Category Archives: salad

Persian Chicken Salad

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Persian Chicken Salad
Don’t you feel that lunch is the most “unloved” meal of the day? We are often far too busy to think about what to eat in the middle of the day. The result is we either get an expensive and often unhealthy takeout or eat the same ol’ boring sandwich. In other words, nothing to write home about.

Well, not all is lost and I’ve got an excellent reason for you to get excited about breaking into your lunchbox again. Persian Chicken Salad is a modern update on the timeless classic. This energy boosting salad made with tender and juicy chicken breasts, crunchy vegetables and black smoky olives and seasoned with yogurt and lime dressing and loads of herbs. It’s especially delicious in a wholewheat pita mixed with a bunch of spinach leaves. So fresh and satisfying!Persian Chicken Salad
Eating it in a pita pocket is so appealing to children! Here is your school lunch sorted.
Persian Chicken Salad

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- 3
  • Olive oil ( for cooking chicken)- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
  • Mayonnaise (I used low fat)- 1/3 cup
  • Dijon Mustard- 1tbsp.
  • Lime juice- from 2 limes
  • Carrots (grated)- 4 medium
  • English Cucumbers (diced)-2
  • Celery (diced)-2 ribs
  • Frozen petite peas (thawed)-1 cup
  • Red Onion( chopped fine)- 1 small
  • Black Olives (halved and pitted, I used Smoky Moroccan Olives but Kalamata Olives will work as well)- 1/2 cup
  • Flat leaf Parsley(chopped)- 1/3 cup
  • Fresh Basil(chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Wholewheat pitas-4

Method:

1.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and brown your seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides  over medium heat until done, about 5 minutes per side, it might take a couple of minutes longer if your chicken breasts are very thick.  Remove from the pan, let it cool until it’s safe to handle and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.

2. In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and remaining salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine together chicken, carrots, cucumbers, celery, peas, onion, olives, parsley and basil and carefully toss together with the dressing.

3. Serve in a pita pocket or on its own for a gluten-free lunch. Persian Chicken SaladPersian chicken salad

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Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat’s Cheese

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Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's Cheese I love beans and am always on the lookout for the new ways to eat them. They are filling, low in fat and high in nutrition. What’s not to like! Well, if I am really honest, the taste can be sometimes quite bland. The beans are like that boring guy who has a great substance and character but lacks the charisma and needs a wing man to show him off.
That is when our flavour buddies come in- Cilantro, Garlic and Chilli! They are all about spunk and excitement but also need to attach themselves to something hefty to carry them. This Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad recipe is a match made in heaven as it does exactly that. It brings things together that desperately need each other!

Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's cheese
Ingredients:

  • Butter Beans- 1 can
  • Red Kidney Beans- 1 can
  • Red Chilli (finely minced)- 1
  • Goat’s Cheese or Feta (crumbled)- 1-2 tbsp.

Ingredients for pesto:

  • Spinach-200gr
  • Walnut pieces- 3/4 cup
  • Garlic cloves- 3
  • Red wine vinegar-3 tbsp.
  • Flat leaf parsley- 1/4 cup
  • Cilantro-1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice- 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil-1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper- a pinch of both

Method:

Combine all the pesto ingredients but olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.  With the motor of the food processor still running slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin steady stream until the mixture is well combined.

{The recipe given here will make about 1.5 cups of pesto. Use 1/4-1/3 cup for the bean salad and refrigerate the rest in an air-tight container. It will keep for two weeks in your fridge or a month in a freezer.}

Combine the beans and dress them with 1/4 cup of pesto, sprinkle with finely minced red chilli and crumbled goat’s cheese. If you love the flavour of this pesto go ahead and check out my Potato Salad.

Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes allowing the flavours to blend. This salad is absolutely gorgeous with any type of barbecued meat!
Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's CheeseCilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat Cheese

Spinach and Walnut Pesto Potato Salad

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Spinach Walnut Pesto Potato Salad
In this season of barbecues and outdoor eating you can’t find a more suitable side dish to a grilled steak or a burger than a nicely made potato salad. At least not for me. In my potato loving ways I am Russian through and through. However, I will only eat a potato salad made by me. A potato salad snob? Perhaps. I give no excuses but I do offer recipes. One of my all time favourite potato salads is called Olivier and I often turn to it at my family’s requests but as usual I crave variety.

