The salad of dreams
Yesterday my bestie sent me a salad recipe she thought I’d like. She was right but until I woke up this morning I didn’t realise how much. I woke up with that salad on my mind. I had been dreaming of it. So what better to do with my free Friday afternoon than jump in the kitchen and make my dreams come true!
The recipe is for a grilled chicken, spiced fig, rocket and (my favourite) buffalo mozzarella salad with a sticky red wine and balsamic reduction. Yes.
The recipe calls for chicken breasts but I switched them up for thighs because my man isn’t a [chicken] breast man. I imagine the salad is equally delicious either way though. I also love always smothering my meat in at least one exotic spice. My spice of choice today? Cumin.
Do your self a favour and get into it this weekend.
Serves 4 (or halve everything for 2)
- 4 x chicken breasts, skin on
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 balls buffalo mozzarella
- (You can substitute bocconcini, but you’d be cutting out the magical part of the salad i.e. don’t do it unless you’re desperate)
- 4 slices good quality prosciutto
- 2 cups rocket leaves, washed and dried
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 6 cardomom pods
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 2 cm piece ginger, thinly sliced
- 4 lemon slices
- 8 fresh figs, washed and dried
For the figs, place all ingredients except figs in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then add figs and simmer for a further 3 minutes or until figs soften slightly. Remove figs with a slotted spoon and set aside. Simmer the remaining liquid for about 4-5 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat, return figs to the pan and allow to cool. (You can make the figs up to 2 days in advance).
Preheat oven to 180°C. Season chicken with a generous amount of salt, cracked pepper and cumin.
Heat oil in an ovenproof pan (if you have one) over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, cook the chicken skin side down first) for about 4 minutes each side or until nice and golden. Transfer the chicken to the oven for about 5 minutes or until it’s cooked through. Once cooked through, remove it from the oven and let rest while you throw the rest of the salad together.
Remove figs from the sticky reduction and cut in half. Arrange figs, torn buffalo, prosciutto and rocket on a serving platter. Slice the chicken into strips and place on top of the salad. Drizzle with some of the spiced fig syrup, then season and tuck in!
Any other super salad suggestions for me to try?
Try sUmthing nU tUsday – Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Dips
I love pretzels and I love dark chocolate. So, when I wandered past a 6-foot high cascade of Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Dips packets in Woolworths just now, I had to have some. There was no thinking involved. My arm just reached out and grabbed some on instinct.
At home I put the kettle on, unpacked the groceries but conveniently left the pretzels on the bench. I made a delicious, steaming mug of tea, tipped out 5 or so chocky pretzels and jumped under the covers to sip, nibble and write – heaven.
I knew they would be good but I most certainly underestimated their moreish-ness. They were so good; I was seriously considering hiding these little morsels of salty, biscuity, chocolaty goodness from my man but gave in at the last minute and offered him one or two. He’s lucky I love him.
I’m going to try and ration them but I highly doubt they’ll last the night…
Verdict: Do it. Treat yourself, it’s Tuesday. Most Woolies are open until midnight; you still have time to go and pick yourself up a packet (or two) for tonight.
try sUmthing nU tUsday – Adriano Zumbo’s Salted Caramel Macarons
Most of my TSNT posts have so far been fairly easy going so in the spirit of a challenge, this week I’ve chosen to tackle to art of making macarons. And not just any macarons, Adriano Zumbo’s Macarons alla ‘Salted Caramel’.
For those of you who haven’t watched Masterchef Australia and don’t know of Mr Zumbo, he is no ordinary patissier. His macarons are admired by critics and the public alike and for good reason; they’re delicious little mouthfuls of gourmet goodness, presented perfectly in every store.
When I saw his ‘Bake at Home’ macaron kit in the super market, I couldn’t resist the challenge (or the pretty packaging). Yes, Mr Zumbo’s macaron kit comes in a box but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re a piece of cake to make. Oh no. They are still definitely very involved. There is even a multi-page
‘Macarons Troubleshooting’ section on zumbobaking.com.au – not exactly encouraging for an amateur baker attempting these signature sweets!
