Category: Salad

Roasted Carrots with Lentils and Soft Cheese

I made soup last week and bread this week. Fall is definitely here. I’m still not quite ready to go full on “braise” but roasted veggies, especially over something hearty but still healthy… yup, I’m down with that.

I was at Costco last week and bought a “YUGE” bag of carrots for, like, zero dollars and went decidedly French by pairing them with Puy lentils. You guys, if you haven’t added those tiny, green French lentils to your repertoire you are missing out. They are so easy to cook properly if you soak, then steam them (just say no to mushy lentils) and they are delicious warm or cold. Use them as a base for almost any roasted vegetable as I did here, or toss them in a salad. (Or simply season them and add a fried or poached egg on top… oh yes I did!). And they’re healthy. I almost hate to say that because it’s beside the point. They are delicious… just go with that.

This dish is hearty enough for a vegetarian main but it can also be served alongside some protein (or that egg we just discussed). I served mine with a couple pieces of chicken confit I had in the fridge which I simply reheated by adding to the tray of carrots when I removed the tinfoil. Anything to save washing another dish!

1 1/2 cups green French Puy lentils

Carrots:
2-3 pounds of carrots, washed or peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp kosher salt
Red chili flakes, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 1/2 TBS olive oil
1 whole lemon, peel zested and lemon halved

Vinaigrette:
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

To finish:
fresh chopped basil or other herb of your choice (optional)
1 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella (optional, but seriously…)

Make dressing by combining all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking until emulsified. Set aside.

Cook lentils to your liking. I soak mine for at least a few hours or overnight, then steam for 15-30 minutes (depending on how long you have soaked) until just tender but not falling apart. Put drained lentils in a larger wide bowl (enough to accommodate the carrots) and stir in 3 TBS of dressing while they are still warm so the lentils absorb the flavour. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine your spices in the bottom of a bowl along with minced garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon zest. Add carrots and toss to coat. Place on oiled cookie sheet along with your zested lemon halves (cut side down) and cover with a piece of tin foil. Roast for 20 minutes. Uncover, toss and roast another 15-25 minutes until carrots are tender and browned in spots. Remove from oven, squeeze over juice from roasted lemon.

Putting it together:

Taste and re-season lentils if necessary (they may need more salt, especially if you skipped the anchovy paste). Tip carrots over lentils and gently toss. Tear fresh mozzarella over the dish and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette to taste. Scatter fresh herbs on top if using and dish up!

Quick & Dirty: Caesar Salad Dressing

It’s been hot here on the West Coast and I am loving it! I have been eating salad after salad chock full of lovely garden tomatoes, cucumbers, legumes, with tons of herbs and bright, zesty vinaigrettes and they have been yummy! I don’t know why but Caesar salad never seemed like a summer salad to me. When all the fresh vegetables have faded away and the cold, damp days of winter move in, that’s when I think of that heavier, cheese laden dressing that will smack you across the head with just the right amount of pungent garlic and creamy mayonnaise.

But it’s +28C outside today and I’m still craving a crispy romaine Caesar salad, with some cold chicken folded in and topped with crunchy croutons and fried caper flavour bombs. Eat your heart out, Winter! :)

1 clove garlic, minced (or more, depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
lots of pepper
1 1/2 tsp worchestershire
2-3 TBS fresh lemon juice (depending on your taste)
1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 anchovy filet mashed with a fork (optional but HIGHLY recommended)
1 tsp Knorr Aromat or Accent seasoning (optional)
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan (about 1/2-3/4 cup, depending on size of grate)

Combine first 7 ingredients in bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Fold in mayonnaise and fresh Parmesan. You may only need a portion of the dressing for your salad depending on the amount of greens you have. The rest will stay good in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Grilled Corn and Chickpea Salad with Smoky Lime Vinaigrette

Yesterday morning before I went out to meet a friend for coffee I put a batch of chickpeas in my Instant Pot to cook. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but cooked beans are always a great thing to have in your back pocket (just don’t sit down. HAHAHA… sorry). They are healthy, filling, and will sit in the fridge for a few days until you need them. Mine didn’t sit because on the way home I stopped at the market and spotted some fresh corn and some lovely ripe mangos. Throw in some filler vegetables and amp it up with a zesty smoky vinaigrette and you got yourself a yummy Southwestern inspired salad.

