We all eat and drink with our eyes first – I drool as soon as I see the cover of Philadelphia Magazine’s “Top 50 Restaurants” issue every year. Elite chefs learn the art of skillfully plating dishes, ensuring the sensation that something is delicious before you even bite into it. Companies secure clientele with ads I sometimes wish were scratch-and-sniff, or by renting billboards on I-95 with the exact number of miles to the next location of their fast-food restaurant. And have you ever attempted to watch a cooking show on an empty stomach? I’d rather do 100 sit ups.
The actual color of food also influences how your brain processes its taste even before your taste buds are invited to the party. In his book, Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser explains that relying on visual cues is an innate process and the first step in determining if something is edible or not. Unfortunately, many items packed on the shelves of our grocery stores rely on artificial coloring to intrigue our appetites and coerce us into making a purchase. Luckily, and especially in the warmer months, the produce aisles are tie-dyed (naturally, for the most part) with vibrant colors and flavors.
Truth be told, I have a tendency to rebel and indulge my cravings for macaroni with bright orange, powdered cheese. On a particularly hot summer day, it may be necessary for me to guzzle an abnormally bright red fruit punch. Still, it’s easy to make up for it with irresistible juicy, red tomatoes and sweet, golden pineapple; this colorful summer salad offers plenty of both.
Tomato and Pineapple Salad with Garlic Chips
Adapted from Roy Choi
1 cup vegetable oil
9 plump garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into ½ -inch pieces
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 scallion, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
½ tablespoon sherry cooking wine
2 large tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼ – inch thick
¼ sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces baby arugula
Heat 1 cup of canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain oil and set aside. In a blender or mini food processor, combine the soy sauce with 2 tablespoons of the pineapple pieces and the sunflower oil, rice vinegar, sugar, sliced scallion and sherry and puree until smooth. Arrange the tomato slices on a larger serving plate and scatter the thinly sliced sweet onion over the top of them. Drizzle the vegetables with half of the pineapple–soy dressing. In a large bowl, toss the baby arugula with the remaining pineapple pieces and the rest of the pineapple-soy dressing. Mound the arugula salad on top of the tomatoes and onions and garnish with the garlic chips.
Let me first state the obvious: this recipe rocks because there is next to no cooking involved. Sure, you have to rely on your stove top to make the garlic chips, but that’s foolproof. Not only do you get a healthy, crunchy salad topping out of the deal, you also can store the leftover oil, now infused with garlic flavor, in a sealed container for future use. The plump, red tomatoes serve as a hearty base for the thin, sweet onions and peppery arugula. Golden chunks of fresh pineapple dispersed throughout the leafy greens add a welcome tropical flair, and the presence of the fruit in the salad’s dressing only enhances that element. The salty soy and acidic vinegar complement the dish wish Asian flavors and even the small amount of scallion creates a bite to the otherwise mellow dressing. While it’s the perfect coating for the fruit and veggies in this dish, I’m considering making more for my lunch time salads. Long gone are the days of boring bagged salad; this recipe is almost as easy, and packed with the flavors and colors of summer.