Kale Salad with Orange and Sesame Dressing

Kale is a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts. First cultivated around 2000 BC there’s nothing new about this green leafy vegetable, but in the past few years it’s enjoyed a revival as a super food.

Packed with vitamins and minerals, kale has high levels of vitamin K and C as well as iron.  Antioxidants make it great for lowering cholesterol and while you can cook it, just like spinach, the best way to maximise the nutritional benefits is to eat it raw.

The first kale salad I made was tough and chewy. I ate it because it was good for me, not because I enjoyed it. But the following day I discovered that the leftovers were delicious. The trick is to dress the salad several hours before serving, so the kale leaves soften. Then you add a bit of crunch to the salad just before serving with some nuts, seeds and crispy pita bread.

My brother David passed on this recipe from a café where he had lunch in Vancouver recently. The “recipe” came from dissecting and studying what was on his plate and taking notes. I’ve further adjusted his version with the addition of tahini in the dressing and crunchy fried pita bread on top.

1 bunch kale
1 cup seedless grapes (I used red ones)
2 cups thinly sliced raw cauliflower
2 spring onions or ½ red onion, sliced (optional)
Dressing:
Juice of 1 large orange (about ½ cup)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs tahini
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs honey (sugar or maple syrup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
Topping:
1 large pita bread
2 Tbs olive oil
2 heaped Tbs each flaked almonds, pecan nuts and sunflower seeds

Wash kale, spin dry then remove stalks and slice thinly. Cut cauliflower slices into smaller pieces. Place kale, grapes, cauliflower and onion in a large salad bowl.

Using a stick blender or food processor mix all ingredients for dressing till smooth, then pour into a jar.

Add enough dressing to moisten the salad, mix well then stand for several hours before serving. You will have enough dressing left for another time.

Meanwhile for the topping, separate the two sides of the pita bread and cut 2-3 cm pieces. Heat oil and add the pita, nuts and seeds. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until pita is golden.

Give the salad a final mix, top with the pita mixture and serve.

Serves 4

Variations: use pine nuts instead of pecans or almonds. Use spinach instead of kale.

Zucchini, Goat’s Cheese and Pea Tart

Cleaning out the freezer I found a ball of shortcrust pastry I had forgotten about. Once thawed I looked in the fridge to see what I could find to make a savoury tart, without going shopping, and came up with this. Leftovers heated up well for lunch the following day.

If you have fresh peas in the garden by all means use those instead of frozen peas.

1 batch home-made shortcrust pastry (or substitute shop bought)
4 eggs
½ cup cream or milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs chopped mint
350g coarsely grated zucchini (courgette)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
To serve:
1 cup frozen peas, extra
Mint sprigs

Preheat oven to 180°C. Use pastry to line base and sides of a slice pan, about 20/25 cm by about 30cm. Place zucchini in a sieve and mix in a teaspoon of salt. Leave to drain, then push down on it to squeeze out excess liquid. Beat eggs with cream or milk and lemon rind. Add zucchini, peas and lots of pepper then pour evenly into the pastry case. Scatter cheese over the top then bake for 25-30 mins or until set.

Meanwhile pour boiling water over the extra peas. Leave for a minute then drain. Cut the tart into squares and garnish with the extra peas and mint sprigs.

Serves 6

Variations: use asparagus spears, thinly sliced on the diagonal, instead of the zucchini.

Caramelised Eggplant with Tahini, Pine Nuts & Lentils

As I’ve said before, if I were to become a vegetarian I would eat a lot of eggplants. They’re filling and there are so many different ways of using them.

Here’s a delicious recipe for you to try. As a main course, half a large eggplant is enough for most people. If you want to serve this as a side dish, buy smaller eggplants so you get more halves.

More delicious ways to use this versatile vegetable can be found in the Recipe Index under Vegetables. Do you have a great eggplant recipe you would like to share with Cafe Cat readers?

Base:
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
350g dry lentils (Puy or similar)
4 cups vegetabe stock
2 tsp vinegar (any kind will do)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Eggplants:
2 large eggplants or more smaller ones (about 1kg or a bit more)
4 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
To serve:
2 Tbs lemon juice
½ cup Tahini paste
Water
2 Tbs chopped parsley
1 Tbs chopped rosemary
¼ cup pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the base heat oil in a large heavy-based pan and add all the vegetables. Cook gently for 10-15 mins, stirring regularly, until softened. Add the lentils and stock then simmer for half an hour or until the lentils are just tender. Add a little more water as necessary. When lentils are cooked and most of the liquid has disappeared add the vinegar and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring. Season to taste.

