30 July 2013

Creamy Quinoa Salad With Basil-Orange Cashew Sauce

This is the last recipe to round out the salad month, and it's one for those hot days where you need something good for dinner but you can't fathom putting anymore heat in your kitchen or energy into your preparations. The last few days have been so sultry here that meals like these salads are all I can manage. But believe me, I'm not settling for just anything to appease my appetite under the sizzling sun. This one is a winner, and I would gladly make it anytime. In the winter I would substitute citrus for the plums. But right now the stone fruits are so sweet and juicy, and I especially could not pass up the plums since they pair so well with orange and basil. For a light summer dinner, enjoy this quinoa dish with the massaged chard salad.

Creamy Quinoa Salad With Basil-Orange Cashew Sauce
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups white quinoa
Cashew sauce (recipe below)
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 plums, chopped
1/2 small bunch basil, thinly sliced (~15 leaves)
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Juice of 1/2 orange for drizzling
1/4 tsp. salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste

Rinse quinoa well and drain. Combine quinoa, 3 cups of water, and a pinch of salt in a medium sauce pot, and cover. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 15-16 minutes, until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let set for 5 minutes, covered.

While quinoa cooks, prepare the cashew sauce and remaining ingredients.

When the quinoa is ready immediately toss it with the cashew sauce in a large mixing bowl. Stir in onion, pistachios, plums, basil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then add a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of orange, if desired.

Basil-Orange Cashew Sauce
Yields ~1/2 cup

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours (or overnight), and drained
1/2 small bunch basil (~15 leaves + soft stems)
1 date, pitted
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove
1/4 tsp. salt
2-4 Tbsp. water (to reach desired consistency)

Add cashews and the next 8 ingredients (through salt) to a food processor or blender. Blend for 1 minute or until the mixture becomes a thick, smooth sauce. It will be closer to a paste than a sauce at this point. Add enough water to make a thick but pourable sauce and blend to combine. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

24 July 2013

Massaged Chard Salad with Papaya

Switzerland is pricey, and to go along with it, some people's idea of customer service is not always what is provided or expected here. But there is a silver lining, and it comes by way of Thai massages. This ancient art of healing is guided by Buddhist principles that emphasize a 'compassionate intent of the healer', where value is placed on the therapist's awareness, concentration, and compassion for the customer. This level of service among Thai massage therapists has been consistent wherever I've been, regardless of the local culture of customer service. It's also a great value considering the benefits from a massage that blends triggering pressure points, deep tissue massaging, and stretching, all which help relieve tension and flush the body of toxins. Though I don't get a massage often, for me it's an important element of a holistic lifestyle, and one from which I really notice a difference in my body and state of mind.

On the nutritional front, this chard salad is a great complement to the detoxification and cleansing process jump started by a massage. It's a wonderful cleansing salad anytime, but I especially enjoy making it when I get a massage or after I come home from a trip and feel a need to reset my body's equilibrium. The chard, fennel, and papaya all have detoxifying properties, not to mention it's simply a feel-good salad that is well-rounded and satiating.

Swiss Chard
Sometimes I feel sorry for Swiss chard when it comes to massaged salads. Kale gets all of the attention in this department, but Swiss chard is just as worthy of getting a little massage and flaunting its deep green goodness.  In fact, when enjoyed raw it arguable has a smoother texture and more pleasing chew than kale, but its beauty is not just skin deep. This underrated green also provides antioxidant, blood sugar control, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying support, not to mention the very good supply of calcium and Vitamin K for bone health.

Massaged Chard Salad with Papaya
Serves 2 as a main (4 as a side)

1 large bunch Swiss chard (~ 1 lb/.5 kilo)
Pinch of salt
Squeeze of lemon
1 Avocado, cut in small bite size pieces
1 Fennel, halved and thinly sliced with a mandolin or by hand
1/2 apple, halved and thinly sliced or cut into match sticks
1 small papaya (little larger than an avocado), halved and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. pine nuts (or sunflower seeds), toasted
Tahini dressing (recipe below)

Prepare the chard: Strip leaves from the stem, rinse under water, and dry. Stack leaves (may have to make 2 stacks) and roll up like a cigar, then thinly slice down to make chard ribbons. Alternatively you can tear the chard in small pieces.

Add chard, salt, and lemon juice to a large salad bowl. Massage the leaves for 30 seconds; you don't want the chard to break down too much.  Add fennel, apple, and avocado to the bowl, and pour over dressing. Toss gently, then add papaya and pine nuts and give it one more gentle stir to incorporate.  If desired, add a bit more lemon juice and another drizzle of olive oil to finish.