It was tremendously clear that like with most baking, you need to be careful and meticulous, two qualities I rarely possess on a good day. Despite this, I began with an open mind, ready for some failures but aspiring for greatness. What I ended up with wasn’t exactly greatness but a win nonetheless. My two-three hours of prepping, baking, assembling and cleaning resulted in about six, scrumptious, oddly-shaped macarons from the promised 15 on the packet.
Verdict: Although delicious, I would much prefer to spend $2.50 on a perfectly shaped macaron from one of Mr Zumbo’s stores in Sydney than make them at home myself. But that’s just me; macarons could turn out to be your true calling!
Hands on harbour BBQ-ing with byochair.com
It’s almost summer and I’m keen to get cooking on the BBQ. I don’t feel as comfortable cooking on a BBQ as I do the stove so I booked myself into byochair.com’s BBQ cooking class on the deck of classy Manly Yacht Club. The lovely chef Terase Davidson, our host, is a lady after my own heart. Her approach to cooking is creating a no-pressure, relaxed family atmosphere with good quality produce on big share platters.
The class fell on the same weekend as the annual Manly Jazz Festival, which for the past I think 10 years has been rained out. Terase must have been a lucky charm however because the day was a cracker! A sunny, 25 degree day with clear skies and a light breeze. Perfect outdoor BBQing weather.
For lunch we got our hands and aprons dirty and learned how to cook a bunch of scrumptious salads including my favourite, roast vegetable couscous salad with toasted almonds and hand-made cumin spiced yogurt dressing, whole banana prawns, calamari, sirloin and little lamb cutlets. The menu was extremely generous and we (much to my delight) enjoyed the lot over a few glasses of vino in the sun to wrap-up.
Terase’s top tips from the day
- Make your own salad dressings. Besides being so much better for you, there are super easy and keep for weeks in your fridge.
- The best way to de-seed and dice tomatoes for salads is to cut them in quarters carve out the seeds with a knife, slice into long strips and then into small cubes. Worried about the ‘wasted’ seeds? Throw them in the compost or better yet, in a Bloody Mary!
- When making couscous use equal parts boiling water and couscous. Once you’ve poured the water over the couscous DO NOT STIR but quickly cover with glad wrap and let it ‘brew’ for 5-7 minutes before you ‘fluff’ it with a fork.
- You shouldn’t need to season quality, fresh seafood before throwing it on the barbie.
- Cook your prawns whole (head and all). This protects the meat, it’s not as messy and the shell acts like a steamer, keeping the meat inside nice and moist.
Verdict: most definitely worth every cent. Not only do you walk away with a deliciously full belly but two little jars of your own dressing too! There may be a few spots in this Saturday’s class, don’t miss out.
Try sUmthing nU tUsday: Every Healthy Day’s ‘Throw together Bliss Balls’
It’s tUsday peeps and it’s time to try something nU! It’s been an uninviting; overcast day outside and I opted to spend the better part of today in my kitchen. For the first time ever, I challenged myself to creating my good friend Every Healthy Day (aka Ebony)’s ‘throw together bliss balls’.
Why? Like probably 80 percent of you I’m trying to get in shape for the long summer days we have ahead of us and again like most of you it’s definitely a challenge. (One of) My weakness (-es) is snacking on not-so-good-for-you foods, so in the hope of turning a new leaf I decided to give these healthy, super food bliss balls a snacking shot.
Firstly, what are bliss balls? They are small morsels of delicious energy goodness that satisfy sweet and just general hungry cravings.
