total salads

Jan 252017
 

Grilled Endive, Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut Salad

 

 

Growing up on both sides of the Atlantic, I have always vacillated between whether to use American spellings (ie. flavor) or British spellings (ie. flavour). I am certainly guilty of mixing it up here on my blog.

 

I have spent more time than I need to trying to decide which type of spelling to follow. And my final decision is that I can’t decide. My formative education was in the US (and American spellings are just so simple for everyone to follow) but I went to University and worked in the UK (and British spellings are just so elegant). Either way, I feel like I am betraying one side of the pond.

 

It gets even more complicated when it comes to names of food. An ‘aubergine’ in the UK is an ‘eggplant’ in the US. A ‘courgette’ in the UK is a ‘zucchini’ in the US. And don’t even get me started on ‘rocket’ versus ‘rucola’ versus ‘arugula’.

 

I am having the same issue with the ‘endives’ in this recipe, which can also be called ‘escarole’ or ‘chicory’. In the case of endives, it is not just the name but the variety which is also causing some confusion. Endives can be loose frizzy heads of lettuce but they can also be submarine-shaped tightly packed firm leaves. For this recipe, make sure that the endives (or escarole or chicory) that you get are the tightly-packed submarine-shaped ones. Choose red or white according to what you have available.

 

Endives are slightly bitter, but bitter foods are supposed to be good for you because when your tastebuds sense bitterness, they send signals to your body to start producing more digestive juices. The increase in digestive juices means that your body is able to absorb more nutrients from your food. So, a bitter salad is a great way to start a meal.

 

You can eat endives raw, but I find that if you grill them it enhances their flavour (or should it be flavor?).

 

 

GRILLED ENDIVE, BLUE CHEESE, PEAR AND WALNUT SALAD

(Serves 4 as a starter or side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp honey (optional – it is not necessary but it will help balance some of the bitterness in the endives)

 

Salad Ingredients:

4 heads of endive (room temperature)

A little extra virgin olive oil to brush onto the endives before grilling

150-200g / 5-7 oz blue cheese, crumbled

1 pear (about 200g / 7 oz in weight)

80g / 2 oz walnut halves, roughly broken or chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Remove the outer leaves from the endives and slightly trim the base, making sure to leaves enough of the base attached so that the endive leaves remain attached. Cut the endives in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with some olive oil.
  2. To grill the endives, warm up a griddle pan or Panini press on medium heat. When the griddle is hot, place the endives cut-side down on the griddle and leave for 5-7 minutes. If you do not have a griddle pan or Panini press, you can also grill your endives in an oven-proof dish in a 200°C oven for 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare your dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a jar and shaking well. Set aside.
  4. When ready to serve, arrange the endive halves on a platter. Scatter them with the walnuts and crumble some blue cheese on top.
  5. Make sure you slice the pear just prior to serving to avoid discolouration.
  6. Cut the pear into quarters lengthwise, remove the seeds and then slice each quarter horizontally (widthwise) to get small triangle slices of pear. Scatter the pear on top of the salad.
  7. Drizzle the salad dressing on top (you may not need to use all of it).
  8. This salad can be served either warm or cold.

 

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Jan 132016
 

Tuscan Kale and Bread Salad

 

Strictly speaking, a recipe for ‘Tuscan Kale and Bread Salad’ should be made with Tuscan kale. But I bent the rule with this one by using Curly kale instead as it is the only type of kale I have come across in Dubai. However, in keeping with the Tuscan theme, I have used other traditional Tuscan ingredients in this salad such as dried bread, cannelini beans, tomatoes and cheese.

 

Tuscan kale (also called lacinato kale or dinosaur kale) is a variety of kale which has long flat dark green textured leaves and is slightly less tough and bitter than the more common Curly kale.

 

As with all kale salads, make sure that you remove the stalks and massage the leaves with your hands for 2-3 minute to soften them and release their flavour (technique described in step 2 of the recipe directions below).

