Welcome to our new favourite summer salad. Why is this our favourite? Well, it is at once creamy, crunchy, savoury, tangy, slightly bitter and ever so slightly sweet (from the corn). We love what I call ‘dimensional salads’: ones that not only have complementing textures, but also complementing flavours – and this is definitely one of those. There is even a little pop from the quinoa, which I liken – if cooked less than the packet instructs – to those crackly pop rocks candies we used to get as kids. Minus the sweetness and weird science-experiment ingredients, of course. I was inspired to make this health-giving bowl of goodness from a recipe I saw in Yotam Ottolenghi’s second book, Plenty (avocado, quinoa and broad bean salad). I have made many versions of this textural salad in the past couple of years, but this is probably my favourite. I tend to add so many vegetables that it is always bigger than the bowl I have for it. That’s a good thing, right? We ate it in last week’s long anticipated sunshine, but with a new ingredient. One of which I believe Mr Ottolenghi would approve.
To this incarnation I have added homemade preserved lemons (recipe below). If you aren’t familiar with preserved lemons they are basically lemons preserved by yet more lemons, and a cascade of good salt. I’ve added in fruity-hot pink peppercorns for their flavour and indecently perky colour, as well as fresh bay leaves and green cardamom (just two pods). The lemons look almost too pretty to use, but do: using just a smidge – chopped and added to plain couscous – is nothing short of transformative. Note to self: don’t use grey salt again. Tasty, but looks like swamp water.
This extremely versatile Middle Eastern staple is also a complete doddle to make – and so much nicer than even the fancy bought stuff, which tastes a bit like bleach smells. Or maybe that’s just my bad luck. Preserved lemons add a completely different dimension to any dish: floral, and intensely citrussy but with a knowing sourness quite unlike their fresh counterpart. The only caveat to the whole affair is that they really do need steeping and maturing for at least one month before using. However, once made and matured, they more than pay back the 15 minutes spent cutting, salting and ‘putting them up’ (as my late Mimi would say).
But, as you perhaps don’t have a jar of sparkling yellow lemons awaiting this or any other recipe, please use all fresh citrus and, if you like this salad, try it again later with the preserved lemons to see which way you like it best.
As for the rest of the salad, use whatever vegetables are tender and fresh where you are, but try and keep the zingy citrus and the creamy avocado. I sometimes add asparagus to this, but since we have had asparagus nearly every day for two weeks, I’m giving it a rest. And, we often ‘garnish’ with teaspoons of ricotta, labneh (recipe soon) or goats’ cheese – a great way to have a little dairy without going overboard.
This salad bowl is a perfect meal on its own, or to go alongside grilled fish. We ate it outside in appreciative silence (appreciative of the cloudless warm day mostly), with a side order of competing bird song: blackbird, blue tits, robins and probably others, but that’s about the limit of my British bird taxonomy knowledge. You might even like to brownbag a leftover portion wrapped in a big lettuce leaf, if only to amuse the dedicated carnivores in your office
What was your first ‘proper’ salad of the summer? Where did you enjoy it? Do you know any more about birds than I do?
A health-giving bowl of contrasting flavours and textures makes this a favourite summer salad at food to glow. Use whatever seasonal vegetables you like but do keep in the lemons and avocado. Add crunchy toasted seeds and tangy goats’ cheese for a proper meal salad, or leave ‘naked’ and just enjoy the gorgeous vegetables and simple garlic dressing.
This Week in 2011: Kitchen-sink Spring Minestrone and Spring Green Pesto Focaccia
This Week in 2012: Ma Po Tofu; Caponata (Sicilian Vegetable Stew); Masala Chai Carrot Cake Muffins with Coconut Milk Icing - quite a prolific week!
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Love Me Again by John Newman (Kellie’s favourite cleaning-the-house track: so high energy!)
Microleaves/microherbs (or salad’ thinnings’ as I have done)
2 tsp flaky salt or good sea salt (I like Maldon)
Optional topping (not shown) - Handful of raw seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin, dry-toasted in a hot pan then sprinkled with sriracha or sambal oelek sauce, stirred and allowed to cool and crisp on a plate. Yum! But use your own ideas or indeed a shop-bought blend (like Food Doctor).
1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve, using your fingers to stir the grains. Pop the quinoa into a pan and start to toast over a medium flame, stirring with a wooden spatula to ensure even toasting. Do this until the quinoa starts to smell a bit nutty – about three minutes. You can skip this and go straight to the boiling but I do think toasting adds a little something nice. Pour over 300ml (scant 12 fl oz) of water and add the turmeric and peeled garlic clove. Bring to the boil, pop on the lid and let simmer for 9 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit under cover for a further five minutes; remove the lid to steam-dry. Set aside. Fish out the garlic clove if you like (I consider it a bonus to get it in my portion of salad!). It should go without saying that if you have a preferred method of cooking quinoa, just do it. Dark quinoa sometimes needs longer cooking.
2. Meanwhile, boil some water in another pan and add the corn and edamame or broad beans. When the water reaches the boil again, turn off the heat and drain. Rinse well with cold water and leave to dry in a sieve. If using broad beans, pod (shell) them, discarding the tough skins. I prefer edamame as it cuts the prep time.
3. Now take the lemon and slice off the stem and bottom ends. Standing the lemon on one end, take the knife (a sharp paring knife is perfect) and, following the lemon’s shape, slice away the yellow skin and pith underneath. If you don’t mind the membrane just chop up the peeled fruits and add them to the bowl.
Otherwise, slice segments away, sliding the knife between the thin translucent membrane and the juicy fruit inside. I find it easiest to do on a board with a channel that catches juice, or directly into the salad bowl. Squeeze the skins and membrane of their juice into the salad bowl. Also add the preserved lemon if using.
4. Peel, stone and slice the avocado. Pop the slices into the bowl with the lemons. Take the carrots and either slice in long strips with a Y-peeler, or grate; add to the bowl. Thinly slice the radishes and add to the bowl. Add in the cooked and air-dried quinoa, edamame and corn.
5. In a pestle and mortar or small mini food chopper, pound/blitz the dry ingredients for the dressing, then add in the oil. Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to mix the oil and lemon with everything. Toss through most of the microleaves. Garnish with the remaining leaves and, if you like, top with toasted seeds. Blobs of creamy soft cheese (like labneh or goats’) are also welcome!
Serves 3-4 very generously as a meal salad, or up to six as a hearty side salad. This is also good leftover the next day, without the avocado or dressing (add them at the time).
2 lightly crushed green cardamom pods (optional)
Special equipment: One sterilised ‘quart’ jar
Stuff each partially quartered lemon with some of the salt and push it back to its original shape. Pop each into the sterilised jar, adding the remaining salt, the bay leaves, peppercorns and lastly the cardamom, as you go. Top up with the squeezed lemon juice, adding water if needed to just cover the lemons. Seal and store for 4-6 weeks, turning a couple of times a week if you remember. These will keep up to one year without refrigeration, but I like to keep them in the refrigerator anyway.
Use sparingly in most any Moroccan-style dish, in salsas, dips, bean and grain dishes.
I am sending this over to Ren Behan’s Simple And In Season (a favourite of mine), as well as Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made with Love Mondays. And a new one for me to enter, Bookmarked Recipes. Jac’s blog, Tinned Tomatoes, is always fab and family-friendly, and this is only one of a number of vegetarian round-ups and challenges to enter and ogle on her blog. Unfortunately June entry is not yet open so I need to remember to link up when it does!
Similar recipes on food to glow:
What to do with preserved lemons: The Kitchn