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Salads

My farro & chayote squash salad: make it in the fall, make it all year-round!

Who here is a fan of farro? I’ll admit I’ve never had farro in savory applications until recently. Sweet, however, is a totally different matter. Growing up, ever so often, my aunt would make me a dessert that is very popular in my home country, which involves a combination of farro, sugar, cinnamon, chopped nuts and sometimes lemon. I used to love this dessert so much that I would often dream of it – yes, really πŸ™‚ Coming in contact with the cooked farro, the nuts would turn into a velvety mass of milky goodness – and that’s exactly why I liked this dessert so much. What’s not to love about a creamy, ever so comforting sweet treat?

My farro repertoire has expanded recently, and for a good reason. I’ve been trying to find ways to use up a boatload of organic farro I got on sale from the grocery store – and in the process, I came up with a simple recipe for a vegan farro salad we absolutely love.

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Cabbage and curry roasted potato salad: fresh and fiery – and perfect for fall!

I can’t remember the first time I used curry powder in my cooking, but I’m sure it happened while I lived in the UK. Indeed, back in those days, I would find the sophisticated pungent aroma of curry pretty much everywhere: in the dorm room I used to live in while working on my postgraduate dissertation; intermingled with the deep-fried smells coming from the local chippy; on my hands after lunch in the noisy cafeteria. Steeped in a long history and perceived by some as a tool for re-imagining a cuisine largely characterized by robust ingredients and rustic applications, the lasting impact of curry on British dishes is nothing short of extraordinary. Indeed, I fell in love with this ingredient while living in the UK – and I will cherish it forever πŸ™‚

This salad pays tribute to my ongoing fascination with curry while also epitomizing my belief in plant-based eating, which has fueled my inspiration in the kitchen these past few years. I have been roasting a lot of veggies lately (it is fall, after all, lol), and for this recipe I decided to pair roasted veggies with fresh carefully picked ones to create a balance of flavors and textures. This salad is all about the present (fall roasted veggies) and the future (fresh veggies in all their colorful glory). Something fresh, something roasted – and a lot of plant-based goodness in between πŸ™‚

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Purple cauliflower, red bean and chickpea salad: one more light dish before fall kicks in!

How do you like your salads: light as in chock-full of greens, or filling as in chock-full of pasta? I’m asking because to me, eating salads is a seasonal experience. While during the summer I usually gravitate toward less calorific lettuce-based offerings, when the cold weather kicks in I want nothing more than a bowl of hearty warm salad, brimming with all the carbs I can find. Since the days are still reasonably mild and the fall seems far and away, I think eating light is the way to go at the moment. Enter one of my latest creations, featuring purple cauliflower, red beans and chickpeas.

I developed this recipe by chance, following a shopping trip during which I found purple cauliflower on sale. It was not just any cauliflower, but organic cauliflower, grown by Amish farmers and sold at one of my favorite local stores. I wanted to treat this nutrient-packed cauliflower variety right, and the recipe development period which followed was truly a labor of love.

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More eating from the pantry: tricolor vegetable pasta salad – with fresh basil for DH!

If you’ve been reading my posts these past few weeks, you know what we’ve been eating up: the pantry! πŸ™‚ Every day this summer, I have worked diligently to declutter the pantry and to give new life to long-forgotten ingredients – and the work is far from over. In the process, I discovered I had a stockpile of high quality rice and pasta, perfect components for easy light summer salads. These pantry staples can be used creatively particularly in the summer, when there’s an abundance of in-season affordable produce.

Growing up, my family and I had no knowledge of pasta salad and how delicious it could be. We would usually eat pasta with feta cheese, if available, or with hot milk, with some sugar on top. Our meal was nothing fancy: pasta was sustenance, a good filler for our bellies when nothing else was available to eat. As we went on to discover different countries, cultures, and eating habits, we gained a better understanding of the versatility of pasta. We said goodbye to pasta with warm milk (we still make it from time to time, but as a treat/dessert, not as a main meal), and hello to pasta salads and their vibrant mix of flavors. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to pasta, right? πŸ™‚

To make the salad pictured above I used one of the best gourmet pastas I’ve ever had the chance to work with: Tuscanini Foods pasta, imported straight from Italy. Keep Reading

My vegan couscous salad: eating from the pantry, summer-style!

What have you been up to this summer? I don’t know about you, but cleaning and tidying up the house has been one of my priorities. I know it sounds boring, routine and uneventful, but that’s the truth: I have been using my summer break to bring some semblance of order to our house. I hardly ever get the chance to do it during the school term, and I have found that two small kids can cause a lot of clutter – or maybe I’m just disorganized and looking for someone else to blame 😛 In any case, these past few weeks I’ve been on a mission to declutter things around the house, starting with the pantry.

Working my way through the pantry has led to many discoveries – who knew I had so many awesome ingredients which needed to be used? Take Bob’s Red Mill’s tricolor pearl couscous, for example. Keep Reading

Potato lemon balm salad: summer cooking at its best!

Did you know use of “uncommon herbs” is one of this year’s hottest culinary trends? I picked up this information while doing research in preparation for attending the latest National Restaurant Association Show (you can check out my review here), and I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad to see the overall “return to nature” approach at work, be it epitomized by plant-based products, imperfect produce, exotic fruit and super fruit – or, finally, uncommon herbs.

But, what are some of the less used herbs at the top of the popularity pyramid this year? In the brochure which details this year’s top trends, the National Restaurant Association gives chervil, lovage, lemon balm and papalo as examples of uncommon herbs. I really wish we’d grown lovage: my mom uses a lot of lovage in her cooking, but sadly I have yet to find this plant available for purchase in Chicagoland. Luckily, on the other hand, our lemon balm bush has survived the polar vortex and is now thriving in our garden. Time then to make a lemon balm salad – so beautiful, so seasonal, so fresh πŸ™‚ Keep Reading

Calendula summer salad: make it now, love it forever!

What’s the first thing you do when you are bitten by mosquitoes? I don’t know about you, but I immediately cover the affected skin area with calendula cream. Indeed, calendula (also called pot marigold) has been my family’s go-to option for minor scrapes and bruises for as long as I can remember. Nowadays, I use calendula cream to moisturize and treat my daughter’s skin. Such was the case yesterday, for instance, when she was bitten by mosquitoes during our usual walk in the park.

In 2008, calendula was named Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association, an official recognition of the exceptional healing properties and culinary value of this plant. You read that right: culinary value. The petals of calendula flowers can be eaten raw (in salads) or cooked (in soups and stews). To satisfy my family’s appetite for fresh summery dishes, I recently used calendula petals as an ingredient in the salad pictured above. The tangy, peppery taste of the petals made this a summer salad like no other – a salad packed with layer upon layer of flavor, a great lunch option for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Here’s a salad to remember πŸ™‚

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