Swiss Chard and Chickpea Salad with Peanut Chili Dressing

A good peanut dressing is hard to find. I’ve had quite a few misses that left me slightly nauseous and thoroughly discouraged.

Not to get all Debbie Downer on you, but I had kind of given up on making a good Asian-y peanut sauce altogether. (SO sad, I know.)

But when the mood struck for something a little spicy, gingery and peanutty, I decided to give it another try. And FINALLY, I ended up with something I was pretty happy with.

I thinned out the sauce with a little warm water to use it as a salad dressing (the sauce recipe below ends up on the thick side) over a nice crunchy and fresh mix of carrots, Swiss chard, chickpeas and rice.

This sauce is also great spooned over warm steamed veggies and tofu or as a dipping sauce for rice paper rolls or dumplings. A little swirl of Sriracha with it is pretty killer too.

PEANUT CHILI DRESSING

  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • juice of half a lime (extra to serve)

Heat oil in a small pan over a medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant, add chili and ginger and continue to cook for another minute, stirring.

Add peanut butter, soy sauce , coconut milk and water and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring for about 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken. If it becomes too thick, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Allow to cool and add lime juice.

Serve over salad or as a dipping sauce for vegetables or dumplings.

SWISS CHARD AND CHICKPEA SALAD
(serves 2)

  •     1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and dried
  •     1/2 cup brown rice
  •     2 cups shredded Swiss chard
  •     1 medium carrot, cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  •     2 green onions, thinly sliced (set some aside to garnish the salad)
  •     1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
  •     1/4 cup chopped peanuts (or cashews)

Place all the ingredients besides the nuts together in a bowl with the dressing and mix well to combine. Top with reserved green onions, chopped nuts and extra cilantro. Spritz a little extra lime juice on there for extra punch.

Lunch Today: Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate

This was what was in my lunch box today.

It’s another travel-friendly salad that keeps well when made and dressed a few hours in advance – the chard, in particular, really benefits from some marinating.

It’s kind of a bastardized version of tabbouleh – with refreshing parsley and cucumber, and the quinoa standing in for bulgur. I have dreams of topping this salad with crispy, spicy falafel – but alas, it was not in the cards for today. Instead, we have chickpeas and some feta for a salty flourish.

I added toasted coconut flakes because I’m addicted to them. True Life: I’m a toasted coconut flake fiend.  Yup. But here they add a nutty sweetness and a little crispy-crunch factor that works surprisingly well.

And the pomegranate. The pomegranate brings that tart crunch and a sassy pop of pink – it totally makes this salad a babe.

It’s all topped off with a honey lemon dressing that highlights the zesty parsley and salty feta.

Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
(Serves 2)
– 3 cups Swiss chard, cut into thin ribbons
– 1/2 cup chickpeas
– 1/2 cup cooked quinoa*
– 1 small cucumber, pealed and diced
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
– 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, divided
– 1-2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, for garnish (optional)

Honey Lemon Dressing
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 3 tablespoons oil of your choice
– pinch of salt

Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl or combine ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Combine the first 6 ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Pour dressing over this and mix well to combine.

Let sit covered in the fridge  for at least 1 hour. Top with remaining pomegranate seeds and toasted coconut to serve.

*Notes:
To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup dry, rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is puffed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Makes 1 cup.

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Raw Silverbeet Salad, inspired by City Bakery

I worked at City Bakery in New York for a brief stint. They’re known for their hot chocolate (they allocate a different type of hot chocolate to each day of February! Insane!), handmade marshmallows, divinely buttery cookies and the invention of the pretzel croissant (oh dear lord, the pretzel croissant is perfection.)

I gained a few L.B.s that autumn. No big deal.

Oddly enough, my favorite part of working there was their lunch buffet, which we were given full access to on our breaks. Chef Ilene Rosen is responsible for this impressive savory spread that never failed to beautifully highlight seasonal vegetables. A mainstay of her salad bar is the raw kale salad. People love this dish. Rave about it. How does she make kale taste SO good?

I know that I have a strong affinity for all edible plants, but if ever a vegetable dish could be likened to crack – this would be it.

It’s so simple, but so perfect. Salty aged cheese with the fragrant crunch of hazelnuts, the sweetness and bite of a little red onion amidst a bed of dark emerald ribbons of kale.

Very romantic right?