 

 

Tuscan Kale and Bread Salad

 

 

TUSCAN KALE and BREAD SALAD
(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated on the fine side of a grater

1 tsp coarse sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

100g / 3.5 oz kale leaves (weight of leaves without the stalks)

1 tin cannellini/fagioli beans (235g / 8 oz drained weight)

10 cherry tomatoes (about 120g / 4 oz)

Wedge of parmesan or pecorino cheese (according to taste)

2-3 slices of good bread (avoid ciabatta and focaccia as they are too rich for this purpose)

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare your salad dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients well in a jar. The amount of garlic you use should depend on how strong your garlic cloves are and how much you like to eat raw garlic. Cover and set the jar aside.
  2. Remove the long stalks which run along the length of your kale leaves. Wash and dry the leaves well, and then thinly shred them. To make the kale leaves softer and more tasty, I recommend ‘massaging’ them. Do this by putting the shredded kale leaves in a large bowl and squeezing the leaves on your hands for 3-4 minutes. This will soften their tough texture and release more flavour from the leaf. Massaged kale keeps well in the fridge for several days, so it’s often worth preparing a larger amount of leaves than you need so that you can keep dipping into it throughout the week.
  3.  Drain and rinse 1 tin of cannellini beans (or use freshly cooked beans). Place the beans in a large bowl.
  4. Add the kale to the large bowl and toss with the beans.
  5. Add the salad dressing and toss well to evenly coat the kale and beans.
  6. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half and throw them on top of the salad.
  7. Shave some fresh parmesan cheese on top of the salad (the amount should depend on your own taste). You may want to shave a little extra parmesan to garnish the top of the salad before serving.
  8. Toss everything loosely. The salad can be kept in the refrigerator like this for upto 3 days before serving.
  9. Prepare your bread by toasting some slices in a toaster until they are crisp but not burnt. After they have been toasted, allow them to sit in the toaster for 5 minutes to cool and dry out a bit. Once dry, tear them into bite-size pieces by hand. Keep the bread separate from the salad until you are ready to serve otherwise the bread will get soggy.
  10. To serve, re-toss the salad if it has been refrigerated for a while. Spread it on a platter and garnish with some extra parmesan shavings and the toasted bread.

 

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Nov 252015
 

Oriental Brussels Sprout and Clementine Salad

 

This crunchy Oriental-inspired salad is full of flavour and can be made with either raw Brussels sprouts or cabbage. If the idea of raw Brussels sprouts fills you with dread, try slicing them up and blanching them by covering them in some freshly boiled water for about a minute to take off the raw edge.

 

I had intended to make the salad with traditional green Brussels sprouts but in the run-up to Thanksgiving there were only purple ones left in the supermarket. Luckily, it turns out that purple Brussels sprouts are meant to be sweeter than their more famous green brothers, ostensibly making them a better option for salads.

 

Join the conversation: Have you tried purple Brussels sprouts yet?

 

Oriental Brussels Sprout and Clementine Salad

 

 

ORIENTAL BRUSSELS SPROUT AND CLEMENTINE SALAD

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

500g / 1.1 lb Brussels sprouts

4 radishes

2 scallions / spring onions

1 clementine

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the salad dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shaking well. Set aside.
  2. Remove the outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts and trim the stalk. Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Thinly slice or shred the Brussels sprouts using a sharp knife. You can eat the shaved Brussels sprouts raw but I like to take the edge off them by putting them in a heat-proof bowl or pot (not on the heat) and pouring freshly boiled water from the kettle over them. I allow them to sit in the water for 1 minute and then drain. If you want to keep the colour vibrant, dunk the Brussels sprouts into a bowl of ice-cold water for 10 seconds and then drain. Allow to cool.
  3. Wash and trim the radishes. Cut them in half lengthwise and thinly cut into half-moon slices.
  4. Trim the scallions / spring onions and remove the outer later. Cut finely, using both the white and green parts.
  5. Peel the clementine and separate it into segments. Cut each segment into three or four bite-size pieces.
  6. In a bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, radishes, scallions / spring onions, and clementines. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
  7. Add the dressing and toss well.
  8. Refrigerate and eat within three days.

 

Join the conversation: Have you tried purple Brussels sprouts yet?

 

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Sep 292015
 

Grilled Zucchini (Courgette) and Chard Salad

 

In Dubai, one of my favourite locally grown vegetables is kousa, a small light-green zucchini (courgette). One of my favourite moments is when I’m shopping for groceries and I get to the mountain of stacked kousa, taking my time to choose the smallest ones in the pile. Because it’s grown locally, it’s very inexpensive compared to the large zucchini which is imported from Europe, and I am able to stock up on it without worrying about the cost.

 

I use kousa in anything and everything from stews and curries to omelet fillers. It often makes it’s way to my table sliced lengthwise and roasted with olive oil and sea salt – a healthier and better-tasting alternative to french fries.

