Quinoa salad with Belgian endive, caramelised figs, apple, and thyme-crusted cashew cheese

Let’s go back an entire four weeks in time, when I started writing this post – but did not immediately find the time to finish it:

It’s been unseasonably warm the past few days  and weeks (13 to 18 degrees C), but today it’s raining cats and dogs. Finally true autum weather and time for a hot oat milk cocoa and some cookies. I’ve been picking the last raspberries of our second harvest (perfect for a breakfast of homemade nut granola and unsweetend soy yoghurt) , and the same goes for our fig tree yield. Yesterday I took down the last 2 kg (!) of figs and immediately turned them into jam. Yet another set of jars. My cupboard is now officially crammed, although I have already given away quite some: fig jam (three ways), fig chutney (two ways), cherry jam, cherry-fig jam, cherry-raspberry jam, cherries on syrup and rhubarb compote. Given the fact that we only have a teeny tiny yard, it’s been a productive summer. My rhubarb plant succumbed under the scorching July heat, though, and so did my sorrel.

Some decent part of summer remains stored in our freezer, so that at certain intervals, I can use some figs on pizza or in a salad. Although there are numerous ways to include figs in salads, I last week created one with figs as its centerpiece, together with Belgian endive, apples, walnuts and cashew ‘goat’ cheese. Apart from the cashews, all ingredients are locally sourced. Apples (or pears) and Belgian endive are as popular a pair as both apples and a tangy cashew cheese or figs and cashew cheese, so I decided to just mix them all. No way one could go wrong, I thought, as all these flavours -sweet, bitter, tangy- and textures – soft, crunchy, melty – seem to blend favourably. And so they did.

Quinoa salad with Belgian endive, caramelised figs, apple, and thyme-crusted cashew cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

For the breaded cashew cheese:

  • For the cheese ingredients and recipe: see one of my earlier posts
  • For the breading:
    • 3/4 cup panko
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup (120 cl) olive oil
  • 1/8 cup (30 cl) walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 cl) red wine vinegar (or a mixture of red balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 cup (about 3-4 TB) fig jam
  • salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 sweet apple (such as Braeburn or Jonagold)
  • 2 heads of Belgian endive
  • 1 small red onion
  • a decent portion of lamb’s lettuce
  • a handful of toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds
  • 8 fresh figs
  • 1/2 – 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I used red)

Directions

For the breaded cashew cheese

  • prepare cashew cheese mixture according to the recipe
  • take a silpat mat, spoon some mixture onto a serving ring and press, until you end up with a flat round ‘cheese’ – repeat this 4-5 times
  • freeze these cheeses (on the silpat mat) for at least half an hour, or until they have reached a solid consistency so that you can easily take them of the silpat mat
  • bread the cheeses with the panko-herb mixture, and subsequently fry them gently on both sides with some olive oil in a frying pan.

For the vinaigrette

  • mix all ingredients

For the salad

  • cut the figs in half or in quarters and gently let them caramelise in a frying pan with some agave syrup, salt and pepper
  • cook the quinoa
  • mix all ingredients, including the caramelised figs and the quinoa

Drizzle the vinaigrette over your salad, and place the herb-crusted cashew cheese on top of it. And above all: enjoy!

Blackberry-peach salad with grilled smoky tempeh and balsamic blackberry vinaigrette.

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Blackberries – or brambles – are in season and there is no way not to notice, as they seem to be everywhere. Bramble bushes are vegetation of the invasive kind, something our bare legs experienced ‘first hand’ this July when trying to find the overgrown footpaths on Cornwall’s Ding Dong moor (don’t you just lóve that name?) that would bring us to neolithic stone monuments and remnants of a long gone industrial past. Wading through knee-high prickly shrubs (and carrying the children), we eventually got where we wanted to be, though not without scratches and scars.

Equally abundant (but of taller growth) were the blackberry bushes that seamed the less adventurous paths of the 12 km walk we made last Saturday (that was a record we set with the kids, and of course we celebrated that with ice cream afterwards ;-)). Here, the shrubs also carried loads of ripe blackberries, and having just consumed the apples and grapes we had carried along, we realised we had an empty container and thus an opportunity to pick these wild brambles and transport them without the risk of accidentally crushing them. [A propos crushing: that is what happened with my chocolate-chocolate chip cookies during a day trip earlier last week, and I ended up using the crumbs in… ice cream (but more about that in a separate blog post.]

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I am usually not that particularly fond of brambles. I mostly find them a little too tart to my taste. But the ones we picked last Saturday were, perhaps due to the extreme warm weather this summer, both smaller and sweeter than those I recall from my childhood days and my parents’ garden (where there is a huge bramble bush covering the entire length of one of the house’s exterior walls), and I was immediately looking forward to using them in… well, in something.

