Posts in SALAD
Black pepper strawberries with goats cheese and walnut salad
 
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Earlier this year, we visited the red rock town of Sedona, known for its mysterious spiritual vortexes and "transformational energy", on our desert tour of Arizona. While I didn't feel any particular mystic forces while in Sedona, I was rather captivated by a leafy strawberry salad we ate for lunch at a local pizzeria. You will want your strawberries perfectly ripe and sweet for this salad. If your strawberries are not at their peak, add a little more sugar and perhaps a tiny drop of balsamic vinegar to tenderize them. if you have yet to try black pepper with strawberries, you'll be surprised by this unlikely perfect union. 

 

Black pepper strawberries with goats cheese and walnuts

serves 3-4 as a sharing dish

 

350g sweet, ripe strawberries, trimmed
1 tsp sugar
3 tightly packed cups (75g) baby spinach, baby rocket (arugula) or salad leaves
50g goats cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup (50g) blueberries
1 cup (100g) toasted walnuts, crushed
chopped chives
sea salt and lots of black pepper 

 

Strawberry honey vinaigrette
2 large ripe strawberries
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp honey
1 small shallot, finely sliced
sea salt and black pepper

Cut the strawberries in half or quarters, depending on their size; a variety of shapes and sizes is great. Add the sugar and a generous grind of black pepper; toss to coat and allow everything to macerate for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. Quarter each strawberry and squeeze out the juice – the easiest way to do this is to push the strawberry pieces through a fine sieve, catching the juice in a small bowl. Discard (or eat) the pulp. Whisk together the strawberry juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey and shallots, until well combined. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Put the salad together by placing the leaves in a large serving plate. Add the macerated strawberries (including all the juices in the bowl), goats cheese, blueberries and spoon over the vinaigrette. Toss everything to combine. Taste, and season with sea salt and black pepper. To serve, scatter with chopped chives and walnuts. 

 

 
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SALADHetty McKinnon
Ciao Argentina: The olive harvest + charred veggies with burrata and chimichurri
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A nation’s food culture evolves over time, the result of climate, local trade, religion, war, and most of all, immigration. In Argentina, the vibrant, sprawling South American nation with its diverse landscape of the majestic Andes mountains, glacial lakes, and desert, the country’s immigrant history has given birth to a rich and lively food culture, abundant in European tradition. In particular, there is an undeniable Italian character that adds a Mediterranean flavour to both the food and its people.

In Argentina, California-based, Italian-inspired olive oil maker Lucini Italia is helping to keep Italian traditions alive with olive oil. In each bottle of their Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, there are rich layers of history and tradition, of hard work and dedication, of old world techniques married with modern innovation.

As one of Lucini Italia’s current brand ambassadors, I am visiting Mendoza, Argentina to see the end of this year’s olive harvest. The season is short, just two months, from May until June. Mendoza, world famous for its Malbec wines and high-altitude vineyards, is also home to rolling ancient olive farms. In Maipú, located in southeast Mendoza, the Perez family is harvesting the last of their Frantoia olives, an Italian varietal, from 100 year old trees. Migrant workers travel from Columbia for the olive harvest and stay for the season. Here at the Perez family farm, all the olives are ‘hand-picked’ – the harvesters climb homemade ladders (fittingly constructed of olive branches) and forcefully smack the branches, the fruit falling to the ground, where they are caught in nets. There is a human touch at every step of this harvesting process, old world techniques, and minimal equipment. Here, the harvest is driven by nothing other than hard work and manual toil. It is humbling to think of the grind that goes into every bottle of oil. 

 
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If the Perez family’s plantation is all old school hard work and tradition, over at Olivaterra in San Juan province, it is all about innovation and pioneering the future of olive growing in Mendoza. In a previously untapped area of the Andean foothills, Horacio Peroni, Alejandro Vaugdana and Francisco Diaz use their agricultural knowledge and engineering backgrounds to approach olive growing in a scientific way. Founded in 2008, Olivaterra is part of an impressive olive tree plantation spanning 800 hectares. There are a staggering 700 trees per hectare. 