 

When grilled, kousa is delicious in salads. My recipe for ‘Grilled Zucchini and Chard Salad with Hazelnuts’ uses a nice combination of flavours and textures along with a simple lemon vinaigrette to make a delicious and beautiful side dish.

 

 

Grilled Zucchini (Courgette) and Chard Salad

 

 

Share your thoughts: What’s your favourite vegetable to grill and throw into a salad?

 

 

GRILLED ZUCCHINI (COURGETTE) and CHARD SALAD with HAZELNUTS

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Generous pinch of sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

400g zucchini (courgette), trimmed and sliced 1cm thick

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra is needed)

1/2 tsp sea salt

250g fresh chard or spinach leaves, washed and chopped

1 avocado, diced

3 Tbsp toasted hazelnuts (or any other type of unsalted nuts you have)

Fresh parmesan cheese (use as much as you want), thinly shaved

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare salad dressing by combining the dressing ingredients in a jar and set aside.
  2. Next you need to grill your zucchini. Preheat your grill pan or panini press to medium heat (if you don’t have either of these, you can use a regular frying pan or preheat your oven to 200C/400F). While you are waiting for the grill to heat up, wash and dry your zucchini and slice it into 1cm thick slices. Toss the sliced zucchini gently in a bowl with 3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 tsp of coarse sea salt. If you are using a grill or frying pan, cook the zucchini on both sides until it gets nice brown grill marks. If you are using a panini press, place the zucchini in the press and cook for a few minutes until you get nice brown grill lines. If you are using an oven, roast your sliced zucchini for 20 minutes (flip the slices halfway through cooking). Set aside.
  3. Wash the skin of your avocado. Cut it in half and remove the seed. Cut the avocado into cubes, discarding the skin. Set aside.
  4. Wash and dry the chard or spinach leaves and chop them (roughly or finely depending on your preference). Set aside.
  5. Toss with the grilled zucchini and avocado.
  6. To put your salad together, place a layer of chard or spinach leaves on a platter (if you are serving straight away, toss the leaves with some dressing. If you are serving later, leave the dressing out as it will make the greens limp). Place your grilled zucchini on top. Scatter with avocado cubes and hazelnuts. Thinly shave some parmesan cheese on top of everything.
  7. Pour the dressing on top just prior to serving.
  8. Serve straightaway or refrigerate for upto 24 hours.

 

Share your thoughts: What’s your favourite vegetable to grill and throw into a salad?

 

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Sep 052015
 

Fig, Lentil and Goat's Cheese Salad

 

Eating fresh figs in Dubai is a rather decadent experience. Hard to find and usually expensive, I only buy a few at a time when they are in season from July to October. As much as I love washing the fruit and eating it straight, I know that sharing is important and a great way to stretch a small amount of figs between many people is to cut them into wedges and serve them in a salad.

 

I recently made a salad using fresh figs, Puy lentils, goat’s cheese, pine nuts and dark green leaves tossed in maple vinaigrette dressing. It was a delicious accompaniment to a roast lamb dinner served on the border just between summer and autumn.

 

Fig, Lentil and Goat's Cheese Salad

 

FIG, LENTIL AND GOAT’S CHEESE SALAD WITH MAPLE VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp coarse sea salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

 

Salad Ingredients:

3 fresh figs

85g / 3 oz / 4 cups (loosely packed) dark green leaves (ie. rocket/arugula, chard, spinach or a mix)

100g / 3.5 oz dried Puy lentils (or 200g cooked Puy lentils)

60g / 2 oz crumbly goat’s cheese

3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the salad dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shaking well. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Set aside.
  2. Wash and dry your green leaves. A salad spinner or a tea towel work well to remove excess water. Set aside.
  3. Cook your Puy lentils by simmering them in a pot of salted water (I also add a dried bay leaf to the water if I have it) for 15-20 minutes. See my step-by-step guide (with pictures) on How To Cook Puy Lentils. When done, the lentils should still have some bite to them. Drain the lentils (discard the water) and allow to cool. Set aside.
  4. Toast your pine nuts in a dry pan on low-medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. I use a small cast iron pan. Toss the pine nuts once in a while with a wooden spoon to make sure they toast evenly. Allow to cool on a plate and set aside.
  5. Wash and dry the figs. Remove the stalks on top and cut the figs into quarters or sixths, depending on their size. Set aside.
  6. To assemble the salad, loosely toss the cooled lentils and the green leaves in a large bowl.
  7. Place the tossed lentils and green leaves on a flat serving platter.
  8. Scatter your figs, toasted pine nuts and crumbled cheese on top.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  10. When you are ready to serve, drizzle the maple vinaigrette dressing on top of the salad. You may not need to use all of the dressing.

