Category Archives: Salad

Chicago-Style Hot Giardiniera

Homemade giardiniera

Giardiniera is a spicy mixed vegetable pickle flavored with garlic and oregano that’s popular in my home town of Chicago where it is often served on Italian beef sandwiches. The name comes from the Italian word for “from the garden”, and you can see why:

Jarring the giard

I wish I could remember my giardiniera origin story, but I’ve loved this stuff for so long that I can’t remember where the love affair began. In my family, giardiniera is one of those “good with everything” foods that sits alongside ketchup and mustard and other condiments to always keep on hand. We love it on pizza and sandwiches, and I’ve recently discovered that it’s stellar with hummus. My love for giardiniera took on new heights when my sister and I learned to make it ourselves several years ago.

It had been a while since I made giardiniera, but a “relish platter” of epic proportions at last December’s Camont Christmas party reignighted my fervor. Granted, it wasn’t just the giardiniera, but the context of the situation: a happy day hallmarked by lots of cooking, good vibes, great friends and, the surprise element, an unlikely wine pairing that took the giardiniera to new levels of pickle heaven.

Wine revelation of the evening

The wine, chosen by my friend and wine enthusiast Neil, was a vin jaune, a sherry-like white wine made in the Jura region in eastern France. Unlike sherry, vin jaune is not fortified, but like sherry, it’s quite beautiful, especially with the right food.

Neil posited that his chosen vin jaune, a 2008 Domaine Macle, “would have the strength to battle pickled items and hold its own”. It totally did. Neil described the flavor of the wine as having “deep gold with notes of almond, bread dough and a lingering sweetness…dry, with a creamy mouthfeel while still remaining somewhat light”.

Cotes du Jura + Relish Platter = Unforgettable

I got the almond, and the sweetness, and the creamy mouthfeel (I aspire to have a pallet refined enough to pick up “bread dough” in my wine). All agreed it was a total treat and worked with the giardiniera amazingly well. For me, it took the giardiniera out of the bowl and turned it into an unforgettable story. They should write children’s books about these moments (just think of the illustration opportunities).

I enjoyed the experience so much I brought a bottle of vin jaune back with me which I’m saving for another yet to be determined giardiniera moment (pickle-themed dinner party, maybe?).

Cotes du Jura

Since Christmas I’ve been making a big jar of ‘giard’ every couple of weeks – one of these jars was polished off between Mehrunissa and I in a single evening (for the record, we felt amazing the next day!).  Giadiniera is very easy to make and once you get into the rhythm of it, you can knock up a jar in no time, tweaking the ratio of vegetables to suit your fancy (I like LOTS of cauliflower and carrots). You can also play around with the herbs. I like to keep it simple with oregano, but you could also add celery seed, chilli flakes, whatever inspires you. In France, Kate and I replaced some of the vinegar with pickle juice and rice wine vinegar (because it’s what we had to work with, such is the way we cook in Gascony!) which added a fun twist.

Christmas Giardiniera

You do need to brine the vegetables overnight and ideally let it sit for a few days to marinade. To be honest, there hasn’t been a single instance this year when I’ve been able to wait those three days to eat it.

Things I like with giardiniera include:

  • Omelettes (especially onion, mushroom and sauerkraut omelettes served with avocado)
  • Hummus (use giardiniera as a garnish)
  • Pizza topping
  • Mufaletta sandwiches
  • Veggie hot dogs (not that we should ever feel guilty about food, but this is totally a guilty pleasure)
  • Fried egg sandwich with mushrooms and avocado
  • On its own as a snack!

Hot Giardiniera

Feel free to adjust the quantity of vegetables to suit your liking. Once you’ve chopped everything and mixed it in a bowl, you can look at the mix and decide if you want to up the quantity of anything – I almost always add a bit more carrot and cauliflower. The red chilli flakes are optional – if your jalapeños aren’t very spicy, you might want to add them to up the heat factor a bit. As to chopping the vegetables, the size is up to you – sometimes life calls for a finely chopped giardiniera (great for putting on sandwiches, hot dogs, etc) but chunky giardiniera is best for the relish platter. 
 
