broccoli and quinoa tabbouleh with harissa dressing

aerial Broccoli was ridiculously cheap at my local market this week. Beautiful, too – tight green florets, crisp stalks, fresh-cut stems dripping with moisture. So, as most seasonal eaters do, I squirreled a few heads into my shopping basket without further thought as to what I’d do with them. They went straight into the vegetable drawer.

Cue yesterday afternoon when, in search of an avocado, I rediscovered my cruciferous hoard. I decided to turn some of it into ‘dinner’ but had little enthusiasm for my default roasted broccoli with garlic. broccoli I decided upon a salad, with initial thoughts gravitating towards this pomegranate wonder from Green Kitchen Stories. However, as pomegranates were $5 each at the supermarket, the idea became slightly less appealing (whilst also quietly defeating my seasonal locavore principles).

That brings us to this gloriously spicy, crunchy, nutrient packed bowl of green deliciousness that I’ve loosely dubbed as ‘tabbouleh’ (hopefully the Levantines will forgive me). mix I’m sure that most of you would be familiar with traditional tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad packed with fragrant herbs, tomatoes, lemon juice, finely chopped onion and cracked wheat (known as burghul or ‘bulgur‘). I think I first came across it at a kebab stand as a young teenager, when I declined to have it applied to doner (my idea of ‘salad’ was iceberg lettuce and tomato).

I’ve since learned the error of my ways and enjoy tabbouleh in all its forms, both for nutritional and taste benefits. I’ve swapped out the bulgur for either quinoa or cous cous on a number of occasions and added a few crushed pistachios, however this is my first proper ‘reinvention’. harissa The base of this salad is a rough tumble of finely chopped broccoli and quinoa, with familiar herbs, onions and lemon drawing reference from tabbouleh. Crumbled feta adds creaminess whilst toasted almonds add a welcome crunch.

For me, the harissa dressing is the stuff of dreams: hot, smoky and slightly sweet from the addition of honey. I’d recommend that you taste and adjust your dressing to suit your personal heat tolerance.

I like to serve this salad on its own, with a big dollop of lemony hummus, for a complete lunch. For dinner, I’d push the boat out with some additional crispy falafel, pickled radishes, natural yoghurt and warmed flat bread. handbowl Broccoli and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Harissa Dressing Adapted from this recipe by BBC Food.

  • 100g quinoa, rinsed (I used black and red, but any colour will do)
  • 300g broccoli florets (don’t throw the stems away, take a look at these gorgeous ideas), very finely chopped or finely blitzed in a food processor
  • 4 spring onion stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, zested and halved*
  • 100g feta cheese (the creamy type, I use goats feta), crumbled
  • large bunch parsley, washed and finely chopped
  • small bunch mint, washed and finely chopped
  • 50g toasted almonds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste (maybe start with a little less, mix, taste and add as desired)
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (above*)

Add the quinoa to a medium saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the broccoli and continue to cook until the quinoa is tender and the broccoli steamed until bright green (you may need to add a splash more water before replacing the lid, do not allow the pot to boil dry).

Tip the broccoli and quinoa mix into a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Mix, then set aside to cool slightly. When at room temperature, add the herbs, spring onions, lemon zest and a good amount of salt and pepper. Set aside whilst you make the dressing.

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium screw-top jar. Shake, then check the balance of flavours (add a little more honey if too hot, a little more lemon if too viscous, a little more harissa if the heat’s not enough for you). pour Pour over the quinoa mix, add the crumbled feta and almonds, then mix thoroughly. Taste and check for seasoning. Serves 4-6 as a side dish (though I would happily eat it all myself!).  bowl2

spiced date and almond cigars with saffron honey

serve2

Those of you who regularly read this blog would be aware of my long-standing obsession with Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s something to do with the fragrant mix of spices, delicate florals, bleeding saffron and the earthy crunch of nuts, occasionally punctuated by sweet bursts of pomegranate or quince. It’s breathtaking art, both on the plate and the palate. I doubt that my adoration will ever wane.

Recently, my love of Israeli food has translated to an obsession with Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. Two months ago, I purchased both Plenty and Jerusalem; both have subsequently been pored over at least once per week. I’ve made a few of his vegetable recipes, from this green herb salad to an adapted version of braised artichokes with freekeh. However, prior to last weekend I was yet to attempt one of his fragrant desserts.

pistachios

pistachiosmpCue last Saturday. Aaron and I had invited some friends over for dinner in a ‘Moroccan feasting tent’ (a.k.a an abstract tent of sheets, blankets and rough twine that had initially been assembled for the entertainment of our nephew and nieces who had stayed over the previous weekend). Here’s a small snapshot of the ‘roof’:

sheetceiling

I lovingly planned the menu: slow cooked lamb in spices and preserved lemon, flatbread with za’atar, split pea dip, beetroot with labneh, marinated sweet peppers and roasted carrots with pistachios, pomegranate and mint.

