Two Middle Eastern Salads – Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts

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Both from the lovely Middle Eastern cookbook “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar” by Rawia Bishara. The brussels sprouts come with crispy fried panko and a yogurt-tahini-pomegranate sauce, the cauliflower boasts a similar sauce and comes with parsley. Their dressings are indeed similar, but different enough to serve together, maybe with some Arab flat bread and spreads, olives?

I for one have overcome my fear of (deep-)frying when I made some lovely fried green tomatoes this weekend. Said fear was mostly rooted in smell concerns, as we have neither a kitchen door nor an exhaust hood and we all know how frying smells tend to linger and creep into your clothes (even the ones you’re not wearing). However, with the advent of spring I can leave the entirety of our windows open from start to finish and then another 12 hours after, which usually does the trick. And it just produces some lovely results – how perfectly golden brown is my cauliflower exactly? (“Lovely” again, huh? Yes, I have been watching a lot of the Great British Baking Show lately.)

Anyway, let’s get to it. We’ll start by making a basic tahini sauce.

125ml tahini (sesame paste)
1 large garlic clove
juice of 1-2 lemons
1/3 tsp salt

Combine tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt in food processor, blend for two minutes on low speed.     Turn speed to high until mixture begins to whiten.     Gradually add water until you reach your desired consistency (thick enough to coat a spoon, but still smooth; not too runny).

For the Cauliflower Salad (2-3 servings)

1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-2 in florets
vegetable oil for frying
125ml tahini sauce (we just made that, yay!)
30ml pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Place cauliflower in large saucepan and cover with water.     Bring water to boil and cook for 2 minutes.     Drain.     Place somewhat less than 1 inch of oil in a frying pan over high heat.     When hot, fry cauliflower until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.     Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.     Arrange on serving dish, drizzle with tahini sauce, pomegranate molasses and then add your parsley.

For the Brussels Sprouts with Panko (2-3 servings)

1lb brussel sprouts, prepared and cut in half
vegetable oil for frying
75ml tahini sauce (already made!)
75ml plain yogurt
3/4 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
3/4 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
30g panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
pinch of salt

Pour oil on large frying pan, about 1/2in, and place over high heat.     When hot, fry brussels sprouts until they are browned all over.     Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.     Whisk together tahini sauce, yogurt and pomegranate molasses.     Heat olive oil in small frying pan over medium-high heat.     When hot, sauté garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute.     Add panko and stir constantly until golden brown (about 2 minutes).     Sprinkle in salt and remove from heat.     Place brussels sprouts in serving dish, drizzle with sauce & top with panko.

 

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Potato Salad with Lots of Herbs

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Herbs, magic. Their smell is happiness. They carry promises and memories of meals past, inspiring intense feelings of culinary desire. Chives, dill, parsley, what’s not to love? Give me all the herbs and I will put them in everything. Herbs make everything better. Potato salads, as it were. True, this one has a little mayo in it, but only a little, and in combination with herbs and capers still has a delicious freshness to it. Rounded up with cornichons and eggs it makes a great meal any day of the week (for instance, Monday).

750g boiling potatoes
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp crème fraîche
2 tsp mustard
1 Tbsp chopped cornichons (small pickles)
1 Tbsp capers (I prefer salted ones that I soak in water for half an hour to rinse off the excess – they have more of a bite to them this way)
1 Tbsp chives, chopped
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp dill, chopped
3 eggs, hardboiled, cut up

Boil potatoes and cut into cubes.     While still warm, add oil and vinegar, generous amounts of salt and pepper & let cool down.     Stir together the rest of the ingredients (save some herbs and the eggs) in your salad bowl, then add potatoes.     Toss carefully and season to taste.     Serve with eggs and herbs on top.

Artichoke Tapenade on Homemade Bread, Herbed Couscous Salad

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In the past two weeks I have been experimenting with the infamous No-Knead-Bread. I’ve found that a ratio of 3/4 bread flour and 1/4 whole wheat flour works best for me, tastewise. The recipe is pretty simple and the outcome reliable. I took it to game night with the neighbors last night and everyone loved it. I can definitely see it becoming a staple in our house. Once you start baking your own bread (at least where we live), there’s no going back to grocery store toast and limp baguettes … Last night I served the bread with a store-bought olive tapenade (acquired while panicky last-minute shopping for the snow storm), then felt challenged to make my own. I decided to go with a artichoke tapenade, which paired amazingly with the bread and a glas of Portuguese red (our current house wine). We had it for dinner with a herbed couscous salad from my personal recipe hero Ottolenghi (how can all recipes in one cookbook be so delicious?!). Enjoy!