Olivaterra’s harvest begins in April and the work is done by their impressive machine harvester, rightfully named Colossus. During our visit, we witnessed the sheer force of Colossus, as it methodically stripped trees of their fruit, tree by tree, row by row. The olives are milled fresh onsite, at Olivaterra’s own processing mill which was built in 2017, a facility they share with neighboring olive farmers. Understandably, the machine is faster and cheaper than picking olives by hand, but quality also comes into consideration - with machine harvesting, the olives never touch the ground so there is less bruised fruit.

Olivaterra’s owners, along with their neighboring olive ranch owners, are a highly educated, dynamic group. Many of them are not farmers at all, but former engineers, or authors (or sometimes both), city slickers who relocate from cosmopolitan Rosario or Cordoba for the harvest season. The ranch owners, mostly of Italian ancestry, are colleagues, but also friends. They drink wine, laugh constantly and poke fun at one another. It is clear that, despite the high-tech feel of the processing plant, at the heart of Olivaterra is a strong sense of friendship and family, not dissimilar to the artisanal, old world Perez Family Farm. 

Each bottle of Lucini Italia Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains more than just an exceptionally smooth, fresh tasting everyday olive oil – it also holds a strong story of the vibrant Italian-inspired culture found in Argentina, of craftsmanship, modernity, friendship, and most of all, family. 

 
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Inspired by my recent visit to Mendoza with Lucini Italia, I’m bringing you a bright vegetable dish, that can be adapted to the seasons. Argentina is the land of asado (meat cooked over fire), but I found inspiration everywhere in their cooking techniques and the hyper-fresh farm grown vegetables. At Francis Mallman’s famous 1884 Restaurante, potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, onions and beets were cooked over fire, resulting in the most smoky vegetables imaginable. Tables were always brimming with roasted or stewed peppers, charred eggplant, tomato salads laced with red onion or scallions, grilled pumpkin, fennel and zucchini, and roasted quince. There were some lavish vegetarian meals – pumpkin malfati, an Italian-inspired rustic dish of large misshaped dumplings, very similar to gnocchi, billowing balls of burrata smothered in saffron oil, silky smooth beet puree and the crispiest fingers of potatoes, doused in chimichurri.

 
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This recipe for grilled seasonal vegetables with burrata and chimichurri is inspired by a similar platter at Casa de Uco, and the chimichurri served at our al fresco lunch amongst Olivaterra’s olive groves. Argentine chimichurri is a world away from most of the chimichurri sauces I’ve ever tried. It is more chunky, heavier in garlic, and without much spicy heat (though I have added some spice to my recipe below). This recipe is quite salty, which makes it perfect for slathering onto grilled veggies or roast potatoes. Or try stirring it into cream cheese, mascarpone or ricotta for a flavourful dip, as they did at winery and restaurant El Enemigo.

 

For this recipe, use whatever vegetables are seasonal in your part of the world. I used asparagus, beets, sweet potato, corn, baby peppers, spring onions, zucchini with flowers, eggplant, kale and baby cauliflowers. Char the vegetables on high heat (a barbecue is best), add a ball or two of creamy burrata and smother in an Argentine chimichurri. Enjoy xx

 

Charred seasonal vegetables with burrata and Argentine chimichurri

 

seasonal vegetables, washed and trimmed
Lucini Italia Everyday Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 lemon, halved
2 medium balls of burrata (or fresh mozzarella)
sea salt and black pepper

Argentine chimichurri
1 French shallot or small red onion, finely chopped
½ cup tightly packed (about ½ bunch) chopped parsley
1 tbsp (about 4-5 springs) chopped oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ - 1 jalapeño or green chili, finely chopped
1 small tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped
½ small red pepper (capsicum), finely chopped
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
¾ cup Lucini Italia Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp water

 

To make the chimichurri, toss together the shallot, parsley, oregano, garlic, chili, tomato, and red pepper (capsicum) - stir until well mixed. Add in both paprikas, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil and water. Stir well. Use immediately or refrigerate to allow flavours to blend. This sauce can me made 3 days ahead – store in the fridge. 

