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VOL. 36 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 17, 2012

Good-looking dish also has to deliver on taste

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Not long ago, I was sitting in hotel room waiting for hubby to wake up so we could make a coffee run. Not long into my wait, I decided it was going to be longer than I planned so I grabbed the paper that was left at our door: a Wall Street Journal.

I felt like that was a good paper for me to read since I don’t normally read much more than the Democrat Gazette. I scanned the first section briefly and realized there were all kinds of goings-on around the world – more than I really cared to know about, so I jumped to the middle section, which had – ta da! – a recipe. I know about recipes!

This one had a salad recipe in it, and it was pretty healthy sounding, which was perfect since I promised you a healthy recipe this week. I mean, how many of you read the WSJ recipe a few weeks back about the heirloom tomatoes and crab? That’s what I thought.

Since this isn’t one of my recipes, nor one that belongs to one of my friends who gave me permission to use it, I should tell you the chef is Frank Stitt, and his restaurants are the Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fonfon and the Bottega Restaurant and Café, all in Birmingham.

I did make this for dinner last night, and it was healthy and it was tasty, too!

I have never purchased Heirloom tomatoes before because they look so strange to me. All kinds of different shapes and colors. To my surprise, they taste just like normal red ones. Since the taste was the same, I figure the only reason for using them instead of the typical tomato would be for the “presentation” factor. You know, everything has to tantalize your taste buds now-a-days by the way it looks on the plate.

Which brings back a fond and funny memory.

About 10 years ago, hubby and I took our youngest daughter on a business trip to Portland, Ore. She was still in her teens, so not very traveled or worldly.

Anyway, the hotel where we stayed was a five-star and pretty fancy. At least fancier than the ones the whole family stays in on vacations, and certainly more fancy than the ones children stay in when they go on mission trips with church youth groups.

For dinner one night, we decided to eat at the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel. You know the kind – white linen tablecloths and napkins, and the waiter stands beside you while you sit so he can put your napkin in your lap.

Well, to make a long story short, after we decided on what we would eat from the unusual sounding foods, our selections came out looking quite elegant. Maybe even a little too elegant.

I had ordered the Stuffed Portabella Mushroom Tower, and it came out looking just like a tower – tall. It even had a tall sprig of rosemary sticking out of the top, which made it even taller. I wasn’t quite sure as to how to eat it! I learned right then that I don’t care for portabella mushrooms, at least not piled in between mashed turnip patties. And seriously, I have been afraid to try them since.

Hubby’s food was eaten somewhat because he stuck with something safe – a steak. But the other stuff on his plate just got pushed around to make it look like he had eaten something. After all, we didn’t want to hurt the chef’s feelings.

Checking out our daughter’s side of the table, we had to laugh. She had taken most of her food and crammed it all beneath her mashed potatoes. She had not eaten a bite of it.

I really can’t imagine that it was awful, just different. It was a top-notch restaurant, but it was a little too fancy for our taste.

We ended up leaving soon afterward and going to McDonalds. Our daughter and my husband had all of us laughing so hard over the food we had ordered. We will always remember that evening.

Anyway, that is my funny restaurant story, but I guess you really had to be there. As far as the recipe, it is fancy looking, but not so much that you wonder about it. And it is quite good – so enjoy!

Crabmeat with Heirloom Tomato Salad

6 Heirloom tomatoes (a mix that is varied in size and color)

1 small shallot, finely minced

3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

6 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 small cucumbers, peeled in a stripped pattern and seeded

12 ounces jumbo lump white crabmeat

4 large basil leaves, minced

4 large mint leaves, minced

1 tablespoon chives, minced

20 Golden and Red Cherry Tomatoes, quartered

Wash and trim tops and bottoms of heirloom tomatoes, then slice into even 1/4 inch slices. In medium mixing bowl, cover shallot with vinegar and allow to set at least 10 minutes. Whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, slice cucumbers into very thin half moons. Sprinkle with salt and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Set in refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and pat dry.

While cucumbers are in the refrigerator, place crabmeat in a mixing bowl and gently toss with herbs and three tablespoons vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle heirloom tomatoes with salt and pepper. On four plates, arrange tomato slices so they overlap in a single layer. Scatter cucumber and quartered cherry tomatoes on each plate. Drizzle about two tablespoons of vinaigrette over each salad. Divide crabmeat among plates and drizzle with extra vinaigrette.

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