Tag Archives: salad

A tale about kale: kale salad with raisins, walnuts and pecorino

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Here I am, on a Monday night, trying to think of a witty, captivating way to introduce a kale salad. I could wax lyrical about its impressive pedigree: from Barbuto in NY via Deb Perelman’s kitchen to yours truly. I could go all food anthropology on you and talk about the similar ingredients found in pasta or even bread from that island off Italy (disclaimer: only in the world according to Google).

Or, I can just sit back and tell you about this salad – the flavours, textures, ideas.

Because, this way, I won’t have to talk about how this is yet another kale salad. I can just say – this salad doesn’t make me feel like I’m eating grass. Grass is virtuous to be sure, and good for moo-cows, but I prefer my grass a little more mediated by cows, say in the form of pecorino cheese.

Then, I can tell you the salad is savoury, sweet, tart. These bold flavours complement (but not mellow) kales earthiness – think Ottolenghi’s way with radicchio in Plenty. The textures vary between lemon-softened kale, plumped raisins, crunchy walnuts and crumbly-creamy pecorino.

I’ve served variations of the salad at two elaborate dinners, a Moroccan/Sicilian epic, and our similarly epic Christmas lunch. Both times, it was hoovered up, with people asking about it as they peered into the salad bowl for more.

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Herbs, pomegranate and Persian spices

The weather is fickle. Perverse, even. Christmas holidays passed with the sun mostly playing hide and seek behind clouds. Now, as we pack away our beach stuff and get back to work, we are hit by a heat wave. Like, 43°C (109°F).

The air was a humid, too-warm blanket. Even the lawyers and bankers forgot to look sharp. I just wanted to eat endless slices of watermelon while dreaming of air conditioning. 

Rather than eat endless slices of watermelon (watermelon obsession is a story for another day), I concocted a herb and pomegranate salad sprinkled with Persian spice mix, served with cool white feta cheese and baguettes. The salad was lively and crisp, and the spice mix – with rose petals, cinnamon and other good things – was just a little bit intoxicating. This helped to revived flagging appetites and gave us the will to get through a humid, windless evening.

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This salad was (wildly) adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks: The Legendary Cuisine of Persia.

Herb and pomegranate salad: this came from a cheese and herb spread. The original recipe is a simple mixture of a few herbs, finely chopped and mixed with labne, feta and butter. By serving the cheese separately (and omitting the butter), I had a clean, refreshing herb salad.  

The first time I made the cheese spread, mixing the herbs like this seemed to violate all the rules. But after the first mouthful, the rules didn’t matter. I was in love with the beautiful cacophony of flavours, like a jazzy troupe going all out with its best improvisation. The great thing is you can mix and match the herbs with different effect each time. This time, we had brooding coriander playing off sassy dill and mint, while baby spinach became friends with everyone.

Spice mix or advieh: this decadent spice mix was adapted from a special occasion mix, Advieh No. 3. Shaida’s introduction evoke the aromas of Persian kitchens:

A popular advieh blend from the south of Iran includes coriander seed, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom and black pepper … some mixtures will however also include nurmeg or cloves. […] Advieh from the sunny uplands of the Persian plateau and from the north-western region contains dried rose petals which give a rare and heady fragrance when sprinkled over delicate rice dishes during the steaming process.

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