Salads for Summer

London has recently decided that it was missing out on summer; we’ve now had about 2 weeks of very hot temperatures (mostly sunny, but with a few massive summer storms). So, like last year, I am doing a wee roundup of new (to me), interesting salads that are good for hot weather.

Carrot, Couscous, & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing {recipe}
I made this quite a while ago now – my version featuring the addition of couscous and cilantro (of course) and without the pistachios. The 3 Cs make a great combination — tasty, filling, healthy, and little effort required. *Note: to make this no-cook, simply use chickpeas from a can, or soak overnight. I like the roasting though because it adds a bit of a bite.

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Roasted Carrot, Avocado & Citrus Salad
 {recipe}
I’m contradicting myself a bit with this salad because it does involve turning the oven on and roasting carrots (of course better done on a BBQ if you are fortunate enough to have a yard one!). This salad might look a bit tedious and intimidating, as there are quite a few ingredients, but I promise it will be worth it! The recipe is Tim from Lottie + Doof’s take on one served at the Pump Room at Chicago’s Public Hotel. He calls it “the salad of our generation.” I don’t know about that, but the mix is delectable and the effort worth it.

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Grilled Corn Salad with Mint, Cilantro, & Feta {recipe}
This Lebanese salad is surprisingly filling, and perfect either on its own or as a side for a BBQ or summer potluck. In my version, I omitted the red onion and added a healthy dose of fresh cilantro leaves. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to grill my corn, but it was still good without. This dish is so tasty (if, like me, you love corn ;) ), and ideal for hot weather!

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Blueberry Avocado Muffins

H. was very confused when I started whisking avocado and sugar together whilst making these muffins. Fair enough! It isn’t the most obvious combination. The avocado replaces butter or oil (although I’ll be honest I chose the recipe not for that reason but because I had an avocado I needed to use up and was intrigued).

As you can see I did not make the topping and mine appear slightly lumpier than the ones in the original link. Oh well. They tasted good! They didn’t surpass the blueberry muffins I made 2 years ago because I didn’t pick the berries myself and they were not as fresh. But I am a blueberry fiend so I thoroughly enjoyed them, as did did H. and our friend P. who was visiting from western Canada. :)

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The Seduction of Simplicity: Summer Greens in Tahini Dressing

This is definitely one of those “it’s so simple, why didn’t I think of it before” dishes. And although it looks and sounds a bit like a side dish, I had this meal on its own for lunch one day and it was so filling that I couldn’t finish it. The “recipe”, from a new book called A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, appeared on A Little Bird, and I happened to have all of the ingredients, including some green beans that really needed to be eaten up. It is the perfect example of less is more.

In my version I didn’t include the maple syrup (too precious!), so just toasted the nuts with a bit of salt and pepper, and then replaced it with honey in the dressing.

Although this is perfect for summer (very little prep and less than a minute to blanch), Anna’s recipe includes options for all seasons using other greens such as kale, broccoli, sprouts, etc. If you like tahini or haven’t yet tried it I would urge you to give it a go. :)

 

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North Yorkshire

For the past couple of years for Christmas, H.’s parents have very generously and kindly given us a little money to put towards a trip. Last year we went to Lisbon; this year we stayed in the UK and visited the North York Moors. It is an area of the country I have always wanted to spend more time in, and we definitely got want we wanted: solitude, lovely scenery, kind people, good pubs, walks, wildlife — a brief escape from our busy busy lives in London. And we got ID’ed buying alcohol at M&S in York! Ha (we’re 27 & 30…..and the age is 18 :D). Here are a few photos.

 

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Near Kirkham Abbey

Near Kirkham Abbey

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Your esteemed

In the evening light!

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(Polpo’s) Pork & Fennel Polpette

Russell Norman is having a bit of an “it” moment. Or rather he was a few months ago, when his show The Restaurant Man aired on BBC2 (H. and I were definitely fans). Norman is the owner of several very successful establishments in London. There’s no doubt he’s a talented restaurateur (read his how-to guide to building a restaurant empire here!). I have been to two of his places and in my very humble opinion think are slightly overrated. Neither the service nor the food at either left me eagerly planning my next trip back.

