Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roasted butternut & purple onions with tahini sauce & toasted pine nuts

Welcome to 2015 from Southern Spoon. In the spirit of positive and healthy starts, this year begins with a delicious dish that showcases roasted winter vegetables, dressed simply with fresh herbs, toasted nuts, and tahini sauce. This colorful platter of veggies will entice even the most stalwart of your hard to please low-vegetable eaters. One of my goals is to incorporate even more, and more variety, of vegetables into every meal.

This recipe is one of many that I prepared with my mom and sister from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's incredible cookbook Jerusalem, which I gifted to my sister for Christmas. We loved reading through Ottolenghi's portrayals of this ancient city's cuisine, which is deeply wrapped up in its culture-- a culture that is unfortunately so often the target of persecution, as we saw in Paris last week.
roasted butternut, purple onions and dressed with a creamy tahini garlic sauce
and sprinkled with parsley and toasted pine nuts for an easy, attractive, delicious side dish
The next couple of posts will celebrate the multicultural influences that make some of my favorite dishes absolutely delicious. How sad, and how dull, would it be for us all to live in a monocultural world? May our actions this year provide a little more understanding and tolerance and many special moments shared over food and drink with friends and family, who are each beautifully different than we are. Cheers from Texas.

Roasted butternut & purple onions with tahini sauce and toasted pine nuts
Serves 8
Adapted from Jerusalem

1 butternut squash, sliced into 4x1 inch wedges (skins can be removed or left on)
2 purple onions, sliced into 1/2-inch wide wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4cup pine nuts
pinch each of freshly ground salt and pepper

Tahini sauce:
3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 475F / 240C. While the oven is preheating, make the tahini sauce. Whisk together sauce ingredients, adding enough water until the mixture is the consistency of runny honey. Set aside.

In a large bowl, carefully toss the squash and onions with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange squash and onion evenly on the greased baking tray in a single layer. Roast at 475F / 240C for 30-40 minutes, until onions are beginning to brown around the outer edges and squash is cooked through. In the last 3-5 minutes of roasting, place the pine nuts in a separate baking tray and place them in the oven with the vegetables to toast, watching closely to ensure they don't burn.

Arrange the squash and onion onto a serving platter, sprinkle parsley and pine nuts over the top, and drizzle the tahini sauce over the vegetables. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage tip: these roasted vegetables and sauce will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3-4 days.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pumpkin Salad with Avocado, Pecans, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

New Year's resolution-making already for 2015: more blogging! It's been over a month since I've posted, but since then: my job in Sydney finished, my Australian visa ran out, we've packed up and shipped all of our possessions, and I've moved back to Texas temporarily while I wait on the state department to approve the hubs to join me in the USofA. Needless to say, it's been busy.

But we're still cooking, and this is my first post from the Southern homeland I still call home. Have done a swift transfer from summer-weather salads to winter-themed dishes here in Texas, even though the weather is not quite frosty yet. The beautiful, delicious salad recipe shared below is just perfect for the holiday season, weather you're in the northern or the southern hemisphere. I made it in Sydney on Thanksgiving last month with my wonderful in-laws and will be making it again in Texas on Christmas for my family here.
This salad makes a beautiful addition to your holiday spread.
The sweet pumpkin, savory rocket (arugula) and crunchy pomegranate seeds and pecans make a mouthwatering combination, and the flavors are holiday season appropriate without adding another heavy, starchy side to your dinner table. I've used both kent pumpkin and acorn squash in this recipe with success, and butternut or any other slightly sweet squash would also work well. If you can't source avocados where you are (they're plentiful in Australia this time of year, and thankfully in Texas we have access to avos from Mexico and Cali), just leave them out-- the salad will still look and taste divine. This festive dish is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo-friendly. Win.
pumpkin, avocado & acorn squash over greens, topped with toasted pecans,
pomegranate arils, and pomegranate vinaigrette
Hope to be back before the month and year are over, but all best to you for December. And especially warm wishes to my family and friends back in Sydney, where the past week has been a tense and difficult one. May peace abound as we move forward into the New Year.

Pumpkin Salad with Avocado, Pecans, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8
Adapted from How Sweet it Is

1 acorn squash, or half of a kent pumpkin or butternut squash (no need to remove the skin!)
4-5 cups rocket (arugula; can substitute shredded romaine or another lettuce)
1 avocado, sliced into long, 1/4 inch-wide slices
1/2 of a medium sized pomegranate (for about 1/2 cup pomegranate arils)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped into large chunks

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
makes 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
pinch each of freshly ground salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 395F/ 200C. Slice the squash or pumpkin into 1/4-inch slices (if using acorn squash, cut in half from bottom to top, then slice horizontally from bottom to top so you end up with scalloped slices of squash).

Place squash slices on a lightly greased or baking paper-lined baking tray, and place into a pre-heated oven. Roast at 395F/ 200C for 20-25 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through cooking, until the slices are cooked through and beginning to brown slightly. In the last 5-6 minutes of baking, place the pecans on another baking tray and place them in the oven to toast. Remove squash and pecans from oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is roasting, remove the arils (seeds) from your pomegranate and set a 1/2 cup aside (refrigerate the remaining arils for another use). Then make the pomegranate vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together thoroughly.