 

 

 

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Aug 242015
 

 

Summer 2015 for me was spent in England and Denmark visiting family. Although it has been over a month since I posted anything on my blog, I have been busy posting images on my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

 

I wanted to share some of my Instagram/Twitter images on my blog. As an expat living in Dubai, I have to say that although the desert is beautiful, I find that by summertime I am yearning for lush green grass, flowers and trees. For the most part, I avoided crowded urban areas during my holiday and instead sought out greenery and fresh air. I usually post images of food, but this summer I mostly posted images of grass, flowers and trees. In terms of food, I ate some salads but mostly I ate my mother and mother-in-law’s home cooking.

 

When you’re an expat, you miss the simplest things. Here are some of the things I enjoyed while on holiday. If you like the images, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter!

 

 

ENGLAND:

Instagram Collage UK1Instagram Collage UK2

 

DENMARK:

Instagram Collage DK1Instagram Collage DK2

 

If you like the images, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter!

 

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Jul 052015
 

Petit Pois Salad

 

Last week, the award-winning bistro La Serre asked me to try making one of the new summer salads on their menu, ‘Petit Pois Salad’. I was excited that La Serre had reached out to me but also somewhat nervous. I’m a confidant home cook, but this place has a great reputation for excellent food – would I really be able to re-create some of that food in my kitchen?

 

La Serre was started in 2013 by Executive Chef Izu Ani, the former Executive Chef of La Petite Maison in Dubai. In April 2015, La Serre was the first restaurant in the Middle East to be awarded the ‘Snail of Approval’ by The Slow Food Movement. The award is a recognition of the restaurant’s commitment to sourcing authentic, sustainable ingredients and respecting the time and effort it takes to create truly good food. A few months later in June 2015, Chef Izu was named Head Chef of the Year (Independent Outlet) at the Caterer Middle East awards.

 

The list of ingredients

The first thing I noticed about the recipe for Petit Pois Salad was that the ingredient list was comprised of easily accessible items which I have at home most of the time. The one ingredient that was not so easy to find in Dubai was the fresh petit pois, so I decided to use frozen organic peas instead. Sliced raw mange-tout would also work well and flavour-wise might be a closer approximation to fresh petit pois, so that’s an option I will experiment with next time I make this salad.

 

A small challenge with measurements

Despite the ingredient list being very accessible, what I found more challenging was one of the things which separates professional kitchens from home kitchens: the measurement units. In a professional kitchen, food is made in much larger quantities so measurements of salt, sugar and olive oil are often given in grams rather than the tablespoons and teaspoons which home cooks are accustomed to using. My manual weighing scale (which measures in units of 20g) did not manage to accurately weigh out 10 grams of sea salt. A small digital weighing scale may work better for this, but I don’t have one so I decided to just eyeball it and add as much salt, sugar and olive oil as looked right to me, which I think worked out well.

 

Confit tomato: to make it or buy it?

True to their ‘Slow Food’ ethos, there is one part of the Petit Pois Salad which requires three long, slow hours of cooking – the confit tomato. It was not difficult to make, but you would need to find a time when you will be at home for three hours straight. Since the heat is set extremely low (40 degrees Celsius), you can’t double-duty the oven by using it for anything else at the same time (forget throwing in a leg of lamb to cook alongside it for dinner). Although the concentrated flavour of the confit tomato was very good, the recipe helpfully suggests a short-cut for anyone who does not have the time or inclination to make homemade confit tomato: sun-dried tomatoes can be used as an alternative. It would be even better if you can find semi-dried tomatoes which are slightly plumper and more juicy than sun-dried tomatoes. While I am glad that I tried making home-made confit tomato, next time I will probably look for a jar of good quality semi-dried tomatoes to use instead.

 

The final result

I haven’t eaten the Petit Pois Salad at La Serre so I don’t know how closely mine compares to it, but I was very happy with the end result. Each bite was packed with fresh and vibrant flavours and would make a great summertime accompaniment to grilled fish or lamb. Below, I have included my own version of the recipe first (with the changes which I made along the way) and then the original version of the recipe from La Serre below it.

 

 

Share your thoughts: Have you tried the Petit Pois Salad at La Serre, Dubai? I would love to know your thoughts on it!

