Foodiva's Kitchen: French Fridays With Dorie - Mozarella,Tomato and Dragonfruit Salad

Friday, June 24, 2011

French Fridays With Dorie - Mozarella,Tomato and Dragonfruit Salad

To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist -- the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar.

~ Oscar Wilde

I was so looking forward to this week's French Fridays with Dorie's recipe. That was, until I went looking for the ingredients and realised there was absolutely no fresh strawberries on the shelves anywhere. It was a repeat of the roasted rhubarb episode of last week... the MIA ingredient this time being strawberries due to it being out-of-season over here :-(.

No matter, I got the tomatoes, I got the mozarella and I even managed to get the fresh basil. All that was left was a suitable substitute for strawberries. Now if you were lucky enough to procure strawberries where you're at, then I was equally lucky to be able to get my hands on dragonfruit, of the red-fleshed variety, at that. As an aside, dragonfruit is also sold widely in France mainly due to the influence of the large Asian communities (especially Vietnamese) residing in its cities. So I guess my version of Dorie's summer salad is not totally out of the context of her cookbook, Around My French Table (well, not when you consider that Cola and Jam Spare Ribs have made it in there too!).



Hollowed out tomato-halves and mozarella cut into flower shapes

If you've ever munched on dragonfruit, or pitaya, you would know that the juicy flesh has a very similar texture to sliced ripe strawberries (or even kiwi). It even sports a multitude of seeds, for crying out loud! However, it tastes on the side of blandness, not so sweet yet not sour, a bit like strawberries that have been picked a little too early. Hence my mind reasoned, what better fruit to mimic strawberries in this week's salad than dragonfruit? 


Just as Dorie prescribed in Around My French Table, I thought cherry tomatoes would go perfectly with the dragonfruit balls I fashioned with a handy melon baller. Alas, the ones sold at the store looked pretty dire so I gave them a pass and settled for regular tomatoes instead. And I was glad I did for when it came to plating the dish, the tomatoes did extra-duty as bowls for the dragonfruit balls. I just split the tomatoes in half, scooped out the core with a melon baller and reserved the flesh for the "sides" to the salad. I then cut some mozarella into cubes and mixed these into the tomato flesh before sprinkling chopped basil over the top. I thought this juicy sides eloquently balanced the other side of the plate that held the dragonfruit and tomato shells. 


If you thought my basil looked like the shade of dead leaves, it's not your monitor or pray, your eyes. Those are purple basil leaves. My mother gave me two small pots to add to my happy but microscopic herb garden (it only contains basil, rosemary, oregano and chives), and they add color to the patch. The flavor of purple basil is also more intense than the regular variety so I only needed to use a few leaves and that was enough.

Diva D came into the kitchen while I was in the midst of photographing, and being as obsessed with all things Japanese as she was, her comment about my salad was that it looked "bento-ish". And so it did, thanks in part to the flower-shaped mozarella (cut out with cookie cutters) and those fushia pink balls of fruit. Oh well, bento is supposed to be an art form, isn't it? I guess I could've done worse ;-).

I finished off the dish with a dash of olive oil, balsalmic vinegar and a sprinking of freshly crushed peppercorns. I shall declare this as the loveliest fruit salad I have had in a while. The overall taste was neither completely sweet nor completely savory, but was suspended somewhere in between. Perfectly refreshing for a hot day!

For more magical variations of this salad, check out our online cooking group at French Fridays with Dorie here.


47 comments:

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Maya it's SO pretty. I love how you just get on and do the recipes with all sorts of substitutes and they always work out - you're an inspiration!

Three-Cookies said...

Almost looks like strawberries too. Did you intentionally cut it to look like strawberries?

Foodiva said...

Heya, Mardi. I guess it's called 'surviving' and my survival skills have developed immensely after having 3 kids! You know, the ability to throw together a decent meal with whatever you've got and all that... it really helps when it comes to this food blogging stuff ;-).

elle marie said...

Seriously Matz and Tomats are hands down the two favorite food groups for me, I wish I could get dragon fruit here.

Alina---Explora Cuisine said...

The only thing I can see in this salad is dragonfruit :) I love this fruit and I almost got obessed with it, but I wonder where can I find the pink type? because I only bought the white color one (on the inside)...

Foodiva said...

Three-Cookies, hmm... now that you mention it, maybe I did ball the dragonfruit to mimic strawberries! But done more subconsciously rather than intentionally.

Foodiva said...

Elle Marie, I'm surprised you can't get dragonfruit in Japan? They seem to be everywhere in Asia. But maybe more in South Asia, I guess. In which case, I'm very, very lucky!

Foodiva said...

Alina, the fuschia-pink color of the dragonfruit really draws in the eye, doesn't it? It's hard to notice anything else on the plate! LOL. White dragonfruit is more prevalent than the pink fleshed variety, and to be honest, I don't even know if these ones are exported to Europe at all.

Cher said...

Way cool. You know, I don't think I have ever even seen a dragonfruit in "real life". I am kind of jealous.

Way to make it work! Very lovely.

Foodiva said...

Cher, I hope one day dragonfruit will make its way to your corner of the world. Globalization and all that... And btw, I am mighty jealous of everyone else's strawberries!

Angela said...

Dragonfruit is starting to gain some popularity in my area, but I still haven't seen it in the store. I look forward to trying it someday.

Cakelaw said...

Cute presentation! And the dragon fruit balls look just like strawberries - very clever.

Sarah said...

Pretty...so, so pretty!

Nami @ Just One Cookbook said...

