The search for flavour is an obsession with me and when I’m cooking I continually keep tasting and adjusting the seasoning as I go along. It’s a little like fine-tuning a musical instrument, you must understand the basics but in the end you must play it by ear and go with your feelings. Flavours should be strong but they should not over dominate and the natural taste of the main ingredients should never be drowned or masked. I was thinking about that this week while making a couple of my favourite Mediterranean salads for our Fosh Food delivery service, the Italian “Caponata” and the Lebanese bread salad “Fattoush”.
Caponata is a typical Sicilian dish made with aubergines as the main ingredient, but the balance of flavours and textures is simply perfect. It is basically a cooked salad with the aubergines, celery and onions flavoured with red chili, capers, black olives and tomatoes. I like to finish the salad with toasted pine nuts and freshly chopped mint. The origins of the word caponata are unclear, although some say it is Catalan. It could derive from the Latin caupona, meaning osteria (bar), where you would always find a caponata ready to eat. Whatever its origin, it is absolutely delicious and it is now popular all over Italy where it is served as an antipasto, eaten warm as an accompaniment to meat and poultry or used as a pasta sauce.
The Lebanese fattoush salad is all about the balance of sourness. The combination of lemon and sumac really packs a punch with crisp, fresh vegetables and lightly toasted pitta bread, which soaks up the dressing beautifully. It’s a simple recipe very similar in some ways to the local “Trampó” salad from Mallorca.
·1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm/½in dice
· 6tbsp extra virgin olive oil
· 3 pitta breads, cut into strips 1cm/½in wide
· 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
· Juice of 1 lemon
· 1tsp ground sumac
· 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
· 2 tbsp coriander leaves
· 2 tbsp roughly chopped mint, roughly chopped
· 1 red onion, cut into 1cm/½in dice
· 5 ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm/½in dice
· 2 small green peppers, cut into
· 1cm/½in dice
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the diced cucumber in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 20 minutes. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and fry the bread until it is golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil.
In a large bowl mix together the garlic, sumac, lemon juice, the remaining olive oil and the herbs to make the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to coat with the dressing. Season and garnish with the strips of fried bread. Serve immediately.