Thursday, January 6, 2011

Summer Salads

I am so easily inspired to cook at this time of the year. All I need is to walk through the markets and breathe in the sweet, distinctly summer smells of peaches, watermelon, mango’s. The first thing that comes to mind is the many delicious salads recipes I’ve collected and created over the years. Also, I also can’t resist making brightly coloured stir fries and clear broths like the ones I tasted in Malaysia – healthy, light summer food.

Summer to me is a season of simple dishes, of reusing leftovers and creating something delicious out of what you have in your fridge or if you’re lucky, your garden! It’s a time when we should enjoy the outdoors and cooking should be kept simple and fun involving the whole family!

I recently visited my parents in George, what a pleasure harvesting a basin of rhubarb and little tart nectarines from the garden – stewed with brown sugar and a vanilla pod for ten minutes, this makes the most delicious breakfast compote! I love the challenge of using what’s fresh and the luxury of walking into the garden to pick a handful of herbs for my sauce bubbling on the stove.

Using fruit in savoury dishes is nothing new to us South Africans, with our love for chutneys and atchars stemming from the Malays. These are two faithful recipes that have stuck with me since the watermelon salad trend hit our shores. Feel free to change the ratio’s slightly to suit your taste. Rope in the kids, get chopping and enjoy the taste of summer!

Watermelon, Rocket and Feta Salad
(Serves 6)

¼ ripe watermelon
60g or two handfuls of rocket leaves
6 sprigs of mint
½ tub of plain feta cheese
Handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the watermelon into bight sized blocks and remove as many of the seeds as possible.
Toast the pumpkin seeds and set aside to cool.
Wash the rocket and the mint leaves.
Cut the feta cheese into cubes.
Toss all the salad ingredients together.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkle the seeds on top of the salad.
Lastly, chop the mint leaves or simply break them off the stem and leave them whole.
To serve, drizzle a balsamic reduction and a light olive oil over the salad.

This recipe is one that I used frequently when I was managing a café with a daily lunch buffet. This salad was never served without raving reviews from the customers - the salty pork sausages and the sweet nectarines taste magical together!

Plum and Pork Sausage Salad
(Serves 4)

4 nectarines
1 head of fennel, finely sliced
2 small butter lettuce heads
½ cucumber, peeled and sliced
8 pork sausages, cooked and diagonally sliced
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic reduction, to drizzle
Salt and pepper, to taste

· Cut the nectarines into wedges, discarding the pip.
· Wash your lettuce leaves well and pat dry.
· Fry the pork sausages in a hot pan until cooked and set them aside to cool.
· Arrange the plums, fennel, greens, and the cucumber on a platter and top with the sausages.
· Season with salt and milled black pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, just before serving.

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