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The arrival of summer means we are often looking for lighter meals that require minimal cooking and preparation time. There is a chapter full of delicious salad ideas using seasonal salad ingredients in The Food Book (pp.202 – 219).

Salads can be served at any point throughout a meal – but are often served as the main dish of meals during summer. The choice of ingredients that can be used in salads are endless, but a favourite of ours, which is very  simple to prepare and suitable for vegetarians, is made by combining some rocket, toasted walnuts, canned lentils (drained) some goats cheese and slices of roasted pumpkin, splashed with balsamic vinegar. It is a perfect meal on a hot summer evening as it is quick and refreshing and contains a range of textures from the crunchy nuts to the smooth creamy cheese. If you do not want to do any cooking at all, you can always substitute the pumpkin with baby beets.

What ideas do you have for simple salads this summer?

Rocket and walnut salad

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Students with pomegranates

Pomegranates are an ancient fruit that are a great source of vitamin C, B-group vitamins and antioxidants; they grow on trees that are native to eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, Afghanistan and Iran but pomegranate trees are now also grown in Australia. Pomegranates are round fruits with a leathery red/orange rind; beneath this rind are membranous chambers full of red, juicy, sweet yet tart arils that also contain white, edible seeds. Many people may refer to the arils around the seed as the actual seed.

Pomegranates are in season in May so why not try some in your cooking? Pomegranates can be used in a variety of ways as the arils containing the seeds add an interesting addition to many dishes. Pomegranate arils can be sprinkled in salads or eaten by themselves! The juice of the pomegranate is used in cooking, both as a fresh juice and as a concentrated syrup, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine.

However, removing the aril and seeds from the pomegranate’s membrane can be a messy task for many cooks. Here is a suggestion to make this task easier:pomegranates

  • Cut the the crown end of the pomegranate and discard.
  • Score the rind of the pomegranate in several places—do not to cut the rind all the way through.
  • Place the pomegranate upside down in cold water and soak for ten minutes.
  • Break the rind of the pomegranate and remove seeds from the membrane — the arils containing the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Use a sieve to remove rind and membranes from bowl.
  • Drain the seeds with a sieve or colander.
  • Gently pat dry the arils with paper towel.
  • Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

If you’re looking for a simple, yet delicious recipe that uses pomegranate, try the following that includes limes, which are also in season now.

Quinoa with pomegranate salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons sultanas
  • 100 grams feta, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon coriander, roughly chopped
  • I tablespoon Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint each coriander, roughly chopped
  • 3 limes (or lemons), juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  1. Cook quinoa in stock until light and fluffy-cooked quinoa will still have a bit of bite. Leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until lightly golden.
  3. Mix lime juice with oil, sugar and herbs to make dressing.
  4. Combine the quinoa with pine nuts, pomegranate arils, onion and sultanas.
  5. Drizzle with dressing and toss before serving.

Boy, it has been hot! Summer has definitely arrived, and brought along with it record-breaking temperatures. We, The Food Book Team, have not only been looking for ways to cool down, but also ways to make your summer eating pleasurable. Nobody wants to be slaving over a boiling stove for hours in a 40 degree day, so if you are looking for recipes that will help you stay cool and not heat up the kitchen, think about making some frozen treats like icecream or sorbet. There is a delicious recipe for Easy Icecream on p. 335 of The Food Book – just add some flavouring ingredients at step 3  to add your own personal twist, we’ve been enjoying some icecream with chopped mango and mashed banana.

What ideas do you have for frozen treats to keep you cool in summer? We’d love to hear it!

However, if you do have to cook, the trick is to cook early in the day when it is cooler, keep the meal in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat and then use the microwave to heat it up. Frittatas are a good idea during the heat, they can be made early and served warm or at room temperature. The Vegetarian Frittata on p. 140 of The Food Book makes a deliciously light meal for a hot evening, especially when served with a fresh garden salad (try the Green Garden Salad recipe on p. 205).

If it is simply too hot to cook, then consider using fresh seasonal produce to make delicious, yet substantial salads (so you do not wilt in the kitchen). The Food Book has lots of easy-to-prepare salads you could try. Tabbouleh (p. 212) is full of fiber and bite – burghul can easily be substituted for quinoa for a bit of variety. The delightfully refreshing Watermelon and Feta Salad (p. 208) is perfect for that hot summer day – the salty creaminess of the feta and the toasted crunch of the walnuts are the perfect match for the sweet, juicy watermelon. 

What ideas do you have for quick summer meals?

Watermelon & Feta Salad