Roasted Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

Do you ever psych yourself out about life? Like all of the sudden, you feel like you’re not doing something right – even though yesterday you felt totally on top of it? Yeah, that feeling sucks.

How do you shake it?

My food processor is a surprisingly useful tool in dealing with these situations of mental stress. If something edible, and I daresay delicious, comes about because I decided to put a bunch of things in that food processor – things suddenly feel a little better. I’m on the right track. I’ve restored some sense of control.

It might be a combination of the simplicity of preparation, the loud noise it makes, and watching pieces of food get pulverized. I’m not sure.

I was looking to use some extra coriander and limes I had when I found a chilli sauce on Nigella Kitchen that fit the bill.

It’s similar to a typical fresh salsa with a spicy punch and a citrus zing, but has a smokiness from the roasted red peppers.

I omitted most of the oil that Nigella used in her version because I thought the sauce was the right consistency without it. It clings to a chip properly, without being too thick or sludgy.

It’s perfect for bringing to a party and scoring bonus points for making something (when you barely did anything.)

Or for enjoying alone while watching old episodes of Nigella, drinking a frosty beer, and taking a moment to breathe.

Jumbo Chilli Sauce
adapted from Nigella Lawson

– 3 whole roasted red peppers (jarred, to make it easy)
– 1 clove of garlic, peeled
– 2 hot chilli peppers (I used one red and one green) with seeds in tact but top stems removed and cut in half
– 1/2 cup coriander stems roughly chopped
– Zest of one lime
– Juice of one lime
– 1/2 cup coriander leaves
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– salt

Drain the red peppers of any excess liquid.

Place roasted red peppers, garlic, chilli peppers, coriander stems, lime zest and juice in a food processor and puree until finely chopped and almost smooth. Add salt, olive oil and coriander leaves and blitz again until everything is blended and smooth.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Sweet Potato Treat Salad

I love an opportunity to treat a sweet potato right. I love sweet potatoes. I would happily eat a baked sweet potato with a healthy heap of melted butter and a generous sprinkling of salt every day.

But sweet potatoes are complimented so well by so many different ingredients that it would be a shame not to mix it up. I mean, this root vegetable goes well with both kale AND marshmallows? It’s hard to deny how special that is.

While there are no marshmallows involved here, adding some good quality cheese and a bit of dried fruit can do wonders to a normal, upstanding mix of vegetables and healthy proteins. Because not all salads should be completely virtuous. Sometimes you need a salad to feel like a treat.

Soft sweet potato with crunchy walnuts and sunflower seeds, tart dried cranberries and a little bit of rich, salty blue cheese is simple, but all kinds of perfect.

If you’re not a blue cheese fan, I totally understand. I think this would be great with some goats cheese too.

Serve it over some greens or wilted spinach to make it a meal.

Sweet Potato Treat Salad
(serves 1-2)
– 1 sweet potato, scrubbed well and cut into 1 inch/2.5cm wedges
– 1 tablespoon of walnut pieces, toasted
– 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds, toasted
– 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
– 1-2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, or Stilton to taste (the flavor is strong, so a little can go a long way)
– 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for oiling the baking pan
– 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
– Salt & pepper

Place potato wedges on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in a 200 C/400 F oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, tossing half-way through, until golden but soft. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine cooled sweet potato, nuts, seeds, cranberries and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle on olive oil, lemon juice and additional salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Notes:
To toast walnuts and sunflower seeds, place in a dry pan over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until golden and fragrant.

Kalamata Chimichurri with Grilled Vegetables

There’s a lot to like about chimichurri sauce.

Mostly because there are endless variations of the traditional Argentinian sauce, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a version that you like. The basic recipe has parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. But it’s not unheard of to involve tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, rosemary, thyme and my favorite addition, paprika. The constant in chimichurri for me is the paprika – no matter what herbs are thrown in I must have olive oil, garlic and paprika. I love the deep orange tint and rich, full flavor it gives.

Another excellent rendition is this kalamata olive chimichurri, from Bon Appetit’s 2012 cleanse menu. The salty olives are a perfect foil for the fresh parsley and smokey paprika.

This sauce was intended for a nice piece of grilled beef, which I still plan on using it with, but I also thought I would try it out on some fresh grilled vegetables. To me, the kalamatas are meaty and the paprika is reminiscent of chorizo, so I didn’t even really miss the beef. That said, this makes for a beautiful side to grilled fish, steak, or a seafood paella. You could also serve it over brown rice for a satisfying and colorful meat-free meal.

Kalamata Chimichurri
(adapted slightly from Bon Appetit)
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1/4 teaspoon of red chilli flakes
– 1 bay leaf, broken in half
– 1 medium sized shallot, finely diced
– 1/4 cup fresh parsley
– 1/4 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
– 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
– 2 teaspoons paprika
– 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
– salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium sized skilled over a medium heat. Add garlic, chilli flakes, and the bay leaf and cook for 1 minute.

Add shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Stir in paprika and cayenne and remove from heat. Stir in parsley, olives, vinegar, and a teaspoon or two of water.

You can prepare ahead and let stand at room temperature until you’re ready to use. Add more water in very small amounts if the sauce needs thinning.