I felt that a home made version was in order this week. Unfortunately, I cannot find kale in Sydney so I used silverbeet – that’s Swiss chard to my fellow Americans. I love kale, but this works just as well here. And truth be told, I think the good quality cheese and olive oil play a big roll in the crack-ishness of the dish.

Another thing I love about this salad is that it can be dressed hours before serving it. Because the silverbeet and kale leaves are much stronger than spinach or lettuce, they take on the olive oil gracefully – like they’re being marinated. You can of course eat it right away too – but I think it gets a little better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Raw Silverbeet Salad, City Bakery Style
(Serves 4 as a side)

- 6 cups-ish of silverbeet (or kale) leaves, center stems cut out and finely shredded*
– 1 small red onion or shallot, very thinly sliced
– 2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts
– 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 teaspoons white vinegar
– 1/4 cup good quality Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, finely grated.
– salt&pepper
– pinch of red chilli flakes (optional)

Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet on a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until golden and fragrant. Set aside.

Put silverbeet and sliced onion in a large mixing bowl, pour olive oil in and mix well (this coats the leaves so the cheese can stick to them). Add vinegar, chilli flakes, a little bit of salt* and a healthy grinding of black pepper. Toss again.

Add cheese in batches and toss, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Finally, add hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Serve within a few hours.

While the salad is perfect on its own, it also welcomes many different additions.
Some options:
– Toasted sesame seeds
– Granny Smith apple
– Red pepper, thinly sliced
– Avocado
– White beans

*Notes:
I would really recommend spending an extra minute making sure your silverbeet leaves are very finely shredded. Because the leaves are on the tougher side, the texture of the salad is much more enjoyable with thin ribbons of the bubbly leaves.

Only add a little salt, if any, of your own. The cheese will bring the saltiness.

new kid on the block

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The theme of the last few days has been The Move. We spent Saturday and Sunday buying some essentials for the new place. Rebuilding your home after you left the majority of it on an East Village curb 10 months ago is difficult – but exciting!

Saturday night was ugly and rainy and we had spent the afternoon in a massive shopping center (Bondi Junction has now been dubbedimage The Junc), so we decided on something fun and homemade for dinner and settled in with some Almost Famous and Banrock Station casket (oh yeah) Shiraz Cabernet. I was inspired by this Ryn and Cordie recipe for Pork Gyoza they posted on Twitter last week. They were delicious. I loved the addition of minced black beans and the ginger/scallion combo with the pork was perfect.

The mint, coriander and chili dipping sauce was nice, but I think it needed something. I’ll have to play around with it next time. The recipe made plenty, so I’ve got a supply of these babies waiting in the freezer.

Monday was the move, pretty simple considering our lack of stuff. Ikea furniture building has consumed these past few days, as has treating a cold I developed, conveniently enough, on move in day. Luckily, I have my new beautiful kitchen (I am in love) to cook all the healthy, get-well kind of meals I can dream  up.

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Since it is Spring here in Sydney (despite my best efforts to wish it Fall), it’s asparagus season. I went for a classic that most asparagus enthusiasts could tell you is an A+ pairing: poached egg+grilled asparagus (a little Parmesan doesn’t hurt either.)

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Next up on the Get Well Menu was white bean and silverbeet (swiss chard to us Americans) soup. Nothing fancy just some onions, garlic, vegetable broth, carrots,  chili peppers (to clear the sinuses and because I had them) and of course the headliners, white beans and silverbeet. And again, you can’t go wrong with a little sprinkle of Parmesan to serve. Makes you feel special.

Then came The Ultimate Shake This Cold Shake (well, smoothie really): Almond milk, 1/2 a ganny smith apple, 1/2 a pear, a big silverbeet leaf,  a generous scoop of honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. It may look funky and green, but it is seriously tasty. I love to throw a handful of  greens (spinach and kale work perfectly too) into a smoothie – the sweeter fruit and honey flavors easily mask the mild earthiness of the greens. You get a bonus health boost without sacrificing taste. Win win.
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And then there was carrot, mint and silverbeet (I have a big hunk of this stuff, clearly) salad. I tossed this food processor miracle with Heidi’s Magic Sauce and some feta for an enjoyable Vitamin A injection.

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…and now I’m feeling better! And we have a home complete with our record player – flown in all the way from New York. Win win win.