a close shave, with salad


shaved beetroot, pear, & marinated feta salad

The other day I was reading through some recent posts and I was thinking how much they make me sound like a glutton…..I mean all these multi-course meals and long boozy lunches, any sensible reader would have to conclude that I must look something like the side of a house. But thankfully this isn’t the case. I only eat like this when I’m entertaining guests and as a single gal living alone, my mid week dinners tend to be much more waistline-friendly.

So this week, rather than wooing you with an extravagant dinner, I thought  I’d share what’s been going on lately in my mid week kitchen.

When I get home from a long day at the office I tend to be the same as most people. Tired and hungry and in need of a drink. Once I’ve got myself sorted with a glass of wine, all thoughts turn to dinner. Looking for something healthy, tasty and most importantly, quick to prepare, salads are the perfect choice, particularly during the warmer months.

I’ve already chronicled some of my favourite salads and I’ll admit that I’ve been a fan of the shaved fennel salad for some time now. But I must say, even I was unprepared for the salad revolution that I seem to have unleashed in my kitchen since the purchase of my new favourite kitchen toy, the V-slicer. This recent acquisition is a mandoline of sorts that can not only slice things paper thin, but has the option of turning out julienned vegetables in not one, but two sizes.

I cannot even begin to try and explain all of the new horizons that this little baby has opened up in my kitchen, let alone expound on its time saving goodness. But these days practically no vegetable or fruit is safe from being shaved and turned into a salad. Beets, zucchini, pear, and of course the old favourite, fennel have all had a waltz with the V-slicer. And it’s only a matter of time before others join their ranks. Mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, asparagus, broccoli, artichokes both globe and jerusalem, cauliflower, carrots, leeks and even parsnips are in my sights.

But for now I urge you to give these salads a go. Even if you don’t have a mandoline or V-slicer, a sharp knife and a steady hand or even a vegetable peeler will be close enough. You will be rewarded with a quick, tasty, satisfying and nutritious dinner that helps diffuse the stress of the day just passed and fuel you for the one ahead.

shaved zucchini (courgette) salad with sardines
serves 2
Adapted from a recipe by Bridgette Hafner in the SMH Good Living.

While BBQ zucchini is one of my favourite things, this salad sees this great little vegetable shine in a different way. With a lovely crunch, it absorbs the flavours in the dressing to be the perfect accompaniment to a few sardines or good quality tinned tuna, or even some crumbled feta. 

You could serve this salad without the sardines alongside BBQ fish, poultry, or the squeeky cheese: haloumi. It also keeps well if you have any leftovers for lunch the next day.

2 medium zucchini
1T lemon juice
2T extra virgin olive oil
small handful basil, leaves picked and torn
105g (4oz) tin sardines in olive oil, drained
small handful flaked almonds, toasted

Thinly shave the zucchini lengthwise using a v-slicer, mandoline or sharp knife. Combine lemon juice and oil in a bowl and season well. Add zucchini and toss through. Allow to stand for at least 10mins to absorb the dressing.

Toss through basil leaves and divide salad between two plates. Top with sardines and toasted almonds.

shaved beet, pear, & marinated feta salad
serves 2
Inspired by the beet salad in Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie.

Beets, beets, glorious beets are another of my vegetable favourites. I first experimented with raw beet in a salad when trying the Balthazar salad from the food wordsmith, Molly, on her site Orangette. It added such a lovely earthy crunch that I was instantly hooked.

Jamie used beets and pears cut into matchsticks but I found they worked much better shaved and layered. I was lucky enough to get hold of some target patterned beets which looked extra pretty but regular beets would work just as well.

2T red wine vinegar
4T extra virgin olive oil
5 medium beets
2 small pears
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
small handful mint, leaves picked
small handful feta

In a medium bowl combine oil and vinegar and season well. Scrub beets thoroughly then trim tops and bottoms and peel. Shave into thin rounds using a v-slicer, mandoline or sharp knife and toss in the dressing.

Wash pears and shave into rounds, discarding any with seeds. Toss with dressing and beets  immediately to avoid browning. Toss through onion then divide salad between two plates. Scatter with mint and feta and serve.

shaved fennel salad with ricotta & peas
serves 1
Adapted from a Karen Martini recipe in Where the Heart Is.

This salad rocks. Crunchy, refreshing shaved fennel given some highlights from lemon and mint on a mellow bed of ricotta with sweet sweet peas. Colourful, bursting with nutrients and ready in minutes.

I used to be a pea hater and spent many a childhood dinner trying to master the art of hiding the peas under your knife. After a spring vegetable soup at the Lynwood Cafe in Collector with peas picked from the cafe garden literally 2 minutes before being served, my world changed.

Frozen peas are a great alternative for those of us not lucky enough to have access to the Lynwood cafe garden. The secret is to cook them for just moment to warm them though and retain their sweet plumpness. Overcooked, wrinkled peas are unhappy peas.

1/4C podded peas, fresh or frozen
2T extra virgin olive oil
1 baby fennel
1T lemon juice
2 sprigs mint, leaves picked.
100g (3oz) low fat ricotta

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Blanch peas for 30 seconds only. Drain and place in a bowl. Drizzle with the oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Trim stalks from fennel, reserving the leafy fronds. Shave fennel bulb across-wise using a v-slicer, mandoline or sharp knife. Whisk lemon juice through the peas and oil and toss through shaved fennel, fennel fronds and mint.

Smear ricotta over a serving plate and top with tossed salad and dinner is ready.

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