For the Grilled Vegetables:
Ideally, I would do this on a BBQ, but I did a quick pan “grill” session, to speed things up.
All you need is a little olive oil in a pan over a medium-high heat, season the veggies with some salt and pepper and you’re on you way. I used:
– Red pepper/capsicum, cut into thin strips
– Broccoli florets
– Zucchini, cut into thin strips

Add the vegetables that take the longest to cook to the pan first. I put the red peppers in first, because they take a little while to soften but also because they give off the most aromatic flavor of the bunch. Then in went the broccoli for a minute or two, and the zucchini last. I covered the pan to trap a little steam in there to move things along. All up, my veggies took about 10 minutes total.

Spoon chimichurri over the top to serve.

Broccoli and Roasted Garlic Pesto

+ Green Veg-Packed Pasta with Chorizo

I feel like sometimes I don’t let broccoli live up to its full potential.

This, however, is not about one of those times.

I had a big bunch of steamed broccoli sitting in a Tupperware container in my fridge, which I had the vague intention of throwing into salads over the next couple of days. But something just didn’t feel right. I decided I needed to do something special with that broccoli.

Pesto is special. So are dips. And so is roasted garlic. Let’s do it, I said (to myself, in my head). Let’s blend that broccoli with soft, sweet roasted garlic cloves, salty Parmesan, fresh basil and some spicy chilli flakes and find many glorious uses for this combination.

So I did. And it was (glorious).

I spread my broccoli pesto on toast with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan. I had it on some crackers with a slice of tomato and little hot sauce. And I put it on spiralini pasta with peas, wilted spinach, and crispy pieces of chorizo – which was possibly the most excellent use to date.

I still have yet to try it on a baked potato, on a grilled cheese sandwich, or as a topping for some grilled fish – but I’m looking forward to all those things!

Broccoli & Roasted Garlic Pesto/Spread
– 1 1/2 cups of broccoli, steamed
– 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
– 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
– 6-8 roasted garlic cloves (outer husks removed)
– pinch of red chili flakes
– salt & pepper

To steam broccoli: place in vegetable steamer over boiling water and cook covered for 4-5 minutes, until soft but still bright green.

To roast garlic: Take an entire head of garlic and cut off the base (the woody end). Place on an oiled  piece of aluminum foil (big enough to wrap the garlic in) and stand the bulb upright on its newly trimmed bottom. Loosely wrap the bulb in foil and place on the oven rack.  Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 200 C/400 F oven until your garlic cloves take on a caramelized color. Squeeze garlic out of their dry husks to use.

For pesto: Place all the ingredients in the food processor and puree. If it’s too thick, add a little more olive oil. I kept mine on the thicker side, so it was more of a spread to start out with.

This should keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Or you can freeze it in small portions and thaw as needed.

Green Veg-Packed Pasta with Chorizo
I didn’t include amounts here, as I think you can judge how much of each ingredient you’d like. I will say that I used about a cup of  fresh spinach for each serving. I also ended up topping my pasta with only a tablespoon or tablespoon and a half of the diced chorizo. Because it’s so flavorful, I don’t need very much – but that’s just me. 
What you need:
– Pasta (I used a spiral kind, because I thought it would catch the flavors more)
– Peas, cooked
– Spinach
– Broccoli Pesto
– Chorizo sausage, diced into small pieces
– Parmesan, grated, to garnish

Cook pasta in salted boiling water for about 8 minutes, until al dente.

While pasta is cooking, brown the chorizo in a medium pan over a medium-high heat (no need to oil the pan, the chorizo has enough fat going on). Once browned (about 5 minutes) remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan add a little olive oil and wilt the spinach down over a medium heat (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and add broccoli pesto and peas.

When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss pasta in the pan with the pesto, spinach and peas – adding a little pasta water to thin the pesto out and help the sauce stick to the pasta. Add the water a tablespoon at a time, to prevent from making it too watery.

Serve in bowls with diced chorizo and grated Parmesan on top.

Chickpea and Dill Salad

Dill is one of those herbs that I avoid buying even though I love it. When I buy it to use in a recipe I inevitably neglect the rest of the bunch until its fragile, feathery fronds wilt away in my crisper.

But last week at the market I couldn’t resist their willowy branches. I resolved to try a few dishes featuring dill in the upcoming week, in hopes that none would go to waste.

This chickpea salad with feta, celery and wheat berries was my favorite. It has the perfect amount of crunch and tang to it, while perfectly showcasing the dill in all its fragrant glory.

The wheat berries could be swapped for brown rice here, but I think their texture in this dish stands out nicely. And if you don’t like dill…well, I’m not sure why you’re still reading this post. But I think this salad would be nice with an herb like cilantro as its star, too.

Chickpea Salad
(serves 4)
– 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas
– 1/2 cup cooked wheat berries or brown rice
– 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped, including leaves
– 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
– 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– juice of 1 lemon
– 1/4 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
– salt & pepper
– toasted sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

In a small jar with a lid place the olive oil, lemon, cumin and paprika and shake vigorously until combined. Pour over the other ingredients and mix well to combine. Season with salt and pepper and top with sesame seeds and more dill, if desired.