It’s summer officially, but not quite really. We’ve had some hot days, but they’re rare interruptions in the temperate progression of 20-degree days (and 12 degree nights). But when the sun is out, as it often is, I’m starting to get to wanting crispy salads and cold beer. We had Iñaki and Begoña, and Henry and Linda, and all the kids, over for lunch today. Henry brought a fantastic roasted spatchcocked chicken, I made these three salads below, and we finished with Greek sweets from Iñaki and Begoña, and this orange and lemon poppyseed cake. The sun stayed out for us during lunch, and while Iñaki let his gardening urge take over in the back yard (gardening date next Sunday, Iñaki?), and for a walk to the Union St park. Now it’s 7 pm and the sun is still up, but I’m thiiiiiis close to turning on the heater. Doesn’t matter, summer lunch was awesome while it lasted.
Couscous, eggplant, dried fig and orange salad
185 g couscous
250 ml boiling water
2 largish eggplants
1/3 cup pine nuts
180 g sheeps’ milk feta, crumbled
1/4 cup currants
8 dried figs, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 large orange, zest and juice
lots of fresh mint and parsley, finely chopped
Cut the eggplants into 2 cm cubes. Divide between a couple of large baking trays or dishes. Make sure that the cubes are in one layer, not piled up, otherwise they will steam rather than roast. Toss the eggplant with a glug or two of olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, and sea salt and black pepper. Roast at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and soft.
Toast the pine nuts in a fry pan over low heat, stirring often, until they are lightly golden.
Put the couscous in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. I like to make the couscous early and let it dry a little before using it, but you can eat it warm if you like.
Once the couscous is cooked, add the roast eggplant, pine nuts, feta, currants, figs, the orange zest, half the juice, mint and parsley. Toss and taste. Add more juice and/or salt if needed.
Kipfler, green bean and smoked salmon
10 medium kipflers, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
about 40 green beans, tops trimmed
400 g hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
1 small bunch dill, leaves chopped
a couple of tablespoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons seeded mustard
sea salt and pepper
Steam the kipflers in steamer baskets over boiling water until they are tender. Boil the beans for about 4 minutes, until they’re cooked to your liking. Break the salmon into bite-sized pieces.
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes and beans in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the salmon and dill, and toss again, gently. (You toss it in two stages so the salmon doesn’t get broken up.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
Summer salad, inspired by Jess
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 handfuls rocket
2 handfuls baby cos, torn into pieces
2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off
1/2 yellow capsicum, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced
8 giant cherry tomatoes, quartered
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
vinegar (sherry, champagne, tarragon, your choice)
salt and pepper
Toss together all the vegetables. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Dress the salad and serve at once.