White Bean, Mint and Cilantro Salad

Food 2012 009

Timing is a funny thing.

Not funny ha-ha. But funny-strange.

You can time a dish in the oven to perfection, you can catch the train right before the doors close, you can be in the right place at the right time with the right person.

You can also burn a batch of cookies, have similar train doors slammed in your face, miss opportunities, or get pooped on by a bird. (Which, I can tell you from experience, actually does fall into the funny ha-ha category.)

It’s all a matter of timing.

I guess what makes it funny (non-ha-ha) is that we can’t control it.  Things happen when they happen and we can’t do much about it, other than use our own time wisely.

We can put time into hanging with the people we love, caring for ourselves, and into the goals we want to achieve.

But cooking in summer? Well, ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Basil and White Bean Hummus

voraciousvander - basil white bean

I have a cookie recipe for you before Christmas…it’s not unlike my orange gingerbread cake – with its molasses and spices. But this time, there’s a little sugar-coated crunch and you know, it’s a cookie.  A Christmas one.

But before we get there, let’s talk basil.

My love of basil runs deep.

It’s just all warm days, simple meals and pesto to me. It takes my brain to a happy place.

I bought this big bundle of basil at the market the other morning  and walked around holding it like it was a bouquet of flowers, sneaking a sniff every now and then. Sure, I looked  like a crazylady, so what?

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Warm White Bean, Spinach and Herb Salad with Sumac

It’s Monday. How you livin’?

I’m living slow… Living like the biggest thing I accomplished yesterday was finishing season 2 of Downton Abbey (dang, WWI was an emotional roller coaster!) Living like I was so lazy yesterday that it’s taken the majority of my Monday to pull me out of my laziness slump and get my shizzle together.

I’m getting there.

Real talk: inspiration has been escaping me lately – in writing and in food. I’ve been doing my very best to work through it, but other things have been majorly clouding my head. Important things. Real life things.

But it’s time to get back on track!

Where to turn when I need to look at my crisper drawer with fresh eyes? To the badass vegetable master himself, Yotam Ottolenghi. Half an hour flipping through Plenty can work wonders – with beautiful photos and some fearless veggie cooking, I’m feeling the spark again already.

Warm White Bean, Spinach and Herb Salad with Sumac
inspired by Ottolenghi’s Plenty

– 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 1-14oz./400-gram can), rinsed and drained
– olive oil
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced on a microplane
– 4 spring onions or scallions thinly sliced
– 1 teaspoon chili flakes
– 3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– 1/2-1 tablespoon sumac
– salt & pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large pan. Add white beans and cook for 4 minutes, stirring only once or twice allowing them to turn golden in places.

Stir in garlic, scallions, chili flakes, spinach and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally – allowing spinach to wilt down. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.

Top with parsley, coriander and feta. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle with sumac. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cauliflower and White Bean Salad

I’ve learned that when I’m lacking inspiration with my cooking the best thing I can do is take stock of my fridge and pantry, then immediately leave the house. I run or walk. (For exercise, not like a crazy lady.)

I took a quick look inside my crisper drawer just before I hit the pavement this morning.  It’s becoming a habit.

While I’m moving, I let my thoughts drift and casually think about food. (Probably not what I should be thinking about whilst exercising, but whatever.) Sometimes these thoughts become ideas that involve what I have at home already. It works 80% of the time, every time.

Sometimes I’ll even jot a note down on my phone. This is hard when you’re trying to maintain a jogging pace. I wouldn’t recommend this method of note taking. It’s potentially very dangerous.

I think the note for this one looked something like: “Caulifower wit paprika white jens alludes and raisins.”

I hate auto correct up in my business more than my sloppy typing. But it works…sorta.

This salad totally works. Roasted cauliflower, with white beans sauteed in onions and two paprikas, along with some crunchy almonds and sweet little sultanas.

Cauliflower and White Bean Salad
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided. Plus more for drizzling
– 1 small head of cauliflower or 1/2 of a large head of cauliflower, chipped into small florets
– 1 can of white beans, rinsed and drained well
– 1/2 red onion, finely diced
– 1/4 teaspoons smokey paprika x2
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
– sea salt
– 2 tablespoons slivered toasted almonds
– 2 tablespoons raisins
-1 handful of chopped parsley and/or coriander/cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 F/ 205 C.

Combine cauliflower, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika, cumin and a sprinkle of salt, toss well to coat the cauliflower and spread out on a baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add white beans, the other 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika and the sweet paprika. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the beans are warmed through and coated in the spices, onion and olive oil. Remove from heat.

When the cauliflower is done, combine with white beans and onions. Top with toasted almonds, raisins, herbs and more salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Salads That Travel: Roasted Sugar Snap Peas & Quinoa Salad

Not to brag or anything, but I am a total expert on bringing lunch to work. An entry-level salary in publishing and an interest in nutrition motivated me to get into the habit of brown bagging it a few years ago.

In the beginning, there was a lot of was trial and error (think soggy lettuce, disastrous salad dressing leaks, etc.) but I pushed on to become a queen of Tupperware-toting.

This skill has proved useful in more fun areas of life too – like picnicking and long-distance travel.

Grain-based salads are great to have in your byo meal arsenal. Filling, vegetable-ful, and easy to pack and assemble – they check all the boxes. They keep well for a couple of days in the fridge and go well over a big bed of greens, if you’re looking to bulk up your bowl.

This recipe roasts sugar snap peas with shallots prior to adding them to the salad. The sugar snaps caramelize making their naturally sweet flavor more complex. White beans, roasted red peppers, toasted almonds and nutty quinoa come together to balance out the sweetness of the sugar snaps and shallot.

Roasted Sugar Snap Pea Quinoa Salad
(Makes 2 serves)
– 1 cup quinoa, cooked
– 1 1/2-2 cups sugar snap peas
– 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup cooked white beans, rinsed
– 1/4 cup roasted red peppers/capsicum
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, more to taste
– salt & pepper
– pinch of red pepper flakes
– toasted almond slices

To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup rinsed dry quinoa in 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered until the liquid is adsorbed (about 10 minutes.) There should be little white tails that come out as each grain puffs. These usually indicate that the quinoa is done.

Roast your sugar snap peas (based on a recipe from Eating Well): Toss sugar snap peas and sliced shallot with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt & pepper and chili flakes together in a bowl. Spread mixture out on a baking tray and place in a 200 C/400 F oven for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

To toast almonds: Scatter in a dry pan and cook over a medium-low heat until they become golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes.)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently to combine. Add more olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Serve cold or at room temperature.