That said, Recently H. an I got our hands on some organic pork mince and I decided to try Russell’s recipe for pork and fennel polpette (note that I don’t have the Polpo cookbook but rather have the recipe saved from a free sample from Waterstones). I have to give it to him: the polpette were easy to make and really tasty. The fennel and pork combination really works.

Pork & Fennel Polpette
(adapted for 2 from Polpo)

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  • Mix the following in a large mixing bowl: 250g ground pork, 2 smallish eggs, 25g breadcrumbs, small pinch of chilli flakes, 1 tsp (or more as desired) toasted ground fennel seeds, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 tsp ground pepper.
  • Roll the mixture into balls and place them on a greased baking tray. Roast for 10 minutes, turning once, until they start to brown.
  • Finally, poach the meatballs in tomato sauce in a saucepan for 10 minutes.

My recipe for tomato sauce is as follows:    (*note that this make a generous amount needed for the polpette)

  • 2 cans good-quality diced or crushed tomatoes (best you can find)
  • 2 shallots (can also use an onion but I prefer the more subtle taste of the shallot) and 3-4 cloves/garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • large pinch of salt and generous grind of pepper (starting to sound a bit like Jamie Oliver here)
  • 3/4 tsp of tomato paste
  • mixed dried herbs, as desired

250g of pork made more than enough for the two of us. We had them with the slightly odd and not-very-classical-Venetian garlic mashed potatoes (I needed to use them up!) and a side salad.
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Spicy Kale & Brown Rice Stirfry

The name of this post has to be one of the least appetizing-sounding meals I’ve ever written about. It’s certainly not something I’d ever order at a restaurant! Fortunately its taste greatly surpasses the description. It is healthy and delicious and a bonus if like me you love brown rice.

I found the recipe on a great whole foods-focused blog that I’ve been reading for some time. I made a few changes in my version. While I love coconut milk I am not a big fan of coconut in other forms. I therefore only included about a tablespoon of toasted flakes (!). I think H. maybe would have preferred a few more. The kale also got a bit lost in mine (by the time it wilts down) — I used what I thought looked like a large bunch but probably could have done with a bit more.

This meal won full stamp of approval from both of us and is definitely a low-cook (not no-cook unfortunately) option for hot summer weather — though I will have to live vicariously through readers as the weather here in London is very temperamental and un-summer-like at the moment!

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Disclaimer: this picture shows full evidence of my addiction to coriander. ;)

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The Humble Egg

I started writing this post around Father’s Day, with the intention of being slightly more timely and dedicating it to my dad. However good my intentions, it obviously didn’t happen. So, while I may be a few weeks late, I’m still dedicating it to him. :)

My dad is THE healthiest person I know. He is very strict when it comes to diet and exercise and I really look up to him for that. He is a huge champion of (in his words) “the humble egg.” Whenever I am pondering out loud what to cook one night, he invariably suggests eggs! I think it’s a good reminder, because it’s easy to over-complicate things when actually a simple and delicious meal can often be staring you right in the face.

In the spirit of that I’m sharing a couple of egg-based recipes. The first is this chorizo, chickpea, & spinach frittata. We were lucky to still have some chorizo from our recent trip to Spain. Both H. & I enjoyed this — the varying textures really make it. I didn’t include the roasted red pepper but I bet it would be even better with it.

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The second one is my own creation, another frittata, spinach, basil, & pesto. This was born out of the need to use things up before we go away, but the combination worked!

I have not yet managed to learn the art of perfect eggs. I almost always overcook them. It’s a matter of seconds too. I usually start frittatas on the stove and then put them into the oven. But as you can see the picture below doesn’t look very frittata-like and I still managed to overcook it slightly.

Looking a little hash-like....oops.