The ingredients below are what I had on hand but it is infinitely adaptable. Use black or white beans instead of chickpeas. Add sliced radishes, diced bell pepper or kohlrabi. Try a different cheese. Shower with mint and basil instead of cilantro. And as always, enjoy sitting outside on your patio with a beer. Cheers!

Vinaigrette
juice from one fresh lime (about 2 TBS)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad
1 cup dried chickpeas (to make 2 1/2 cups cooked, or you can use canned)
2 fresh cobs of corn
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced into bits-sized pieces
1/4 cup pickled onions
1 ataulfo mango, peeled, seeded and diced into bite-sized pieces
crumbled feta (garnish)
handful chopped cilantro (garnish)

Cook chickpeas using your favourite method. I do mine in the pressure cooker with a clove of garlic and bay leaf.

Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking. Taste and re-season if necessary (add more ingredients to your liking). Set aside.

Preheat BBQ grill. Shuck and grill corn, turning until blistered in places (about 10 minutes). Let cool enough to handle. Remove kernels with a knife. Set aside.

When you’re ready to eat, combine chickpeas, corn kernels, and the rest of the salad ingredients (except feta and cilantro) in large bowl. Drizzle with half the vinaigrette and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more vinaigrette or salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro. We enjoyed this with grilled bread.

Summer Potato Lentil Salad

I just got back from traveling AND EATING for almost a month and am trying to get over jet lag along with a terrible cold I picked up somewhere between Rome and San Sebastian (aka pasta and pintxos heaven). The last couple days of traveling and the flight home socked me good. But I’m still hungry! Have I mentioned before that when I get sick I’m not one of those people who eats a half piece of toast and “can’t eat another bite”? I hate those people. Nope, when I’m sick I NEED ALL THE FOOD!

One night in San Sebastian I had a pintxos (basically a small snack served on a slice of baguette alongside a drink) of a beautifully rare bite of steak sprinkled with salt. Yesterday I was craving that steak but not the heavy potatoes and sour cream that usually accompany it. What did I think about a lightened up potato salad? Salad sounds good. What about adding healthy French lentils to counteract the eating of the last month? I could go for that. And how about elevating it with something punchy like chopped gherkins or pickled onions? Suuuuure! And should I throw in some radishes and peas from the garden? Why not?! Anything else I need to use up? I do have those garlic scapes…

As you can see, I’m simply using what I have on hand. I love to cook this way in the summer. Use the potatoes, lentils and vinaigrette as a base and add whatever is available to you. Little tomatoes would be delicious. Fresh green beans that have been cooked to just tender-crisp. Oooooh, maybe some olives to make it a bit “nicoise-y”. Or some hard-boiled eggs for a more traditional potato salad. Oh, and wouldn’t the salty bite of some goat or sheep feta be lovely??? The world is your oyster (mmmmmmm, oysters). ;)

Vinaigrette:
2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp anchovy paste (you know you want to!)
few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

1 cup dry French (Puy) lentils
1 lb small new potatoes
handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 chopped sour gherkins and/or sweet pickles (optional)
1/4 cup pickled onions (optional, but HIGHLY recommended)
handful of radishes, washed and sliced (optional)
handful of sugar snap or snow peas, chopped (optional)
Garlic scape, tender bits thinly sliced (optional)

Cook lentils until tender but not mushy, using your favourite method. I soak mine for about 4 hours then steam them until tender… 15-30 minutes depending on how old the lentils are. Drain and turn into a large bowl. Stir in 1 TBS of the vinaigrette to season the lentils. Set aside.

Scrub new potatoes. Leave whole if small or cut in half if larger and cook in simmering water for about 15 minutes until just tender. Drain and cut in half (largish bite-sized pieces). While still warm, place the cut potatoes in the bowl with the lentils. Fold in 3 more TBS of the remaining vinaigrette and let sit so the warm potatoes and lentils absorb more of the dressing. Salad can sit at room temperature for a couple hours.

When you are ready to eat, add the chopped parsley and your other additional ingredients from the options above or your own choices. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and gently stir to combine. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. We ate this with BBQ steak and grilled asparagus. Sooooo good.