Heat your barbecue to high and heat for 10 minutes. Prepare your vegetables by washing and trimming. If you are using root vegetables like sweet potato, beetroot, carrots or sweet potato, prick them with a fork, season with sea salt and black pepper, drizzle with olive oil and wrap them in a few layers of foil. Place the foiled packages directly on barbecue and close the lid – cook on medium for 10-20 minutes, depending upon the size of your vegetables. Turn the package every now and then to prevent burning. 

Working in batches, add your softer vegetables (eg, asparagus, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, kale) directly to the barbecue, and let them char. Turn and char on all sides. 

To serve, lay our charred vegetables on a large serving board or plate. Add your burrata, a wedge of lemon, and then generously slather over your chimichurri sauce. 

 
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SALADHetty McKinnon
Spring ratatouille salad with herby French lentils
 
 
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At this time of the year, I’m thinking ahead to the colour and vibrancy of new season salads. I love the transition of seasons, and the chance to marvel at the new arrivals at the farmer’s market.

This week’s recipe is a Spring ratatouille salad, but it could easily be an autumnal ratatouille salad (for those in the southern hemispheres). Along with ratatouille regulars eggplant and zucchini, I’ve added some spring time verve in the form of radishes, asparagus, spring onions and fennel (for those in Australia, I think brussels sprouts and turnips would be ah-mazing!). I’m very excited about this recipe because it features a great mid-week cooking hack -  I’ve used a high quality bottled tomato sauce to create this zesty, punchy, full-flavoured dressing. I’m seriously patting myself on the back for this dressing because it’s truly DELICIOUS! To be fair, Lucini Italia’s Fresh Organic Tomato Sauces are not your average bottled sauce. They are sugar-free, with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Lucini's sauces taste like real tomatoes, which could have something to do with the fact that their tomatoes are grown on one of Italy’s first organic farms and travel from field to jar in less than 24 hours.

Working as a brand ambassador for Lucini Italia has really sparked my imagination. It’s so much fun to think of new and exciting ways to use everyday kitchen essentials. This is a great weeknight salad recipe - it’s as simple as combining your favourite new season veggies with the best bottled tomato sauce you can find. Another essential item to add to your larder.

 

Spring ratatouille salad with herby French lentils

During cookout season, chargrill your veggies on the BBQ!

 

Serves 4

olive oil

2 small (350g) zucchini, sliced into 1cm chunks

2 small or 1 large (500g) eggplant, peeled in stripy pattern + sliced and cut into 1cm chunks

6 radishes, trimmed + cut into 1cm slices

1 baby (180g) fennel, thinly sliced

200g asparagus (about ½ bunch), trimmed + cut into 5cm pieces

2 spring onions, white part quartered

handful of soft herbs (dill, chives, parsley etc)

handful of goats cheese, to serve (optional)

 

Herby Lentils

1/2 cup (150g) French lentils

extra virgin olive oil

big handful of parley, dill, scallions, chives etc

sea salt

 

Tomato dressing

3/4 cup good quality bottled tomato sauce (such as Lucini Italia Fresh Organic Sauces)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ tsp sugar

8 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

sea salt and black pepper

 

Cook lentils in a large pot of salted water. Finely chop the herbs. While the lentils are still warm, add the oil and herbs. Season with sea salt.

In a large fry pan (or your outdoor BBQ or grill), heat some oil and, all in separate batches, panfry your zucchini, eggplant, radish, fennel, asparagus, and spring onions. Season each batch with sea salt and cook until caramelized but not mushy.