 

Petit Pois Salad

 

 

I have included my own version of the recipe first and the original version of the recipe afterwards.

 

PETIT POIS SALAD (Total Salads’ version)

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

280g small Italian peas, frozen peas, or raw mange-tout (sliced)

40g shallots

20g chives

2 Tbsp basil leaves (julienne – finely sliced)

40g confit tomato (see recipe below)

 

For the confit tomatothis can be substituted for sun-dried tomatoes 

  • 70g tomatoes (approximately 2 medium tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 1 plump garlic clove, finely chopped

 

For the white balsamic dressing

  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp jalapeno jus (juice from jalapeno jar)
  • 1/4 tsp Maldon salt flake

 

Directions:

  1. To make the confit tomato, blanch the tomatoes and skin them. To blanch the tomatoes, cut an ‘x’ into the bottom of the tomatoes and place them in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove them from the water and immediately place them in a bowl of ice-cold water. Allow them to sit in the cold water for 1-2 minutes.The tomato skins should easily slip off.
  2. Cut the blanched tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds inside. Remove any moisture with a paper towel.
  3. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and add the salt, sugar, oil, thyme and garlic. Mix thoroughly and spread out on a baking tray and leave to dry in a warm oven (40 degrees Celsius – my oven starts at 50 degrees Celsius so I used that temperature instead).
  4. Leave in the oven for three hours, remove and leave to cool. Dice, then set aside.
  5. To make the dressing put all ingredients into a Tupperware container and shake thoroughly.
  6. if you have fresh petit pois, separate them from their pods. If you are using frozen peas, boil them until al dente. If you are using mange-tout, wash and dry them and then slice them into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Season the peas with salt and then add the shallots, chives, basil leaves and confit tomato cubes then mix thoroughly.
  8. Arrange on a plate and dress liberally with the white balsamic dressing
  9. Season to taste, then serve.

 

 

 

PETIT POIS SALAD (La Serre’s original version)

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

280g small Italian peas

40g shallots

20g chives

Basil leaves (julienne) 

40g confit tomato (see recipe below)

 

For the confit tomatothis can be substituted for sun-dried tomatoes 

  • 70g tomatoes
  • 10g sea salt
  • 15g sugar
  • 45g olive oil
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 4g finely chopped garlic

 

For the white balsamic dressing

  • 200ml white balsamic
  • 320ml olive oil
  • 40g jalapeno jus (juice from jalapeno jar)
  • 10g Maldon salt flake

 

Directions:

  1. To make the confit tomato, blanch the tomatoes and skin them. Cut them into quarters and remove the insides, turning them into petals. Remove any moisture with a paper towel.
  2. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and add the salt, sugar, oil, thyme and garlic. Mix thoroughly and spread out on a baking tray and leave to dry in a warm oven (40 degrees Celsius).
  3. Leave in the oven for three hours, remove and leave to cool. Dice, then set aside.
  4. To make the dressing put all ingredients into a Tupperware container and shake thoroughly.
  5. Season the peas with salt and then add the shallots, chives, basil leaves and confit tomato cubes then mix thoroughly.
  6. Arrange on a plate and dress liberally with the white balsamic dressing
  7. Season to taste, then serve.

 

Share your thoughts: Have you tried the Petit Pois Salad at La Serre, Dubai? I would love to know your thoughts on it!

 

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Jun 092015
 

Almond-Cashew Milk

 

I have some members of my family who are allergic or intolerant to dairy products. Often people who are allergic to cow’s milk products can drink other types of milk such as goat’s milk or camel’s milk. However, since these are not mainstream products sometimes these milks are not available when I go to the supermarket, so I usually try to find a substitute such as rice milk or almond milk.

 

I was quite happy with these substitutes until I took a closer look at the ingredient list. Organic rice or almonds (yes!), agave syrup (too sweet), sunflower/canola oil (definitely not!), corn maltodextrin (just, no!).

 

These ingredient lists pushed me into trying to make nut milk myself at home, which would allow me to control what goes into it. And you know what? Nut milk is one of the easiest things in the world to make! I have made it using only almonds, and I have made it using a combination of almonds and cashews. Both are slightly different but very good. If you are making nut milk for the first time, I would recommend starting with almonds only for your first batch and then trying to mix different nuts to compare what combination you prefer. So far, I have always used a nut:water ratio of 1:2, but I may try adjusting the ratio to 1:1 to compare the flavor or consistency. I will keep you posted on that!