Ingredients

  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 8 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • water to cover
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
  • 1 (5 ounce) jar green olives, sliced (optional, omit if you don’t like olives)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Method

  1. Place into a bowl the green and red peppers, jalapenos, celery, carrots, onion, and cauliflower. Stir in salt, and fill with enough cold water to cover. Place plastic wrap or aluminum foil over the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, drain salty water, and rinse vegetables. In a bowl, mix together garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and olives. Pour in vinegar and olive oil, and mix well. Combine with vegetable mixture – if the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables, add some more olive oil and vinegar in equal proportions until the veg is totally submerged.
  3. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 days before using (if you can wait this long!).

Related links:

Game Changing Kale Salad

#Imbolc salad. Made Seamus Mullen's #kale salad recipe from @food_writer's website. Freakin #awesome.

Last weekend was Imbolc, the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox, and an all-around good excuse to celebrate the season and have a party. The etymology of the word “Imbolc” is a little unclear, but most scholarly people agree it has something to do with ewe’s milk, thus making sheepy things a common symbol of this festival. For us food adventurers, this was all the excuse we needed to play around with sheep milk in various guises, and one of our biggest successes was this kale salad.

The recipe is a slight riff on Seamus Mullen’s Kale Salad with Apple, Toasted Pecans, and Yoghurt and Dill Dressing currently featured on Matching Food and Wine.

Three things make this kale salad awesome:

  1. The candied pecans – I used the recipe for spiced pecans from David Lebovitz’s Bourbon & Spiced Pecan Ice Cream. If you make this once, I promise you will be putting candied pecans on salads for the rest of your life.
  2. The dressing – Here is where we deviated ever so slightly from the recipe, using Woodlands sheep yogurt in place of cow milk yogurt. It worked a treat. Dill and yogurt aren’t an obvious choice for a kale salad dressing, but it totally works. YES, even with those candied pecans.
  3. The kale! In particular, the cavalo nero from The Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester. Almost zero food miles and totally delicious. Seasonal to the max.

It’s worth pointing out that this kale salad required no “massaging”, kale chipping or other trendy kale techniques to make it spectacular. It’s all about the ingredients and the perfect combination of flavours. Sweet, sour, savoury. If Imbolc actually did have a God, Seamus Mullens might be it.

This salad isn’t a life changer per say, but it is a game changer in that it’s raised the bar for my usual big kale salad routine, which up until Imbolc had been average at best. It reminds me of something worth aiming for when cooking for other people: the element of surprise. And it also reminds me to experiment with flavors and try other people’s recipes, even if they do sound weird.

So does anyone else have a crazy weird awesome kale salad for me to try?

Get the recipe:

Seamus Mullen’s Kale Salad with Apple, Toasted Pecans, and Yoghurt and Dill Dressing [matchingfoodandwine.com]

 

Chargrilled Romanesque Cauliflower Salad

Chargrilled Romanesco Cauliflower Salad

I am an ardent lover of cauliflower. And as a veggie lover who sidelines as a mathematician, a mathematical cauliflower is an extra special thing. Enter the Romanesque cauliflower (also known as Romanesco or Romanesco broccoli), a beautiful example of a Fibonacci fractal in the natural world, with buds arranged in an enchanting logarithmic spiral. It’s always a special day when one of these arrives in the Riverford box. And a special vegetable like this requires special treatment.

Riverford Box

Romanesque cauliflower has a flavour and texture pretty close to that of regular cauliflower, so I drew on my existing cauliflower know-how for inspiration. Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for Chargrilled Cauliflower with Tomatoes, Dill and Capers that I adore. In particular, I love the effect of chargrilling the cauliflower, which has the same crisp, caramel-like appeal of roasted cauliflower, but is fresher and lighter because the cauliflower gets steamed before chargrilling, and is then tossed with a light vinaigrette while still warm.

Chargrilled Romanesco Cauliflower Salad

This salad gets the same chargrilling treatment, but instead of tomatoes (far too summery for this time of year), I added raisins, red onion and dill, plus a splash of sherry vinegar and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds. It’s a strange combination of ingredients but it works really well. For a complete meal, you could could add some chickpeas, cooked quinoa or even fish (good quality tinned tuna is actually fantastic with this and makes for an easy lunch).

Chargrilled Romanesco Cauliflower Salad

I use a little honey in the dressing but you could easily use maple syrup or agave for a vegan salad. This salad ticks the gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb boxes, too.