Looking a little hash-like….oops.

 

More of my posts featuring eggs: zucchini + tomato frittata, quiche, shakshuka part 1, shakshuka part 2, baked mushrooms + eggs, & spicy baked beans with an egg on top.

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June 2014 Favourites

First and foremost, Happy Canada Day to Canadians – wherever you may be in the world – and to those who love Canada. :)

I didn’t get a chance to do a favourites post in May, but hopefully something on this list makes up for it! As we slide into summer, I feel like I am busier than ever. June was an incredibly full but fulfilling month. I spent a week in Italy at an intense summer school, and on the day I got back started working part-time (as a researcher). I’ve now done 2 weeks of FT PhD/PT working and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going but I’m learning new things every day and earning money, so it can’t be too bad can it?

◌ I can’t start off a June “favourites” without saying something about the football World Cup. It has been, in a word, incredible! With the quarter-finals, Wimbledon, and the Tour de France coming up this weekend, we are completely spoiled by sport at the moment (H. & I will be watching from north Yorkshire!).

◌ This is a lesson I often need reminding of.

◌ I adore this story about Newfoundland’s Fogo Island (the rest of the site is worth exploring too).

Balsamic strawberry margaritas, anyone?

This list has been making the rounds, but I can identify with several!

Eat your way around World Cup team restaurants in London.

Asian-inspired summer soups from Bill Granger.

◌ I haven’t been reading as much as I would like to lately, but I do have two (very different) recommendations: The Monster of Florence and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? 

◌ Jerry Seinfeld + Sarah Jessica Parker – can’t deny I enjoyed this episode of Comedians in Cars!

 

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Learning about institutions and policy change in Venezia!

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Fried Zucchini Blossoms

I am always telling myself that I need to try new things and keep challenging myself in the kitchen. It’s very easy to stay in one’s comfort zone — not necessarily making the same things over and over, but using the same ingredients. I find this to be particularly true with meat and vegetables. So, when I saw zucchini blossoms at the market this past Saturday (yes, I’ve been trying to write this post all week), I decided to buy them and give it a go.

After Googling and consulting the Italian bible, I decided to stuff half of them with anchovies and half with feta. Ideally I’d have used mozzarella but we didn’t have any, and Germany was playing so I couldn’t leave the house. ;) After stuffing I rolled each blossom in a flour/water paste, and then lightly fried.

The flowers are delicate in both handling them as well as taste. I wasn’t sure what to expect. They were pleasant, but not strongly flavoured. I found the anchovies way too salty — I would not go for that option again (apparently there are two types of anchovies — I obviously have the wrong ones). The feta ones were good though. We had them with a side salad of mixed greens, which made for an easy light summer meal!

zucchini blossoms

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Rhubarb & Polenta Muffins

It’s so funny how one’s tastebuds change as time passes. When I was younger I really couldn’t stand rhubarb. My mum has always loved it — we used to pick it wild out of our neighbour’s garden (with permission, of course!) and she’d stew it and eat it plain with everything. At the time I thought it was awful. Now I love it.

Kathryn’s post on London Bakes immediately appealed because I happened to have all of the ingredients and I was intrigued by the addition of polenta. Baking with polenta is completely new to me, but I have to say I’m pleased with the results. *Although these muffins say gluten-free in their original version, mine were not, as I used a combination of plain & wholemeal flour. The flour content is very low though – only 50g.

I doubled the recipe because 6 muffins don’t last long in our household! (Note that I wasn’t even able to snap a picture of all 12!). The only other change I made is cutting the sugar in half as per one of the comments. The polenta gives the muffins a very distinctive, slightly gritty texture that I daresay would not appeal to everyone. It’s not Starbucks-smooth. But I like the added bite. The best comparison I can come up with is sand! But good sand (ha!). I was not sure how the muffins would go down with H., but he likes them as well, and I do think they’d appeal to most.

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PS: Random fact of the day –> rhubarb is actually a vegetable. Except in New York.

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