After some consideration, I decided to attempt an adaptation of Ottolenghi’s sweet pastry cigars with almond and cinnamon filling for dessert.

filo

For personal reasons, I drastically reduced the sugar in Ottolenghi’s recipe, omitting the saffron icing and exchanging most of the sugar in the filling for chopped Medjool dates. When cooked, the dates formed a beautiful soft caramel that intermingled beautifully with the chopped nuts and spices.

Before serving with vanilla bean ice cream, I drizzled over some saffron and orange blossom infused raw honey, scattering over sweet crushed pistachios and dried rose petals.

deansbeesrosecrush

The finished dish was a beautiful marriage of textures, colours and flavours. Each bite provided the crunch of fried pastry, the soft complexity of the date and nut filling, sweet fragrant honey and floral rose petals.

We enjoyed the cigars alongside creamy vanilla bean ice cream, however for those of you who avoid dairy, these cigars are perfectly beautiful when eaten on their own. Their natural sweetness would be a perfect pick-me-up on a dreary afternoon.

eating2

Spiced Date and Almond Cigars with Saffron Honey

Adapted from this recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes 8 large or 16 small cigar pastries

  • 40 g finely chopped walnuts
  • 60 g finely chopped almonds
  • 60g Medjool dates (about 4), stoned and chopped
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 20 g raw caster sugar
  • 75 ml water
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 3 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 medium egg, separated
  • 16 filo pastry sheets (12 cm x 18 cm)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) sunflower oil (approximately), for frying

To serve:

  • 2 tbsp raw honey (I used Dean’s Bees unprocessed honey from Urban Locavore)
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/4 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp roasted, coarsely crushed pistachios
  • unsprayed dried rose petals (optional), crushed

Place the walnuts, almonds, dates, cinnamon, sugar, water and salt into a medium pan.

fillingpotGently heat over a low flame, stirring regularly for about four minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the dates have softened and broken down. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Whisk in the lemon rind and the egg yolk (place the white into a small bowl, you will require it to roll the pastries) to create a thick, sticky mixture like this:

mixture

Set the filling aside. Place 1 filo pastry sheet onto a clean, dry surface with the longest edge facing you. Spread about three tsp of the nut mixture (15-20g) (about 3 tsp) in a long, thin strip along the edge closest to you (leave a 1cm gap on the right and left sides).

fillingspread

Fold the two sides in, sticking the pastry down over the paste to hold in the filling. Roll the pastry forwards (away from you) to create a compact cigar.

rollingBrush the last 1cm of the pastry with egg white, then fold to seal the end. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.

Pour enough oil into a medium, heavy based frying pan to reach 2cm up the side of the pan (note: I actually added much less oil that this and they cooked beautifully, so use your discretion). Heat to 190 degrees C (375 degrees f) or until a cube of bread sizzles and cooks, turning gently brown in about 20 seconds.

Gently add the cigars to the pan, in batches if necessary, cooking for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp all over (reduce the heat if they start to blacken or burn).

frying

Remove each cigar with a slotted spoon. Drain on some paper towels.

fried

To make the infused honey: gently heat the honey in a small saucepan over low heat until warm and fragrant. Turn off the heat and add in the pinch of saffron, leave for 5-10 minutes to infuse. Splash in a little orange blossom water to taste. Mix well.

Slice each cigar on an angle into two or three pieces to serve. Drizzle with infused honey and scatter with pistachios and rose petals, if desired.

aerialeatingfinish

kale salad with chilli, garlic and parmesan

It’s very early on a Sunday morning, and instead of sleeping I’m wide awake thinking about the nutritional qualities of kale. Is that bad? I guess that’s a subjective question but in my case, probably, considering that I’ve lost my sole opportunity for a weekly sleep-in. Instead, I’ve abandoned my husband to sit in the half-light with a bowl of leafy green, lemon-drenched brassica. As I crunch through mounds of deliciousness, I’m pretty sure that I resemble an excited meerkat that just found a fat scorpion. Mmm, scorpion. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Okay, so maybe that was a bad parallel. Especially for those of you who are strongly adverse to kale like Michael Procopio, who’s actually penned a poem to express his loathing towards the leafy green. And he’s not alone: check out here and here. But for every kale hater, there’s also an equally committed lover, like the delightful Sarah Jane whose blog, I Love Kale, is a tribute to the adaptability of this delicious vegetable. In any case, it’s beautiful. Isn’t it?

By now you’ve probably concluded that I’m in the ‘love’ camp, and you’re absolutely right. Mostly because I coat my kale in a deliciously cheesy, spiced lemon dressing before topping it with a crumbling of toasted nuts. If I’m extra hungry, I’ll also add in some seasoned red quinoa or a soft poached egg, letting the warm yolk drizzle softly into mounds of chilli-flecked green. Absolutely delicious, moreish and 100% good for you.

