Monday, May 15, 2017

Potato and lentil salad with basil vinaigrette

I had seen a post of David Leibovitz where he is in love with basil vinaigrette as much he is in love with pesto. We used to eat a lot of basil pesto but then got bored of it, and I started making pesto with  baby arugula and baby watercress, but this vinaigrette looked interesting and I decided to give it a try. The vinaigrette has all the elements of a traditional french potato salad dressing with a little extra. Lentils added some bulk and a change in texture. Its a perfect vegetarian main course salad.
The creamy potatoes, with the earthy french lentils, mild pickled shallots and the tangy vinaigrette work beautifully together. Spring and summer are a great time to make this salad when basil leaves are easily available. Use the freshest basil leaves as the vinaigrette is the star of the dish!

Potato and lentil salad with basil vinaigrette
24 oz fresh new potatoes cut into quarters or sixth's depending on the size
1 cup French green lentils
1 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons white vine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  1. Add 3 cups of water and 1 cup lentils to a 3 quart saucepan and bring the water to a boil. Simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and continue to simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes till the lentils are cooked but not mushy. If the water has not absorbed, drain the excess water. Transfer to the serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the potatoes in another large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes till the potatoes are cooked but not breaking apart. Drain and combine with the lentils.
  3. While the lentils and potatoes are cooking, in a small bowl, add the lemon juice to the shallots and let it pickle. 
  4. Drain the shallots to the potato and lentil mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.
 Serves 3 to 4

Basil Vinaigrette by David Leibovitz
1/2 cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 small shallot (25g) peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
2 cups loosely packed (25g) fresh basil leaves

Combine all of the above in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Makes about 1/3 cup.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pearl barley salad with watercress,radish, asparagus, sugar snap peas and feta

Fresh and vibrant - this is the perfect spring salad. Tender watercress, combined with steamed asparagus and sweet sugar snap peas, sweet and crunchy radish, burst of spicy tart capers and salty feta all tossed with chewy pearl barley. The baby watercress is extremely tender and does not take to heavy dressings. Hence I dressed it with a very simple vinaigrette with a tinge of garlic for punch.

If you are in the NY/NJ area, look for the Dream Greens brand of baby greens. I bought mine at Freshdirect and fell in love with their quality.

Pearl barley salad with watercress, radish, asparagus, sugar snap peas and feta
1 cup pearl barley
2.5 oz baby watercress leaves
3 red radish, thinly sliced
6 thick asparagus spears
1 cup sugar snap peas
2 tablespoons capers in brine
3.5 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 teaspoon grated garlic (use the microplane)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the barley as per the instructions on the packet. I cooked mine in salted water for 30 minutes and it was cooked and chewy. Drain the excess water and cool in the serving dish.
  2. Bring another pot of water to a boil. While the water is boiling, trim the asparagus and chop into 1/2 inch piece leaving the tips whole. Once the water comes to a boil, add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook the asparagus in the boiling water uncovered for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the cooked barley. 
  3. Bring the same pot of water to a boil again and add the sugar snap peas. Cook for 3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon and add to the barley and asparagus mixture.
  4. Once everything has cooled, add the capers, radish and feta cheese and mix well. 
  5. Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients for the dressing and add to the salad tossing to coat all the ingredients with the dressing.
  6. Finally add the delicate water cress leaves and mix gently.
Serves 4

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Okra with spicy black bean sauce

Okra or lady finger (in English speaking countries) is not a traditional Chinese vegetable and not to be confused with Chinese okra. We like okra in almost any form and we love Chinese food - hence this recipe. Most of the cooking for this dish is done in the oven and all you need is the black bean chili sauce which is available in Chinese grocery stores. Cooking the okra in the oven helps with drying up the okra to get rid of some of the slimy texture and then it is tossed with the spicy sauce, garlic and scallions and a touch of sugar to balance the heat. Great paired with egg fried rice.

Okra with spicy black bean sauce
1 1/2 lb okra
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4 thick stems of scallions, white and light green parts sliced
3 tablespoons black bean chili sauce
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons + 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place a quarter sheet pan in the top rack for 10 minutes.
  2. Wash the dry the okra. Trim the okra and cut vertically down the middle. Toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and lay it out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the tray in the middle rack of the preheated oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss them around with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and roast for another 20 to 25 minutes depending on how crisp you want the okra.  
  3. Heat a 10 inch saute pan with 1/2 tablespoon canola oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and scallions. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes till soft and add the black bean chili sauce. (Try not to add too much oil from the sauce). Now add the roasted okra to the pan and toss well. Add the soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar and cook for a 2 to 3 minutes till the sauce has covered the okra throughout.
  4. Serve warm with steam rice, and pan fried tofu with lemon soy glaze  or egg fried rice.
Serves 3

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sardine tartine with scallion and garlic

Tartine - sounds fancy! It is essentially a French open faced sandwich. I like the idea of tartines since you can restrict the amount of carbs and yet enjoy a hearty slice of bread. Sourdough,nut bread or any other hearty bread makes the best tartines since they are dense and the filling does not leak through.
In this version a simple can of sardines is transformed into something totally delectable.
The scallion, garlic and parsley sauce with the fragrant spicy green chili provides a wonderful base for the sweet sardines in tomato sauce. On a toasted multigrain sour dough toast, layered with some baby spinach. And I top it with finely sliced red radish for crunch. Makes a perfect weekday lunch or brunch,

Sardine tartine with scallion and garlic 
1 can of wild sardines in marinara sauce
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 large clove of garlic minced
1 teaspoon finely minced green chili pepper - I used Thai chili
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
a small handful of baby spinach leaves
1 small red radish, sliced wafer thin
1 large slice of sourdough multi-grain bread, toasted
sea salt to taste

  1. In a small skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat and saute the garlic, scallions and green chili till softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the parsley and saute for 30 seconds.
  2. Spread the sauteed garlic,scallion, parsley mixture on the toast. Place the baby spinach leaves on top followed by the sardines with a little marinara sauce. Use as much of the marinara sauce as you require - too much  will make the toast soggy.
  3. Arrange the sliced radish on the sardines and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Serves 1 for lunch

PS. Add a few potato chips to your plate for extra crunch.