 

Share your thoughts: Do you make your own nut milk at home? Do you have any tips to share?

 

Almond-Cashew Milk

 

 

Almond-Cashew Milk

(makes 4 cups/1 liter – recipe can be halved)

 

Ingredients:

2 cups of whole nuts (1 cup almonds and 1 cup cashews; or 2 cups of only almonds or cashews)

4 cups/1 liter of drinking water

Pinch of sea salt

1/8 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract (optional)

1 tsp honey (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Measure out 2 cups of whole nuts and soak them in a bowl of drinking water for 8-12 hours at room temperature.
  2. After soaking, drain the nuts and discard the soaking water. There is no need to peel the skin off the almonds.
  3. Put the soaked nuts in a blender and add 4 cups of fresh drinking water.
  4. Pulse the blender a few times to break up the nuts.
  5. Blend for about a minute.
  6. Now it’s time to strain the milk. If you have a nut milk bag, use it. Otherwise, line a colander with a clean piece of cheesecloth and place the colander in a large bowl. Pour the nut milk into the nut milk bag or cheesecloth-lined colander. The milk will drip into the bowl while the ground nuts will stay in the cheesecloth. Discard the nuts (or use them for baking if you are so inclined.)
  7. Here’s a little tip if you don’t have a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. I actually don’t have either of them (keep meaning to buy them but always forget), so this is what I do. I just use a very fine mesh colander and strain the milk into a large bowl. I discard the nuts in the colander, and then restrain the milk from the bowl into the jug which I will use to refrigerate the milk. If you have a very picky child (like mine), you may want to strain it one last time through a tea strainer just prior to serving to get the very last teeny tiny invisible granules of nut out of the milk. It sounds like a lot of work, but actually it’s really not too difficult.
  8. Add a pinch of sea salt to the milk and stir.
  9. If you want to sweeten the milk, you can add some honey and vanilla/almond extract. I have put suggested amounts above but feel free to use whatever amount is to your taste.
  10. Cover the milk and refrigerate for up to 3 days. The milk may start to separate after the first day. Simply stir it before using.
  11. Note: You can adjust the amount of water depending on your taste preference. If you use less water, the flavour will be slightly more concentrated.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you make your own nut milk at home? Do you have any tips to share?

 

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Apr 142015
 

Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing

 


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 the asparagus is very thin, you can simply eat it raw. However, I find that raw asparagus doesn’t have the same depth of flavor as cooked asparagus. Roasting, sautéing, steaming, boiling and blanching are all good options.

 

In this recipe, I wanted to keep the flavors very fresh, so I opted for blanching my asparagus. Blanching is simply simmering your vegetables for a few minutes until they are just al dente and then plunging them into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. The ice water also helps brighten and set the beautiful green colour of the asparagus.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus?

 


Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing

 

ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH LEMON-SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 4)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

1 shallot, very finely diced (approximately 2 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used 4 twists of the pepper mill)

 

Salad Ingredients:

250g asparagus, bottom third cut off (discard or save for use in a stock)

200g green beans (stalk trimmed off) (alternatively, you can use green peas)

2 baby gem lettuces (enough lettuce to put a few leaves on the base of each plate)

4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 Tbsp chopped pecans/walnuts

 

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing, finely dice a shallot (you need around 2 Tbsp of diced shallot). Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside to allow the flavors to develop. Refrigerate if you are not using within an hour. This dressing can be made upto 48 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
  2. Roughly chop some walnuts or pecans (you will need about 4 Tbsp of chopped nuts). Set aside.
  3. Wash your radishes and lettuce leaves. Place them on a tea-towel to dry. Thinly slice the radishes. If you are using baby gem lettuce, you will not need to chop it as the leaves are small. If you are using another type f lettuce, you may want to chop it a little.
  4. Wash your asparagus. If the stalk is thick, cut off the lower third and then use a potato peeler to peel off one layer of the remaining lower half of the asparagus.
  5. Wash your green beans and cut off the stalks. I prefer to leave the green beans long rather than chop them.
  6. To blanch your vegetables, fill a large bowl with water and ice and set it aside. You will need this water to plunge the vegetables into after cooking.
  7. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Add some salt to the water. When the water is boiling, drop in the asparagus and cook them until they are just al dente, around 3 minutes (depending on thickness – mine were quite thick). Do not drain the water (you will need it for the next batch of vegetables). Remove the asparagus from the cooking pot with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry. Add more ice to the water if necessary.
  8. Make sure the pot of water is boiling and drop the green beans into it. Cook them until they are just al dente, around 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove them and place them in the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove them from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry.
  9. If not serving immediately, refrigerate your vegetables.
  10. To serve, allow the vegetables 10 minutes out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. Place the lettuce leaves on the bottom of the plate. Scatter some green beans on top and then place a few asparagus spears. Scatter some sliced radishes and chopped nuts on top.
  11. Shake the dressing. Serve the dressing on the side or drizzled on top.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus? 