While lentils are cooking pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and arrange them in a baking tin. Slash them all over with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern. Brush the cut surfaces generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with rosemary. Bake for 25-30 mins until soft and browned.

Mix lemon juice into the tahini, then add enough water to give a thick pouring consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Place pine nuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until golden.

Spread hot lentil mixture in a large serving dish (reheat if it’s got a bit cold) and arrange eggplants on top. Drizzle with the tahini sauce and sprinkle with the parsley, rosemary and pine nuts.

Serves 4 as a main course

Lentil Salad

Whip up this healthy salad in no time with canned lentils, or cook your own which will take a little longer. Buy a cooked chicken from your local supermarket, or throw something onto the barbecue. Fresh crusty bread and a bottle of vino, and dinner is ready.

3½ cups cooked lentils (or two cans, drained and rinsed)
1 red capsicum (pepper) diced
1 cucumber, diced
½ or 1 red onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
Dressing:
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs olive oil
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Shake dressing in a jar, then mix everything together thoroughly.

Variations:

  • add a diced avocado just before serving
  • use spring onions instead of red onion
  • use coriander instead of parsley
  • add some toasted pine nuts

Pancake Stack with Roasted Vegetables

This colourful vegetarian dish was created when I had some pancakes which needed using up. You could probably use round wraps or soft tortillas instead of the pancakes.

I used one kind of vegetable for each layer, but if you’re in a hurry just roast all the vegetables mixed together.

1 medium sweet potato
3 large carrots
1 large red capsicum (pepper)
1 large onion
1 cup pitted black olives (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 pancakes (crêpes) either bought or home-made
150g goat’s cheese or feta, crumbled
Pesto (either bought or home-made)
2/3 cup grated cheddar or parmesan

Choose a non-stick springform pan the same diameter as the pancakes. Preheat oven to 200°C. Slice all the vegetables into thick slices rather than the usual chunks, so they’re flatter. Mix each one with s little oil, salt and pepper, then spread them out in one layer, individually, on shallow baking trays lined with baking paper. Roast for 20-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown.

You can line the bottom of the pan with baking paper, but I found it made cutting the finished dish more difficult as the paper got in the way, so next time I’ll leave it out. Spray cake pan with oil and place one pancake on the bottom. Arrange one vegetable over the pancake, dot with a few pieces of goat’s cheese or feta, drizzle with some pesto (add some oil if it’s too stiff), then top with another pancake and continue with the other vegetables, one for each layer. I put the olives in the onion layer. Finish with a pancake, sprinkle with cheddar or parmesan. Can be made ahead to this stage and kept in the fridge, covered.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake the pancake stack for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and heated through. Serve in wedges with a green salad.

Serves 4-6

Variations: use other vegetables such as zucchini, parsnip, pumpkin, mushrooms, asparagus, corn etc. Add another layer or two if you like.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters

You only need one or two zucchini plants in the veggie patch to be inundated in the middle of summer. And if you don’t catch them when they’re small, a day or two later you’ll find they’ve turned into huge marrows! Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream is a good way to use up the big ones.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters make a tasty vegetarian meal and any leftovers are delicious cold or reheated in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve with Tzatziki and/or tomato chutney. Use regular sized zucchini or remove the seeds from bigger ones.

500g zucchini (seeds removed if large)
250g haloumi cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 egg
2/3 cup self-raising flour
Vegetable oil for frying the fritters
Tzatziki:
1 Lebanese cucumber, coarsely grated (or half a telegraph one)
1 cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated rind ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Salt flakes
Ground cumin
Fresh mint leaves
Tomato Baharat Jam (optional)

Coarsely grate zucchini and halloumi. If you have a coarse grating disk on your food processor, this is a breeze. Mix with remaining ingredients. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3-4 at a time. Use a tablespoon to dollop the mixture into the pan and flatten each fritter into a thick round shape. Fry for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with the Tzatziki, mint leaves, salt flakes and a shake of ground cumin. A little Tomato Baharat Jam, or any other tomato chutney, also goes well.

For the Tzatziki, place the grated cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave to drain for a few minutes, then press down on the cucumber to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix with remaining ingredients.