A couple of weeks I ago a stumbled upon a recipe for a Georgian bean salad in one of my numerous cookbooks. The dressing for it caught my eye as something I vaguely recalled eating as a child while spending a holiday in the country of Georgia with my parents. Georgia’s cuisine is quite famous and loved in Russia for its unusual flavour combinations, their use of fresh herbs and spices and overall deliciousness. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled with the result. The dressing had the basic ingredients for Italian pesto but instead of using basil and pine nuts as the base, it called for spinach, cilantro, parsley and walnuts. I made so much of that pesto and literally fell in love with the flavour that for the next two weeks I’ve been putting it in everything-my morning eggs, my sandwich and finally potato salad. This is how a new and now a favourite potato salad was born. I wanted to contrast the creamy texture of new potatoes with something crunchy so I added sliced radishes and fresh shelled peas. Voila!

Spinach Walnut Pesto Potato SaladSpinach Walnut Pesto Potato Salad
Ingredients:

  • New small potatoes- 1 lbs
  • Radishes-10
  • Fresh peas- 1/4 cup (shelled)
  • Baby greens – 2 cups

Ingredients for pesto:

  • Spinach-200gr
  • Walnut pieces- 3/4 cup
  • Garlic cloves- 3
  • Red wine vinegar-3 tbsp.
  • Flat leaf parsley- 1/4 cup
  • Cilantro-1/4 cup
  • Red chilli or dried chilli flakes (optional)-1 small
  • Lemon juice- 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil-1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper- a pinch of both

Method:

Cook the potatoes in a large pot until tender but not falling apart, they should be firm. I prefer to cook mine with the skins on. If you are using large potatoes, quarter them after they’ve been cooked. Let them stream dry and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking prepare the pesto. Combine all the ingredients but olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.  With the motor of the food processor still running slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin steady stream until the mixture is well combined.

{The recipe given here will make about 1.5 cups of pesto. Use 1/4-1/3 cup for the potato salad and refrigerate the rest in an air-tight container. It will keep for two weeks in your fridge or a month in a freezer.}

Coat the potatoes with the pesto sauce while they are still warm. That will allow for the flavours to blend properly. Put in the refrigerator for the potatoes to cool. Before serving toss the salad with sliced radishes, shelled peas, and baby greens.

Spinach and Walnut Pesto Potato Salad
As you can seen I had little visitors while I was shooting who were set to pinch sweet peas off any time I wasn’t looking but got caught in the act!

Get Your Picnic On!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Lately, I am all smiles. Why wouldn’t I be? The weather outside is glorious! I know I am not the only one who is loving sweet summer days that lead to wonderful outdoor dining. A while back I announced a contest. I suggested my readers would challenge me with any recipes/meal ideas and I would cook them, photograph them and report back. I was supposed to randomly draw up 3 winners. Drum rolls please….
The first winner is Noemi Hedrick. Here is what she requested, “I would love to see a picnic “done well”. Cold foods that make you want to picnic ALL DAY! I love chicken on skewers and dip. Can you deal with that?”

Absolutely!

I loved working on this post because it combined so many things that I adore-my reader’s request, Russian food I grew up on, endless tasting tests with friends and family while having picnics of my own.

The first thing I got working on was skewered meat with dip called Shashlik in Russian, which is mostly likely a borrowed word as it doesn’t sound Russian to me. 🙂 Shashlik is a marinated meat that is later skewered and slowly roasted over hot coals. It’s Russian campers’ favourite past time. All city dwellers will talk of nothing more than their desire to finish the work week and go to the countryside “na shashliki” (to have shashlik).  This tasty food came to Russia in the 19th century and was brought by Russian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War and fell in love with that local delicacy. Since then it’s been one of the most beloved foods and became the symbol for outdoor eating.Russian skewered meat "Shashlik"

My husband Brad was first introduced to shashlik by my two friends Marina and Misha in the country house outside of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. He loved it so much that he made it his first project in our newly bought house to build a brick fire pit for making shashlik. It does tend to leave an impression on people!

