Apr 222015
Recipe: Simplest Italian Tomato Salad

Two years ago, on an evening when I was feeling rushed off my feet and uninspired in the kitchen, I decided to make that old cop-out: Breakfast for Dinner. At our house, this usually means cheese omelettes.   Rather than making roasted tomatoes to go with our omelettes (I didn’t have the patience to wait for the oven to heat up), I quickly made a tomato salad with ingredients which I usually have in my kitchen. I had no intention of posting the recipe because the truth is that the recipe is so simple and obvious that it is barely a recipe at all. But then I realised that sometimes it is the easiest and most obvious recipes that we overlook. This recipe for Simplest Italian Tomato Salad is really more of a reminder that something so simple can be so delicious.   This salad should really be prepared no more than an hour before [Continue reading…]

Apr 142015
Recipe: Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

  Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable, in season between March and June.   It comes in a variety of colors – most commonly green, but also purple or white. White asparagus is considered a delicacy. Although it is the same variety as green asparagus, its white colour is cultivated by being covered with soil while it grows. This prevents it from receiving the sunlight necessary to make the chlorophyll which turns vegetables green. White asparagus tends to be twice as expensive as the green variety.   Asparagus spears come in a variety of thicknesses depending on their age, from super-skinny to medium to thick. Surprisingly, the thickness of the asparagus has little bearing on how tender the asparagus spear will be. Although older thicker stalks do benefit from some peeling of the fibrous outer skin, its inner flesh is often very tender.   There are a variety of ways to prepare asparagus for a salad. If [Continue reading…]

Apr 032015
Recipe: Simple Egg Salad

    Here is a basic recipe for Simple Egg Salad. At a minimum, you only need to use four ingredients: hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice and sea salt (if you don’t know how to hard-boil eggs, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs.) You can add a few greens such as chopped celery, scallions/spring onions or herbs but it is not absolutely necessary.   When it comes to egg salads, the two main issues are ‘how to chop the eggs’ and ‘whether or not to use mayonnaise’. I also recently discovered a little tip about the best sequence in which to combine the ingredients in an egg salad which I will share with you at the end of this post.   How To Chop Your Eggs   People have different ways of chopping their eggs when they make egg salads. Mashing with a fork – I am an [Continue reading…]

Mar 262015
Product: Rio Largo Extra Virgin Olive Oil (South Africa)

  The Western Cape of South Africa is an ideal location for growing olives due to its Mediterranean-style climate. In fact, about 90% of South Africa’s olive producers are located in this region. The Western Cape is where you will find Rio Largo, a sustainably-run olive estate on the banks of the Breede River which produces high quality extra virgin olive oil that has been consistently winning awards since 2007.   Rio Largo is owned and managed by Nick and Brenda Wilkinson, who took over the estate in 2010 from previous owner Carlos Raposo. Nick and Brenda have an interesting background. Nick spent 20 years in the corporate world “fixing” failed large scale farming enterprises on behalf of blue chip international investors. Brenda created several businesses including a hotel guide in Zambia, a school, and a furniture business. Although they didn’t start their careers in the olive oil industry, they certainly have the hard-working ethos, dedication, passion, and attention to detail which is required to [Continue reading…]

Mar 182015
Recipe: Spinach, Walnut and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

    My recipe for ‘Spinach, Walnut and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing’ is inspired by one of my family’s favorite casual Persian restaurants. As soon as we sit down, we are welcomed with a plate of feta cheese, mint leaves and walnuts. It’s a lovely combination of varied flavors and textures that whets our appetite for the main course, which is a massive platter Chelo Kebab – buttery saffron rice and tender flattened kebabs grilled on a skewer, which the three of us can easily share.   With ‘Nowruz’ just around the corner (‘Nowruz’ is the Persian New Year which marks the first day of Spring, usually celebrated on or near 21 March), I thought a salad using feta, mint leaves and walnuts would be fitting.   Pomegranate Molasses is used often in Middle Eastern cooking, so I have made a Pomegranate Dressing to go with the salad. If you [Continue reading…]

Mar 152015
Product: Nabali Tree Olive Oil (Palestine)

    I have lived in Dubai (UAE) for several years and most of the extra virgin olive oil I have bought here has been from Italy or Greece. Once in a while, a bottle of Tunisian oil makes its way into my kitchen, but by and large I have not been very experimental with olive oils from different regions.   About a month ago, I made a conscious decision to seek out good quality extra virgin olive oils from different countries. There are lots of regions in the world which have excellent climates for producing olive oil and many of them are not very far from the UAE.   But where to start? I had heard about a place in Dubai called The Change Initiative. It is more than simply a shop which sells things, it is an entire concept. The Change Initiative promotes environmentally and socially responsible living in all aspects of our [Continue reading…]

