There is a lot going on here, but the end result is harmonious; truly a symphony of simple flavors coming together to make something special. I really like Paul Prudhomme's blackened spices—they're perfect for blackening anything like tofu and eggplant.

Serves 6


  • 6 really firm Roma tomatoes
  • 4 Tbsp. Cajun spice (any one of Paul Prudhomme's blackened spices)
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, or, as needed
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup rice-wine vinegar
  • 3 hothouse cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) pickled ginger, minced
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, green parts only, sliced very thin on the bias
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, stacked and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 10 large basil leaves, stacked and sliced into thin ribbons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Wasabi Aioli (see separate recipe)
  • Sweet Soy Glaze (see separate recipe)


    Slice the tomatoes into 1/3-inch slices and discard the end pieces, or save them for stock. Firmly press the tomato slices dry between a paper towel-lined kitchen towel. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of blackening spice on a small plate, then press one side of each tomato into the spice and set the tomato spice-side-up on a plate. Repeat the process until all the tomatoes have been seasoned. (Use more than one plate if necessary.)

    Heat a large cast-iron pan or skillet over high heat and sprinkle it with kosher salt. When the pan is hot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and wait until the oil shimmers. It is important that the oil is hot or the spices will stick to the pan and the tomatoes will be bare and that's no bueno! Carefully place the tomatoes spice-side-down in the pan and blacken one side only for about 2 minutes. Using a fish spatula, or a pair of tongs, return the tomatoes to the large plate and allow them to cool. Use the remaining olive oil to blacken the remaining tomatoes. When the tomatoes are no longer hot, place them in the refrigerator to chill.

    In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and vinegar until the sugar is dissolved. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the cucumbers crosswise very thin (about 1/16-inch or thinner). Add the cucumbers to the vinegar and sugar mixture. Slice the fennel bulbs in the same fashion and add them to the cucumber mixture. Add the pickled ginger, scallions, mint and basil and combine thoroughly. Season the salad with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 days.

    Make the Wasabi Aioli and Sweet Soy Glaze and hold them both chilled.

    Drain the liquid from the cucumber-fennel salad in a colander. Squeeze the salad firmly in a lint-free towel or a paper towel-lined kitchen towel to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the liquid.

    Mound about 3/4 cup of the cucumber-fennel salad in the center of a medium plate. Bank three blackened tomatoes on the mound of salad. Drizzle the bottom 1/3 of the blackened tomatoes with the aioli. Drizzle the exposed cucumber-fennel salad with the glaze. Repeat the process with the remaining plates and serve at once.

    The tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days; the cucumber-fennel salad will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.

    From Roberto's New Vegan Cooking (Da Capo Lifelong) by Roberto Martin.

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