Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salad with Crispy Wontons and Spicy Cilantro Vinaigrette

I’m currently in a room with 3,500 other women (mostly) bloggers – at the BlogHer conference in San Diego. You can imagine all the tweeting, facebooking, blogging and hugging that’s going on here. If you’re internet access speed at home is a little slow, blame it on the swarm of bloggers here in San Diego sucking all of the internet power 😉

So while I’m here at BlogHer, I have a lovely, lovely friend Viviane Bauquet Farre, author of Food and Style blog as my guest. I discovered Viviane’s blog a couple of years ago and had the pleasure to meet her in person in NYC during my book tour. I hope you enjoy her recipe! ~Jaden 

 

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When I met Jaden at her book signing in New York City in 2009, it was love at first sight. While her bubbly personality shines through every word and every photograph on this blog, in person Jaden is truly like sunshine. So when it came to creating a recipe for this guest post, I wanted something as fun and colorful as she is.

This is how this salad came to be. It’s snappy-fresh, vibrant, super-flavorful, and has an Asian flair to boot. My hope is that it will look as beautiful as Jaden… and taste as scrumptious as her recipes.

 

When I think of colorful vegetables, heirloom tomatoes (though technically a fruit!) come instantly to mind. There are few things as delicious — or as stunning — as a vine-ripened heirloom tomato. Fortunately, heirlooms have become the jewel in the crown at farmers’ markets and gourmet stores all around the country, so they’re much easier to find today than ever. (Of course, if you happen to have a sunny spot in your backyard, these stunning fruits will be more than happy to grow there all summer long.)

In today’s salad, heirloom tomatoes and ripe avocados are served on a bed of baby arugula. The whole salad is drizzled with a spunky cilantro vinaigrette that’s almost like a cilantro pesto (the pine nuts give the dressing a lovely creaminess). Then the salad is garnished with crispy wonton strips that have been lightly sautéed in olive oil until they’re crunchy and golden-brown. Every bite is a delight, offering a marvelous array of flavors and textures.

For a casual meal, serve this salad in generous bowls and let everyone dig right in.

For a more elegant presentation, serve the salad on rectangular or square plates. Arrange a mound of the baby arugula in the center of each plate, in log-like fashion. Top with thin slices of avocado (see photograph), drizzle with a bit of the dressing and garnish with the heirloom tomato pieces and the crispy wontons. It makes an attractive salad course for a dinner party.

The summer season is in full swing and so is summer eating… May you enjoy every morsel!

Crispy Wontons Step-by-Step

Step 1: Cut the wontons in 1/4 inch strips

Step 2: Heat a large frying pan at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and wonton strips.

Step 3: Toss well, then sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until they become golden-brown, continuing to toss occasionally.

Step 4: This is how the wontons look when they are done.

Step 5: Transfer wontons to a paper towel and sprinkle with the salt.

Arugula in morning light

 

I picked this baby arugula from my garden minutes before I photographed the salad. A small 4′ x 2′ raised  bed has been giving us a constant supply of baby arugula for the last two months now. I cut the leaves at the base of the stems and within a week the plants have grown new leaves.  Eating from the garden is a pure joy — and knowing that Jaden is going to adore her new “urban farm,” I can hardly wait to see what she grows — and cooks — with her bounty!

Yum

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salad with Crispy Wontons and Spicy Cilantro Vinaigrette

Servings: serves 4

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

For the wontons:
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 square wonton noodles
sea salt to taste
For the vinaigrette:
1 ounce cilantro leaves (1 cup, tightly packed)
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 garlic clove – skinned
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or organic sugar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
For the salad:
2 ripe avocados – cut in 1” pieces
1 1/4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes – cut in 1” pieces
5 ounces baby arugula – rinsed and spun dry
freshly ground white pepper

Directions:

1) Cut the wontons in 1/4” strips. Heat a large frying pan at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and wonton strips. Toss well, then sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until they become golden-brown, continuing to toss occasionally. Transfer wontons to a paper towel and sprinkle with the salt.

2) To make the vinaigrette – Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy, about 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl once. Transfer to a small bowl.

3) Divide the arugula into 4 salad bowls. Top with the avocado and tomato pieces. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the crispy wontons. Sprinkle with the pepper and serve immediately.