Spiced Chickpea and Carrot Salad

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This salad is brought to you by: the insane heat that blanketed Sydney yesterday and my favorite skirt that’s a little tight after the long holiday season.

Seriously, it was shockingly hot. Like hotter than your average person’s body temperature. Clearly, seeing 43 degrees (109 Fahrenheit) on my phone weather left a big impact on me.

Anyway, turning on the oven wasn’t an option, nor was boiling or simmering anything. I needed something refreshing but also something with substance to get through the mid-day slump.

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Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark

I discovered Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars when I was 19 and in London for the first time.  I can almost remember the exact moment I went weak in the knees after I had my first bite of the dairy milk chocolate. I think it was in a tube station.

Something about that brand of chocolate in that city tastes far superior to the same type anywhere else.

…Maybe that’s why I love London so much. That would make a considerable amount of sense, actually.

Anyway, back to the chocolate treat at hand.

One of the suggested desserts in Bon Appetit’s Cleanse was a dark chocolate bark with pepitas and sesame seeds, which I made and really enjoyed.

(A bark is chocolate melted down, spread out in a thin layer and topped with nuts, candy, pretzels (!!!) – whatever you’d like.)

I decided to make a Cadbury-inspired fruit and nut bark — still cleanse-ish, but with a little nostalgia.

I added some crushed up toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, along with some dried cranberries and raisins and a sprinkling of sea salt. I love how thin and delicate the sheets of chocolate are in some places – it almost enhances the flavor of the chocolate itself and the other components at the same time. The sea salt doesn’t hurt either.

If you’ve got some extra plain chocolate lying around, make this with whatever you have in your cupboards. I put some toasted coconut in an earlier version which was lovely.

The point is to make it your own brand of awesome.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark
– 150 grams/5.5 ounces of good quality dark chocolate
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined hazelnuts and walnuts, toasted and crushed into small pieces
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined dried cranberries and raisins.
– Sea salt (optional, but totally recommended!)

Chop up your chocolate into small pieces that will melt easily.

Make a double boiler by placing a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan with a few inches of boiling water in it (make sure the saucepan is smaller than the bowl, so the bowl comfortably rests on top without touching the boiling water.) Place chocolate in the bowl and melt, stirring frequently until smooth. Oh, and wear an oven mitt when you’re touching the bowl – that thing gets hot!

Using a heat-proof rubber spatula, spread the melted chocolate out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with nuts, fruit and a little salt.

Let set in either the refrigerator or the freezer (I opt for the freezer because I’m impatient.) Once the chocolate is hard again, break into pieces and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Mexican Breakfast

Hopefully by now you are familiar with the amazing concept of the breakfast burrito.

Fluffy scrambled eggs, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, maybe a little cheeky chorizo up in there – all wrapped up in a big burrito. Did I mention you get to eat this for breakfast?

In the spirit of this great dish, along with a commitment to a healthy start to the new year – I made my own Mexican-themed breakfast*.

A corn and black bean hash: herb-flecked, spice-laced and veggie-packed with a little crunch for good measure, topped with a perfectly poached egg. This is in no way a replacement for the glorious brekkie burrito, but as a lady I like to have options. Mexican breakfast options.

*Not limited to breakfast time. Breakfast for dinner is a popular option in my kitchen. As is breakfast for lunch. Go nuts!

Mexican Black Bean and Corn Hash
Makes 4 servings

– 1 15.5 oz/440 gram can of black beans, rinsed
– 2 ears of corn, husks removed
– 1 small red onion, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
– 1 big handful of baby spinach
– 3/4 cup leftover roasted pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
– 1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– Olive oil
– Salt & Pepper
– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

For corn: In a large pot bring water, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to a boil. Add corn and boil covered for about 5 minutes. Remove corn and let cool. Once cooled, cut the kernels off the cob with a large, sharp chef’s knife. I did this in a large bowl, while holding the ears of corn upright (this helps prevent corn kernels from flying all over the place.) Set kernels aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the garlic and jalapenos. Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add black beans, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add a tablespoon or two of water if at any point the pan looks dry.

