Glazed Fig Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

We’ve tried several times to grow figs at the farm. Each time, despite great care (deep hole, sheltered position etc) the tree doesn’t make it. So unfortunately figs are one of the fruits I have to buy.

They’re in season for such a short time and they don’t freeze well, so make the most of them while you can. Another delicious way to serve them in a savoury dish is with Smoked Salmon.

1 Tbs olive oil
12 fresh figs cut in half, stems removed
Mixed salad leaves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan over moderate heat
100g feta cheese or goat’s cheese
Dressing:
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Place figs in the pan, cut side down and cook until lightly browned and caramelised. Remove from pan. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix salad greens with some of the dressing and arrange on a large, flat serving dish. Arrange the figs, cheese and pine nuts on top, then drizzle with more of the dressing.

Serves 4

Sweet Potato & Spinach Salad with Rice and Cranberries

Lunch with our dear friends Lorna and Jim is always a pleasure.  At our recent catch up Lorna served this delicious salad with confit salmon, followed by strawberries and ice cream.

The original recipe said to leave the skin on the sweet potato, but I decided to peel mine as it was rather blemished. If you’re missing one or two ingredients don’t worry, I’ve listed some substitutions which would work.

1 medium sweet potato (about 500g)
2 red onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6ths or 8ths
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup brown basmati rice
1½ cups water
100g baby spinach leaves
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pistachios
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Scrub sweet potato or peel if preferred, then cut into 1.5cm cubes. Mix with the onions and 2 tsp olive oil then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 mins. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile place rice in a saucepan with the water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down the heat as low as it will go and cook until water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and leave to continue steaming. Cool.

Place dressing in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss.

Serves 6

Substitutions:
Pumpkin instead of sweet potato
White onions instead of red
White rice instead of brown
Rocket instead of spinach or half and half
Sour cherries or raisins instead of cranberries
Pine nuts (toasted) instead of pistachios
Goat’s cheese instead of feta
Cider vinegar or lemon juice nstead of red wine vinegar

 

Ottolenghi’s Rice Salad with Nuts, Sour Cherries & Grilled Salmon

While staying with our son and daughter-in-law in London they served this unusual rice salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook Plenty More.

It’s delicious on its own, but they served it on individual plates, topped with a portion of pan-fried salmon with crispy skin. For a recent buffet dinner I made one and a half times the rice salad, then baked a one kilo side of skinned and deboned salmon (from Costco), brushed with Thai sweet chilli sauce, at 200°C for 8-10 minutes and placed it on top of the salad. I prepared all the ingredients for the salad earlier in the day and mixed everything together 10 minutes before serving. The salmon can be hot or at room temperature.

I couldn’t find wild rice in Coles, Woolworths or Aldi. The health food store had a packet of 125g for $9.95 which works out at $80 a kilo. Ridiculous! Black rice, which costs around $10 a kilo can be found in all major supermarkets in Australia. It’s a very good substitute and a great colour contrast to the basmati, so I used that.

Ottolenghi cooks the basmati rice by the absorption method. I prefer to cook it in plenty of boiling water, the same as the wild/black rice and the quinoa, so you have more control over when to stop the cooking process. You want all the grains to have a bit of bite to them – al dente as the Italians say.

1 cup wild rice or black rice
1¼ cups basmati rice
4 Tbs olive oil
2/3 cup quinoa
60g almonds, skins on, coarsely chopped
60g pine nuts
3 Tbs sunflower oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2/3 cup chopped basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped tarragon leaves
2 cups rocket leaves
2/3 cup dried sour cherries (I bought them in Costco)
¼ cup lemon juice
Grated rind 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grilled salmon portions to serve (optional)

Place wild rice in a pan, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil then simmer for 35 minutes until cooked but firm. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again. Cook basmati rice in plenty of boiling salted water until cooked but firm. Drain, rinse and drain.

Cook quinoa in boiling water for 9 mins then drain, rinse and leave to drain. Place the almonds and pine nuts in a small frying pan with one tablespoonful of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook stirring until just starting to colour then set aside. Heat sunflower oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Cook over high heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until onions are soft with a few crispy bits. Drain on paper towels.

In a large salad bowl place all the grains, chopped herbs, rocket, fried onion, nuts and sour cherries. Add the lemon juice and zest, the remaining 3 Tbs olive oil, the garlic, half a teaspoon of salt (or to taste) and some pepper. Mix well then stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve the salad as it is or topped with grilled, pan fried or baked salmon.