Mar 082015
Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Mousse

  I don’t know about you, but I keep seeing recipes for Chocolate Avocado Mousse and I wonder to myself, “Does it actually taste good?” I mean, I love avocado and I love chocolate but I’m not sure how I feel about attending their marriage.   I have mostly seen recipes for Chocolate Avocado Mousse on vegan blogs, but I have noticed that lately it’s been gaining acceptance amongst some non-vegan blogs and a few celebrity chefs.   I am not a vegan, so I can eat traditional (read “real“) chocolate mousse – that airy, chocolatey, velvety, creamy goodness that melts in your mouth. Still, I was interested to see how close this healthier version could get to a real chocolate mousse. Plus, I have a dairy-free child so I am always on the lookout for dairy-free desserts (and if they’re easy and healthy, that’s even better!)   There are several variations on the recipe for [Continue reading…]

Mar 052015
Restaurant and Cooking Lesson: Circle Café, Dubai (UAE)

  Total Salads’ verdict: Circle Café is an excellent place for anyone who loves salads. They have an impressive salad menu with 23 salads to choose between and very generous portions. The salads here are not just an afterthought tacked onto the menu – they are creative, well-balanced and varied. Circle Café has thought of everything – the salads are chopped which makes them easier to eat, the salad dressing is served on the side in little jugs so that diners can control how much dressing they want to use, and almost all of their salads have some kind of protein component to make them filling and satisfying meals. They also have plenty of gluten-free options clearly marked on the menu. Circle Café adjusts its menu every 6 months, which allows them to keep on top of the latest health trends and also to keep their food seasonal (the next menu change is [Continue reading…]

Feb 192015
Recipe: Roasted Potato and Green Bean Salad with Capers and Olives

      I have had a potato salad revelation (yes, there is such a thing!).   Up until now, I have always boiled my potatoes whenever I made a potato salad because, well, that’s just what you do, isn’t it? But this time, I decided to try roasting the potatoes for my salad instead, and I was amazed at what a difference it made. The potatoes went from simply being a carrier of flavors to being an integral taste component of the salad, bursting with flavor and texture.   I often roast potatoes for dinner as an easy side dish, and we always eat them hot straight out of the oven – crispy and flavorful on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. I had never even considered eating them as part of a cold dish until one late afternoon last week when I decided to make a potato [Continue reading…]

Feb 172015
5 Great Reasons: Eating Avocados Gives You Beautiful Skin

    Avocados are nutrient-dense fruits full of monounsaturated fat (the good type) and packed with close to 20 vitamins and minerals. It’s no wonder that they are great for nourishing your body in so many different ways. We know that they are supposed to be excellent for maintaining healthy youthful skin, but what exactly do they do?   Skin ageing is caused by internal factors which we can’t control (ie. our age and genetics) and external factors which we can control (ie. sun exposure, environmental toxins, stress and diet). There are various lifestyle changes which can be made to help keep your skin looking beautiful and certain foods, like avocados, stand out as champions.   Here are 5 great reasons why eating avocados is a great way to make your skin look young and beautiful.   1 – Prevents the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing skin density. From around the age [Continue reading…]

Feb 122015
Recipe: Leafy Green Salad with Garlic-Parmesan Croutons

    Most people associate Valentine’s Day with romantic foods like chocolates, strawberries and oysters, but I think that dark green leafy vegetables should be up there on the list too. Dark green leaves are great for the heart, which is an excellent reason to eat them on Valentine’s Day! If you don’t want to mix your own leaves, you can buy pre-mixed bags of leaves which have 4-6 varieties in them.   To make an easy and delicious Valentine’s Salad, try tossing mixed leaves in balsamic vinaigrette and topping them with some delicious home-baked garlic-parmesan croutons. (To learn how to bake croutons, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Bake Croutons.)   Home-made croutons are so much tastier and healthier than store-bought ones. They are also very easy to make and you can prepare them in large batches and store them (tightly sealed) in your refrigerator to throw onto salads for the whole week!   Some people [Continue reading…]

Feb 102015
Recipe: Hummus

    It has taken me a long time to get around to whipping up my own homemade batch of hummus from scratch.   One reason is because I live in Dubai, which means that I have easy access to good prepared hummus virtually everywhere I go, from supermarkets to take-aways to restaurants. They vary in quality, at best lightly whipped and flavorful and at worst heavy but still tasty. I recognise that this is a poor excuse and just constitutes laziness on my part.   The other reason it has taken me a while to make homemade hummus is because I think I over-researched the recipe. I discovered that what I thought would be a simple and quick recipe is actually a very hotly debated topic with different people having their own strong opinions on the technique which leads to the smoothest and airiest hummus.   All the recipes agreed on one thing – you need to [Continue reading…]