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Mar 23, 2018
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By the Book: Cindy Pawlcyn’s Tomato Salad with Sumac, Feta and Tarragon

May 14th 12:05pm, 2013

Last summer, as a passionate yet clueless new gardener, I delighted over everything my small, South City garden produced. From the zucchini which grew to the size of woody baseball bats seemingly overnight to the mint which spread like weeds (I later realized mint is a weed), I hauled anything remotely edible to my kitchen as I lovingly tried to put it to use. Having the best luck with my basil and tomatoes, for months, I gorged myself on caprese salads: so fresh, fast and delicious. But then September came and my excitement for my go-to salad began to waiver. And then there was October, and although I was tempted to just cook the tomatoes down to a sauce, I urged myself to continue to eat them raw, knowing I would kick myself over the winter when all the grocery store offerings tasted so bland. But when November came, and my kitchen was still infiltrated with green tomatoes ripening on every windowsill, I knew that I couldn’t do it. I was going to be the first person in the history of the world to actually die of a caprese salad overdose.

That’s why when I was assigned Cindy Pawlcyn’s Cindy’s Supper Club: Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends to cook from, I felt myself immediately drawn to her introduction for her Turkish tomato salad. She writes, “If you have tried too many panzanella and caprese salads like I have, you will find this colorful, refreshing salad a nice change.”

Her book, featuring recipes from countries all over the world, has so many enticing dishes to try, but since my tomato plants were already in the ground, I knew adding a new tomato salad recipe to my arsenal needed to be my first priority.

As any summer salad should be, this one is easy to put together and isn’t excessive on ingredients so the fresh produce can shine. Finding some of the ingredients proved to be a bit tricky, though. As if she knew sumac, an acidic and slightly sour Turkish spice, would be hard to find, Pawlycn includes a simple substitute: lemon zest. After making some calls; however, I was able to locate the spice at Jay International Food Co. A giant bag of the beautiful magenta-colored spice cost me next to nothing, and now I have enough of it leftover to get me through the summer.

The other tricky ingredient was the pomegranate molasses. Since pomegranates grow abundantly in the Mediterranean, finding the molasses in Turkey is probably a cinch. Yet, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find it anywhere in St. Louis. The closest I found was a pomegranate jelly from Schnucks. Afraid it would be too sweet and not the right texture, I mixed it with a bit of sorghum and the dressing ended up tasting great.

Next time, though, if I still can’t find it, I might try crushing some pomegranate seeds into regular molasses. The rest of the salad came together in seconds and tasted slightly sweet, slightly sour and pretty much perfect. It also looks beautiful on a plate, which will be great when I make it to bring to summer barbecues.

Tomato Salad with Sumac, Feta and Tarragon
Serves 6


1 clove garlic, smashed
Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tsp. ground sumac*
Leaves from 2 or 3 thyme sprigs
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


6 perfectly ripe heirloom or other delicious tomatoes, cut into slices or wedges
1 cup small, colorful cherry tomatoes, halved if large
2 shallots or 1 small red torpedo onion, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup crumbled mild feta or shaved ricotta salata cheese, for garnish
Leaves from 2 or 3 tarragon sprigs, for garnish

• To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, sumac and thyme. Gradually whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and continue to whisk until well emulsified.
• Season with salt and pepper and reserve until needed.
• Arrange the tomato slices on a platter or on individual plates. Sprinkle with the cherry tomatoes and shallots, separated into rings.
• Drizzle with dressing, then season with pepper and garnish with cheese and tarragon.

* Available at Jay International Food Co., 3172 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.772.9393

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press.

When cooking for a crowd, what’s your favorite salad to make in the summer? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Cindy’s Supper Club. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Hao, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. Hao, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By Julie Cohen

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7 Responses to “By the Book: Cindy Pawlcyn’s Tomato Salad with Sumac, Feta and Tarragon”

  1. Mary Rotter Says:
    May 14th, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I have found pomegranate molasses at Global Foods in Kirkwood before. It is really nice & I’m certain you could find additional recipes to use it in!

    My favorite salad to make is a roasted beet salad with local goat cheese, a mixed greens blend, toasted pistachios and I drizzle pumpkinseed oil and balsamic vinegar over the top. Fantastic!

  2. B.J. Says:
    May 14th, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    In the past I have found Pomegranate molasses at the Vine Mediterranean Market on South Grand.

  3. Hao Says:
    May 14th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    oooh! i won a book! (and btw, i’m a girl, but all the people named hao i have known are guys…) anyway, I’ve been obsessed with lettuce free salads this summer! I love taking mango, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sweet corn, and bell peppers, dicing them together and tossing in a light dressing with cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. YUM!

  4. admin Says:
    May 14th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    So sorry Hao! We have corrected ourselves!

  5. admin Says:
    May 14th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the tips on where to find the pomegranate molasses!

  6. Hao Says:
    May 15th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    @admin: no worries! my name is confusing and i do appreciate it! :D

  7. Katie Says:
    May 17th, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I love a quinoa salad with mandarin oranges, cucumber, pomegranate arils, black beans, red onion, oranges, corn and cilantro with a lemon vinaigrette.

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