Serves 4

 

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that we like to give meat and fish a rest about once a week and go vegetarian.

A frittata is an egg-based Italian dish, similar to an omelette. A vegetable frittata makes a tasty light supper and any leftovers are nice cold the next day. Choose a medium sized non-stick frying pan (mine is 25 cm or 10 inches) with a metal handle, so it can go in the oven.

When the frittata comes out of the oven the metal handle will be very hot. I forgot and have the blisters to show for it.

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

1 Tbs olive oil
60g butter
200g mushrooms, cut into quarters or sliced if large
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About half a bunch of spinach
6 eggs
½ cup sour cream or fresh cream
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon
2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sour Cream Sauce (optional):
½ cup sour cream
2-3 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat half the butter and oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring, then transfer to a bowl. Strip the spinach from the stalks and discard the stalks. Tear the spinach into smaller pieces. Add to the frying pan with the remaining oil and butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until wilted. Add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

In another bowl using a balloon whisk beat the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and rind, grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. Pour into the frying pan, Scatter the spinach and mushrooms and any juices over the top. Place small pieces of goat’s cheese or feta all over the top. Place back on the stove until the frittata starts to set, then bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve with a mixed salad and the sour cream sauce.

Sour Cream Sauce: mix sour cream with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-3

Variations: use small broccoli florets instead of spinach; use Pecorino instead of Parmesan cheese; use a mixture of fancy mushrooms instead of the usual ones

Baked Eggplant with Halloumi

Fed up with ham and turkey? Here’s a quick vegetarian dish made with eggplants, tomatoes and halloumi cheese.

Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese which originated in Cyprus. I first ate it at a lunch hosted by my brother and sister-in-law at an Airforce base in the UK where they were stationed nearly 20 years ago. They cooked the halloumi on the barbecue and our kids decided to rename it squeaky cheese, because of the noise it makes as you bite into it.

Some eggplant recipes involve lots of frying. This method doesn’t, making it truly quick and easy.

2 medium to large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin tomatoes (chopped)
2 tsp sugar
250g halloumi cheese
2-3 Tbs Dukkah (bought or home-made)
Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish in one layer, cut side up. Make deep cuts in the surface of each, one way and then the other, so you cut the flesh into squares but not right through.  Brush with one tablespoon of the olive oil and season. Bake for 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add onion and garlic. Cook gently for a few minutes till soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and sugar, season to taste, then simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken a bit. Spread over the eggplant. Slice halloumi cheese and arrange over the top. Brush the halloumi with the third tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with dukkah, then put the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until halloumi is golden.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 4

Substitutions: use fresh, peeled tomatoes instead of a can; use a different cheese such as sliced cheddar or Manchego (hard sheep’s cheese from Spain) or whatever you have.

 

Sweet Potatoes with Almond Tahini

I found this recipe in the Financial Times newspaper which I was reading on a recent QANTAS flight from Bangkok to Sydney. I tore it out as  I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes and although we’re not vegetarian I tend to cook a meatless evening meal at least once a week.

So last night was try-out night and the recipe didn’t disappoint. It said to bake the sweet potatoes on a bed of salt to draw out the moisture. I don’t think this made any difference, so I would leave that out next time.

2 large sweet potatoes
Tahini:
100g whole shelled almonds
Small clove garlic, peeled
3 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
Pinch salt
2 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbs water
Garnish:
2 Tbs almonds roughly chopped (blanched or unblanched, I used slivered)
2 tsp oil
pinch salt
2 spring onions, thinly sliced or 2 Tbs snipped chives
Pomegranate or date molasses (or fig glaze)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, but don’t peel them. Line a baking tin with foil and place the sweet potatoes on top. Bake for an hour or until soft and a knife can be inserted easily.

Meanwhile make the Tahini by blitzing the almonds in a food processor until fine then adding the garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice and water. Taste and adjust seasoning. It will thicken up as it sits. If made ahead and refrigerated you may need to mix in a little water when serving.

For the garnish, place nuts in a small frying pan with the oil and salt and stir over moderate heat until golden. Turn off heat.

To serve, cut the sweet potatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze to open up the flesh a bit then top with a couple of dollops of tahini. Top with the nuts, the spring onions or chives and a drizzle of molasses or glaze.

Variation: use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Serves 2-4

 

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