Quick & Dirty: Beets with Creamy Vietnamese Dressing


It’s beet season at my house. I finished my garden clean-up a couple weeks ago except for those leeks again this year. I usually use a lot of them in chicken pot pie but this year I want to try a chicken stew and dumplings, heavy with leeks, obviously. Coming soon (maybe ;) ).

Aaaaanyway, I pulled up the last of my carrots and beets and put them in a couple sacks in the garage. I do love beets but rarely cooked them until last year when I got my Instant Pot. It’s just so fast and easy now. Give them a rinse, throw them in for 7-15 minutes (depending on size), let sit in cold water for a couple minutes, slide the peel right off. Easy peasy.

I am enjoying experimenting with my Instant Pot. The other night I tried a “pot in pot” dinner where you cook everything at the same time. Ummm, what?! I made mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and beets in the same pot. The only thing I made separate was the mushroom sauce. It was surprisingly good. Perhaps not something I would do all the time as I hate to give up control over exact timing and temperature (Yes, I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cooking). And if you want some texture to your food you still have to utilize the stove or oven (I put my meatloaf under the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the top) but I can certainly see why working families adore the Instant Pot.


(Pot in pot. The potatoes are under the meatloaf and beets. Cool, hey?)

So those beets. When they were finished cooking I let them cool a bit, chunked them up, and covered them in a easy Vietnamese dressing. I had about a pound of beets for Husband and I. You can make as many as you want and double or triple the dressing as required. Cook the beets however you want. My mom boils them, I used to bake them (it took foooooreeeeeeverrrrr), and now I use my Instant Pot pressure cooker. 7 minutes on high for smallish beets, 10-15 minutes for medium to large.

The dressing amounts below make a small batch of dressing and can easily be doubled or tripled. Try it over roasted carrots as well, or spread onto a sandwich.

Cook beets (about 1/2 pound per person). Cover with dressing. Eat.

Dressing:

1/2 small shallot, diced
1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled, sliced then cut into matchsticks
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 TBS fish sauce
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1 TBS mayonnaise
2 TBS vegetable oil
salt to taste

Add shallot, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, fish sauce and sugar along with 2 tablespoons of water to small saucepan and gently simmer until half the liquid has evaporated and aromatics are soft, 7-10 minutes.

Turn into small food processor or blender and add lime juice, mayonnaise and vegetable oil. Blend until emulsified. Taste and season with salt. Drizzle over beets. Can be served warm, room temperature, or chilled!


Quick & Dirty: Fennel Orange Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of fennel. The thought of that licorice-y flavour in my food just seemed, well, weird. In the past year, though, it has not been uncommon to find it in my crisper. Why? Because I tried it. Yep, me who preaches about trying everything really didn’t try fennel. I really started using it regularly after I made this… then this. Last week I made a yummy sausage, fennel and white bean spring stew. And last night instead of cooking the sucker I made a salad that I know will become a regular around here… fennel orange salad. I dare you.

This is a Quick & Dirty recipe so I didn’t measure exactly. And except for the two main ingredients (fennel and oranges) I really just tossed in what I had in the fridge. I had a large bag of oranges sitting on the counter but you could even substitute canned if that’s what you have. And I forgot to sprinkle the couscous over the first serving of the salad (Husband going up for seconds: “What’s in the pot?”… arghhhhhh) so I’m calling that optional. You can switch out the the arugula for another salad green, change the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to another seed or nut, sub in a different cheese, and/or switch the grain to farro or quinoa. Whatever floats your boat.

I had planned on serving this with grilled squid for some protein but ended up searing a sous vide smoked pork shoulder steak that I had in my freezer and adding a couple slices on the side. Sausage would be yummy as well.