I did not rightaway know in what …(except for my soy yoghurt for breakfast), but still  being on a mission to bring more salads into this world I suddenly got this great idea, turned it into reality, and just look at this wonderfully colourful dish which part of my blackberry yield ended up in. That purple hue in the vinaigrette! The combination of ingredients was a bit of a calculated gamble, but lived up to its promise and truly did not disappoint. Absolutely a dish to keep.
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Blackberry-peach salad with grilled smoky tempeh and balsamic blackberry vinaigrette

  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

For the vinaigrette

  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB maple syrup
  • 2 TB white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TB red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt and pepper

For the salad

  • 200 g smoked tempeh, sliced and grilled – I used the Veganomicon recipe for smoky grilled tempeh*
  • a handful of mixed greens
  • 1 peach, sliced
  • a large handful of toasted almond slivers
  • a cup of blackberries

*Smoky grilled tempeh (all credit to Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero):

  • 1 package tempeh (200 g)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 2 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TB liquid smoke, hickory flavor
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

>> mix all ingredients for the marinade, and then grill the tempeh, pouring half of the marinate into the pan, until it has evaporated. Turn the tempeh slices and add the other half of the marinade. Grill until the marinade had again evaporated and the tempeh starts to caramelise.

Directions

For the vinaigrette:

Mix all ingredients in a  high (!) measuring cup with an immersion blender

For the salad:

Assemble all ingredients.

Serve with quinoa, rice, any other type of grain, pasta or potatoes. We had roasted fingerling potatoes.


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Salad with roasted sweet potato & chipotle dressing.

Southern Germany 2001. That’s when I first heard of, smelled, tasted and fell in love with chipotle in adobo sauce.  I was studying a year abroad and one of my new friends had just spent her summer vacation in South America. One of the treasures she had brought with her from that trip was a collection of canned chipotles. These fiery,  intensely smoky peppers were going to form the basis of some hearty (and hot!) chili stews and lively dinners for a motley crew that solidified new acquaintances into long-term friendships.

I have never come across such cans since. But chipotle paste, however, has become quite commonplace over the past decade, and now I usually keep one of those small jars in my fridge. With temperatures soaring last week (causing a sudden change in outdoor gear from fleece-lined rain jacket to flimsy t-shirt), it was time to suit the action to the word again, and create another, new salad. This time with a hint of smoke: chipotle, smoked paprika and smoked almonds.  Smokey deliciousness.

Salad with roasted sweet potato & chipotle dressing.

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

For the dressing

  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 TB agave syrup
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 TB lime juice
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
  • pinch of salt
  • some cracked black pepper
  • some cilantro sprigs

For the roasted sweet potato

  • two medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced/cubed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 TB olive oil

For the salad

  • roasted sweet potato (see above)
  • mixed greens of your choice
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 mango, cubed OR the equivalent amount of pineapple (smoked pineapple would definitely work like a charm here – only I did not have pineapple in the house when I made this salad)
  • 1 bell pepper (you can of course also roast the bell pepper!)
  • 1 largo tomato
  • 3 scallions
  • handful of chopped smoked almonds
  • handful of cilantro
  • optional: black beans (I served this salad alongside a Spanish tortilla on the basis of chickpea flour and silken tofu, so I did not add the extra beans today, but may do so a next time)

Directions

For the dressing: combine all ingredients and mix with an immersion blender

For the roasted sweet potato: place the chunks of sweet potato on an oven dish, and rub them with the spices and olive oil. Bake (hot air + grill) at 200 degrees celcius for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and crispy.

For the salad: well, it’s a salad,…

Thai tofu-mango pasta salad.

davA little over a week ago my 7-year-old son was away on a 2-day field trip with school: the perfect occasion to toss together a summery pasta salad with an Asian touch in which mango – a fruit much enjoyed by my daughter, but detested by my son (unless it’s in a smoothie) – is a key ingredient. Pasta, mango, tofu – what’s not to like?

Even though this is a very straightforward recipe, it does require some advance planning, as it contains marinated tofu. And the secret to successfully marinated tofu is – apart from a good marinade of course – time. Plenty of it. This tofu will be at its best when at least marinated overnight (I actually usually let it sit in the fridge for two days). I can promise you this tofu will be worth the wait, as it’s absolutely heavenly.

dav

Thai tofu-mango pasta salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Thai marinated tofu

  • 400 g pressed (do not skip the pressing part) and cubed tofu
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 – 1/3 stalk of lemongrass, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 TB agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil (or other oil of your choice

Pasta salad

  • marinated tofu (see above)
  • ca. 350 g pasta shapes of your choice
  • 1 diced mango
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • a handful of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB vegan ‘oyster’ and mushroom sauce (or if you cannot find this: 1 more TB of soy sauce)
  • 1 TB sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek (chili paste)
  • 4 TB lime juice
  • 2 TB agave syrup

Directions

Marinated tofu

  • Mix all ingredients and pour into a container (with a lid), together with the pressed and cubed tofu.
  • Let sit overnight. Shake the container every now and then, so that the marinade is evenly distributed.

Pasta salad

  • Heat some oil in a skillet and sauté the tofu cubes until nicely browned. When you want to add some extra crispness, sprinkle some arrowroot or cornstarch over the tofu cubes, toss around the cubes until the starch is evenly distributed, and fry. Set aside when done.
  • Boil the pasta, drain, and set aside until somewhat cooled.
  • Take a bowl and toss in the pasta, the tofu cubes and all remaining ingredients. Mix well, and enjoy your meal.