Tomato and fennel salad doesn’t really need a recipe to make, does it? But you’ll probably want to read this post if you want to make the delicious pistachio pesto I used to dress my tomato and fennel salad.
The pesto dressing makes all the difference in this salad. The peppery tang of the summer/winter savoury (marzeh in Persian), mint and pistachio pesto really complements the sweetness of the tomatoes.
Summer savoury (and its perennial relative winter savoury) are hard to find in many countries unless one grows them at home but in Iran summer savoury is sold in big bunches by every greengrocer. If you don’t have summer/winter savoury I recommend using a mixture of mint and fresh thyme. The sharpness of thyme works quite well too.
Tomatoes didn’t show up in Iran until late 19th or early 20th century but when they did they completely took over the cuisine. It’s hard to imagine Persian cooking without tomatoes or tomato puree/paste.
One of my earliest memories is of my grandma boiling sieved tomatoes in huge pots in summer to make tomato paste. High tomato prices in Iran can even have political ramifications, seriously! So this salad is not Persian in form but quite Persian in spirit!
I made my salad with some lovely heritage tomatoes I found in a market but any nice juicy sweet tomato will work. Cherry tomatoes of any colour will work nicely too. Fennel bulbs add crunch to this salad but sliced cucumbers can be used instead if fennel isn’t available or in season where you live.
I made my pesto with raw pistachios but roasted pistachios also make a lovely pesto. I like to sprinkle chopped pistachios on the salad for a bit of extra crunch, too.
There is no cheese in my salad but feel free to add your favourite cheese. I recommend crumbled Feta or Bulgarian cheeses or cubed grilled halloumi. My favourite British cheese to use in this salad is white Cheshire. It’s so incredibly delicious.
Ingredients to serve 4
- 500g tomatoes, sliced or cut into big chunks
- 1 small head of fennel (or sliced cucumber)
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- A handful of fresh summer/winter savoury or a few sprigs of thyme
- A small handful of mint leaves
- 1 small clove of garlic (or more if you wish)
- 25g shelled pistachio nuts
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- A handful of chopped pistachio nuts
- Put the nuts, garlic and the herbs with 75ml olive oil in the food processor and process until chopped well but not too smooth. You can also use a mortar and pestle to make the pesto. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
- Spread one-third of the pesto on a plate. Put the prepared tomatoes and fennel in a bowl. Toss with another one-third of the pesto. Transfer to the plate.
- Mix the rest of the pesto with the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and season. Drizzle over the tomatoes and fennel. Garnish with chopped nuts and fennel flowers if available. Enjoy!