My Favorite Tomato Salad

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There is something about this salad. Every summer, this pops up on my menus. Little details about it might change, but I can not get enough of this salad once summertime roles around. It’s life did not start in a restaurant. This is one of those gems that was first made at home about 3 years ago. There is hardly any cooking needed… with the exception of the okra. The okra is sliced paper thin on a mandoline and then quickly fried. No slime remains, just perfectly crisp okra which works great with tomatoes. This is a technique worth learning.

Tomato & Okra Salad

Yields 4 Servings

10 oz fresh summer tomatoes*
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon of benne seed or sesame seed, toasted
crispy okra
1/4 cup of yogurt dressing
arugula or watercress to garnish
sea salt to finish

For the Yogurt Dressing
Yields 2 cups
1# whole milk plain yogurt
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika

In a bowl add yogurt, salt, coriander, cumin, and paprika. Whisk together. Can be saved for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

For the Crispy Okra
Yields 4 portions
15 medium sized okra
1 qt neutral frying oil
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

In a small to medium sized pot heat the oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the top pieces off of the okra. Carefully slice the okra long ways on a mandoline, one piece at a time, as thin as you can while keeping the pieces intact. It’s easiest if you hold the okra in place with just your index and middle finger and push the okra with the thicker cut end leading. It’s also a good idea to only slice about ¾ of the okra before moving to the next piece; this should keep your fingers a little safer. When all okra is sliced and oil is ready, carefully drop half of the okra into the oil and stir with a wire mesh strainer to prevent the okra from sticking to one another. The okra is done when the bubbles have subsided and the white part of the okra has turned golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scoop the okra out of the oil and allow it to drain for a few seconds, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat process with remaining okra. Season the okra with a pinch of salt. The okra will stay crispy for 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

To Assemble to Salad:
Spoon the yogurt dressing along the bottom of the plate. Arrange sliced tomatoes over the yogurt dressing. Season the tomatoes with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the tomatoes. Layer a few leaves of arugula or watercress. Put a nice big pile of crispy okra over the top and finish with benne seed. Serve immediately.

*Any size works, big heirlooms sliced, sun golds cut in half. Just look for the best quality tomato in the peak of their season.

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