June 1, 2006
Triple Blue Summer Salad
Clarissa Metzler Cross, co-owner with husband Doug of Canter-Berry Farms, suggests trying this easy-to-make layered salad during the height of local tomato season for the best flavors and textures. The name comes about because it contains blueberry vinegar, fresh blueberries, and blue cheese, and the recipe appears in the Pike Place Market Cookbook, Second Edition. Although skeptics often say it’s difficult to pair salad and wine, I beg to differ. While it can be a bit more challenging to pair than other foods, salads (at least in most modern kitchens) are not just lettuce leaves tossed with vinegar and oil. More often, they also include “bridge ingredients,” an idea originated and popularized by revered California food and wine writer John Ash. Bridge ingredients are protein- and/or fat-rich foods that marry well with wine, such as cheese, nuts, or beans. In the salad that follows, the blue cheese (a wine-friendly food) and blueberries (a common flavor component in red wines) act as the “bridge ingredients” that cross above the tomatoes and romaine to allow a sensible pairing with the wine. I’d suggest Grenache, a Rhone varietal that is often blended with Syrah. The light red grape produces a fruity wine without a lot of tannins. Its rich berry flavors will amplify the blueberry notes in the vinegar and fruit. Although not widely grown in the Northwest, Grenache is one of the unusual varietals produced at Abacela Winery in Oregon’s Rogue Valley.
3 large tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup crumbled good-quality blue, Gorgonzola, or Roquefort cheese
1/2 cup Canter-Berry Farms blueberry vinegar or other mild fruit-flavored fruit vinegar
6 large romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, for garnish
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper, optional
Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer in the bottom of a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl or baking dish, then sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of the cheese and a couple of tablespoons of the vinegar. Continue layering the tomatoes, cheese, and vinegar until you run out, ending with the vinegar. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. If not serving within that time, cover and refrigerate.
Fifteen to 30 minutes before you want to serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on salad plates and divide the tomatoes and cheese among the plates, drizzling with any remaining vinegar. Garnish with blueberries and mint leaves and sprinkle with black pepper, if desired.