Mixed tomato salad with pesto

This recipe (and a blog update) has been long overdue. But I think I may have found the perfect way to end this lengthy hiatus – a quick and easy tomato salad with a vibrant pesto dressing. Just wanted to subtly also point out that ALL THE TOMATOES WERE GROWN IN MY GARDEN! All organic and pesticide-free. There’s no going back now.

The striking medley of hybrid tomatoes that I’ve used are more sweet than tart, and the light pungency of the balsamic vinaigrette really accentuates their sweetness. You know, like sprinkling salt on a slice of watermelon? It’s magical.

The pesto is from a jar, but I bet it would taste even better if you made some fresh. Here’s a recipe, if you’re interested (they even show you how to make it in a mortar and pestle if you’re into that kind of thing). It feels so good to be back here again, and I can’t wait to show you what else I did with my big bounty from last week!  Continue reading

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Moroccan spiced carrots with harissa, cumin & maple syrup

Harissa is a North-African spice paste that blows my mind (and mouth) on many different levels. Roasted peppers, chillies, coriander, garlic and spices form its base, and this fiery blend is used extensively to flavour meats, soups, stews, and couscous, apart from being used as a condiment in dips etc. I read somewhere that it’s also common to find people slathering it on bread and eating it for breakfast! Oh, that would definitely kick-start your day now, wouldn’t it.

A small dollop of this paste goes a long way – it can be used as a marinade for your chicken drumsticks, mixed into a spicy soup (I think chickpeas would work nicely here), slathered on some fish and pan-seared, the list is endless. I think it might just have overtaken Sriracha in my kitchen this season. That’s a bold statement, I know.

I sliced the carrots into thick batons because I wanted them to retain their shape upon roasting, and also to still have a bite to them. If I’d found a smaller, thinner variety of them here I would’ve roasted them whole. The balance of the spicy harissa against the earthy sweetness of maple syrup is subtle without being too overpowering.. you know it’s all about the yin and yang. Continue reading

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts

I have kale growing in my little terrace garden. When you look up information on plants that can handle humidity and soaring temperatures in tropical climates, kale is definitely one that wouldn’t feature anywhere on that list. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my plants are in the best shape (they seem to be a little stunted and taking forever to grow), but what even with their constant share of burns and pest attacks, they seem to be thriving. Real fighters.

Let’s talk about Brussels sprouts..we have got to first stop bullying them so much. Sure they smell like fart sometimes when steamed, but hey, so do cabbages! Maybe it’s because they belong to the same family tree (or plant, as the case may be) as them along with broccoli, kale and kohlrabi. Who knew!

I’m not going to tell you that this is the only way to eat these oval green nubs, because I honestly never disliked them in the first place. This however, is a really good way of getting acquainted with it – the pungent balsamic vinegar cuts through the sulphur-y odour that is often emitted when you cook Brussels sprouts. Also, slow roasting in the oven after being tossed in this robust marinade makes them caramelize perfectly just around the edges, keeping them slightly crispy on the outside and delicately tender within.

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DIY : Thai yellow curry paste

There are precisely 2 things that make cooking Thai food from scratch hard for me. One, you don’t get the necessary ingredients very easily here; lemon grass, whenever I get my hands on I bulk buy and freeze, and kaffir lime leaves are almost never available (replacing it with lime rind I’ve found to be a good alternative).

Also I think because of the first hurdle, I used to end up picking up the pre-made pastes from the grocery store. Which now in retrospect, really makes me wonder why I’d even bother. That stuff is so bland and flavourless, leave alone loaded with preservatives and vile food-colouring agents, that I stopped cooking anything Thai-related after that realization entered my mind.

Now..what if I told you that it takes less than 20 minutes to make your own Thai curry paste from scratch, the authentic way? Yeah, hand pounded in a mortar and pestle. OK, you’re passing up that option at the mere sound of ‘hand pounded’. Don’t worry, but that only gets easier for you now – 7 minutes in a blender. Including prep time. Are we ready? Let’s go!

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts, using a mortar and pestle helps determine the consistency of the paste at every stage, and the flavour you get is more nuanced. Although I don’t really understand the science behind it, I can vouch that it makes a big difference. The blender method is obviously easier, and comes a close second in terms of flavour. Follow your own adventure!

This paste is endlessly versatile and can be used to make curries (I have a recipe with prawns coming up shortly), soups, and even in a salad dressing(?) That was off the top of my head, but hey, it could work!

 

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Couscous with roasted vegetables

Is it just me, or did you also think that Couscous was a grain? I remember reading somewhere a while ago that it was actually a pasta in a minuscule granular form, but it must’ve completely skipped my mind when I made it alongside some Spaghetti arrabiata for dinner last night. How very un-savvy of me for having forgotten that, what with all the cooking shows that I watch in the name of research.

I just looked it up again to clarify though, and it looks like we weren’t completely off. While some argue that since the method of making couscous is rather unconventional, it doesn’t really fall under the ‘pasta’ category, whereas, the flip side is that it technically cannot be called a grain since it’s actually just crushed durum wheat. So the sum and substance of it is that it’s neither here nor there. So we were neither right nor wrong. I wish more things in life were this ambiguous.

Arguably one of the most versatile grain/pasta there is, it holds well with almost any flavour combination you give it. I had roasted vegetables mixed through along with some fresh figs and pomegranate seeds for a slight variation, and for no other reason than that I had them lying around. See what I mean by versatile?

I have a lemon and thyme version in mind for next time. Or maybe one with a spicy Indian twist.. I’m neither here nor there just yet.

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WATERMELON, OLIVE AND FETA SALAD WITH BALSAMIC REDUCTION

I think I enjoy taking pictures of the food that I cook a wee bit more than I enjoy cooking it. Oh no, did I just come on here and admit that? But here’s the thing – just because I love taking pictures of the food that I cook, more, it doesn’t mean that the degree to which I like making them should go down, right? No, that doesn’t make sense and I just wanted to confuse you into believing me by twisting it up. Has your head gone for a toss yet?

You know what they say about pictures being better than a thousand words? Well, I guess my pictures are my write-up on this one.

The deal is pretty much set with this simple salad : with every mouthful, you get saltiness from the Feta cheese, pungent sweetness from the balsamic-brown sugar glaze, zest from the mint leaves, and all of it in a way where the freshness of the watermelon is not threatened. This combination is so refreshing, you’ll be craving it all summer long!

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Friends with benefits : GREEK QUINOA SALAD

I’m a salad girl. No, not the kind that would go to a restaurant and pick on some greenage for a meal (hell no) but definitely one that would get it as a side. That kind of salad girl.

I had my first taste of Quinoa about a month ago. Until then, this obscure little South American grain was just one of those highly priced exotic items that was never on my shopping list. I had no clue what to do with it either. And then, Bobby Flay happened. I stumbled upon his recipe for ‘Greek Quinoa salad’ on a website and loved the flavours he was playing with. Mine, however, is a bit more adventurous with the addition of honey in the vinaigrette, char-grilled peppers, and capers. I love the smoky-sweetness that complements the Quinoa wonderfully. If you have some fresh figs on hand, throw them in there too!

Although not very closely associated with its North African counterpart Couscous in terms of origin, I think it could act as a good substitute if you can’t get your hands on Quinoa. Also, Bulgur wheat is another option you could try.

Incorporating this wonder grain in your salad is a good way to get your daily dose of protein and it makes for a good foundation, especially if this dish is going to double up as a meal in itself. Which by the way, it totally could. This salad is one of those foods that is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts. Healthy and delicious! Hence the title reference. Continue reading