To make the dressing, whisk together the tomato sauce, red wine vinegar, oil, garlic, and sugar. When combined, stir in the olive and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Combine the tomato dressing with the vegetables. Spoon the lentils onto a serving platter and top with the tomatoey veggies. To serve, scatter with soft herbs, and scatter with goats cheese (optional)

 
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SALADHetty McKinnon
Kung pao root vegetable salad with aromatic chili oil and tahini
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I am no stranger to aromatic chili oil. I make it often to accompany dumplings, noodles, and rice. In fact, in recent times, I have come to view this oil as my go-to spicy condiment, topping everything from porridge, to soup, roasted veggies and salads.

This month, I have the honor of joining Lucini Italia as a brand ambassador. For me, working with brands comes with responsibilities, especially in being true to both the product I am working with, while remaining authentic to my food philosophies and style of cooking. I’m absolutely thrilled that working with Lucini Italia has already inspired me to try new ways of cooking with one of my pantry essentials, olive oil.

And so, to this recipe! It is loosely inspired by Mission Chinese Food’s Kung Pao Beet dish which I recently enjoyed with friends. While I’m normally not a fan of culturally-confused food, Mission Chinese’s adventurous fusion take on Asian classics really excites me. Their green tea soba noodles hit the spot every time. Not to mention their killer cocktail and wine list.

Kung Pao is not a dish I grew up eating (probably because it’s not an authentic Chinese dish ;)) but still, the flavours are mind boggling. Inspired by my partnership with Lucini Italia, and their deliciously zesty Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I have created my favourite Asian condiment, aromatic chili oil, using olive oil in place of the usual neutral oil. I have to say, aromatic chili oil made with olive oil has been a revelation - it has more of a ‘bite’, offering a fresh, peppery finish that perfectly amplifies the aromatic spices in the mix. This aromatic oil is the perfect pick-me-up for seasonal root vegetables; here I have sautéed potato, sweet potato, celery and beets, drizzled them generously with chili oil, and finished with the earthy and nutty tahini. There are so many dazzling flavours here. A beautiful end of winter salad.

 

Kung pao root vegetables with aromatic chili oil and tahini

Serves 3-4

extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                      

500g starchy potato (such as Idaho/russet), scrubbed and cut into 1cm cubes
300g sweet potato, scrubbed and cut 1cm cubes
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
250g boiled beets, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
2 sticks celery, cut into 1cm slices                                                                                                

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp tahini
handful peanuts, chopped
Sesame seeds

Aromatic chili olive oil                                                                                                                        

½ cup extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                                  

3 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 inch piece of ginger, finely sliced

3 scallions, white part only (save green parts for serving)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp sea salt flakes

 

To make the aromatic chili oil, heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, along with the star anise, cinnamon stick, ginger, white part of scallions, fennel seeds, and Sichuan peppercorns. When it starts to bubble, immediately reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, on very low heat, allowing it to bubble gently and constantly (don’t let the spices burn). Allow the oil to cool for about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the red chili flakes and salt; mix well. While the oil is still warm, remove the spices (star anise, cinnamon etc) and VERY CAREFULLY pour the oil over the red chili flakes and salt. Stir well. This oil can be stored in a sterilized jar for up to 6 months.

For the vegetables, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the potato and sweet potato and stir to coat in the oil. Add the broth, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat until the potato is crisp tender. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add a good drizzle of olive oil, add beets and panfry for 3 minutes on medium, shaking the pan every now and then, until slightly caramelized. Add a touch more oil, and then add the celery, garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook for 1 minute. Add the potato, sweet potato and soy sauce and combine well. Cook for 5 minutes until the potatoes are fully tender.

Thin the tahini with 1-2 tablespoons of water and season with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.  

To serve, spoon the vegetables onto a serving plate, drizzle generously with the aromatic chili olive oil, followed by a drizzle of tahini. Scatter with scallions, peanuts, and sesame seeds.