Well, if you’re now interested enough to find out more about the benefits of kale, just read on below. Underneath, you’ll also find my lemon and chilli spiced kale recipe, with suggestions for adaptation. As with all my recipes, I’d encourage you to add, subtract or change things around to suit your personal taste. Don’t like cheese? Try adding some tahini, more crushed nuts or nutritional yeast. Want some meat? Read on below for suggestions. As long as you get some kale into your diet, I’m happy… even if your version only resembles 1% of the original (that 1% being kale, not cheese, smart-ass).

Your body will thank you. Here’s why:

  • Kale is one of the newly coined superfoods of the plant world, a category that also includes grains like quinoa, berries like acai (ah-sigh-hee) and seeds like chia. Superfoods, in a nutshell, are plants that are high in organic phytonutrients, or components that are highly beneficial to physical health.
  • Phytonutrients in kale include beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and calcium, all of which assist in the maintenance of heart and bone health whilst aiding digestion, vision (by preventing macular degeneration) and energy production.
  • Along with other brassica vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage) kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
  • Sulforaphane is another chemical within kale that has potent anti-cancer properties. To enhance levels, eat your kale raw, preferably blended, minced or chopped. If you prefer cooked greens, minimise nutrient loss by steaming or stir-frying (if you’re one of those people who boil vegetables to a shade of grey, at least drink the cooking water as that’s where all the nutrients have gone).

Kale Salad with Chilli, Garlic and Parmesan:

Serves approx. 2 for a main meal, 4 as a side dish.

  • 1 bunch kale (equivalent of about 4 cups, washed & chopped)
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly squeezed juice of one lemon (equivalent to 1/4 cup or ~50ml of juice)
  • chilli flakes, to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon)
  • a large pinch of sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (or for vegans, substitute a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or a combination of all three (I add closer to 1/2 cup but adjust to your requirements)

Thoroughly wash and dry your kale leaves. Remove the tough, fibrous lower stalk and central vein from the larger leaves (retain the inner stalks from the more tender heart) then shred into 0.5cm thick ribbons. Place in a large bowl.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound your garlic clove with the chilli flakes and sea salt into a thick paste. Transfer it into a small bowl and add your lemon juice, olive oil, ground pepper and cheese. Whisk the dressing to combine, then pour it over the kale. Toss very well with salad servers or if it’s a meal for one, it might be easier to use your hands (I do!). Ensure that each leaf is thoroughly coated in dressing, then allow your kale leaves to sit for at least ten minutes to ensure that the lemon juice & olive oil will tenderise and remove some bitterness from the leaves.

Pound half of your toasted nuts in a mortar and pestle to a coarse ground. Chop the rest coarsely, then mix most of the nuts into your salad, reserving a sprinkling for garnish. Serve in bowls or on a large plate, scattered with your reserved nuts, a splash more extra virgin oil, a sprinkling of extra chilli flakes and/or extra Parmesan to taste.

Notes:

This salad lends itself very well to adaptations for both the vegetarian and carnivorous palate. Play around with things as suits your palate but some of my favourites are as follows:

  • If you’re not a fan of cheese, this salad works really well with some tahini or almond butter mixed into the dressing. Try a tablespoon to start then adjust to taste.
  • If you’ve tried this salad and you find that your kale is still bitter and tough, the problem is that the leaves have not been sufficiently ‘cooked’ in the acid of the dressing. I’d suggest trying again, but rubbing the dressing in with your hands before allowing it to sit for at least ten minutes. Hopefully this will do the trick!
  • Add some crumbled fried bacon pieces to your salad for the meat-lovers in your family, or serve with some seasoned grilled chicken or crispy-skinned salmon that’s still soft, moist and pink in the centre.
  • Place a generous handful of kale salad on some buttered, toasted rye or wholegrain bread, then serve topped with a soft-poached egg for breakfast.
  • Toast some turkish bread, slather it with hummus (preferably home-made, it’s easy!) then top with a spoonful of kale salad. The lemon and tahini, wrapped in the smoothness of the hummus pairs well with the garlicky, chilli-spiked greens.
  • Along the same thread, you can also add some kale salad into a pita-bread or lavash wrap with hummus, canned tuna and/or chickpeas. Yum.
  • If you don’t like nuts or can’t eat them, then this salad works equally well with croutons for extra crunch. Just place some day-old, crumbled wholegrain or French bread in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of pepper, then bake until golden. Top your salad, then eat!
  • To bulk out your kale salad in wheat-free fashion, just cook 1/2 cup quinoa in 1 cup of water (1:2 ratio) or vegetable stock then mix through your salad. I sometimes omit the cheese in this variation, then add in some pepitas and raisins (or chopped medjool dates) for extra colour, sweetness and crunch.
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