Chargrilled Romanesque Cauliflower Salad with Raisins, Almonds and Dill

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1 head of Romanesque cauliflower (or normal cauliflower)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup or agave for a vegan version)
  • 3 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 small handful of dill, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Whisky the honey with the sherry vinegar then toss with the onions, raisins and a pinch of salt. If you have time, leave this mixture for 30 minutes or so to give the raisins a chance to plump and the onions a chance to soften.
  2. Cut the Romanesque cauliflower into florets and steam for about 4 minutes, so that it’s tender but still has a crisp bite to it.
  3. Meanwhile, heat up a grill pan (or your outdoor barbecue) on a high heat. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil then grill, turning occasionally, so that it gets nice black crispy bits on all sides.
  4. Place the chargrilled cauliflower in a bowl and toss with the vinegar-onion-raisin mixture. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add more olive oil if you’d like.
  5. Serve the salad sprinkled with sliced almonds and dill.

Late Summer Vegetable Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Summer Veg Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

It’s worth making this salad for the tomatillo dressing alone. Tomatillos are a rare treat here in the UK – I totally took them for granted when I lived in Austin and Chicago. Now they’re far more tricky to come by (and my attempts to grow them have been literally fruitless).

Tamale Party with Jane, Jimmy and Steve

When the season’s right – late summer, early autumn – they’re available on order from Riverford (my vegbox scheme) and Cool Chile Co (a UK-based supplier of Mexican goodies). So this season I’ve been shelling out some cash on tomatillos so I could experiment a bit with this funky green tomato (which is actually a relative of the cape gooseberry). This tomatillo dressing is my favourite creation thus far.

Tomatillo Salad Dressing

Most of what I know about tomatillos comes from Mexican cheese enchiladas verde, one of my favourite Mexican dishes which consists of corn tortillas wrapped in cheese, smothered with tangy green tomatillo “verde” sauce, topped with more cheese, then baked to perfection. Not exactly heart-healthy, but incredibly delicious. My other favourite tomatillo memory is the spicy tomatillo salsa from Trudy’s Restaurant in Austin, Texas – I have ruined many a dinners overeating corn chips and salsa at this place (not that I’m complaining; their salsa is some of the best I’ve ever had).

With this salad, I wanted to do something to celebrate the tomatillo’s natural aptitude for tart tangy salsas, but without the artery-clogging qualities of excessive cheese and fried corn chip accoutrements. So I turned the tomatillos into this zesty salad dressing that really knocked my socks off and even surpassed some of the verde sauces I’ve had in Texas. The key steps are broiling the tomatillos until they are well-charred, and adding just a bit of olive oil to the blended salsa to give it a nice creaminess and turns this salsa into an excellent salad dressing. Here I used it with the green beans and sweet corn that came in my vegbox, but you could just as well use it to dress a green salad or even grains and beans (black beans and rice come to mind). The tomatillo dressing also goes nicely with fish – I served this salad with sea bream, steamed with lime and cilantro, and I ended up using some of the dressing on the fish after it came out of the oven – superb.

The only downside to all of this is that tomatillos are so rarely available, but that rarity adds to my appreciation of them. And now I know that when I am lucky enough to have tomatillos, I have a reliable and healthy recipe to turn to that does them justice.

Summer Veg Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Late Summer Vegetable Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Serves 2-3.

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 lb tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
  • 20 cilantro sprigs
  • 1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

For the salad:

  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 big handfuls of green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tomato
  • handful of chives
  • salt and pepper
  • feta cheese

Instructions

      1. Pre-heat the grill and put your tomatillos in a roasting tray. Put the tray under the grill and cook until the tomatillos are charred, then flip them over and let them char on the other side.
      2. Combine the tomatillos and any juices in the pan with all of the other dressing ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.
      3. Steam the corn and green beans for 5 minutes then rinse them under cold water.
      4. Halve the green beans and slice the corn kernels off of the cob.
      5. Combine the beans and corn in a bowl with the tomato, chives and a couple spoonfuls of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
      6. Serve in a bowl, drizzled with a little more dressing and garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

Tomatillo Salad Dressing

For more tomatillo inspiration, check out

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Beetroot and Carrot Slaw

Raw Carrot & Beetroot Salad with Raisins & Pine Nuts

I’m on a bit of a raw food kick lately. Of course when it comes to raw food, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients, which should ideally be organic and locally sourced to maximise their flavour potential. In this way, my recent Riverford boxes have been packed full of autumn inspiration, with carrots and beetroot being mainstays for the last couple of weeks. Most of my beets typically go straight into the juicer, but recently I’ve been look for other ways to enjoy beetroot in its pure unadulterated form.