Haha Bentoish, that's a compliment Maya! These days people make beautiful and creative bento, so I'm sure that's what she meant! This looks beautiful! I love dragonfruit, but I tried only in Taiwan.

Foodiva said...

Angela, if it's gaining popularity as you say, then you might get some as a gift a fruit basket one of these days! I'm crossing my fingers for you ;-).

Foodiva said...

Cakelaw and Sarah, thanks so much!

Foodiva said...

Nami, oh I took my daughter's comment as a compliment because some bentos are just too gorgeous to eat! Taiwan is such a long way to eat dragonfruit...hope you find some where you are soon. It's now in season *winks*.

yummychunklet said...

What creative twists you made to this salad! It looks great with the dragonfruit!

Lizzy said...

Wow, Maya, I've never eaten dragon fruit, but it's absolutely gorgeous! Such a beautiful arranged salad...you have such a knack for lovely plating. I'm never disappointed when I pop in to visit your blog. Wonderful adaptation!!!

Trix said...

I have had dragonfruit, and yes, it was a truly inspired substitution! You always manage to make something special and beautiful, no matter what the challenge. (Oh - and btw, the meatballs at my Ikea are tasteless and of unknown origin!! that's why it annoys me that I like them, lol!)

Mary said...

This is so beautiful...I feel like I am at an amazing restaurant. I salute you today! Wow.

Foodiva said...

@yummychunklet, the twists were out of necessity more than anything else ;-). You just gotta do what you gotta do, you know!

Foodiva said...

Trix, I'm so happy you understood why I subbed the strawberries with dragonfruit! I was lucky I didn't have to think too hard about it, the fruit just fell on my lap, so to speak ;-).

LOL, the thought of you being annoyed at yourself for liking those Ikea meatballs just cracks me up big time! I'd probably be the same, IF ours here ever serves up meatballs...

Foodiva said...

Mary, awww...so sweet of you. Many, many thanks!

Jessica of My Baking Heart said...

Gorgeous! I'd love to try dragonfruit AND purple basil - they sound amazing in this salad! :)

danasfoodforthought said...

What a beautiful salad! I've never had a dragon fruit, but now I'm curious! Sounds like a delicious summer meal!

yvette said...

I always look forward to your creative & delicious interpretations. Looks great!

Adriana said...

Maya, this looks fantastic! You always come up with the most wonderful versions of Dorie's dishes. Fresh dragonfruit beats jet-lagged berries hands down in my book.

Spicie Foodie said...

Oh Maya this is another fabulous creation. Your strawberry substitute makes the dish come alive. Love how you used the tomatoes as bowls, will have to try that. Too cute! Have a great weekend sweetie :)

Allison said...

It totally does look bento-ish! Love how you tuck and roll with life's hiccups!

Foodiva said...

Jessica, and I'd like to try strawberries with this salad! LOL. I'm having strawberry envy looking at everyone else's posts...

Dana, thanks. Dragonfruit looks more stunning than it tastes, I'm afraid. I guess it's too much to ask of a fruit (or anything, really) to be both arresting AND flavorful!

Yvette, that's so nice of you, thank you very much!

Adriana, oh now I can't shake off the mental image of jet-lagged strawberries! LOL.

Foodiva said...

Nancy, you know what I should've made now that you commented? I just remembered that gorgeous pink strawberry dressing that you made, and I should've made a dragonfruit dressing to go with this salad too! Oh well, next time...

Foodiva said...

Allison, living in a different time zone and climate totally brings its fair share of hiccups when it comes to FFWD! But I like it because it challenges me ;-).

lola said...

Its nice to meet you Foodiva! I've never tasted dragonfruit but loved your inventiveness with the recipe!

Foodiva said...

Lola, so lovely to meet you too! Look forward to your summer recipes for FFWD ;-).

Pacheco Patty said...

I like your adaptions to this recipe. I've never tried dragon fruit and now I'm intrigued. It looks beautiful in the tomatoes almost like little scoops of sorbet. I hope you have an easier time finding ingredients next month; )

Betsy said...

What a clear presentation. And your variations are so unique. I love how you come up with such substitutions that capture the spirit of the recipe with what you can find in your part of the world.

Lana said...

That dragonfruit looks gorgeous! I have never tried it, but looking at your photos, I think that I have to in the near future:)
Yes, the strawberry season seems to be awfully short, and it's a shame. It's hard to find the perfect, sweet berries that I remember from my childhood in Serbia, but I managed to procure them at a farmers market.
I loved, loved, loved this salad. If I were living alone, this would have been a wonderful light dinner. I have to feed the hordes, and it ended up as a side:)

Kris' Kitchen said...

Beautiful as always with your extra creativity and lovely style. Good choice for a substitute...my hubby would have loved your salad more.

onewetfoot.com said...

Another restaurant-worthy presentation! Dragonfruit was such a clever substitution choice.

Foodiva said...

Patty, I hope so too! Now, let me see...where can I get beets? ;-)

Foodiva said...

Thank you, fellow Doristas, for taking the time to leave your comments here. I really <3 you for that!

Foodiva said...

Kris, your husband might...but I don't think he'll admit to it ;-).

sanya said...

Love the quote, made me laugh.
In awe of your creative streak! You have a clear talent!

Foodiva said...

Sanya, I like that quote too. There's plenty of truth in it!

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

I think it is a god thing you did not find strawberries, this is just stunning and I can see the flavors working. Dragonfruits are somewhat new here in your everyday grocery store but only the white flesh. Did not know there was a red fleshed one.

Kathleen said...

Beautiful creation, I wanted a bite! The mozzarella flowers sheer genius. You've dressed this salad up nicely. Kudos!

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