Sunday, June 26, 2011

asian smashed cucumber salad

simple and fresh
This is a classic Taiwanese side dish.  My mom makes it all the time in the summer, it goes really well with BBQ and anytime you want a quick salad with minimal effort.  The cucumbers are smashed so that they can really soak up the dressing flavours - sweet, savoury, sour and a little kick of heat - delicious!

what you need:
*serves about 4
  • 8 mini cucumbers
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly minced
  • 1 small red chilli pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine, optional)
  • 1 tsp ponzu (citrus Japanese vinegar, optional)
what to do:
  1. Mix all ingredients (except cucumbers) in a large salad bowl.  Taste and adjust if required (e.g. add more soy for saltiness, more canola oil if too acidic)
  2. Cut tips off both ends of each cucumber.  You will need a knife with a wide side/face.  Place a cucumber in the centre of a big cutting board and smash it lengthwise with the side of the knife.  The cucumber will burst/crack - cut it into about 3 sections on a diagonal and then break it up a little bit with your fingers for a rustic look.  
  3. Toss all the smashed cucumbers in the salad bowl with the dressing and refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes prior to serving to allow flavours to marry.  Serve alongside any BBQ protein or on it's own as a snack. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

apple fennel salad

Fennel is such an interesting vegetable - when you cut it you might be surprised at how strong it smells (like black licorice!) - but it's quite mild and adds great crunch to a salad.  I made this salad for Ryan's birthday BBQ and it was received well!  The sweetness of the apples, subtle flavour of fennel and brightness of ginger in the dressing make this salad delightful.  If you don't like asparagus, leave it out! Or replace with any other veggie you dig.  Tip: frozen ginger is easier to grate, so pop some into the freezer for dressings, ready to use.

what you need:
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 large apple (Granny Smith or McIntosh best)
  • 1 orange pepper (red or yellow work too)
  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus
  • large bowl with lots of ice and cold water
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh or frozen ginger
  • 1 lemon's zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp or so of honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine) - optional
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pinch each of salt & pepper
what to do:
  1. Trim off tough ends of asparagus, then cut into about 1 1/2" sticks.  Blanche them in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes, until they are bright green.  Remove from hot water and immediately immerse into the ice bath.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients and taste.  You may find that you want more acidity or sweetness - so you can add more lemon juice, vinegar, or sugar - but if you find it too acidic add a little more olive oil.
  3. With a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly slice fennel (remove the top layer - tends to be tough) and bell pepper and save a few sprigs of the fennel fronds for garnish.  Thinly slice apple and squeeze some lemon juice on slices to prevent browning.   
  4. Drain asparagus, then toss vegetables together with dressing and allow it to marinate in the fridge for about 10 minutes before serving (stays good in the fridge for about 3 days!).  Garnish with fennel fronds and enjoy!
Even the boys liked it:)