

Here's how to make this salad....

Start by roasting about half the tomatoes. Give half the tomatoes a gentle toss with some olive oil, the sugar, and a bit of salt. Roast them in a single layer (cut side up) on a rimmed baking sheet. They roast at 350°F for 45-60 minutes in the top third of your oven (good idea to adjust the rack before preheating). Look for some shrinkage and caramelization around the edges. When they are done, set them aside to cool.

While the roasting is going on, make good use of your time by making the harissa-based sauce. It starts with toasting the caraway seeds  in a dry skillet. Then you crush them in a mortar and pestle. You add the garlic cloves and a pinch of salt and mash it all into a paste. Then you add in the harissa, the lemon juice, and then gradually the last 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Most of your work is now done. (That wasn't bad at all, was it?) When you're ready to serve the salad you gently toss ALL the tomatoes (the roasted and the raw ones) in a large bowl with half of the harissa oil and the lettuce. Taste and season with a bit more salt, if needed. The author recommends serving it topped with a little strained yogurt and the remaining harissa oil on the side. Not a bad suggestion!

So, there you go. A super-flavorful salad using summer's awesome tomato crop and (perhaps) something new (harissa). If you want to serve up the same old boring salad, feel free. But with this recipe in hand, why would you? My suggestion? Take on something unique and give this Roasted Tomato Salad recipe a ride.

Are you familiar with the beautiful site, 101Cookbooks.com? If not, you should be. On this site Heidi Swanson focuses on sharing whole-food, natural-food recipes from her favorite cookbooks - along with some of her own recipes. She offers some really nice, unique culinary products, on her site QuitoKeeto.com, shares cookbook suggestions as well as some tips on how best to cook with natural foods. She's also a photographer and New York Times bestselling and James Beard Award winning author with several beautiful books to her credit including her latest, "Near & Far" -  recipes inspired by her many travels. Her blog is beautifully photographed and written. It's definitely one for you to check out and add to your regular reading list!

I sure hope you loved this recipe! If you want to check out ALL of my featured Recipes of the Week, just click on the "Recipe" category to the right or just click here:
RECIPES OF THE WEEK.

And be sure to visit the great blogs I mention. You'll be happy you did!

(Photo credit: Heidi Swanson, 101Cookbooks.com)