When I made pico, I tried to dice the tomatoes and onions into pieces as small as I could. Since then, I have been obsessed with perfectly square and perfectly tiny pieces of food. This wedge salad, with tiny tomato and red onion garnish, was really just a means to an end.
But the main inspiration for this dish was that my wife was out of town for work. And whenever she leaves town, I try to never buy any new food. I use her absence to clear out the fridge and clear out the pantry. On this particular evening, I had a romaine heart, leftover buttermilk ranch that I had made, really stinky blue cheese that I was old enough that I couldn’t remember buying it, a tomato, and half a red onion.
Wedge Salad Recipe:
1. slice it: slice the onion and tomato into slices as thin as you can. I think I got about 16-20 slices out of a single roma tomato. This was very soothing to do. I tried multiple knives from my kitchen to see which blade would accomplish this best. I tried a steak knife because it had the thinnese blade. But the chef’s knife, with its weight, provided to smoothest and most consistent slice. Smooth. Slice.
2. stick it: slice the paper thin tomato and onion slices into strips, like matchsticks. There is a french term for this, but I don’t know what it is. And I don’t know if it applies if the depth of what you’re cutting is thinner than the width of the matchstick you’re cutting. The French are culinarily meticulous like that.
3. crosscut it: rotate the matchsticks and slice the other way (or rotate your cutting board, which was easier for me because I was using my mini cutting board). This will give you tiny little tomato or onion squares. After you cut them, mix them up a little bit with your fingertips. It feels like you are playing with sprinkles. This, too, was very soothing.
4. top it: I put it on top of the salad wedge, which was just a romaine lettuce heart split in half. I put the onion on first and then put the tomato on top of the onions. It was like I was playing with shaved ice and a raspberry granita. From a tactile prespective, I just loved touching the tiny little onion pieces and the tiny little tomato pieces. It was like combining my current favorite passtime, cooking, with my childhood favorite passtime, legos.
It took forever to get the food chopped up this small, and by the time I was done, all the salad ingredients were room temperature, but it didn’t matter. I was playing with my food in an incredibly OCD-indulgent way. It was like I couldn’t get the food small enough or perfectly square enough, but it was enormously pleasurable to try. Eating, for the first time in a long time, was a mere and distant second thought.
5. dress it: I had leftover buttermilk ranch dressing. I used it up. After spending a couple days in the fridge, the flavors had become even more ranchy and less mayonnaise-y. It was really good, although it blocked the view of the wonderful mini-cubes of onion and tomato.
6. cheese it: I wanted to use up the remnants of a tub of blue cheese. It had been in the fridge forever, and it was getting so stinky that I didn’t want my pregnant wife to be around it. It was really tangy (and probably a little rotten, but how can you really tell with blue cheese). But the salad definitely needed the blue cheese. Otherwise, it would have been really bland and boring. It needed something salty and savory. Bacon would have been better, but I didn’t have any.
This was a big salad. I really could have served 2 with it. But I was eating this for dinner and my wife was out of town. So I ate it all myself. Rarely do I get full from a salad with no meat in it. This made me full. But then again, I ate like a whole head of lettuce.