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SALADHetty McKinnon
Hawaij roasted carrots with mung beans and preserved lemon yoghurt
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Before my friends NEW YORK SHUK gave me a bottle of their new spice Hawaij, I had never heard of this little known Yemeni spice before. Pronouncing it requires some practice too - try this "huh-why-adge"... Unusual name and ambiguous identity aside, this vibrant, golden-hued spice has the POWER! It's flavour is heavy-hitting - featuring turmeric, cumin, black peppercorns, and cardamom. These bold flavours are perfect for roasting vegetables, particularly root vegetables, and also a great way to build a robust flavour profile in soups, stews or salads.. 

There are actually two types of Hawaij. As I learnt from my friend Molly, there is hawaij that is used for soups, stews, marinades etc (like NY Shuk's) and then there is another hawaij spice which is a coffee blend. The coffee blend typically includes ginger and cardamom, along with any combination of the following: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, maybe anise or fennel. 

If you can't get your hands on store-bought hawaij, I recommend substituting with a simple homemade combo of ground turmeric, ground cumin, freshly ground peppercorns and cardamom - grind everything with a mortar and pestle. 

Hawaij roasted carrots with mung beans and preserved lemon yoghurt

I use preserved lemon in the yoghurt, but if you can also substitute with fresh lemon zest and a few squeezes of lemon juice.

serves 4-6

500g (1 pound) small carrots, tops trimmed and scrubbed

1 tsp chopped preserved lemon (or juice of ½ lemon)

handful of coriander, finely chopped

¾ cup mung beans, rinsed

handful toasted almonds, toasted

handful mint and coriander leaves

1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges (to serve)

sea salt and black pepper

Hawaij yoghurt marinade

2 tbsp hawaij

1 clove, finely grated

½ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 220˚C/425°F.

Mix hawaij, garlic, yogurt, and a big drizzle of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons) in a large bowl until smooth; season with salt. Add half of the yoghurt mixture to the carrots and toss to coat. Reserve the rest of the yoghurt for serving.

Place the carrots in a single layer on a large baking try. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until the carrots are tender and charred in spots. 

Meanwhile, place the mung beans in a medium saucepan and cover with 5cm (2 inches) of water. Season the water with 2 big pinches of salt. Place on medium-high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain.

Add the preserved lemon to the remaining yoghurt and mix to combine.

Combine the mung beans with the carrots and toss to combine. Season with sea salt and black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle with preserved lemon yogurt and scatter over the almonds, mint and coriander. Serve with lemon wedges.

 

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SALADHetty McKinnon
Roasted butternut squash, lentils, pickled shallots and special sauce
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I rarely eat sandwiches, but there is one that I'm absolutely obsessed with. It is literally one of my favourite things to eat in New York City and definitely my favourite sandwich of all time. It's called the VegItalian Combo, from my awesome local sandwich shop, Court Street Grocers

I am the first to say, a sandwich with butternut squash and 'hoagie sauce' as it's main ingredients is not a dish I would normally go for. But the utter deliciousness of this sandwich is completely unexpected. The sweetness of the squash is matched by the rich umami goodness of a melange of cheeses, olives, red onion, rocket leaves and a mayo-ish sauce.

This salad is an homage to the Court Street Grocer VegItalian Combo. It's got the butternut, the olives, the rocket but is given the Arthur Street Kitchen-treatment with the addition of lentils, quick pickled shallots and my own secret mayo sauce. The result is a damn tasty salad. If you want the Court Street Grocers VegItalian experience, shove it all into a crusty bread roll ;))

 

Serves 4

 

Gluten free

 

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1.25cm (½ inch) slices

extra virgin olive oil

½ cup lentils (black or green), rinsed

10 green olives, pits removed

10 wrinkly black olives, pits removed

2 cups baby rocket (arugula) leaves

sea salt and black pepper

 

Quick pickled shallots*

1 small French shallot, very finely sliced

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

 

Special sauce

½ cup whole egg mayonnaise

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 tsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped

1 tbsp grated pecorino or parmesan

1 tbsp grated swiss cheese

50g fresh mozzarella, finely diced

Juice of ¼ lemon

Sea salt and black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 190˚C / 375˚F.