Riverford Box

Most recently, my favourite way to enjoy raw beetroot is shredded in combination with carrots and dressed with something sweet and tangy. Here I use raisins for the sweetness and lemon and white wine vinegar for the tang. Feel free to experiment with other dried fruits like dates, apricots or prunes. Same goes for the nuts: I use pine nuts but pistachios would be fantastic here, as would some toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Raw Carrot & Beetroot Salad with Raisins & Pine Nuts

Many people don’t often brave the gory hand mess that comes with handling raw beetroot. But really, folks, the mess isn’t that bad and the result is fantastic. Just wear an apron and go to it!

And if the slaw isn’t enough, here’s more beetroot inspiration for you:

Raw Carrot & Beetroot Salad with Raisins & Pine Nuts

Beetroot and Carrot Slaw

Serves 2-3 (or one greedy Monica)

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beetroot
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • small handful parsley
  • small handful mint
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Combine the raisins, vinegar and garlic in a bowl and leave to sit for about an hour.
  2. Peel the carrots and beetroot and grate them with a box grater or a julienne slicer (a julienne slicer looks prettier).
  3. Combine the raisins, vinegar and garlic with the carrots and beetroot, then toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, most of the parsley and mint, salt and pepper.
  4. Serve the slaw scattered with pine nuts and sprinkled with the extra herbs.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Grilled Mackerel with Watercress, Fennel & Orange Salad

Mackerel with watercress, fennel and orange salad.

My mackerel flipping skills need work, but otherwise this was the perfect lunch following a tough workout at CrossFit Cirencester: grilled mackerel with a salad of watercress, fennel, orange, spring onions and pomegranate, dressed with a little olive oil and salt (the salt pulls out the juices in the fruit so you don’t need vinegar). Extremely quick to make. Big props to Ben at New Wave Fish Shop who recommended this ingredient combination. I feel restored!

And since I’ve been talking macronutrients lately, this was about 400 calories, 22g fat, 19g carbs, 30g protein.

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Last year while visiting Cornwall with my mother we had the fortune of staying at Lanyon, a perfect countryside hideaway comprising three cottages surrounded by fields and farmland (and also home to my good friend, Marie Leggo). The farmland is owned by the Leggos but leased to local farmers, and one of those farmers had chosen to fill his ample acreage with rows and rows of cauliflower. It just so happened that when Mom and I arrived at Lanyon last year, it was just after the cauliflower harvest, and Marie took us out to the fields to glean any cauliflower that was left behind.

Cauliflower gleaning

The cauliflower gleaning was hugely exciting to Mom and I – not only are we both fascinated by “gleaning” (we bonded over the film The Gleaners and I, but we are also both cauliflower fanatics). And when we saw the bounty of cauliflower that remained in the field, we were over the moon in cauliflower bliss, but also shocked by how much perfectly good cauliflower gets left behind. We took as much as we could, resorting to some clever means to do so, but still, there was way more cauliflower than we could ever carry or consume.

Cauliflower gleaning

As we walked back to the house, arms laden, we bantered about all of the possibilities and started scheming more creative uses for cauliflower. One of the things I’ve been toying with a lot lately is using cauliflower as a grain substitute. If you put cauliflower in a food processor and chop it super finely, cauliflower takes on the size and shape of grains and looks much like rice, couscous or bulgar wheat. And you can use it in similar ways, for example, cauliflower fried “rice” or cauliflower “couscous”. On that particular day at Lanyon I attempted a cauliflower “rice” pudding which was probably pushing the whole concept a little too far. However, stick with the savoury options and cauliflower grains, be they raw or cooked, are a pretty safe bet.

Cauliflower gleaning

My favourite cauilflower-as-grain option is this cauliflower tabbouleh which is inherently raw, vegan and gluten-free. I like to serve this with falafel and hummus, or wrapped up in little gem lettuce leaves. You can adapt it as you see fit – add some roast or grilled veggies, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, mix in some chickpeas or add a drizzle of tahini sauce. And while it’s most satisfying when made with reject cauliflower you’ve gleaned yourself from a farm, it’s just as good with store-bought cauliflower which is one of the most readily available, nutritious and frugal vegetables out there.