Throw the fennel, oranges, arugula, mint and cilantro into a large bowl. Toss with about half the vinaigrette, adding more to your liking. Sprinkle over pepitas, feta, and couscous. Serve with a protein to make a meal.

handful of cilantro leaves
TBS or so chopped fresh mint
2 large handfuls of baby arugula
3 oranges, zested (set aside to add to vinaigrette) then peeled and sectioned, each section cut in half
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 cup cooked couscous (about 1/3rd cup from dry)

Orange Lime Vinaigrette
juice from whole juicy lime (2-3 TBS)
1 TBS orange zest, more or less to taste
1-2 tsp honey, more or less to taste
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes (I used Korean gochugaru which has a lovely fruity element)
good quality olive oil to emulsify (about 1/3rd cup)

Put all ingredients except oil in a bowl, whisk in oil in a thin steady stream until dressing starts to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Southwestern Corn Salad

SW corn salad 3Me: Are you getting full?
Husband: (somewhat defensively) There’s a lot of nutritional value in this!

I really wasn’t dissing him for having to take a break from eating! There IS a lot of nutritional value in this salad (in other words, it’s pretty filling)! Even better, there are bucketloads of flavour… BUCKET! LOADS! I have been doing various riffs on this for a couple years and I think I finally nailed it. In past attempts I have used avocado, cucumber, green onion and probably a few other things I can’t remember. You can add what you want but I think this version is pretty amazing. (Although I noticed at the market last weekend that peaches are perfectly in season so one day very soon I might try omitting the honey from the dressing and adding diced peaches for the sweetness… anyone?!)

Now I get to pass along one of my first culinary tips to you. Generally in a single dish you want everything to be of similar size. There are exceptions to this, of course, but most of the time the dish is more visually appealing and easier to eat if everything is a similar size. In this salad, we can’t change the size of the corn or the beans so we are cutting everything else quite small. This is why the cherry or grape tomatoes are quartered, and gives you a guideline of how small to dice the peppers.

And finally (note to Husband), you really don’t have to finish the entire dish just because it’s there. This recipe should feed 4-6 people and leftovers will keep very well in the fridge for a day or two. Just sayin’!

Salad:
3 cobs corn, shucked
1 yellow bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1 jalapeño or other medium spiced pepper
glug of olive oil for grilling
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 ounces crumbled feta
handful of chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used basil and shiso leaf)

Dressing:
2 TBS fresh lime juice
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 TBS good fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat BBQ grill to high. Rub corn, bell pepper and jalapeño with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Grill corn, turning every couple minutes, until just starting to char. Cook peppers, skin side down (grill jalapeño whole), until skin is blackened. Remove from grill and let cool. Cut corn kernels from cobs with a sharp knife. Remove skin from peppers (seed jalapeño pepper) and cut into smallish dice. Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl.

SW corn salad 1

SW corn salad 4

SW corn salad 5

Add the first 5 dressing ingredients to a bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Dressing will be a bit thin, this is ok. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Pour over salad and gently stir.

SW corn salad 2

I served this with Korean beef kalbi and grilled bread. The great thing is you don’t need to serve much meat, if any. A few grilled prawns thrown on the side would also be perfect. The salad is so flavourful and filling that you should consider it the main portion of your meal… the rest is just garnish.

Mechouia (or Tunisian Grilled Vegetable Salad)

mechouia4This is my first post in a while… I’ve been busy! I just finished a 2-month culinary master program. It was soooo much fun; hard work, but FUN! I met so many wonderful people and learned a bunch of new skills (what exactly is a leidenfrost pan and why do you need to know?). I also gleaned a number of new tips and tricks (got fresh herbs?… chop that <bleep> up and throw that <bleep> on everything!). I hope to bump up my cooking a notch and pass along some of my new-found knowledge to you. Stay tuned :)

Yesterday was farmers’ market day and I was inspired to try this “salad” when I saw Ottolenghi’s version of it published in The Guardian here. I added zucchini (who doesn’t need to get rid of a few of those at this time of year) and made an entirely different dressing by using some roasted garlic and adding traditional Tunisian spices. The entire thing was a lovely, silky mess of vegetables with a light, mild dressing which accentuated the natural smoky flavours without overpowering.

Mechouia1

I started my veggies cut side down on the hot BBQ to get some tasty charring. After a few minutes I turned the heat down to medium and flipped the veggies to skin side down to cook through more slowly. You want to cook the vegetables for this dish until they are well done. Many grilled salads you might want the vegetables tender-crisp… not here! These vegetables should be soft enough to melt together into smoky delightfulness.