Russian Shish Kebab "Shashlik"
Shashlik is traditionally enjoyed with fresh vegetables and simple salads.
        My Picnic Menu

  1. Pork Shashlik with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip
  2. Crudités (tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any vegetables you like)
  3. Grilled Eggplant Salad with crusty bread
  4. Mixed Olives
  5. Red Wine

Russian Picnic Menu
Russian Picnic Menu
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Ingredients for Shashlik:

Marinade:

  • Onions (sliced for marinade)- 3 large
  • Garlic- 1 head
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Paprika- 1 tbsp.
  • Oregano- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Fresh Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2/3 cup
  • Lemon Juice- 1 lemon
  • Bay Leaf-2

Skewers:

  • Pork Loin- 2,5 lbs
  • Onions (quartered for skewers)
  • Bell Peppers- 2-3 (red, green, yellow)

Method:

{The night before}

In a large wide bowl combine all the ingredients for marinade, then add 3/4″ cubes of pork loin, cover with either a lid or a cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash or use a gas grill.

Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on a skewer intermittent with pieces of bell peppers and onions. Grill the skewers sprinkling with marinade every 3 minutes for 9-11 minutes.

Note: Do not use the onion slices from the marinade on your skewers as they were in contact with raw meat for hours and might be unsafe to eat.

Ingredients for Minted Greek Yogurt Dip:

  • Greek Yogurt-1 cup/250ml
  • Lemon Juice-1/2 lemon
  • Fresh Mint- 3-4 sprigs, leaves only (to taste)
  • Cucumber (diced)- 1/4 cup
  • Radishes (diced)-1/4 cup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Recruit your spouse or partner to grill the meat. This way you can get all the side dishes ready. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and radishes right before serving as the vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid and will make the dip too watery if combined too early.

Also prepare a selection of raw vegetables and arrange them on a platter. They will be delicious with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant Salad:

  • Eggplant- 2 medium
  • Eastern European style or Italian marinated mushrooms (usually in the deli section)- 1 small jar
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)-  2-3 mini peppers or just the number according to the size
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)- 7-8
  • Olives (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley (chopped)- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (crushed)- 1 clove
  • Red wine vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

While your barbecue is warming up, cut the eggplants into 1/2″ slices and leave them in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp. of salt for 30 minutes. Then remove them from water and put on the skewers, brush with a bit of olive oil or spray with a calorie reduced cooking spray. Grill on the barbecue for 10 minutes, test for doneness, they should not be spongy but have a soft and silky texture.

While your eggplant is getting grilled, prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together oil, vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, set aside.

As soon as you take the eggplant off the grill, put the slices in a salad bowl and pour the dressing on them while still hot, then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt if needed.

Set aside for the flavours to meld. This salad is delicious both cold from the refrigerator and at room temperature. Perfect picnic food!

{Note: Grilled Eggplant is also great just on its own with the salad dressing as pictured in this post.}Grilled Eggplant SaladRussian skewered meat "Shashlik"
So what do you think Noemi? Did I handle it alright?

Chunky Pico De Gallo

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Chunky Pico De Gallo
I can’t believe it took me so long to share one of my favourite things to eat with you friends! However, summer is upon us, and since even England is reluctantly warming up, it calls for colourfully fresh outdoor dining.

This salad is something that appears on our table any season of the year but tastes best in the summer when the tomatoes are ripe and flavourful. It comes in many incarnations as long as there are the major players present-tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, chillies and lime juice. The rest is variable and optional. I usually make it into a fresh salsa but once in a while I change it up and add  various beans, corn and such. You can use it as a filling for your burritos and fajitas but you can also eat it as a salad. My kids called it a dip because they were dipping tortilla chips into it. Whatever you call it, this concoction is bursting with flavours, vitamins and is out-of-this-world delicious.

Chunky Pico De Gallo
Ingredients:

  • Cherry Tomatoes (red and yellow)- 2 large handfuls
  • Red Onion-1 small
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Cilantro- a bunch
  • Red Chilli (minced)-1
  • Lime Juice (I was out of limes and used lemons!)- from 1 lime
  • Green Onions-3
  • Chick Peas/Black Beans- 1 can
  • Green Lentils (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Corn- 1 cup
  • Avocado (diced)-1
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Half or quarter the cherry tomatoes, dice the red onion finely, mince the garlic cloves and red chilli, then add chopped cilantro, sliced green onions and lime juice. To the mixture add the beans/chick peas, lentils, corn and salt. Mix everything and taste for the right balance of spices. You can see that this is hardly an accurate recipe and more of an idea. I like my pico de gallo spicy but you can skip or half the amount of onion and garlic if you prefer a milder version.  Add diced avocado right before serving to avoid browning.

This Pico De Gallo is truly a flavour winner and packed with power foods like chick peas, lentils and avocado. My kids were scarfing it down, having completely forgotten that they can’t stand tomatoes!