 

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Apr 032015
 

Classic 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 advocate of mashing your eggs with a fork because it gives you the most control to get the texture you want. For me, the ideal texture is when the egg pieces are small and uneven.
  • Egg slicer – Some people use an egg slicer to slice their eggs in one direction and then rotate the eggs and slice through them again to get evenly diced pieces. I have tried this method and I really didn’t like the angular uniform texture it created. But if you use this method and you like, then go for it!
  • Food processor – Some people use their food processor to make a very smooth whipped spread, but for me this method leaves no texture to the eggs. I prefer something chunkier. Plus, do you really want to have to wash your food processor just for a simple egg salad?

 

To Add or Not To Add Mayonnaise

 

Mayonnaise is another biggy. Some people add loads while others avoid it entirely. I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise. I have tried finding an alternative to put into my egg salads by using yogurt or creme fraiche, but somehow I haven’t quite got the taste right yet. In this recipe for Simple Egg Salad, I use 3 Tbsp of mayonnaise and then thin it out with 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice, which makes the dressing less cloying and much fresher.

 

A Little Tip About the Sequence of Adding the Ingredients

 

As for the the sequence in which to add ingredients while making an egg salad, here is a little tip I recently discovered. In the past, I would always mash my eggs directly into the dressing which tended to make the egg salad a little mushy. But then I realised that there is a better way, so here is what I do now. I get two medium-sized bowls. In the first bowl I prepare my dressing mixture and in the second bowl I mash my eggs. Once the eggs are mashed to my desired consistency, I tip them into the dressing and fold them together. That way I am simply coating the eggs in dressing. Once the dressing and eggs are mixed, I fold in my chopped vegetables and herbs.

 

 

Share your thoughts: I am going to be experimenting with Egg Salad recipes. What do you add to your Simple Egg Salad which I have left out?

 

Classic Egg Salad

 

 

CLASSIC EGG SALAD

 

Ingredients:

6 hardboiled eggs

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 celery stalk (optional)

2 scallions/spring onions or 2 Tbsp of chopped chives (optional)

2 Tbsp freshly chopped dill or parsley (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Hard-boil 6 eggs. For directions on how to cook hard-boiled eggs, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine 3 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1 tsp coarse sea salt. Set aside.
  3. Wash and chop 1 celery stalk, 2 scallions/spring onions (or chives), and some dill or parsley. Set aside.
  4. Peel your hard-boiled eggs.
  5. In another medium-sized bowl, mash your peeled hard-boiled eggs with a fork to your desired texture.
  6. Add your mashed hard-boiled eggs to your mayonnaise mixture and fold together.
  7. Fold in the chopped celery, scallions/spring onions/chives, and dill/parsley (optional).
  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  9. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh black pepper on bread, toast or lettuce leaves.

 

Share your thoughts: I am going to be experimenting with Egg Salad recipes. What do you add to your Simple Egg Salad which I have left out?

 

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Mar 182015
 

 

Spinach, Feta and Walnut Salad

 

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 haven’t tried it before, pomegranate molasses tastes like a liquified cherry lollipop but tangier. If you can’t get your hands on pomegranate molasses, feel free to replace it with a slightly sweet vinegar like balsamic. The molasses will not emulsify with the olive oil (don’t even try). Just shake it up and drizzle it over the salad immediately before serving.

 

This salad is guaranteed to increase your appetite and is a great first course in the run-up to a large dinner.

 

Now if I can just get my hands on a good recipe for Persian Chelow Kebab!

 

Share your thoughts: If you celebrate Nowruz, share some of the food you traditionally eat on the day in the comment section below. (And if you have a good recipe for Chelo Kebab, please share!)