For the quick pickled shallots, place the shallot slices in a small non-metal bowl and add the vinegar, and sugar, and about 1 tablespoon of water. Stir and leave to pickle while you prepare the rest of your salad.

Place the butternut squash on a large baking tray (or two if you need it) and drizzle over the olive oil. Toss to coat well, and then arrange the slices in a single layer on the tray. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender and golden. Remove from the oven, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and add 2 pinches of salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

Prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Place the squash in a large mixing bowl, along with the lentils, olives and a few of the pickled shallots. Add about half the sauce, and toss gently to combine. To serve, place ¾ of the rocket on a plate, and top with the squash mixture. Dollop the rest of the sauce on top, and scatter over a few more pickled shallots.

* use as much of the pickled shallots as you like. If you don’t use them all, you can store them, in their pickling liquid, in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 14 days.

 

 

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SALADHetty McKinnon
Potato Puttanesca
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I love the story of puttanesca, a sauce as salacious in meaning, as it is pungent in flavour. Puttanesca literally translates ‘in the style of prostitutes," referring to its Neapolitan roots when prostitutes would engage the heady aromas of garlic, anchovies, capers, and olives tossed with pasta to lure customers to their doors. Whether this story is true or not, I am still always drawn to food with a juicy backstory.

This salad is puttanesca reinvented – the punchy sauce, made with pantry staples of olives, capers and balsamic vinegar, is used to dress roasted potatoes. It’s deeply satisfying and beaming with flavour. If you want an even heartier dish, add a short pasta such as orecchiette or cavatelli to create a classic pasta and potato salad. This is a great salad for the holiday feasting table. 

 

gluten free and vegan

500g grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

1/2 cup (150g) black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped

½ - 1 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, plus more to serve

extra virgin olive oil

1kg potato - peeled and halved

1 can borlotti or cannellini beans, drained

handful parsley or basil leaves, roughly chopped

sea salt and black pepper


Preheat oven to 400˚F.

To make the puttanesca sauce, place the tomatoes in a bowl, and add the olives, capers, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and stir. Drizzle with a 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season with pinch of sea salt and black pepper and set aside. As it sits, the acid and salt will draw out moisture from the tomatoes, creating a saucy texture.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, until they are par-boiled and slightly softened. Drain. Place the potatoes on a baking tray, cover in olive oil, season with sea salt and roast in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden and tender.

Combine the potatoes with the puttanesca sauce and borlotti beans. Toss well to combine. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Top with herbs to finish and serve warm or at room temperature.  

 

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SALADHetty McKinnon
Sautéed dates with cinnamon-roasted butternut squash, wheat berries and blue cheese

While it feels against the odds, mid-winter is often the time of the year when I feel most inspired in the kitchen. With the chilly air swirling outside, my kitchen is warm and cozy, the perfect place to hibernate for hours and enjoy the quiet lull of my oven.

This Winter has been a busy one in my kitchen. I’ve been cooking lots of Asian food, and getting to know many of the foods I grew up eating. This Asian food odyssey is all part of a special project I’m working on, which I hope to tell everyone more about soon. The project is an intensely personal one, a labour of love, as most of my endeavours tend to be. More on that soon….

Daily, I’m looking for big flavours at the moment. I am looking for huge contrasts in flavours that will shock my taste buds and make my heart race. The other day, I bought the hottest, fieriest kimchi I’ve ever eaten from Wholefoods which I savored like no other – super spicy gives our bodies such a welcome kick start during the Winter. The other ingredient I’m loving more and more right now is medjool dates. I’m usually not big on using dates as a sugar replacement but after meeting and chatting to the wondrous and beautiful Susan Jane White this week, and checking out her new book The Virtuous Tart, I think I’ve converted to the possibilities of dates in both sweet and savory dishes. Susan’s vegan caramels which she brought to our talk at Rizzoli Bookstore made my taste buds stand up and cheer. Predictably, I ran straight to the store and stocked up on dates!