Chunky Pico De Gallo

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing or The Taste of The Caucasus

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Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing
What is your favourite side for a barbecue? Mine is Russian Potato Salad “Olivier”. It’s incredibly tasty but not exactly a health food. Green beans on the other hand are full of great stuff if only someone would think of an exciting way to eat them! If you eat green beans before and find them plain you are not alone. Green beans are not the most exciting vegetable in the world. Good news is I have found a reason to eat them, enjoy them and come for a second helping! Interested?

This recipe comes from the Georgian cuisine – not the state of Georgia but the country situated on the coast of the Black Sea. The dishes from Georgia were and are incredibly popular in Russia and many of them have become staples in every Russian home. I got introduced to real Georgian food while on a family holiday at the age of 15. To this day I consider that experience to be the biggest culture shock I’ve had – and I’ve lived and visited countries like China and Philippines.

Georgian food was very different from mild and rich flavours of my native Russia, but good different. Fresh, exciting, spicy and delicious are the words that come to mind when I think of their food. This Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing recipe is no exception. Full of flavour and a joy to look at!

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:

  • Walnuts-1/2 cup
  • Fresh Cilantro-half a bunch (1/4 cup chopped)
  • Garlic cloves- 2-3
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2 tbsp.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice- 2 tbsp.
  • Water- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt- a good pinch
  • Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Red Onion- 1/2
  • Green Beans- 1 lbs

Method:

In a food processor or blender combine all the ingredients except for green beans and onions and blend them well until you have a homogenous paste, very much like Italian pesto. Slice the onion thinly and put it in the dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes. This time allows the flavours to blend and the onions slices get slightly pickled. The acidity in vinegar and lemon juice neutralise the bitterness of the onion and enhance the flavour.

Put the green beans in a pot and cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook them for about 5 minutes until tender but still have a bit of a crunch and retain their beautiful green colour. Take care not to over boil or the dish will be ruined.

Drain and rinse in cold water. This shocks the beans and they stop cooking immediately. Let them dry and toss with the dressing. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Bring it to the next barbecue party and people will be hounding you for the recipe! You can proudly tell them it comes from the Caucasus. Talk about being exotic!

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

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Spring blooms
My children are off school for a spring holiday, only spring itself was here merely in theory or that was the case until two days ago. We were completely overwhelmed by cold, grey and windy days and then suddenly the sun appeared and made everything bright and lively bringing along little green buds and beautiful pink blooms. And although spring is still quite shy and only stays around in short spurts we are hopeful and ready to embrace longer days, brighter clothes and lighter meals.

A little while ago I made Quinoa and Puy Lentil Salad and it was quite popular with my family and my readers. I love adding quinoa, bulgur or couscous to my greens when making salads as they make light things a bit more substantial and satisfying without compromising the health benefits. As I had mentioned in that salad post I usually cook more quinoa and lentils than one recipe requires and use the extras throughout the week in various incarnations. Beet and Quinoa Salad is another tasty way to combine quite a few nutritious ingredients together and end up with a little number that is pure joy to look at and even more to eat.Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa (cooked according to package directions)- 1 cup
  • Lentils or Chick Peas (cooked)- 1/2 cup
  • Beets (cooked and grated)- 1 large or 2 small
  • Radishes (sliced)- 5-6
  • Rocket/Arugula- 2 cups
  • Creamy Goat Cheese- 2 tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar-1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
  • Lemon -1/2
  • Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine quinoa, lentils or chick peas, grated beets and sliced radishes and set aside. If you are not a regular beet eater let me assure you they are very easy to cook. Just boil them like you would regular potatoes until are easily pierced with a knife. Life is even easier for the UK readers as packs of cooked and vacuum packed beetroot are readily available in any supermarket. I would steer clear of the canned beets. They are pretty horrid and lacking in the nutrition department for sure!

Make your vinaigrette dressing by mixing together balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon and chopped up parsley, then slowly pour in olive oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking the entire time. You can use an immersion blender or food processor if you like your vinaigrette to be very smooth but a regular whisk will also do the trick.

Dress your salad with vinaigrette until evenly coated, taste it and add salt if needed, toss with rocket/arugula and goat cheese. Allow 15 minutes in the fridge before serving for the flavours to meld.

Quick, easy and tasty! Just what I like for this spring season.

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese