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

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

 

Green Vegetable Frittata with Pesto and Cheese

Frittatas are Italian omelettes. They make a delicious hot meal and any leftovers are perfect cold for lunch next day.

1 bunch asparagus and 1 small bunch broccolini
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To serve:
About 6 Tbs pesto (bought or home-made)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths, discarding the tough ends. Heat butter in a 25cm (10 inch) cast-iron or non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, broccolini and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season lightly.

When the vegetables are cooked and starting to brown, add the eggs, pulling in the sides with a spatula as they cook, as you do with an omelette. When the frittata is mostly set, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Turn off the heat then either put the pan under a hot grill for a minute or so, or cover it with a lid and let it stand for for a minute or so. This is to set the top.

Mix enough olive oil into the pesto to make it pourable then drizzle over the top of the frittata. Top with the crumbled cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal

Asian Green Salad

This recipe was given to me some years ago by my friend Donelle. She made it with Pak Choi but today I decided to use fresh spinach from the garden, because we have copious amounts.

I’m not sure if you can buy packets of crispy noodles everywhere in the world. If you can’t find them substitute crushed corn chips. Just something to give a bit of crunch.

The pomegranate arils weren’t in the original recipe, but they add a touch of colour. Some supermarkets sell these either fresh or frozen. I keep them in the freezer and just scrape out a few as required to sprinkle over the top of salads.

Full of iron and other good stuff, this recipe is very healthy!

1 bunch Pak Choy (or substitute spinach or kale)
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced (use the white and most of the green)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
¾ cup flaked or slivered almonds (or substitute pine nuts)
1 packet (100g) crispy noodles
Dressing:
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of Siracha (or other chilli sauce,) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs brown sugar
To serve:
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Wash, spin dry and shred the Pak Choy, spinach or kale with a large sharp knife. Place in serving dish with the nuts, which have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Add spring onions and coriander.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix dressing with salad and top with the crispy noodles. If liked garnish with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms

Now that there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of carbs with our evening meals. Pasta, rice and potatoes were great for filling up the hollow legs of teenagers, but we find we can do without them. So most nights we have some protein – chicken, fish, beef or whatever – with a mountain of green vegetables or salad.

That regime can get a bit boring, so once a week we have a vegetarian meal and occasionally we’ll have pasta or polenta. This recipe from the New York Times caught my eye. I read through the comments people had made after trying the recipe and made a few adjustments according to their suggestions.The original recipe serves four, so I halved the polenta but not the mushrooms and it made enough for two, with a small amount left over. The original recipe includes half an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and mixed in with the fresh mushrooms. I didn’t have any so I left them out. This is comfort food, good for the cooler autumn evenings or Sunday night in front of the TV.

1½ cups water
1½ cups milk
¾ cup quick cooking polenta
Salt to taste
50g butter or 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
250g sliced mushrooms (ordinary ones or fancy ones)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1-2 Tbs cream (sour cream or creme fraiche)
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Place water, milk, salt and polenta in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, whisking, then continue to stir for 2 minutes or until thickened, Turn heat down as low as it will go, cover, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until polenta tastes ready. Add a little extra water if it seems too thick and still tastes uncooked. Traditional polenta can take up to 45 minutes, but quick-cooking polenta only takes 5-10 minutes – see what it says on the packet. When it’s ready turn off the heat, check the seasoning, add half the butter or olive oil and let the polenta sit with the lid on.

Meanwhile heat remaining butter or olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the herbs, soy sauce and cream and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.

Divide the polenta between 2 or 3 serving bowls and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

 

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

 

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