The Veggie Tots Seven Species Salad

At the end of this month, six chefs from the international hotel chain the Waldorf Astoria – famous for inventing the Waldorf salad, eggs benedict and red velvet cake – will compete in New York to create a new signature dish. Chef Itzik Barak of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is submitting a salad dish inspired by the seven sacred species of the bible: the wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8.

Waldorf Astoria chef Itzik Barak’s The Seven Species

As a vegetarian, this idea tickled my taste buds, but it bothered me ever so slightly that Barak chose to make fish a centerpiece of the dish (view the recipe here). I felt it somewhat superfluous, and that it detracts from the spirit of the biblical verse. Plus, Barak’s dish features just three out of the seven species (four if you count olive oil as showcasing olives).

My (vegetarian) version includes all seven species: barley salad with dates and pomegranates, olive tapenade on crostini (wheat), and figs and grapes poached in red wine (repetition of the vine imagery there). The saltiness of the olives complements the sweetness of the figs and grapes, and the crunch of the crostini offsets the softness of the same.

Veggietot Mom’s Seven Species Salad

I kept Barak’s base of tahini (though I altered the quantities as I found his recipe didn’t “smear” as his instructions direct) and I added thyme to the tapenade in a nod to his flavour profiling.

This is untypically Veggie Tot-tish in that it really is quite complicated and time-consuming to make, but it was loads of fun and very very yummy, so I encourage you to give it a try! (If you’re Jewish, this is a great one to file away for the harvest festivals of Shavuot or Sukkot as it celebrates the produce of Eretz Yisrael in all its glory.)

The Veggie Tots Seven Species Salad

(6-8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

Tahini

  • 40 grams tahini
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch of salt for taste
  • Pinch of pepper for taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup ice water

Barley salad

  • 200 grams dried pearl barley
  • 1 pomegranate (or one small carton pomegranate rubies)
  • 4 dates (or 8 dried, which are smaller), finely chopped
  • 40 grams pumpkin, finely chopped
  • 4 pears, finely chopped
  • One thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 20 grams parsley, chopped
  • 20 grams mint, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil

Poached fruit

  • 4-8 figs (depending on size, preferably fresh), quartered
  • Small bunch grapes
  • 2 cups red wine (I used sacramental Kiddush wine to underpin the scriptural roots of the dish)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Olive tapenade

  • 1 cup olives (black, green, or a mix), pitted
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Crostini

  • 8 slices artisanal bread (I used challah because I liked the spiritual connotation to sacred bread)
  • ½ cup olive oil for brushing

Garnish

  • 1 radish
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Drizzle lime juice
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 

RECIPE

Heads-up: This is fiddly dish, but all but one of the recipe steps can be done a day or two in advance, so pace yourself. Mix the salad (step 7) on the day you’ll be eating it, and plate immediately before serving.

1  Make tachina sauce by combining tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and ice water in a medium size mixing bowl and whisking until smooth. Refrigerate.

2  Cook barley according to packet instructions (or bring to boil and seal in a Wonderbag for about 40 minutes). Drain, cool and refrigerate.

3  Make olive tapenade by combining all the ingredients with a handheld blender, small food processor or mortar and pestle. Refrigerate. (PS licking the tapenade bowl is to grownups what licking the cake batter bowl is to kids!)

4  Poach the figs and grapes by combining all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish, covered with a lid or tin foil, and cooking for approx. 20 minutes at 180°C. Cool, then refrigerate. Feed surplus figs to your Veggie Tot 🙂

5  While the oven is on, spank it up to “grill” and toast crostini by brushing the bread with olive oil and cooking for about 2 minutes (watch it – it burns fast!) Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

6  Use a veggie peeler to peel garnish vegetables lengthwise into long, thin slivers (rotate the radish as you peel). Marinate in the fridge in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

7  To make the salad, sauté the pumpkin with thyme leaves, salt, pepper and oil for 3 minutes until golden brown. When cool, combine with the rest of the salad ingredients and toss well in a large mixing bowl.

PLATING

1  Smear tahini in a line on the plate.

2  Place barley salad directly on top.

3  Spread olive tapenade on the crostini (cut into elegant pieces if your bread slices are large) and place on top of the barley salad.

4  Dot with the poached figs and grapes.

5  Roll pieces of pickled garnish vegetable and place throughout the plate, on top of the croutons or in the barley salad. Add leaves (I used chives and baby rocket) and extra pomegranate rubies.

6  If you’re feeling fancy, you can reduce some of the poaching liquid in a small pan to create a red wine jus and use this to decorate the rim of the plate. It’s quite yummy too.

Thanks to Wendy, Peter and Warren for being my willing, patient (and, I might add, satisfied) guinea pigs!