Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Green salads for Paddy’s Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Some say it is just another day but I say it is a day to wear, eat and enjoy all things green. Having Irish-Anglo ancestors and being taught by an Irish order of nuns means that St Patrick’s day was always significant when I was growing up and it is especially significant now for my sister and her family who live in Dublin!

One of the dilemmas about St Patrick's day food is that Irish food is not particularly green. Potato, cabbage and stout are not the greenest of foods. So the days seems to present an awkward choice between eating Irish food or green food. Today I will have the best of both worlds by posting some recent green salads and making an Irish dinner that I will blog later.

Today’s salads have lots of spinach and herbs but they actually were inspired by Lisa and Jacqueline’s monthly vegetarian soup and salad event, No Croutons Required, which is focused on chickpeas this month. I share Lisa’s love of chickpeas. The hardest thing about this event was choosing from lots of ideas. I tried three ideas. The first was inspired but didn’t quite work, the second gave me a chance to try an unusual ingredient and was very good but my favourite was the ad hoc salad I made last night.

So let’s start at the beginning and let me tell you why the first salad didn’t work. I decided to make salad with cracked wheat because I was clearing out bags of grains that the weevils were eager to share. It was bought for recipes requiring kibbled wheat and I have always been a bit confused about if it is the same as bulgar wheat. I think it is but is a coarser grain. So I boiled it for about 15 minutes, added some vegetables and dressing but it didn't have enough flavour.

What was best about the salad was the panfried chickpeas, fresh pineapple and microwaved pumpkin in olive oil with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar thrown in at the end. It was tangy, sweet and delicious but E didn’t like the pineapple.

Then I saw a recipe on Cookin’ Canuck for Spinach Salad with Fuyu Persimmon, Jicama & Avocado with Miso Dressing. I had just bought a couple of persimmons without really knowing what to do with them or even what sort of persimmon they were.

I know that Susan had a useful persimmon post at Food Blogga so I went there and found I had bought fuyu persimmons – the shorter squat ones that can be eaten firm or soft. I once ate an unripe Hachiya persimmon that a work colleague brought in from his tree and I swore never to go near the fruit again but fortunately I have found that fuyus are more friendly and don’t need to be soggy ripe to eat them. Susan also gave a great harvest salad recipe with a great orange dressing that I decided to use.

So I had persimmons, but there was no chance of finding jimaca and I had to find a ripe avocado. I have taken to going to the Vic Market more often, now I am back at work so was able to find ripe avocados, though it is always a bit hit and miss till you open them. The one I bought was ok but no great so I only used half of it, which was probably enough. Instead of jimaca, I used chickpeas. E surprisingly said that he liked the persimmons more than other fruit I put in salads. I actually think it was because the dressing was so good. We ate it with no-knead bread, cheese, tomato and cucumber. A fine simple supper.

Then last night I decided to make salad with what was in the fridge. Chickpeas, pumpkin and spinach with a simple tahini/lemon/yoghurt dressing is a favourite combination. So the salad was based on this with a little extra thrown in. It was one of those salads that just come together into a great meal more through intuition than planning. I loved this one and didn’t even need any bread with my meal. It occurred to me that this would be a good combination to bake in the oven with some spaghetti and a little tweaking of the dressing.

Sylvia has been quite grizzly lately – a combination of teething and missing me while I am at work. I sat with her on the floor while I ate my dinner and she had a few bits off my plate – she loves the chickpeas and the sausage. The highlight of the meal was when she took her first step unaided. Being a foodie baby, her first step was reaching out for a piece of bread. Then she reverted to crawling about on all fours. But it is all the proof that I need that this salad will fill you with energy and put a smile on your face.

Chickpea, Persimmon, Avocado and Spinach Salad
Serves 2-3 as s side dish
Adapted from Susan Russo and Cookin’ Canuck

  • ½ cup cooked chickpeas
  • couple of good handfuls of baby spinach (about 70g)
  • 2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped
  • ½-1 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small spring onion, finely chopped

Orange Dressing:

  • juice of ½ medium orange
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp seeded mustard
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp soy sauce
  • 2 pinches salt
  • good grinding of black pepper

Arrange salad on shallow salad bowl. Lightly whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and drizzle over the salad. Toss and serve.

