I have been eating tomatoes like crazy lately and with good reason. It’s tomato season, and nothing can stop me from binging on the incredibly juicy, aromatic and meaty fruit.
I made gemista the other day, one of my favorite summer dishes, ntako almost every other day, sauces for pizza and pasta, tartines galore with all sorts of accompaniments and of course salads; the classic horiatiki (Greek) salad, but also various others, like the one you see here.
This is an exciting salad that I couldn’t wait to share with you. You need some good tomatoes, different kinds if possible to have some variety in textures and flavors, a couple of ripe nectarines, lots of parsley —which, mind you, is not used as a garnish but as an integral part of the salad— pistachios, fresh mint and feta. This, so far, is a great combination on its own, but the best part of this salad, the thing that ties the whole thing together, is the dressing, which includes date syrup and sumac among other ingredients.
I only discovered date syrup (or date honey) recently at a health food store here in The Hague. I was curious to try it, suspecting I would fall in love with it given my fondness for dates. Oh and I did. It is so good! It is sweet but not cloyingly sweet (less sweet than honey) and it has a mild acidity to it. It has a distinct yet not overwhelming flavor of dates and it’s fruity, caramely and rich in flavor. It reminds me a bit of the Greek petimezi (grape must syrup). I have been using it on top of toasted bread, swirled in my yoghurt, in desserts, I even added it to a beef stew which was scrumptious, and in this salad.
The flavors of this salad are varied and they complement each other harmoniously. Sweet, fruity flavor from the tomatoes and nectarines, tangy feta, freshness of the parsley, zingy sharpness from the spring onions, nutty, earthy toasted pistachios, and the dressing with sweet notes from the date syrup, acidity from the vinegar, richness from the olive oil and the citrusy, musty flavors of the ground sumac tying the whole dish together.
It is an excellent accompaniment to barbecued/grilled meats like lamb chops, pork or beef steaks and chicken, and with some good crusty bread and a glass of beer, it’s the perfect summer meal. Even on its own, for a light yet fulfilling meal with some bread, it is equally scrumptious.
Tomato, nectarine and parsley salad with a date syrup and sumac dressing
I used barrel-aged feta because I love its sharpness and pronounced sheep’s and goat’s milk flavor. If you don’t, use regular feta.
Nectarines can be substituted with peaches if you prefer them. I don’t particularly enjoy their fuzzy skin so I always use nectarines in salads like these.
If you can’t find date syrup, you can substitute with Greek petimezi (grape-must syrup/molasses) or honey. If you use honey, use half the amount because it is sweeter.
Yield: 4 salad servings
for the dressing
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsp date syrup
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
½ tsp ground sumac
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, 3-4 grinds of the pepper mill
for the salad
500-600 g mixed tomatoes, ripe but not overripe otherwise they will not cut cleanly (I used 1 beefsteak, 1 coeur de boeuf and several baby plum tomatoes)
2 nectarines, ripe but not overripe otherwise they will be difficult to cut cleanly
250 g barrel-aged Greek feta
2 spring onions
20 g (a big handful) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, whole
40 g (a handful) shelled pistachios
10-11 large fresh mint leaves
Freshly ground white pepper
½ tsp ground sumac
make the dressing
I like making dressings in a lidded jar because it’s easier to mix and to store.
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar, put the lid on and shake to mix well. Give it a taste and add more salt if needed.
If you don’t have a lidded jar, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix using a fork or a whisk.
for the salad
To toast the pistachios, add them to a dry, small pan and place over medium heat. Toast them, stirring regularly so they don’t burn, until they become fragrant. Empty them immediately onto a plate and let them cool. Then, chop them roughly.
Cut the tomatoes into different shapes —slices, wedges, cut the small ones in half or quarter them— in order to have variety on the plate.
Cut the nectarines into wedges without peeling them.
Slice the spring onions and cut the fresh mint leaves chiffonade (long, thin strips). Chiffonade is a way to cut large leafy herbs like basil, sage, mint etc. To do that, stack the mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up tightly (rolling from the wide side of the leaves) and cut the roll into thin, long strips.
assemble the salad
Take a large platter and spread the parsley leaves.
Arrange the slices/pieces of the large tomatoes on top and tuck the nectarines among them. Place the small tomatoes among the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle with some salt.
Scatter the spring onions all over. Crumble the feta and sprinkle it around the plate, then scatter the chopped pistachios and mint on top.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and finish by sprinkling with ½ tsp of sumac and by grinding a little white pepper.
Serve immediately and enjoy!