Armed with my medjools, I have created a lovely, simple seasonal salad featuring big, bold flavours. Dates are on the extreme end of the sweet flavor spectrum, so I decided to embrace this and contrast them with one of the saltiest flavours I know, blue cheese. The butternut squash, roasted in cinnamon is a surprising aromatic addition. I have used wheat berries in this recipe, but beware – as a wholegrain, they take a long time to cook. If you are less committed to this lengthy cook time, opt for split freekeh, farro or pearl barley.

 

Sautéed dates with cinnamon-roasted butternut squash, wheat berries and blue cheese

Use your favorite blue cheese. Stilton or gorgonzola are perfect, and goats cheese would work well too.

Serves 2-3

  • ¾ cup wheat berries or farro, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, skin removed
  • 3 cups (500g/1lb) chopped butternut squash
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 medjool dates, seeds removed and quartered
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 100g blue cheese
  • handful of walnuts
  • sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C.

Place a medium pot of salted water on medium-high heat and add the wheat berries and garlic clove. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to low and simmer for 45-60 minutes until the grains are soft. Wheat berries take closer to an hour, while farro cooks a bit quicker. Drain and mash up the garlic with the grains.

Place the butternut squash on a baking tray and scatter over the cinnamon, season with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss everything to combine. Roast in hot oven for 30-35 minutes, until squash is golden and tender.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the dates and turn them for just 1-2 minutes, until they are caramelized and sticky. The skin will be slightly crispy. Remove from heat and sprinkle with a big pinch of sea salt.

Combine the grains with the butternut squash, arugula and parsley. Drizzle over some olive oil, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and season well with sea salt and black pepper. To serve, scatter over the dates, blue cheese and walnuts.

 

SALADHetty McKinnon
Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with lentils and lemon coriander oil

Like a bear, I’ve wanted to hibernate lately. It’s cold out, and all I want to do is stay inside, bake sourdough, drink tea, and watch the twinkle of Christmas tree lights. I call it seasonal malaise. This is the feeling of discomfort that often comes when the seasons turn to cold. Met by shorter days, darker nights, crisper air, my mood swings rampantly, searching for new inspirations.

At times like these, I write. My mind feels full right now, with ideas and possibilities and I often can’t get my fingers to type fast enough. So who knows what may come of this. I’m thinking a new book ;)

With the holiday season in full swing, we have been lapping up the magic of Christmas in New York. It really is the most whimsical time of the year here. I love walking through the tourist-filled streets of Manhattan, bundled up in my warmest down coat, with a hot apple cider in hand, while taking in the makeshift Christmas tree stalls on street corners, the spectacular holiday windows on Fifth Avenue, oversized baubles adorning midtown plazas, and ice skating in the public parks.

The holidays are not the same without lots of Brussels sprout dishes adorning our table. Today’s recipe is a super simple salad, featuring two seasonal faves – Brussels sprouts and cauliflower – served with lentils and a zesty lemon coriander oil. 

 

Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with lentils and lemon coriander oil

Serves 4

gluten free and vegan

  • 1 cauliflower (about 1kg / 2lb), cut into florets
  • 500g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 250g puy lentils, rinsed
  • handful coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper

 Lemon Coriander Oil

  • ½ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1 small eschalot
  • 1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon

Preheat oven to 200˚C / 392˚F.

Place the cauliflower and Brussels sprout on a large baking tray, drizzle over some olive oil, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Roast in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes, until both are golden.  

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add garlic clove, lentils and season the water with a few big pinches of sea salt. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are al dente. Drain, but keep warm.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the lemon coriander oil. Add all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. It doesn’t have to be super smooth.

While the lentils are still warm, add the lemon coriander oil and stir through until the lentils well coated.

To serve, add the roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts to the lentils and toss. Top with lemon zest, a swig of olive oil and a final season of sea salt and black pepper.

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SALADHetty McKinnon