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Tag: feta

Quinoa Tabbouli with Feta, Almonds and Dates

tabbouli

“Another salad with feta eh? That’s so imaginative of you”. Ja, that’s me! If you knew how rarely I actually sat down and ate a proper salad, you’d be throwing feta at me by the bucketful ok? If I’m going to have a salad that’s worth my while, it’s got to be substantial, and if it’s that, it’ll probably need a few yum-factors in there to make me actually want to finish it. Who eats a whole bowl of quinoa on its own anyway. Nobody that calls themselves my friend, that’s for sure.

All that aside, this salad is well and truly a pretty damn tasty one, even if you omit the feta (don’t). Tabbouli has always been in my life in some way or another, in the form of a packet mix, as a component of my salad bar lunch, or that one time we had an unforgettable meal at this incredibly authentic and charming restaurant in the heart of a million little windy streets in Cairo.

In my hope to make it  more of a main meal type thing, sturdy enough to be packed away as a work lunch, and happy enough to sit in the fridge for a few days without getting grumpy at me or losing its flavour, I created this little thing. I’ve gone out and jazzed up the grain component with our trusty quinoa, added some cinnamon to the mix and roasted the cherry tomatoes to increase its fridge life. Throw in some almonds for crunch, some dates for added sweetness, and some feta for that hit of salty tang, and you are in for one sexy date with your lunchbox.

Tabbouli with Feta, Almonds and Dates

Serves 4

 

1 cup / 170g quinoa

2 cups / 500ml vegetable stock

1 tsp cinnamon

400g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 big bunches parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch mint, finely chopped

4 spring onions, finely chopped

2 lemons, juice

1/4 cup / 60ml olive oil

salt

100g Danish feta, crumbled

8 dates, finely chopped

1/2 cup / 60g slivered almonds, toasted

 

First, combine the quinoa, stock and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Cook it on a small flame, covered, until it’s done. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and lay out the halved cherry tomatoes on it. Sprinkle them with a little salt and let them relax in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they start going wrinkly and have reduced in size. Remove and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the chopped parsley, mint, spring onion and quinoa. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and as much salt as you think is necessary.

When you’re ready to serve, scoop out a nice amount onto a plate and top with some of the cherry tomatoes, some crumbled feta, the chopped dates, and a sprinkling of the toasted almonds.

 

The salad will keep well in the fridge for at least 3 days. To ensure complete satisfaction every time you eat it, keep all the components separate in the fridge.

Zucchini, Thyme and Whipped Feta Quesadillas

zucchini and feta quesadilla

It is slightly disturbing how much I love flour tortillas. I rarely have bread in the house because I’m a snob and see bread as the easy way out, but also because I’m lazy and think that tortillas are a perfectly acceptable substitute. If you have bread, you have a snack. If you don’t have bread, you use flour tortillas because they they require that tiny bit more effort, resulting in you feeling like a sneaky genius because you just made something delicious and impressive looking.

This is possibly my most favourite quesadilla version to date. Zucchini, thyme and garlic is a killer combo in my book, and if you contrast that with  some salty sour whipped feta, topped off with drizzle of sweet chilli, then you are well and truly in the game.

a bite left

 

Zucchini, Thyme and Whipped Feta Quesadillas

Makes 3-4, depending on how generously you fill them

 

100g feta

125g Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature

big glug of olive oil

600g / 4 small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

salt

6-8 flour tortillas

sweet chilli sauce, to serve

 

Start with making the whipped feta. Combine the two cheeses in a jug and give them a whizz with a hand held blender until smooth. Alternatively, mash the feta very finely with a fork and then stir into the cream cheese. Either way, make sure it is at room temperature when you use it, or else it’ll be difficult to spread.

Next, heat some olive oil in a pan and chuck in the zucchini. Stir over high heat until they start caramelising in places. Add the thyme and keep cooking until they’ve reduced considerably in volume and are softened right through. Add the garlic and some seasoning and shake through a few times before taking off the heat.

To assemble, spread out a few spoonfuls of feta mixture over a flour tortilla and top with a thin layer of zucchini. Place another tortilla on top, then whack into a big frypan. Toast it on one side until golden (you don’t need any oil for this), flip, and finish toasting it on the other side. Transfer to a cutting board, slice into 8 pieces and drizzle with some sweet chilli. Eat while still warm and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Beetroot Dip

 

beetroot dip

Just when you thought there were no more dips, I come along and prove you wrong. Bam! I know, it’s a bit like Christmas. My pleasure. Truth be told, I don’t know why I’ve been withholding this baby from you. Too busy eating it I’d assume. Whatevs.

Do you like beetroot? I do. It’s particularly good in salady things, its earthy sweetness usually offset with the sour saltiness of some crumbled feta. Such a winning combo. Here in dip form, we oomp the awesomeness with some garlic, a little ground cumin and a dollop or two of greet yoghurt. You can use both canned or oven-roasted beets, only the canned variety will turn a more winey red and be more tangy, due to the pickling vinegar, while the latter will give you a zingy pink. You choose darling. I won’t judge you either way.