For the artichoke tapenade:

In a food processor, combine 2 minced garlic gloves, 1 cup of pitted green olives, 1 tbsp capers, a small can of artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 6 tbsp olive oil. Pulse until almost smooth but still chunky. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice (optional).

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For the herbed couscous salad:

Put 120g couscous into a large bowl, add 160ml boiling vegetable broth. Cover with cling wrap and let sit for ten minutes. Meanwhile, cut 1 small onion into thin slices and fry in 1tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat until golden brown and soft. Cut three scallions into thin rings, coarsely chop a handful of pistachios. Chop a handful of flat parsley leaves, a handful of cilantro greens, the leaves of 3 mint sprigs and 5 dill sprigs, then puree in food processor with 90ml olive oil until smooth. With a fork, work herb paste into couscous, then add onion slices, pistachios, green onions and a generous handful of arugula. Season to taste.

Quinoa & Baby Spinach Salad with Tofu Dressing

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Probably our No. 1 salad these days. I took a liking to it during my last weeks in Germany and was delighted to find out that Karl shared my taste for tofu-mustard dressing which pairs exceptionally well with the white quinoa. Instead of baby spinach you can use any other type of tender salad greens. The fried tofu on top is optional, I came up with that as you don’t need a whole package for the dressing; there’s always leftover tofu. Karl is crazy about it, but I’m not crazy about frying it up. But it does make an excellent addition to this little summer number. On another, albeit food-related note: Tomorrow I will taste the famed Maryland Blue Crab for the first time, as we go out to a festive crab hammering in celebration of my birthday. I’ll try and take some pictures for all you readers back home and elsewhere who also never picked a crab apart by hand (or by any other means).

Here’s what you need for two:

50g tofu (firm of you want to fry some up, soft if you don’t)
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp maple sirup
Salt & pepper
3 Tbsp rape seed oil

4.25oz white quinoa
Baby spinach or similar
Toasted sesame oil
Cayenne pepper
Curry powder

In a blender, mix all ingredients from tofu to rape seed oil.     Alternatively, fill in a bell jar and shake vigorously until blended.

Cut whatever leftover tofu you have into cubes and marinate in sesame oil, some cayenne pepper & curry powder and salt or whatever spices you prefer.

Bring quinoa to boil in 200ml water and cover, simmering for 12 minutes over low heat.     Take off heat, wrap pot in a blanket and let sit for 20 minutes.     Let cool down for a little bit before mixing with spinach.     Add dressing and serve with fried tofu on top.

Simple Krautsalat

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Cabbage – an underrated vegetable (that is to say, I personally often forget about its existence, versatility and great taste). This salad is highly delicious and packed with vitamin C (vitamin Cabbage, as one might call it if one was a teeny bit silly), and I recommend you make it some time soon. It’s quick and simple to prepare and taste good on its own, as a side for a cookout, in an Abendbrot* or even on a dark bread. You can use pointed cabbage, which has softer and sweeter leaves, but a regular white cabbage will also do the job. Same holds true for the oil and vinegar: I’ve made it with both red and white wine vinegar, rapeseed and sunflower oil and they both work. If you’re only ever using one or don’t wanna buy another variety just for this salad, just use what you have in your kitchen cabinets. If you have both, play with them and find out which combination you like best.