Ingredients (measurements are approximate):
- 12 pitted medjool dates (Ebony’s wise words: “Don’t use any other kind of date – trust me on this. Some dates have a sugary coating, or have hidden preservatives which give them an artificial taste.” I’ve made this mistake once before…)
- 1 stingy tablespoon of super greens (I used Lifestream’s Ultimate Greens)
- 2 tablespoons dried goji berries
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
- 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
- 1/4 cup pepitas
- 1 cup Loving Earth caramalised buckinis (buckwheat groats)
- Shredded unsweetened coconut + 1 tablespoon lucuma powder (for coating)
What to do
Throw all bliss ball ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a rough mixture that sticks together well. Roll the mixture into even sized balls using your hands.
For the coating, pulse coconut and lucuma quickly in the food processor. Place in a large bowl big enough to roll the balls around in – do this until each ball is well coated. Refrigerate your balls before serving (they hold better).
Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container.
Verdict: Awesome sweet snack substitution. In the words of the lovely Ebony “Grab a few for breakfast, a morning snack, an afternoon snack, a midnight snack, or maybe just I-want-a-snack-so-I’m-eating-a-snack snack.”
I walked outside yesterday and felt instant joy. The sun was out and hot, the air was warm and salty and I saw a super salad from Pure Wholefoods in my very near future.
This joy got me thinking about what really made me so happy. ‘T was with out a doubt the sensory overload. Summer is here and it’s time to soak up the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and feelings surrounding you.
These are my absolute favourite things about summer
Favourite summer smells:
- Blooming Jasmine
- Backyard BBQs
- Salty sea air
- Freshly cut grass
- Silky sunscreen
- Crisp salty hair
- Humid air just before it rains
Favourite summer sights:
- Bronzed bodies
- Brightly coloured attire
- Sparkling oceans
- Good looking people picnicking outdoors
Favourite summer feels:
- Soft, new beach towel
- Sand between toes
- Cool showers
- Light silky fabrics
- Warm sun on skin
- A cool fan breeze
- Swimming in the sea
Favourite summer sounds:
- Crashing waves at the beach
- Outoor live music
- Sea birds squawking
- Cicadas humming
- Rolling summer storms
Favourite summer tastes:
- Fresh prawns and oysters
- Chilled red and white wine
- Fruity cocktails
- Salty skin
- Juicy peaches
- Delicious ice cream
- Outdoor cheese and pâté plate
- Tasty caprese salad with fresh crusty bread
What are your top five sensory sensations in summer?
Try sUmthing nU tUsday: Coriander pesto
This tUsday I’m giving Sarah Wilson’s delicious coriander pesto a shot for the first time. Why? Because besides sounding delicious, I can use up all my coriander, it’s good for me and is going to be so versatile.
Before we get into the tasty bit here are 6 cool things you may or may not know about the super-herb Coriander:
- It helps with skin inflammation – thanks to the lovely linoleic acid
- It’s good for nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – not a pleasant thing to talk about but we are all keen to stop these awful symptoms when they appear…
- It speeds up the healing of annoying mouth ulcers – with the wonderful anticeptic Citronelol
- It’s a great source of iron
- It helps stimulate digestion
- It helps protects the eyes from ‘nasties’ like conjunctivitis. Coriander oil is actually a fundamental component of many eye care products.
- 1 ½ bunch fresh coriander (leaves picked off)
- 2 shallots (trimmed, white and light green parts only)
- 2 regular sized garlic cloves (1 large one)
- 4 tablespoons good quality olive oil (plus more to adjust consistency if necessary)
- Juice of 1 lime
- ¼ cup fresh parmesan and/or ½ cup cashews (soaked in water for 2 hours and drained)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Good quality sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Add extra olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week or cover with a layer of oil and freeze for up to 1 month.
What to do with all your pesto?
- Eat it on a cracker or piece of yummy bread by itself
- Add to a cheese platter as a dip
- Add it to a salad with tinned tuna, snow peas, carrot, mixed leaves, avocado, red capsicum, bit of red onion, a tad more olive oil and a splash of balsamic
- Coat a few chicken thighs or a piece of fish with it and bake covered
- Throw it through some fresh cooked pasta