 

Beetroot Dip

 

1 medium beetroot

100g feta, plus a little bit more for decorating

1-2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt

1 small garlic clove

½ tsp ground cumin

½ vegetable stock granules

a sprinkling of chilli flakes

small dash soy sauce (umami that shit up)

a squeeze of lemon juice

 

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line a tray with baking paper, get your beetroot, stab it all round – being incredibly careful as you do so okay? – wrap in tinfoil, then plonk it onto the baking tray and bake 45 min – 1 hour. Check with a knife to see if its done – it should slide in easily. Remove from the oven and cool. Once cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and remove the skin. Roughly chop the flesh and transfer to a blender.

If you have a cat, at this stage he will be pestering you like crazy because he is assuming that the big lump of maroon you’re handling absolutely must be a sheep’s heart. Either ignore him, or to further confuse him, give him a sniff of the beetroot. He will be thoroughly unimpressed, but will decide to keep on meowing anyway. Cause that’s how he rolls.

Add ¾ of the 100g of feta, the yoghurt, cumin, vegetable stock granules, chilli and soy sauce. Give it a nice whiz, then have a little taste? Not tangy enough? Add a small squeeze of lemon juice. Crumble in the remaining 1/4 of the feta, give it a stir, then transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle over the extra feta over the top and you’re in business.

If you were to do this with tinned beetroot, a small can should do it, or an amount equivalent to what we used above. Omit the lemon juice because it will be tangy enough.

Smoky Lentil Salad

smoky lentil salad

So remember when I said I’d found the recipe for the most amazing lentil salad, daring, even, to name it “the best”? I lied. I found its incredibly attractive and rather enticing cousin. I’ve never been competitive – because I think it’s a waste of time – and I also believe in equality, especially when it comes to lentil salad. I love these two recipes of mine equally, but because this one is newer, I feel like I have the right to play with it a little more often than the old one, so we get the chance to familiarise ourselves with one another, solidifying and deepening our friendship. Because ladies and sirs, this is one seductive salad. Packed with a delicious medley of roasted zucchini, feta and smoky paprika, this little number is sure to satisfy. Best packed lunch ever. Amen.

 

 Smoky Lentil Salad with Feta and Roasted Zucchini

Serves 2 incredibly hungry people, 3 medium hungry ones, or 4 as part of a meal.

 

1 cup Puy lentils

1 bay leaf

2 firm skinny zucchinis, on the medium side, sliced into 1cm rounds

2 carrots, finely diced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

 

Dressing

5 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp dark balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ Dijon mustard

2 tsp vegetable stock granules

1 garlic clove, crushed

chilli flakes

 

150g Danish feta, crumbled

 

Throw your lentils in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Stick in the bay leaf while you’re at it. Let the lentils soak for an hour or so, then bring to the boil and simmer gently until cooked. You may or may not have to top up with water in the meantime, just make sure they never go dry.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with paper. Spread the zucchini over them, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle over some sea salt. Bake in the oven until soft and about 2/3 of their original size. Remove from the oven and cool.

In a large fry pan, heat a few splashes of olive oil and add the carrots and onion. Stir over a low flame until soft, then add the paprika. How good does it smell?! Alright, remove that from the heat and have a look at how you’re lentils are going.

Once they’re soft, pour them into a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of any excess water, shake them a bit, and then transfer them to the large fry pan of delicious smoky goodness. Add the dressing ingredients and give it all a good stir. Let the lentils sit for about 15 minutes for all the flavours to unfold. After that, all you have to do is add the zucchini and feta. Have a taste now. Taste incredible? I know.

The Lentil of Salad

the best lentil salad

Lentil salad, chicken. You heard me. Lentils. Hippie heaven on a plate. No, I am being serious. This is the stuff. Rip out that prejudice you have sticking up on the wall of your brain of how unenjoyable lentil salad is. Because baby, it isn’t.  I went to a whole lot of trouble to make it into something beautiful and delicious, just to put a smile on your face. I know, I’m such a good person.

I want you to know why I love this salad, and why you should to. First of all, there is no celery in it. Celery is such a spoilsport. Secondly, no raw vegetables. They make salads like this one taste more healthy than delicious. And I would choose tasty over healthy any day. The sesame oil, the feta and the fresh coriander leaves are what make this lovely rock in my opinion. And even though I’m not usually a big fan, a confettied scatter of the ever so popular beetroot makes this salad enter a dimension of its own. Funny, Australians are the largest consumers of beetroot. I never would have guessed. It’s not like we’re big on beet salad or anything. Health Conscious? God no. You know what it is? Burgers. Burgers with a slice of pickled beetroot. At least we get a point for aesthetics. So yes. Sweet, salty and sour deliciousness.