I am a little bit vague in the EXACT size of vegetables as the amounts can and should be adjusted to your taste. I like tomatoes so I used larger ones. I’m not so hot on zucchini so I used a smaller one. Feel free to omit anything you don’t like and you could add other vegetables as well. I might try some grilled leeks next time and I think slices of squash would also be delicious. And a pinch of smoked paprika in the dressing would definitely not go amiss.

Roasted vegetables:
2 small or 1 large eggplant
1 sweet white onion or red onion
1 yellow pepper
3 tomatoes
1 zucchini
1 jalapeño (or similar medium spiced pepper)
2 garlic cloves (these will be smashed and used in the dressing)

Dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp coriander seed, ground
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, ground
2 TBS good quality, fruity olive oil
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:
chopped parsley, basil, cilantro, or mint in any amount you like

Preheat BBQ on high heat.

Leave all vegetables unpeeled. Cut everything in half lengthwise except garlic cloves. Onion should be cut in half around the circumference for even cooking and to keep it together. Place vegetables cut side down on the hot grill and cook for 5 minutes until grill marks appear. Flip the vegetables to the skin side down and lower the heat on the BBQ to medium. Continue to cook, removing the vegetables as they reach the well done stage. My tomatoes and hot pepper were finished with an additional 15 minutes on the grill, the rest took about 30 minutes. The eggplant and peppers should be placed on the hottest part of the grill to char the skin black for flavour and easy peeling, the zucchini on the coolest part of the grill to cook through slowly but not burn the skin as you won’t be peeling it. Let vegetables cool to room temperature.

mechouia2

Once cooled, peel and discard the charred skins from all the vegetables except the zucchini, and seed the peppers. Roughly chop all the vegetables (except garlic) and place in a large bowl. Let sit for 1/2 hour then drain the accumulated liquid from the bowl; let sit for another 1/2 hour and drain again.

mechouia3

Peel and smash the roasted garlic into a paste with a fork or the side of a knife. Put in small bowl and add the un-roasted minced garlic along with the other dressing ingredients. Whisk with a fork to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Add to the drained vegetables and let sit for another couple hours (or overnight) to allow the flavours to meld. If you store it overnight in the fridge, remove it and let it sit for a couple hours to come up to room temperature before serving.

mechouia5

Immediately before serving, stir and taste to adjust seasoning again. At this point I added another squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper. We enjoyed this with smoked pork shoulder steaks. It would be a very tasty side to grilled sausages or simply spoon it onto grilled bread or scoop it up with pita and chow down. It’s a very tasty way to enjoy vegetables that are in season right now!

Cauliflower “Tabbouleh”… Not!

cauliflower tabbouleh 4Today is penance day. You knew it had to come when you saw last week’s galette recipe, didn’t you? It was inevitable. However, in our home, penance day does not mean eating boring vegetables for dinner.

Hoooold it. Scratch that. Actually, yes it does! It DOES mean eating vegetables for dinner, but never boring. And today it means eating cauliflower for dinner! Not my favourite vegetable but this recipe lets it shine. And Husband is very happy to eat it which is a plus.

It does sort of bug me to call one food by the name of another (that’s not a hamburger folks, that’s a LENTIL patty) but it doesn’t stop me from trying these weird, healthy concoctions. I have made cauliflower “fried rice” a number of times and I’ve tried to love it, but I don’t. It’s ok, but it’s not fried rice. This recipe, for me, comes a bit closer to the real thing, in texture anyway. It does not have the earthiness of bulgar wheat which is usually the base of tabbouleh, but when you add so many other vibrant ingredients it doesn’t seem to matter as much. It’s not really tabbouleh, but it does have similar flavours with lots of zingy lemon, herby parsley and mint, crunchy cucumber, and summery tomato.

The addition of allspice in my cauliflower salad is an idea from Yotam Ottolenghi who uses it in his tabbouleh recipe. I use half as much as he recommends because I don’t want my salad to taste like allspice, but I do think it adds a more complex background note to the dish. I’ve also added crumbled feta because, cheese. Throw a few grilled prawns or squid on top and you have a healthy, tasty meal… truly.