 

Spinach, Feta and Walnut Salad

 

 

SPINACH, WALNUT AND FETA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE DRESSING

(Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients: (makes 1/2 cup)

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (also called pomegranate syrup/concentrate) – alternatively, you can use balsamic vinegar

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of sea salt

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

12 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half

100g / 4oz / 6 handfuls / 6 loosely packed cups of fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped

4 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, washed and roughly chopped

100g / 4oz feta cheese, diced or roughly crumbled

4 Tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped

 

 

Directions:

  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a clean empty jam jar with a lid. Close the lid and shake well. Keep at room temperature while you prepare the salad.
  2. Wash and cut the baby spinach leaves, mint leaves and cherry tomatoes. Toss them together in a large bowl.
  3. Chop up the walnuts and feta cheese, and fold them into the salad.
  4. Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve. Drizzle with the pomegranate dressing (a little goes a long way) just before serving.

 

Share your thoughts: If you celebrate Nowruz, share some of the food you traditionally eat on the day in the comment section below. (And if you have a good recipe for Chelo Kebab, please share!)

 

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Mar 082015
 

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 Chocolate Avocado Mousse out there. They all include avocado and good quality cocoa powder. Some recipes use ripe bananas while others use dates – I opted for the bananas because I felt that the dates might make the mousse somewhat heavy. Typical sweeteners were either honey or agave syrup – I opted for honey because it’s my favorite sweetener and I just love it.

 

The first time I made Chocolate Avocado Mousse, I was stunned that it actually worked. The fact that something which looked like a fruit salad a few moments before could be whipped into something which looked just like chocolate mousse blew my mind. I dipped my spoon into it and was amazed at how light and fluffy the texture was. I tasted it and it was good. It was good… but I felt it could be better.

 

The banana flavor in it was just ever so slightly overpowering. I wanted to find a way to neutralize the banana’s taste, so I increased the honey and vanilla essence and added some coconut oil (coconut cream works as well) and a tiny pinch of sea salt. I also discovered that if I put the mousse in the refrigerator for a while (anywhere from 1-24 hours), it tasted even better. A scattering of berries and chopped nuts is optional, but I highly recommend it both for the texture contrast it brings and to the nutritional boost.

 

Is Chocolate Avocado Mousse exactly like a real chocolate mousse served in a Parisian restaurant? No, it’s not. Is it a good alternative? Yes, most definitely. It looks and feels like chocolate mousse, it tastes very close to chocolate mousse, and it’s much healthier and easier to make.

 

 

Share your thoughts: If you have tried making Chocolate Avocado Mousse, share your tips and experience in the comment section below.

 

 

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

 

 

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO MOUSSE

(makes approximately 1 and 1/2 cups)

 

Ingredients:

1 ripe medium-sized avocado (in terms of weight, about 250g/9 oz whole uncut avocado OR 200g/7 oz avocado with the skin and seed removed)

2 very ripe medium-sized bananas (in terms of weight, about 300g/10 oz whole unpeeled bananas OR 200g/7 oz bananas with their peels removed)

4 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder (better to use a cocoa powder with at least 62% cocoa solids or more)

2 Tbsp coconut oil OR 6 Tbsp tinned coconut cream (stir the contents of the can to mix it well)

2 Tbsp honey

1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

A pinch of sea salt

Some chopped nuts (to garnish, optional)

Some berries (to garnish, optional)

 

NB: You need to use a food processor for this recipe

 

Directions:

  1. All the ingredients will be blended in the food processor, so remove the lid and drop the ingredients in one at a time.
  2. Get 2 very ripe medium-sized bananas and remove their peels – the peeled bananas should have a combined weight of about 200g/7 oz (if the weight is less than that, add more bananas). Break each banana into about 6 pieces by hand, and drop them into the food processor. Discard the banana peels.
  3. Cut a ripe avocado in half and remove the seed. Cut the avocado inside the skin into pieces (but without cutting through the skin) and then scoop out the avocado directly into the food processor. Discard the avocado skin and seed.
  4. Get your spoon measure, and put the cocoa powder, coconut oil (or coconut cream), vanilla extract and honey into the food processor. Add a pinch of sea salt.
  5. Put the lid on your food processor and blend for about 30 seconds. Remove the lid to taste it, and add more honey or vanilla if necessary.
  6. Put the lid back on and process until smooth, which should be another 15-30 seconds.
  7. Remove the mousse from the food processor into a bowl.
  8. The mousse can be eaten straightaway, but I find that giving it a bit of time in the refrigerator for 1-24 hours helps its flavors develop even further.
  9. Serve with a sprinkle of nuts and berries (optional)

 

Share your thoughts: If you have tried making Chocolate Avocado Mousse, share your tips and experience in the comment section below.

 

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