Chickpea, sausage, pumpkin and greens
serves 2-3 as a main meal

  • ½ tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 vegetarian sausages, grilled and chopped
  • 300g pumpkin, peeled, diced and microwaved (about 4 minutes) til soft
  • handful (about 50g) baby spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small spring onion, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch basil (a handful), thinly sliced
  • handful of parsley (¼ of a bunch), finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • juice of ½ medium lemon
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp seeded mustard
  • ¼ tsp salt

Lightly whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Place remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss with the dressing til well coated. Serve at room temperature. We had this in one night but I think it would keep well overnight.

On the stereo:
Elton John's Greatest Hits: Elton John


  1. Hey! I've been reading your blog for a while and have forwarded the link to a number of friends who are working with gluten-free diets. Recently, my best friend's daughter (who is only 5) has been diagnosed with coeliac disease, and they are struggling with having to deny her all the foods she loves (healthy or no, she was one of those kids who lived on cereals and bread). As you can imagine, there have been many tears, and although little Rowen understands that it's good for her tummy, she's really struggling. I was wondering, given your experience with your niece, whether you had any good advice about helping a child handle the dietary changes? If there are any guidelines about adapting her favourite foods, too, that would be wonderful.

    My friend is based in Canada, so although she understands metric, products may be different from Australia (should that be relevant).

    I've passed her your link, and I hope that they manage to make something work. Thanks for everything you have on here; it's helpful as well as great to read!

  2. These salads ALL sound delicious and I love it that you've featured persimmons! Your post reminded me that I have a similar recipe bookmarked and must try it before persimmons go completely out of season here (well, from South Africa rather than Israel - they're hardly local at any time of year!). And congratulations on Sylvia's first step!

  3. Grr--I think blogger just ate my comment (if it didn't, feel free to delete this one). The spinach appeals most to me, too--and I have to admit I adore hachiya persimmons!

  4. I adore chickpeas - I'm so psyched about both of these beautiful salads! Congratulations to Sylvia on her first step - SO exciting!!!

    Happy St. Patty's Day! I'm very much looking forward to your Irish dinner post - and I'm so excited that you posted these beautiful green salads too! Yay for the best of both worlds!:-)

  5. After not enjoying the squelchiness of persimmons as a kid, I was so happy to discover fuyu persimmons a few years back! I also love chickpeas, so definitely see this salad recipe in my future. Though, of course, the far away future, as by the time I get home it'll be cold and non-persimmon season again for another year...

  6. Hi Johanna, I think your second salad looks like a modern day twist on a ploughmans lunch. I liked the sound of that one and your last one.

    The award you gave me was a bit of a boomerang, it is whirling it's way back to you :)

  7. Hi Sarah - thanks for commenting - I have been thinking about your request for advice and have been thinking I will try and answer in more detail in a post soon - but in the short term I would say it might help your friends to try and find foods they eat anyway and love that are gf and to read some of the wonderful gf blogs around

    Thanks Lysy - am still just enjoying the first step as there have been no more to see - and hope you enjoy the salad - I keep meaning to try some persimmon bread or muffins because they seem to be in season here

    Thanks Ricki - that was most uncooperative of blogger - just jealousy of your interesting comments I expect - I must try and give hachiya persimmons another chance though I am not a huge fan of really soft soggy fruit

    Thanks Astra - yep I love to have my cake and eat it too - so to speak - especially where chickpeas, green food and St pat's day are concerned

    Thanks Hannah - am sure persimmon season will come around again before you know it - and I think it is good to use them in salads as it is cheering to have them when so many other salad fruits and veg are going out of season.

    Thanks Jacqueline - I like the way you describe the salad - ploughman's always seems to be so easy and delicious that I am happy to think of my salad that way - it is just the way I love to eat right now - and thanks for the award - very kind!

  8. What a sweet post. Thanks so much for your entry. All of these dishes sound just wonderful. I wish I could visit your kitchen.

  9. This salad is impressive. I can imagine how bursting with flavour it must have been. Ive copied it down! Thanks

  10. Persimmons are a mystery to me - no idea how to eat them!

  11. I think (but could be wrong) and that cracked wheat and bulgur are different. Bulgur has been steamed or something? And cracked wheat is just, well, raw cracked wheat. I love that giant bowl of greens you have! Aw how exciting that Sylvia took her first step!! =)


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