Tahini Dressing
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tsp. tahini paste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 

17 July 2013

Green Pineapple Gazpacho

I know, you're probably asking what a soup is doing in the salad month. But it's technically a salad, disguised as a soup. A green gazpacho soup that is. Serve it as an appetizer or part of your meal and you have soup and salad in one.

This is a refreshing and zingy take on the many versions of gazpacho floating around.  It's just barely sweet from the pineapple and a bit sassy from cilantro, cumin, chili, and lime. The flavor is a merge of pineapple salsa and guacamole. The avocado gives it more heft and creaminess than regular gazpacho while adding essential healthy fats that help your body absorb the fat-soluble nutrients from the greens. And please (!) don't skip the toppings, they really pull the flavors together.

On a hot weekend afternoon, we took this in a thermos to a swimming hole perched on a hill in the city. Ah, summer! 

Green Pineapple Gazpacho
Serves 4-6

Notes: Taste your pineapple first. If it is really sweet, only add a cup to begin with, then adjust from there. And if you prefer a thinner gazpacho you can add more water, but you may have to adjust seasoning.

1 - 1 1/2 cups cubed pineapple
1 ripe avocado
1 long English cucumber (with skin on, if organic), cut in big chunks
1/2 red chili (or 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes), or to taste
1 small red onion, cut in big chunks
1/3 cup cilantro, leaves and soft stems
1 large garlic clove
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 limes (or lemons)

Green onions (scallions)
Pumpkin seeds, toasted
Feta or queso fresco

Add everything to the food processor (or blender) and blend for several minutes until smooth. (Depending on the size of your processor, you may have to do this in two batches.) Taste and adjust for acidity, salt, and spice levels.

Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. The longer it has time to chill and for flavors to meld, the better. Serve chilled with toppings. Best enjoyed the first 2-3 days.

(Apologies, I forgot to add the pumpkin seeds before taking the photos!)

09 July 2013

Endive Hand Salad with Orange and Capers

I have a few fun salad ideas up my sleeve, and since it's officially salad season, they will be the focus of this month's posts. Now, before you yawn and close the computer, let me just say that salads can be anything but boring. They can be vibrant and eclectic, whimsical and sensual, or hearty and rustic. It's all about having a variation of flavors, textures, and colors to keep your senses engaged. 

Whether you're looking for a quick saute to serve as a side for an outdoor grill party, a substantial stand-alone salad dinner for the dog days when you can't be bothered to turn on the oven, or a large platter style to serve a crowd, this month will have you covered in the greens department.

We had friends from the US visit recently, and we couldn't wait to catch up with them in person and enjoy the sunlit lake and mountains together. I served this endive hand salad at our dinner one night because it is fun to have platter-style, interactive dishes when serving a group. I hope you are also enjoying communal dinning with friends and can make this part of your shared experience.

It's an interactive salad because it's designed to be eaten with your hands straight from the platter. The endive leaves are cupped in a perfect way to hold sweet-tangy vinaigrette and lots of yummy bites of this and that. I chose to fill the leaves with some favorites: sweet and chewy sun-dried tomatoes, juicy orange segments, buttery pine nuts, and briny capers that pop in your mouth.

Making this for a dinner party? Prepare it ahead of time by assembling the salad on a platter and mixing the vinaigrette separately. Then pour the vinaigrette over once at the table.

Endive Hand Salad with Orange and Capers
Serves 4

Notes: This is a family-style salad in that it should be served on a large platter or plate and set in the middle of the table for everyone to interactively enjoy. So get out your most colorful oval, round, or square platter and spread the summery salad love!

3 large tight Belgian endive
3-4 Tbsp. small capers
6 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), dabbed with a paper towel to remove some oil and sliced into thin slivers
2 large oranges, segmented (and halved if large)
3 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted


Notes: I like to make a batch of this to use throughout the week tossed into green or grain salads. So if you don't use it all here, store in the fridge for a later use.

2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. apricot preserves (orange marmalade or mango jam also works)
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice the root end away from the endives and discard. Peel away the layers, arranging them on a large platter. As you peel, the layers get shorter and you'll want to thinly slice the thicker inner root (reserving to scatter over the endive cups) until more layers easily peel away.

Evenly distribute the remaining ingredients and thinly sliced endive root in each endive cup on the platter.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Pour evenly into each endive cup just before serving.