*Typical German dinner consisting of brown bread, cheese, cold cuts, vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes or carrots, hard-boiled eggs, cream cheese with herbs or whatever else you want to put on the table. The absolute basic version as I know it would be bread, butter, cold cuts and cheese that are set out on the table. I had it pretty much every night growing up, since lunch was the main meal of the day. After a long period without it, we now do Abendbrot once or twice a week with a nice glass of wine. Of course you can live it up with Italian sausage, fancy cheeses, olives and the like, but it works great as is – as a simple weekday dinner.

for 4 as a side

1 small pointed cabbage
3.5 Tbsp rapeseed oil
3.5 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1-2 tsp caraway seed
1 small red onion
Salt & Pepper
Sugar

Cut out cabbage stem and slice the cabbage thinly.     In a large bowl, mix cabbage with salt and sugar, maybe a generous teaspoon of each.     Stir together vinegar, oil and honey.     In a grease-free pan, roast caraway seed until the seeds begin to bounce, then, using mortar and pestle, grind them.    Finely mince red onion, then add to vinaigrette together with the caraway.    Stir and then pour over cabbage.     Let sit for at least ten minutes before serving.     Season to taste with salt and vinegar.

Tangy Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

This salad contains one of my favorite combinations of ingredients: flat-leaf parsley, lemon juice and garlic (also one of my pasta staples, by the way). They build the base for the body of chickpeas and baby spinach (or the pasta, if you find yourself craving carbs). Add some grated parmesan, salt pepper & olive oil, et voilà, a fresh salad for those muggy summer days where you don’t really feel like eating anything heavy (all this with pasta would be the winter version). Karl outed himself as a lover of salad dinners recently, so I indulged his fancy with this one I found in an old Donna Hay cookbook. Once you have all the ingredients she uses which are sometimes a little hard to come by or unusual, her recipes are really great, mostly easy to prepare and always delicious. I used to have three of her cookbooks, all equal favorites, but two fell victim to inexpertly storage on a window sill in winter. (Yes, they got mildewy and I threw them out so as not to have the mildew spread to the other cookbooks which where consequently moved to a more conventional place for keeping books.) Here’s the recipe!

Chickpea Salad Bird's View

for 2-3

800g canned chickpeas
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small handful of parmesan
Salt & pepper
2 good handful of baby spinach

Rinse and drain chickpeas.     Put in a bowl and marinade in parsley, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper & parmesan for at least 30 minutes.     Season to taste, finish up with spinach and serve.

Little Food Things

DSC02985 Sometimes when I make dinner things take a little longer than originally expected, be it because I started late or because I underestimated the recipe. I am getting hungry, Karl is getting hungry, and hunger has never made for a good conversation (we take turns making dinner – #1 criterion: whoever gets home/done with work first – and usually hang out together in the kitchen while the chef du jour is prepping). That’s why I like to have a bunch of little things at hand to set out as appetizers if need be. Often it’s olives, sometimes it’s crackers and cheese, sometimes flatbread and a spread – and other times I put together a quick salad like this one. A good mozzarella is a staple in our fridge and it hardly ever makes it past our weekly pizza nights, a Sunday institution borrowed from a very wise friend. Tomatoes and greens are usually around too – sprinkle with good olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some salt, pepper and basil & voilà! I love it when there are different foods to snack on while waiting for the main meal, sipping on our go-to wine or beer or lemonade (mostly not lemonade, we don’t have children yet) and being able to talk at the end of a workday. More often than not, those are times when I feel like life is good.

Tuna Melts

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The other day I sat in the office (last day at the law firm, by the way) eating the comparatively heavy lunch I brought and fantasizing about dinner. A light green salad maybe, why not with some tuna in it? Karl was on dinner duty, so I texted him my ideas. When I use the German word “Salat” I uuuuusually mean a salad with lettuce in it. Karl didn’t share that connotation, so when I got home from work I was greeted by massive flatbread sandwiches filled with this tuna salad that contained an ingredient I had shunned for years – mayonnaise. Mostly because my Mom didn’t like it and we never had it at home. Not what I had in mind when I ordered salad, but honestly, they were beyond delicious. So the next day we used the leftovers for tuna melts on Karl’s homemade wheat-and-rye bread. Here’s the recipe for that, but you could definitely also enjoy it on its own – served on a light green salad maybe?

serves 4

2 cans tuna
1/2 can artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
3/4 cup black olives, cut into rings
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1-2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 garlic cloved, finely minced
1/2 tbsp oregano, chopped
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper

4 slices of your favorite cheese
4 slices of bread at hand
1 green onion, finely sliced

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, season to taste.     Generously spread on bread     Add a slice of cheese and bake in a 400°F oven until the cheese has melted.     Sprinkle green onion on top and serve.