All the measurements below are very approximate. Use what you have, add more of what you like, cut back or eliminate what you don’t. I have also been known to add in thinly sliced spring onion or chives if I have them around. It’s all good. :)

1 medium head of cauliflower
glug of olive oil
1 medium bunch of parsley, washed and leaves picked
1 small handful of mint leaves, washed and leaves picked
1/2-1 pint or so of cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered or 2-3 ripe whole tomatoes, chopped into 1 cm dice
1/4-1/3rd English cucumber, seeded and chopped into 1 cm dice
1 large juicy lemon, zested and juice added to zest (about 3-4 TBS)
3-4 TBS good fruity olive oil
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
shake of red pepper flakes
3 oz crumbled feta

Chop the cauliflower into medium flowerettes, with a good portion of the stem (once it goes through the food processor you won’t be able to tell the difference). In two or three batches, add the cauliflower to the food processor and pulse 10-15 times until the cauliflower is almost completely broken up into pieces about the size of rice or a bit smaller. Do not over-process, don’t worry if there are some bigger chunks in there, you won’t even notice them.

Warm a glug of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and saute the cauliflower, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes just to soften and sweeten. Do not overcook. Remove to bowl and let cool completely.

cauliflower tabbouleh 3

Combine the lemon zest, juice, allspice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Set aside.

cauliflower tabbouleh 2

Chop parsley and mint leaves together and add to cauliflower.

caulifower tabbouleh 1

Pour dressing over and mix thoroughly. Fold in tomatoes, cucumber and crumbled feta. Taste and and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve at room temperature. We use this salad as a base for grilled prawns or squid for a complete, very healthy meal.

Italian Chopped Salad

chop saladI thought I had a real winner last night. A summer pasta dish based on one of my favourite summer salads. It was simple but had lovely ingredients, corn charred on the BBQ, tossed with the first summer tomatoes, fresh basil from my garden, and feta. Husband said it was…

“bland”.

Wait, what?!?!

This is a man who, on one of our first dates 20 years ago, took me to an Indian restaurant (granted, my choice) and had beads of sweat running down his forehead and off the tip of his nose… and it wasn’t even spicy! “Bland”?!?! I thought it was light and tasty… a perfect way to eat pasta on a hot summer evening. Admittedly, a much softer-flavoured dish than my usual but… “bland”?!?! Ugh.

I still think the idea has promise. I’m going to try it again, next time adding garlic and perhaps charring some jalapeno peppers on the BBQ with the corn and tossing them, chopped, into the pasta. In the meantime, I will share with you a salad recipe that has some real kick. A crunchy, texture-filled, one-dish meal with with deli meat and cheese, all tossed with a vinegary, garlicky dressing. So there!

This recipe is based on a Smitten Kitchen recipe here http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/06/nancys-chopped-salad/ but I have made a few changes, one being to roast the chickpeas. I prefer the more meaty, slightly crunchy texture of roasted chickpeas in this salad. And you shouldn’t feel hemmed in by the instructions as to the exact amounts and what size to cut the ingredients. It’s a chop salad so the pieces should be smallish but, other than that, feel free to adjust the size and amount to suit your taste. This serves 2 as a main for dinner.

Oregano dressing
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS lemon juice, or juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup good, fruity olive oil

Salad and assembly
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
4 oz smoked gouda or provolone, sliced into bite-sized batons
4 oz salami, peeled, sliced into bite-sized batons
4 medium or 8 small pickled pepperoncini, sliced into rings
8-12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved, or large tomatoes diced into bit-size pieces
1/2 cup of your favourite olives, pitted or not, your preference
1 small or 1/2 large head romaine lettuce, halved, leaves cut crosswise in 1/2-inch ribbons
1 small or 1/2 large head radicchio, halved, cored and leaves cut crosswise in 1/4-inch ribbons
Optional – thinly sliced red onion

Rinse chickpeas well and let sit in strainer to dry. Heat oven to 400F. Toss chickpeas in a bowl with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour onto baking sheet and bake in oven for about 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, until starting to crisp. Remove from oven and let cool.

chop salad ingred

chop salad deli

Make the dressing: Add all ingredients into a bowl except olive oil. Mix well. Whisk in olive oil until well combined. Dressing will be a bit watery… that’s ok!

Put all salad ingredients into a bowl. Add half the dressing and gently fold. Taste for seasoning and add more dressing to your taste (I used it all!). Happy eating!

chop salad bowl