Greens, Coconut, Parmesan
Pickled and fermented foods are very common in Taiwanese cuisine. Carrots, cabbage, bamboo, and many other vegetables are often prepared in this way, traditionally using a vinegar brine.
For this menu, I wanted to put a twist on the traditional Taiwanese pickle. I used lime juice rather than vinegar and used whole peppercorns and cinnamon for added complexity. Cinnamon is not frequently used in Taiwanese food, but is everywhere in American cooking. The tomatoes need to be pickled in the brine overnight or for up to three days before serving.
For more texture and flavor, I garnished the plate with a Parmesan-coconut crisp. Coconut is an unusual addition, but I think it adds a delicious element to the crisp. This is one case where the less expensive Parmesan is preferable because it will melt easier in the oven.
6 tomatoes, one per plate
Large Cherry, Juliet, or small Roma tomatoes work best
4 cups water
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup dried shredded coconut
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
With a sharp knife, lightly score an ‘X’ onto the bottom of each tomato.
In a large pot, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds. Immediately shock them in ice water. When cool, the skin should easily slip off.
For the pickling brine
Bring water to a boil. Add sugar, whole peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks. Stir until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Let liquid cool and mix in lime juice.
In a bowl, submerge the tomatoes in the brine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Day of service
Mix together the coconut and Parmesan in a small bowl.
On a parchment-lined baking sheet, press mixture into a thin layer and bake at 350°F until golden-brown and firm to the touch. Let the Parmesan coconut mixture cool undisturbed.
Dress greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.
Break the crisps into desired size and shape.
Place one tomato on top of plated greens. Garnish each plate with the Parmesan-coconut crisp.