Stir in spinach until wilted. Add pumpkin, corn, salt and pepper (to taste) and stir well to combine.

Remove from heat and top with fresh cilantro.

Serve with an egg cooked in the style of your choosing. My favorite is poached. For advice on how to cook the perfect poached egg, see Elise at Simply Recipes – she’ll hook you up.

Dried Fruit, Carrot and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Cumin Lemon Dressing

I feel a little guilty that I have managed to dodge New York winter for the past two years. Rather than dwell on thoughts of bitter cold trudges to the subway and seeing close to zero daylight during the week, I’m going to talk about fruit in salads. That’s fair right?

I’m a big fan of the whole savory-sweet thing (I mean, chocolate-covered pretzels + me = true l.o.v.e.). Acting on this affinity, I have been making an effort to involve more fruits in my otherwise savory salads.

Besides finding mind-blowing complimenting flavor combinations, fruit in a salad adds a bit of  freshness and unexpected warmth to the dish. One could almost say it added a bit of summertime to a dish. One could almost say that…

It feels a little rebellious too, which I enjoy.

This quinoa salad is for my people in the Northern Hemisphere (or Southern too!) who might need a little pick-me-up with their wholegrains. A burst of sweetness against a zesty and smokey cumin-lemon dressing with a dash of salt is the perfect way to fake some sun.

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Dried Fruit, Carrot & Avocado Quinoa Salad with Lemon Cumin Dressing
Adapted from Fine Cooking. Makes 2 servings

– 1/2 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
– 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries
– 2 tablespoons dried apricots, thinly sliced
– 1 medium carrot, grated on a box grater
– 1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
– 1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
– 2 medium spring onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
– 1-2 tablespoons pepitas
– 1 large lemon
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
–  Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan bring 1 cup water, the 1/2 cup quinoa, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The outer germ rings of the grain will remain chewy and white. Some germ rings may separate from the grain and will look like white squiggles.) Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large mixing bowl to cool.

In a small bowl, finely grate the zest from half the lemon and then squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice. Whisk in the olive oil, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Toss the dressing with the quinoa, cranberries, apricots, carrots, coriander, avocado, spring onions, and pepitas. Season to taste with salt and pepper, Can be served cold or at room temperature.

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Extra thoughts:
This would make a nice side for grilled chicken or fish. Or do what I did: add some leftover chickpeas and serve it over a big bed of baby spinach with an extra spritz of lemon for a lunch salad.

Avocado, Orange and Sweet Potato Salad with Miso Lime Dressing

Here’s another recipe adapted from Bon Appetit’s cleanse menu – I loved it even before I made it.

I couldn’t resist the uniqueness of avocado and oranges with a miso lime dressing. It all sounded so glamorous in a carefree, perfect salad sort of way. (Has anyone ever called a salad glamorous before? What am I?)

It’s a refreshing citrus-fueled party on a plate, as far as I’m concerned. The friendly sweetness of the sweet potatoes (my addition) and the mellow creaminess of the avocados against the salty/tangy miso lime dressing makes the whole salad a happy experience. Like I’ve just had a weekend away at a spa kind of happy experience.

Relaxed and feelin good.

I’ve made some variation of it 3 times now. I threw diced tofu in one version, and roasted pumpkin and pepitas in another.

This dressing has definitely earned itself a place in my rotation – I’m looking forward to finding a few more uses for it.

Salad
Makes 2 serves
– 1 orange, segmented
– 1/2 an avocado, cut into bite-sizes pieces
– 1 small (or 1/2 a large) sweet potato, roasted
– 3 large handfuls of baby spinach or arugula
– Toasted almonds, for sprinkling

Miso Lime Dressing
Makes 1 Cup
– 1/4 cup white miso paste
– 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– Zest and juice from 1 lime (plus more)
– 1/4 cup water

Put all ingredients in a jar, cover and shake. Chill for up to 1 week in an airtight container. To freshen the dressing after a few days, add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

Assemble salad and pour dressing on to taste.