Serves 8

Substitutions: 

  • use dried cranberries instead of sour cherries
  • use black rice or brown rice instead of wild rice
  • use skinned almonds if that’s all you have
  • use more parsley and basil if you don’t have any tarragon
  • if you don’t have any quinoa just leave it out

Jerusalem Artichoke and Blue Cheese Salad

We grow Jerusalem artichokes so I’m always looking of new ways to serve them. If you look in the index you will find several recipes.  This is a slightly adapted recipe from Maggie Beer. I made half this recipe to serve two.

1kg Jerusalem artichokes
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter, melted
½ cup walnut or pecan nut halves
2 tsp maple syrup and 2 tsp olive oil
1 bunch rocket
100g creamy blue cheese, cut into wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs verjuice (or substitute white wine or cider vinegar)
2 Tbs walnut (or substitute olive oil)

Wash, scrub and trim the artichokes. Slice thickly or if small cut them in half. Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix artichokes with the oil and butter in a bowl then spread on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. They should be in a single layer, so you may need two baking sheets. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender and golden brown.

Place walnuts or pecans in a small frying pan with the maple syrup and olive oil and stir over moderate heat until slightly glazed. Cool, then coarsely break them up. Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange artichokes, rocket and cheese on serving platter. Scatter over the nuts, drizzle with a little dressing and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 as a side dish or starter

Variation: use parsnips or carrots instead of the artichokes

Coleslaw with Carrot Dressing

This is an unusual coleslaw because it doesn’t contain any mayonnaise. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment it’s very quick to make, but you can of course do the grating by hand.

½ large white cabbage or 1 small one
1 head broccoli or half a cauliflower, coarsely chopped or sliced
6 sliced spring onions
½ cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
½ cup sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
Carrot dressing:
2 carrots
1 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed  (optional)
1 Tbs sesame oil
½ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the thinly shredded cabbage in a large salad bowl with the broccoli or cauliflower (I used cauli in the photo, but broccoli would have been more colourful) and the spring onions. Stir the seeds and nuts over a medium heat in a dry frying pan, until lightly toasted and add to the bowl.

Using the grating attachment of your food processor, grate the carrots. Then, leaving the carrots in the bowl, switch to the metal mixing blade, add remaining ingredients and mix until you have a bright orange dressing. Add to the salad bowl, mix well then scatter the dried fruit over the top.

Serves 6-8

Variations: add some shredded red cabbage or strips of red capsicum.

 

Zucchini Salad with Mint Dressing

When we go to our farm in summer we pick all the zucchinis before we return to Canberra. As we only go every second weekend this means we bring back some huge ones, which have grown since our last visit – actually they are more like marrows – and some small ones which we pick in order to stop them growing huge before our return.

The big ones are good for soup or for Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream, one of our all-time favourite recipes for this versatile vegetable. The small ones are good for recipes such as Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Zucchini Ribbons or Zucchini Bake, another family favourite.

This salad with its vibrant green dressing is another good way to use smaller zucchini or as Matthew calls them, the ones that haven’t got away. It’s absolutely scrumptious and very healthy. If you have some zucchini flowers to garnish this salad they look quite spectacular. Unfortunately I didn’t have any for this photo.

6 zucchini (courgettes) about 6″ or 15cm long
60g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
1 cup mint leaves
½ cup olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon and the grated rind of half
To garnish:
2 Tbs seeds such as sunflower, sesame, pepitas
A few zucchini flowers (optional)

Wash zucchini and trim off the ends then slice them horizontally with a mandoline. Place in a salad bowl with the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Place all ingredients for dressing in food processor and process till you have a vibrant green dressing. Place seeds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted.

Drizzle some of the dressing over the zucchini and parmesan and mix well. Garnish with the toasted seeds, the zucchini flowers (if available) and drizzle with a bit more dressing.

Serves 4-6

 

 

Japanese Raw Fish Salad

We went to a Japanese restaurant in Bangkok last month which served delicious, light and very reasonably-priced food. I ordered a raw fish salad, which was a generous main course size and cost around $10. It was so delicious we went back, I ordered it again and decided to recreate it when we got back.

This is a recipe for people who like raw fish. Buy very fresh, sashimi quality and discard any fibrous, stringy bits as you cut it up. While the idea of fake crab stick is an anathema to many people, that’s what they used in Bangkok and I was pleasantly surprised. It added a touch of sweetness to the flavour combination. If preferred substitute cooked crab or leave it out and use a bit more fish.

