I have this weird little frustration with caprese salads. There is always too much cheese. The standard ratio is 50/50–one slice of mozzarella for every slice of tomato. But I feel like the cheese should act more like a creamy accessory to a platter of bright, summer tomatoes bursting with tart juice. Just a few thin slivers tucked in here and there. Am I right? Or am I totally alienating all of you?
Regardless, the world–and the blogosphere–certainly doesn’t need another recipe for caprese salad, so that’s not what we’re making today. Instead, let’s gather up heirloom tomatoes in as many colors as we can find and dollop them with vegan cashew ricotta whipped with lemon, garlic, and sweet peas. Don’t forget your fanciest olive oil and flakiest salt, for finishing.
This recipe is from Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero, one of the genius authors behind Veganomicon, which is basically like plant-based Joy of Cooking. I’ve made a bunch of the recipes in the book, but this one is by far my favorite. The pea-ricotta mixture is so good, I end up slathering the leftovers on bread for days. Even Alex, who is a major fan of the classic caprese, and will probably take issue with my comments above, love this dish. It’s a summer staple in our house, sprinkled with basil or mint, and sometimes drizzled with balsamic. You can add slices of ripe peach, too. No one will complain.
When I made this dish most recently (and took these photographs) I substituted 1/2 cup of chopped garlic scapes for 1/2 cup of the peas just to see what would happen. Spoiler alert: it was delicious. But since garlic scapes can be hard to come by (I shudder to think what would happen if I asked for them at our local Stop & Shop) I’m giving you the original recipe. It’s pretty adaptable. Feel free to use whatever herbs you like in place of the basil. Parsley, mint, dill, or tarragon would all be fantastic. The pea-ricotta mixture will keep for at least a few days in the fridge, so you can definitely make it ahead. I find that one batch is enough for two or three salads.
Oh, and if you want to reverse engineer this and make it not vegan, just substitute 1/2 cup regular ricotta for the cashews.
Tomato Salad with Sweet Pea "Ricotta"
For the sweet pea "ricotta"
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 2 cup frozen peas thawed
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley, mint, or tarragon
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
For the salad
- 2 pounds juicy perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the sweet pea "ricotta"
Place the cashews in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 2 hours. Drain the cashews and transfer to a blender. Add the peas, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, basil and 1/4 cup of water and blend until smooth. If the blender is sticking, add up to another 1/4 cup of water. (Sweet pea "ricotta" can be made up to three days ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and chill in the refrigerator.)
To assemble the salad
Cut the tomatoes crosswise into thick slices and arrange them on a serving plate. Top the tomatoes with a dab of the ricotta. Sprinkle the salad with the basil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.