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Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

the greenest of salads

In salads, spring on 30 September, 2011 at 8:16 am

I was going to write a post about the marmalade I made a little while ago. I was hoping to get it up before citrus is totally irrelevant (it’s heading that way!) and all preserving eyes are on strawberry jams and the like.

But. I’ve been gripped by The Asparagus Bug that’s been going around. And a Wednesday spent in warm, sunny Auckland coupled with some glorious Wellington sun yesterday has catapulted me into the world of springtime and sunshine and bare legs* and picnics. And salads. So a rich, almost-bitter bourbon-citrus marmalade is about as far from my mind as snowflakes and hot chocolates.

Yesterday after work I rushed home via Moore Wilson’s, picking up a hefty bunch of asparagus and some spring onions and feta. I had in mind this salad I made once before, at New Year’s, with friends at Pakiri in this scungy bach (which, awkwardly, had no interior doors) we rented late in the New Year’s game.

I couldn’t remember too much about the salad other than the fact that it contained asparagus and edamame and it was Really Green: that glorious shade of grass-green you get in early spring, before everything dries out and gets all scorched and brown. The colour of my lounge walls the first two years of flatting. In-your-face, can’t-ignore-it green.

So, in an attempt at recreating one of the last glorious moments of  2010 I started at asparagus and edamame. It wasn’t too far a stretch to add some peppery rocket and spring onions, some sharp, creamy feta and smooth-sweet mint. I kept the dressing a simple vinaigrette, with parsley and lemon juice and red wine vinegar and some good, grassy olive oil. It all came together beautifully easily, in a matter of minutes, and tasted so fresh and springlike that I ate a second bowl after finishing the first.

In the recipe below I’ve kept quantities loose – the idea is really to make it how you like it, with the green things you have (though I do recommend the brilliant-green combination of asparagus and edamame to start with).

*The last two days have been my first two (and miraculously consecutive) days of not wearing tights this spring. And I’m sitting here now in a sleeveless top. Bring on summer!

THE GREENEST OF SALADS

Take about a cup of shelled edamame (about half a bag if you’re using frozen edamame pods), place in a bowl with some rocket, chopped spring onion and mint. Break off the woody ends of a handful of asparagus stalks and slice them on the diagonal. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water (I only cook them for a minute or so, so they’re still crisp and fresh-tasting), drain and plunge in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Add to the salad with plenty of crumbled feta. 

Dress with a simple vinaigrette of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and finely chopped parsley.

Enjoy: it’s a bowlful of health. If you’re not good at feeling virtuous, offset with whatever unhealthy thing you feel necessary (for me, it was a bottle of Townshend Sutton Hoo I sought out after reading this).

leaves and broth

In soup, year-round on 27 August, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Just a very quick post today: it’s the most beautiful day outside, I’ve been sitting in the sun eating kedgeree at Nikau and gelato on the waterfront, riding my bike around after three months of a flat tyre, just popped home to do some chores* before going back out for a walk in the town belt. I’m happy to say I’m embracing the advent of spring now, in contrast to last week.

Speaking of last week: it was intense. It culminated in me consuming a Wellington on a Plate burger at Bisque on Bolton, a three-course set dinner at Fratelli and an incredible Malaysian lunch at Kayu Manis (with the sensational Chef Wan, no less) within 24 hours. If you add a pizza on Saturday night and a massive Sunday brunch you’ll start to understand why I needed this soup.

It’s the perfect thing for coming down off an eating marathon, for trying to restore some sense of balance. It’s also all I want to eat when I’ve got a cold or when I’m so exhausted I can barely stand at the kitchen counter without my eyelids falling shut. It’s soothing in a non-guilt-inducing way and when you’ve had a long day or an overwhelming month it just barely whispers: “settle down now, everything’s fine”.

At its very simplest this soup is so incredibly easy to make: some garlic, some good-quality chicken stock, some herbs and seasonings, a handful of fresh greens. This time I added a fried egg and some toasted bread for a little more substance: had to ease myself off all those enormous meals I’d been eating.

Because there’s not much more to it than leaves and broth (especially if you leave out the egg and bread), you want to make sure you use the best stock possible. Homemade, if you can. If you haven’t roasted a chicken lately you may be able to buy chicken frames for stock-making (in Wellington, I get mine from Moore Wilson’s for about a dollar apiece). I usually toss one of these in a big stockpot along with the end bits and pieces of vegetables I’ve chopped and stashed in the freezer in a ziploc bag labelled “friends of stock”, some peppercorns, herbs, a few cloves of garlic, bay leaves, whatever else I have that might be happy to be tossed in a stockpot. Celery, carrots, onions, the lot. Bring it to the boil and let it simmer for a few hours. Your house will smell amazing.

*(and what better way to procrastinate from doing chores than writing a quick blog post?)

CHICKEN BROTH WITH GARLIC, SPINACH & A FRIED EGG

The most important part of this soup is the chicken stock, so try to use a good one, or even better, homemade.

Take a few cloves of garlic, peel them and either slice or leave them whole. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Fry gently over a medium-low heat until they go all golden but not so much that they start to turn brown (this will take a lot longer if you’re using whole garlic cloves, and you want to almost caramelise them, so don’t get impatient and turn up the heat. Or you could roast them).

Take the garlic out of the frying pan and add to a saucepan along with some chicken stock (about 1.5-2 cups per person should do – less if you’re not adding bread, since it soaks up plenty of liquid). Turn the heat to high; bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt & black pepper.

Meanwhile, toast some sliced crusty bread (day-old is fine: another way to use up all that stale bread in the pantry!). Once the broth is ready, ladle into bowls and float some baby spinach on top. Fry an egg. Float the toast on the soup and top with the fried egg. Sprinkle chopped herbs over everything – here I used parsley and dill but you could just as easily use sage, thyme, anything really.