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cauliflower, stalk removed
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 big handful of parsley and mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 tomato, finely diced
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Method

  1. Put the cauliflower florets into a food processor and blitz it until it reaches a couscous-like texture.
  2. Combine cauliflower with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Season well, adding more lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

EXTRA VEG ALERT: I am sending this recipe to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for the Extra Veg challenge that she hosts with Michelle from Utterly Scrummy.

This recipe also appears on Great British Chefs.

Chaat Masala Salad

Chaat Masala Salad

Here’s a little something I made up the other day for a quick lunch that was so good I had it again the next day. I say “quick”, because this “chaat masala salad” took advantage of a few leftovers, including cooked dal I’d stashed in the freezer, some chaat masala I made previously and tamarind chutney from Asma ‘s Darjeeling Express Supperclub. Were I to start from scratch, it would have taken lots longer, but all the more reason for keeping these Indo-staples readily available. Particularly the chaat masala, my new favourite salad condiment!

New favourite thing for making lunch salads #awesome: chaat masala.

The whole idea was inspired by Urvashi Roe’s Gujerati Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School, where she showed us how to make Indian “street food”, including “chaat“, basically a mish-mash of random tasty ingredients – a total whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts situation.

Urvashi's chaat

Technically my chaat masala salad wasn’t a “chaat” at all, lacking the yummy fried dough bits that are typical of dishes of this kind. But never mind, it was delicious, and I got my crunch factor from toasted cashews!

Here’s how it came together:

  1. Heat up about 1/2 a cup of cooked lentils (chickpeas would be good here, and/or boiled potato). While this is happening…
  2. Combine together some finely chopped or grated vegetables. Good contenders include: cabbage (white and red), carrots, tomato, and cucumber. 
  3. Finely slice 1/2 shallot. Chop a small handful of coriander. Add this stuff to the vegetables. Toss the whole thing with a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt. 
  4. Now, put the dish together, starting with some lentils at the bottom of a bowl.
  5. Top with some of the salad mixture. 
  6. Sprinkle with chaat masala.
  7. Drizzle on some tamarind chutney.
  8. Sprinkle on some grated or desiccated coconut.
  9. Sprinkle on some toasted cashews.
  10. Serve with any extra salad on the side. And keep the chaat masala, tamarind chutney and coconut handy in case you want to add more as you go.

Here is the recipe for chaat masala that I used. And here’s a recipe for tamarind chutney (though I’m hoping Asma will share hers one day!). Both are worth keeping around, along with cooked beans and lentils, for thrown-together random salads like this one.

Elderberry Vinaigrette

Elderberry Vinaigrette

I have become very akin to the elder plant (Sambucus nigra) in recent months. I’ve been fond of this plant ever since I learned you can gather the wild flowers to make elderflower champagne and elderflower cordial. But recent solstice and equinox activities have seen the elder plant evolve from a mere foraging opportunity to a symbol of the changing of the seasons, preservation and timelessness.

Summer elderflowers have recently given way to autumn elderberries, a bit more challenging than the elderflowers but so too is autumn. The temperature is falling and the days are getting shorter (and wetter). Where the elderflower called for bottled sunshine and refreshing elixirs, the elderberry seems more suitable for winter warmers to help us survive these dark dreary months.

Elderberry Vinaigrette

It’s somewhat appropriate then that the elderberry has been used for centuries as a cold and flu remedy. Elderberries contain flavenoids, an antioxidant which can help prevent damage to cells. (UMD makes mention of a few scientific studies that back up the health benefits of elderberries.)

I’ve experimented with a few elderberry recipes. My challenge as ever is that I’m not a massive fan of sweet things, so recipes like elderberry syrup are a bit lost on me (thought I’m told it’s quite good). I made an elderberry cordial, spiced with cinnamon and cloves, which recent houseguests loved, particularly when consumed hot as a tea. Mom loved my plum and elderberry “equinox” jam, but I have a hunch she was biased (her former business name was “elderbury”). I didn’t have much luck with Pontack sauce (but then again I don’t eat meat). After a few trials, I was starting to wonder if elderberries were worth the effort.

Then I made elderberry “balsamic” vinegar and my whole elderberry world changed! Ok, that’s probably exaggerating, but this stuff is great. The recipe comes courtesy of eatweeds.co.uk and is so simple: soak elderberries in red wine vinegar for five days, then strain the liquid and boil it with some sugar. DONE. And it’s awesome.