And while you’re at it, you should go buy this cookbook called The Modern Vegetarian: Food Adventures for the Contemporary Palate by Maria Elia. It’s the initial source of inspiration for this recipe. Also, this is a vegetarian cookbook where literally every single recipe makes you want to get cooking immediately. Get it.

The Best Lentil Salad

Serves 2 really hungry people, 3 medium hungry people or 4 as part of a meal. Your pick.

1 cup brown lentils

2 Tsp olive oil

2 carrots, finely diced

1 onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp vegetable stock powder

1 garlic clove, crushed

freshly ground black pepper

½ cup (4-5 beets) canned baby beetroot, finely diced

1 bunch coriander, finely chopped

100g Danish feta or goat’s cheese, crumbled

You may have your own way of cooking brown lentils, so do it your way if you want – this here is how I do it: Pour the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with about 5 cm of water. Let them sit for about half an hour until they have soaked up some of the water, then put over a low flame. You may have to top up with more water along the way, but see how it goes. Simmer lentils till soft but not squishy. We need them to hold their shape. Drain them and keep to one side.

Now while the lentils are cooking, add the chopped carrots, onion and olive oil to a frypan and cook, covered, until soft. Turn off the heat. Add the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, stock powder, garlic and pepper. I do this in the same pan to save on dirty dishes. Now add the lentils and give it a good stir. Cover, and let them absorb all those delicious flavours, for about 15 minutes. Once the salad has cooled down, you can add the beetroot, coriander and feta.

Yum.

Avocado

guacamole

Oh guacamole. It feels like we’ve known each other for ever. No matter where I go, or what I do, you will always sneak your way into my life. I have loved you, and hated you, as well as looked at you in pity. You have been good, bad, and extremely average. Before however I continue what could end up being a novel about the many facets of your personality, answer me this. What’s the go with that jarred version of you one finds at supermarkets next to the salsa and corn chips? Do people actually eat that or is it just to please the eye, to complete the colour composition of the snack isle? If it were, I’d pat you on the back and go “Nice one! But between the two of us, keep an eye on the natural flavoured corn chips. The two of you might clash a bit…” But whom are we kidding. I don’t know what you are but you will sure as hell not get the honour of being called guacamole. I have not dared look at your list of contents, but I assume it would include hydrated lettuce, tapioca, MSG and concentrated synthetic diluted reconstituted imitation guacamole extract. I know baby, I know. But I really appreciate how much effort you put into being perfect at home with me on the table, in that delicate white and blue bowl. You look beautiful together with those corn chips, they really bring out your smooth side. The slight bite of the lime, the tangy saltines of the goat’s cheese, the aromatic bouquet of the garlic and the spices. I will dare go as far and say baby, in my eyes, you are perfect.

Guacamole

2 large or 3 smallish ripe avocados

½ lime, juice

2 Tbsp sour cream

2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely

1/3 tsp ground cumin

1/3 tsp ground coriander

½  tsp salt

1 bunch coriander, leaves and stems, chopped finely

50g soft goat’s cheese or soft feta, crumbled, plus more to decorate

fresh chilli, as desired

Scoop out the beautiful avocado flesh into a bowl and mash roughly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, adding as little or as much chilli as you’d like. Top with a little more cheese and maybe a few leaves of coriander for added prettiness. Bring out the tortilla chips and start that party.

Salad time

So it’s getting warmer slowly. Yep, lug out that litre bottle of 30+  suntan lotion. We don’t want to burn now, do we. Long sleeves and hats people, time to cover up. And if you’re one of those gorgeous olive skinned people, well whatever, ignore those first four sentences. Continue on living that amazing bronzed life of yours while I suffer through crimson complexions, irritating sun rashes, and aloe vera overdoses. The fairness of it all.

What I do like about this time of year however, is salad. I would say I’m relatively open to anything and everything with the word “salad” in its title, as long as it doesn’t include strawberries or sprouts or some other “genius” ingredient.  Berries belong into cakes and smoothies and champagne glasses, and alfa alfa sprouts can just go die. Thirteen years of having to eat them in salads is enough to traumatise you for life, believe me. Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts.

Back to salad. Greek salad. À la Laura. I like mine to be chopped into relatively small pieces – not only do I want a perfect burst of salty, sour, sweet and crunchy with every bite, I want to be able to fit it into my mouth. A lot of restaurants will present you a huge plate with tomato quarters, half a cucumber and a whole block of feta. Not here with me. And no, I didn’t forget the capsicum. I just think it’s not needed.

Greekish Salad 

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

16 (I’m serious here) kalamata olives, finely chopped

5 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp mustard

salt, pepper

1 large telegraph cucumber, seeded and chopped into little cubes

5 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped into little cubes

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

200g fetta, in 1 cm cubes

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. They may not look like a traditional Greek salad dressing, but hey, I’m not traditional. And it’s delicious like this. So just add the rest of the ingredients, give it a good stir and you’re done. You could heap it onto grilled sourdough for some Greekified bruschette, have it as part of a mezze spread or just serve (and eat) it with a spoon.

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