On your serving platter or bowl, arrange the rocket leaves, and pour half of the vinaigrette evenly over the leaves. Arrange the squash slices over the rocket, then arrange the avocado slices in between the squash slices. Pour the remaining vinaigrette evenly over the salad, and sprinkle the pomegranate arils and pecans on top. Serve immediately.

Salad will keep, covered in the fridge, for 24 hours.

* Prep tip: The squash can be roasted up to a day ahead and placed in the fridge, ready to be used when you are ready to assemble the salad. The vinaigrette can be mixed up and stored in the fridge up to two days before serving.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bok choy salad with sticky grilled eggplant, baby corn & miso garlic chicken

We spent last weekend in the Blue Mountains with friends (see pic at the end of this post), and had a great time going on long bushwalks through the gum trees then coming back to our Airbnb house to cook up a big meal over beers and old fashioneds. My friend Kate made the most amazing seared kangaroo salad on our first night-- check out her blog The Katechen for more delicious food outta Melbourne. We'll definitely be trying *roo salad* at home soon, but tonight we stuck to our favorite version of summer salad (marinated, grilled chicken thighs over an Asian-inspired base), topping it with sticky grilled eggplant slices inspired by Laura over at The First Mess.
baby bok choy salad topped with grilled sticky eggplant and baby corn
The basil and mint keep things tasting light, while the grilled eggplant and chicken make this dish go a long way to satisfy big appetites. If you can't easily source baby bok choy, any lettuce (romaine, oak leaf, etc) will do, or try a combo of thinly sliced Napa (Chinese) cabbage and purple cabbage. If you're cooking for vegetarians, just serve the grilled chicken separately, alongside the salad.
salad topped with miso garlic grilled chicken
These eggplant slices would also be delicious as a side on their own, or added to a burger/wrap situation. File this one away for the summer months, northern hemisphere mates. And a shout out to my little brother, whose birthday is today! Can't wait to toast the last year of your twenties with an old fashioned when we're back in the same country, bro. 
full of flavor: salad with grilled veg & chicken
Bok choy salad with sticky grilled eggplant, baby corn & miso garlic chicken
Serves 3-4

Bok choy salad
3 bunches baby bok choy, separated, washed, and thinly sliced
1/2 of a red bell pepper (capsicum), thinly sliced
4-5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
small handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped
large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon reserved eggplant marinade (recipe below)

Toss the baby bok choy, bell pepper, mushrooms, mint, and basil together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved eggplant marinade with olive oil and mirin. Pour the marinade dressing over the salad, and toss to coat. Set aside to serve straight from the bowl, or transfer the salad to a flat serving plate to serve. 

Sticky grilled eggplant and baby corn (inspired by this recipe at The First Mess)
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1cm-wide slices
fat pinch of ground sea salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 of a brown or purple onion, thinly sliced 
big pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon miso
1 tablespoon mirin
handful of baby corn, sliced in half lengthwise

Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer on a sheet of aluminum foil or a baking tray, and sprinkle with with sea salt on both sides. Leave the eggplant to sit while you make the marinade.

In a small saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, ginger, onion, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by about half and is thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in the miso and mirin. Set aside one tablespoon of the marinade mixture to use in the bok choy salad dressing (see above). 

Generously brush the eggplant slices on one side with the marinade (you won't use all of it, save the remainder to use while you're grilling). Leave the eggplant to marinate while you prepare the chicken (eggplant needs only about 10 minutes to soak up the flavors of the marinade).

When you're ready to grill, heat an outdoor barbeque or an indoor stovetop grill to high heat. Brush the grill with oil. Place the eggplant slices, marinated side down, onto the grill, and immediately brush the tops with the remaining marinade mixture. Place the sliced baby corn on the grill, too. 

Grill the eggplant slices for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until char marks appear and eggplant softens. Toss the baby corn around on the grill every couple of minutes, removing after the corn begins to develop a little char, about 6-8 minutes total. Remove the eggplant and corn and set aside to cool for a few minutes before arranging them on top of the bok choy salad.  

Miso garlic chicken
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil (or toasted sesame oil if you have it)
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon miso
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a large glass or ceramic dish, mix the fish, sauce, oil, mirin, miso, and garlic. Place the chicken thighs into the mixture and turn them over a few times to coat evenly. Place the dish in the fridge for 15 minutes as you grill the eggplant (or, alternatively, marinate chicken, covered in the fridge, for up to 8 hours or overnight). 

Heat the grill (outdoor barbeque or indoor stovetop grill) to high heat. Add the chicken thighs, and grill for about 5-8 minutes on each side, until chicken is no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear. 

Remove chicken from heat and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before slicing against the grain into thin slices. Arrange the chicken on top of the salad and grilled eggplant and baby corn, or serve the chicken on a separate platter alongside the salad. Enjoy!

view from one of the lookout points near Leura on our Blue Mountains bushwalk last weekend