The salad was topped with about two tablespoons of salmon caviar. These salty little delicacies explode in your mouth and really make the dish. They must be much cheaper in Thailand than they are in Australia where they retail for over $30 for a 100g jar. In this country there’s no way you could be so generous with the caviar and only charge $10 for the dish. You can buy red fake caviar in most supermarkets for a fraction of the cost, but it’s not the same thing and to be avoided.

About 8-10 cups small salad leaves
350 firm white fish, cut into fat matchsticks
350 salmon, cut into fat matchsticks
200g crab sticks, cut into fine julienne
Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
Juice of 1 lemon
Tabasco or hot chilli sauce, to taste
Garnish:
1 small jar salmon caviar

Arrange salad leaves on 4 large or 8 small plates. Arrange the fish and crab sticks on top in layers.

Mix all ingredients for sauce. Drizzle over the salads and garnish with the salmon caviar.

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

This lovely summery salad was in a supermarket recipe hand out. I’ve made a few changes as I always do. Perfect for the warmer weather when mangoes are in season.

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup boiling water
About six cups mixed salad leaves
1 mango, peeled, stoned and thinly sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper) thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
300g cooked, peeled prawns (weight after peeling)
100g feta or fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts or pecans
1 Tbs honey
Dressing:
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place onion in a small bowl. Add salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well then leave to macerate for half an hour or more. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange salad leaves in a large shallow bowl or four individual serving plates. Use small leaves or break larger ones into bite sized pieces. Top with the mango, capsicum, tomatoes, prawns, feta or goat’s cheese and the drained onions. Place walnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Add honey, stir to coat, then arrange over the salad. If you do this ahead and let them get cold they will stick to the pan, so you will need to turn the heat back on briefly to loosen them. Drizzle salad with some of the dressing.

Serves 4

Variation: use peaches or nectarines instead of mangoes.

Warm Rocket and Caramelised Mushroom Salad

There seem to be a lot of lunches to attend at this time of year. After a substantial lunch it’s nice to make something light but tasty for supper.

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2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
About 400g fancy mushrooms (shitake, oyster, porcini) or ordinary mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 cups rocket (or baby kale) washed and spun dry
¼ cup dry sherry
100g fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
3-4 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
Dressing:
3 Tbs sherry vinegar (or another kind
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook shallots over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5-10 minutes or until starting to brown. Add sherry, season with salt and pepper then cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile shake dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Mix rocket with enough dressing to lightly coat and place in a large serving dish. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on top of the rocket and top with the cheese and the pine nuts if using – I didn’t in this photo.

Serves 4

Las Vegas Country Club Salad

The Las Vegas Strip in Clark County, Nevada USA is famous for its hotels and casinos, many of which have amazing architecture and lights.

But there’s more to Vegas than the Strip. Normal people live normal lives in the rest of the town. They go to work or school and rarely go to the touristy area. We recently visited two cousins who live in Las Vegas proper, where they both work as lawyers. It was great to catch up and to cross the nearby Grand Canyon off our bucket list. We splurged and went by helicopter and it was indeed an amazing experience.

Tom and Bob both live in houses located in the grounds of the Las Vegas Country Club and we stayed with Bob. Invited to the Club house for lunch on the day we arrived,  I chose this delicious, healthy salad which was so good I decided to try and replicate it on my return.

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Mesclun or small lettuce leaves
12 large slices of tomato
12 spears asparagus
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1-2 pita breads
Olive oil and grated Parmesan
Paprika
Chicken and Walnut Salad
2 cups cooked roast chicken, diced
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste
Tuna and Celery Salad
2 cups canned tuna, drained
½ cup very finely diced celery
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
1 Tbs finely chopped red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg and Chive Salad

2 cups diced hard boiled eggs (about 5 or 6), diced
¼ cup snipped chives
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste

Make mayonnaise then make the three different salads by mixing all ingredients together. Use enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. Refrigerate till serving time.

Split pita breads in half horizontally, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some finely grated Parmesan. Cut into long pointy pieces then bake at 180°C for 10-15 mins or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Wash and trim asparagus and cook in boiling salted water for about 4 mins. Drain and cool. All of this can be done ahead. To serve, arrange salad leaves on four serving dishes – rectangular ones look good. Then place three tomato slices on each plate.

Find a small rounded bowl, ramekin or measuring cup which holds about half a cup. The diameter needs to be about the size of the tomato slices.

Spray with oil, fill with about a quarter of the mixture and pack down well. Tip out onto a tomato slice. Rinse, dry and re-oil then repeat with the other salads, so each serving has a mound of each. If preferred just dollop it on with a tablespoon.

Garnish plates with asparagus, hard boiled egg slices, a shake of paprika and a couple of pita toasts.

Serves 4