Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cacao and Agave Dressing
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The minute we see fresh heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market, we’re crafting ideas for our next summer meal. High on our list: This jewel-like heirloom tomato salad with a cacao-agave dressing from Edson Diaz Fuentes’ cookbook, Ciudad de Mexico.
“I originally created this salad dressing for fresh tomatillos,” he writes, “but it is also delicious with tomatoes, especially in the summer when ripe multi-colored heirloom tomatoes appear in the markets. The dressing is a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, agave syrup and cacao nibs. If you leave it to infuse for a few days, the cacao nibs release their complex flavor, like a vintage liqueur.”
Scant ½ cup balsamic vinegar
Scant ½ cup dark agave syrup
6 tablespoons cacao nibs
½ small fennel bulb
1 pound heirloom tomatoes (choose assorted shapes and colors)
1 teaspoon ancho chile flakes
Extra virgin-olive oil, for drizzling
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
1. At least a day in advance, prepare the dressing: In a jar, mix together the balsamic vinegar, agave syrup and cacao nibs and leave at room temperature to infuse.
2. Make the salad: Remove the fennel’s coarse outer leaves, then halve the bulb and remove the core. Thinly slice the fennel bulb, then leave to soak in cold water for 30 minutes. (The cold water will make the fennel even more crunchy.)
3. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and quarter the smaller ones. Sprinkle with salt and set aside. The salt will draw the juices from the tomatoes, releasing their sweet flavor, while the slight acidity from the juices will complement the dressing.
4. To assemble the salad, place the tomatoes and their juices in a serving bowl. Add the sliced fennel and about 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Gently toss, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the ancho chili flakes and cilantro leaves.