Elderberry Vinaigrette

The first elderberry vinegar revelation was a fresh fig pizza with caramelised onions made (during equinox, of course) with Emily and Robert. We added some of the vinegar to both the onions and the fig before assembling the pizza: caramelised onions, mozzarella cheese, figs, baked then topped with fresh shavings of Old Winchester. This was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had!

The second revelation is this simple elderberry vinaigrette. I was seeking something akin to raspberry vinaigrette, a dressing that would go well with salads, walnuts, fruit and maybe feta or gorgonzola if I’m feeling the dairy call. But I didn’t want to lose the elderberry flavour. Hence, this simple vinaigrette was born. It’s a basic combo of oil, elderberry vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. And it’s delicious!

Beetroot salad with elderberry vinaigrette

The elderberry vinaigrette is especially good with beetroot and spicy salad leaves like rocket / arugula. I think it will also be a fine match for fruit, too – I’m picturing a chopped salad with apple, celery and walnuts. Or in a true tribute to foraging, a salad of blackberries and chickweed tossed with elderberry vinaigrette and garnished with toasted hazelnuts.

There are still elderberries around and I highly suggest you take advantage of them to make something. If not elderberry vinegar, then elderberry syrup is a logical place to start because it’s just so versatile (Hunger Angler Gardener Cook has some good ideas for elderberry syrup, including ice cream and pannacotta!). Happy foraging!

Elderberry Vinaigrette
 

Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup elderberry vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (regular or grainy)
  • salt & pepper

Instructions
  1. Whisk everything together in a bowl (or use a blender) until fully emulsified and enjoy!

 

Asparagus: making healthy food less boring

Asparagus

We’re in the prime of British asparagus season, with May being Asparagus Month and a great time to explore this vegetable in all its many shapes and guises. Asparagus is, in general, a pretty awesome vegetable and happens to be extremely handy for people who do the intermittent fasting (aka 5:2 fast diet) thing. In fact, asparagus is good for anyone watching their calories – one medium spear of asparagus has just 3 calories but packs loads of flavour and can make traditional, boring “diet foods” into something quite interesting.

Case in point: salads. This is a favourite for many fasters and calorie counters because it allows one to have a big ol’ pile of food – quite nutritious food, at that – without necessarily having a big ol’ pile of calories along with it. But salads can be problematic: how many of us have eating a gargantuan salad only to find ourselves deeply unsatisfied at the end of it?

Salad of asparagus, potato and boiled egg

Let’s face it, there are many dimensions to food satisfaction: not only quantity, but flavour and texture, too. This is where asparagus can come to a salad’s rescue with its notable flavour and crisp bite (provided you don’t boil it to death). It also pairs extremely well with other fast-friendly foods like eggs and potatoes, plus fresh herbs like dill, tarragon and chives, which all together can make a salad so much more than a pile of leaves.

Dressing helps, too, but even a simple treatment of lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper can go along way (a little Parmesan helps, too, which is fairly low-calorie as far as cheeses go). But if you want to take it a little further, I can heartily recommend the tarragon vinaigrette recipe I’ve posted below, a little something I learned from The Vegetarian Cookery School that has proved infinitely versatile and especially stunning with potato, eggs and, yes, asparagus. All together it makes for an incredibly flavoursome fast day lunch or dinner dish – it clocks in at about 250 Calories, leaving you plenty of extra calories (250 if you’re a woman, 350 if you’re a man) for another asparagus session for later in the day.

Not quite nicoise

Asparagus, Egg and Potato Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

You can adapt this recipe to use whatever salad vegetables you have on hand; the dressing is marvellously versatile, but is especially good with potatoes and light cheeses like ricotta and fresh goats curd. Calories: ~250.

  • 5 asparagus spears, blanched and slice into 3cm pieces
  • 2 boiled new potatoes (~1/2 cup or 80g)
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 tomato, sliced into wedges
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1 Tbsp tarragon vinaigrette (see below)
  • 1 boiled egg
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon to serve

Tarragon vinaigrette:

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • pinch salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Make the tarragon vinaigrette by whisking together all of the ingredients in a bowl (this makes more than you’ll need so store the rest for future salads).
  2. Combine the asparagus, potatoes, carrots, tomato and lettuce leaves in a bowl. Toss with ~1 Tbsp of tarragon vinaigrette, plus a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.
  3. Serve garnished with the boiled egg and a lemon wedge (in case it needs a little extra zing).

This post originally appeared on Great British Chefs.