In truth, it has only today seemed properly autumnal. Sure, the leaves have been doing a Tom Daley from the old oak, and the apple tree is heavily burdened with fruit I really should be picking. But this is the first day that wind, gray and cold (and just this minute, rain) have conjoined since, oh, June. So no complaints. But, despite making soup earlier in the week (posting soon), somehow I can’t let go of salads just yet.
Today’s salad is one of several variations on a theme that I have been making recently. They consist largely of bits found in the fridge and cut from the garden, as well as store cupboard staples, like couscous, quinoa and seeds. It has been an unexpected treat for me, considering the reason for concocting them.
My Miss R, resident musicologist to this blog, has been unwell and off school this week. It’s nothing serious, but she has been feeling pretty rubbish. We knew it wasn’t serious when she began ringing a metaphorical bell for supplies of food and drink. So, me being me, I have obliged not with chicken noodle soup or crustless sandwiches, but with twice-daily infusions of turmeric milk, smoothies (this and this) and cobbled together salads. I bet she wishes she was sick at someone else’s house!
Normally if it is just me at home I will heat some soup, or devour an unseemly pile of crispbreads with hummus. I do make salads too, but usually something exceedingly low effort, especially if I am making food for my cancer nutrition classes. Happily today’s salad is very low effort. More happily that it tastes of big effort. Well as big an effort as 10 minutes allows
You will note that I have used couscous. When I tweeted a pic, Monica at smarterfitter commented that she wanted to try it with quinoa. I told her that quinoa would normally be my first choice, but Miss R and I wanted to eat asap. Ten minutes versus 20, plus cooling time. No contest. I used wholemeal couscous, which is healthy, just not as healthy as quinoa. But either or. Indeed, use any cooked grain – teff, amaranth, wild rice – you like (here is a sponsored macronutrient comparison chart). Heck, use potatoes. And as for the pesto, I have a ton of sorrel growing old and lanky in the garden, so in it went. Its assertive lemony flavour is perfect here, but equally assertive wild rocket (arugula) or traditional basil would be great too. If your crop is a bit woody stemmed, rip these away. Otherwise chuck it all in, stems and leaves – no waste!
Have you packed away the flip flops, or are you still basking in a late-summer glow? What transitional recipes are you making now?
Last year: Baked Marinara-stuffed Risotto Balls
Two years ago: Good For You Granola
Miss R’s track of the week: Sam Smith’s Nirvana
I’ve used couscous here because I fancied it, but this would obviously be good with quinoa (especially the brown kind), chewy wheatberries, or smoky, toothsome freekah. Any good wholegrains, really. As for the vegetables, I’ve kept the palette/palate green but feel free to go technicolour. I’m thinking a riot of colour – reds, oranges, purples and green. Mmm, next time!
185g (1 cup) uncooked couscous – wholegrain preferred
1 tsp dried mint
½ tsp salt or some vegetable stock powder (the latter is what I used)
2 tsp olive oil + extra for drizzling
Double handful trimmed tenderstem broccoli/broccolini, sliced
Cupped handful chopped cucumber, sliced in quarters (deseeded as necessary)
100g (1/2 cup) freshly shelled baby peas OR frozen baby peas
3 spring onion/scallions, trimmed and white parts sliced
3 tbsp Sorrel and Sunflower Seed Pesto (see below)
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice – to taste (I used half a small lemon)
1. To make up the couscous, tip the dry couscous into a wide shallow bowl, along with the dried mint, salt and oil. Cover with the same volume of just boiled water; cover and leave to absorb for 5 minutes, or as packet directs (absorption rate does vary). If you are using wholegrain couscous the method is the same. Uncover and fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Leave to cool a bit.
2. To cook the broccoli and peas (or not, if you like) use your preferred method, keeping plenty of crunch in the broccoli. I tend to steam the broccoli in a sieve that fits over a pan of simmering water, to which I have added the peas. Drain and rinse briefly in cold water (I run them under the tap).
Decant the cooked grains into a serving bowl and, with a fork, stir through the sorrel and sunflower seed pesto and lemon juice, followed by the still-warm cooked broccoli, peas, cucumber and spring onions. Drizzle over some extra oil if you like, a healthy squeeze of lemon and grind over fresh pepper.
Sorrel and Sunflower Seed Pesto
This is a quick, cheese-less, pesto. Use wild rocket, wild garlic, oregano, basil or parsley if you like.
Double handful of fresh sorrel leaves
2 small cloves garlic or one big one, smashed and peeled
Handful of shelled, raw sunflower seeds – toast for a minute in a dry pan
Good pinch of salt
Extra virgin olive oil – about 2 tbsp
It is traditional to make pesto in a pestle and mortar – pesto and pestle have the same Latin root. But for ease, and because I only have small mortar, I use the small bowl of my food processor.
Process all ingredients to a slightly nubbly paste, adding more oil as needed. I like the pesto on the dry side but add more oil as you like, or even some lemon-spiked water. If you wish to add hard Italian cheese, finely grate with a Microplane, or similar, and stir in. To store, pop into a clean jar and cover with a thin film of oil; keeps for a week in the fridge. The pesto also freezes well, either in a jar or in an ice cube tray. Makes one small jam jar’s worth.
Using up the pesto:
*Stirred into risotto
*As a bruschetta topping, with chopped tomatoes and rocket leaves
*Or on pizza (see this simple one from Tinned Tomatoes)
*With cooked trofie (a type of pasta), potatoes and green beans
*In a roasted vegetable salad, such as my Roasted Nicoise Salad with Burrata
*Stuffed into a chicken breast, then baked (see this recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen)
*Mixed with mayonnaise and used as a sandwich spread with avocadoes, lettuce, tomato and grilled peppers
Here’s some other ways:
*15 Ways To Use Up Pesto from zerowaste.com
*10 Ways To Use Pesto (Besides Pasta!) from thekitchn
*loads of ideas on busycooks.about.com
I’m sending this recipe(s) to a number of challenges and roundups. First off I am winging this to Four Seasons Food. The season (in this hemisphere!) is Autumn, and the theme is Sliding Into Autumn. All of the fresh ingredients are tail-end of summer/beginning of autumn, so this should fit the remit. This roundup is hosted alternately between Louisa at Chez Foti and Anneli of Delicieux.
I am also, once again, sending over to the Healthy Diet – Healthy Lunch Box Recipes collection as this would be a healthy and robustly portable salad for brownbagging. The monthly collection of healthy recipes is the brainchild of Priya over at Priya’s Versatile Recipes, and hosted this month by Sowmya, the author of Nivedhanam.
As I used sorrel from the garden and ‘dog-ends’ of vegetables that I had (and you may too), as well as storecupboard bits, I think my recipe qualifies for Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All’s jointly-run Credit Crunch Munch. This month the roundup is being curated by Elizabeth’s Kitchen…And here is a new one for me, Sweet Wednesday Link Party, hosted at My Sweet Mission. All kinds of posts are welcome, including crafts and household tips. Eclectic!
Lastly, the ever-gracious Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv hosts the weekly Made With Love Mondays. His only stipulation is that entries be homemade: not always spankingly waist-conscious (some LUSH cakes), but with a good pedigree guaranteed!