Creamy Kohlrabi and Sweet Pea Slaw

What is becoming my Thursday tradition when it comes to planning my Summer of Salads, I go to the neighbourhood market, 124th Grand Market. I don’t have a fixed idea of what Thursday’s salad will be. Other days I may think throughout the day and have more of an idea. I let the market inspire me with the shifting seasonality of vegetables.
I was perusing the bounty at Sparrows Nest Organics and he had so many amazing fruit and vegetables from his farm: raspberries, beets, green onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, edible pod peas, along with gigantic kohlrabi and two kinds of carrots.
I know I just did a salad yesterday on my blog involving carrots but the orange and white carrots were too amazing to pass up and immediately went into my plans tonight:

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Yesterday’s salad was bright with tart rhubarb and vinegar’s freshness. Tonight I wanted a creamy dressing when I saw fresh dill and spring onions at the market. They went into some sour cream and the slaw evolved naturally.

Creamy Kohlrabi and Sweet Pea Slaw

For the Creamy Dill Dressing:

1/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, dill, green onion and salt. Set aside.

For the slaw:

3/4 cup edible pod peas, finely sliced
1 cup carrots (if you have multiple coloured ones, great, if not, regular orange carrots are great), julienned
1 cup kohlrabi, peeled, julienned
Reserved Creamy Dill Dressing

In a medium bowl, combine the peas, carrots, kohlrabi and dressing. Fold together with your fingers until uniformly combined. Refrigerate for an hour. Serves 2.

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Moroccan Carrot Salad with Dried Cherries

On one of the hottest days of the summer, I wanted to do something quick and cold. Some salads are best when room temperature or tend to lose its chill from the fridge soon after it hits the table, so I wanted a salad that held its coolness far into enjoying it.
The best candidates for an extra cold salad are generally from regions that are experts at keeping cool in intense heat: South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. What each of these regions have in common with their salads are that the components are coarser in texture: bean sprouts in South East Asia, chunky cucumber and bulghur wheat in the Middle East and carrots in Northern Africa.
The latter of the options, Northern Africa, is famous for its cold carrot salad. A bright salad studded with plump, hydrated dried fruit, dressed with a tart, oftentimes spiced, dressing.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

For the Spiced Rhubarb Dressing:

1/2 cup fresh rhubarb, cut into chunks
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil

In a blender, purée the rhubarb and vinegar until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve, pressing down on the pulp to extract all of the juice. Discard the pulp.
To the rhubarb vinegar, whisk in the ground cumin, honey and oil. Set aside.

For the salad:

1-1/2 cups coarsely grated fresh carrots
1/2 cup dried cherries (or any dried fruit: cranberries, raisins, currants, although if you use dried apricots or prunes, chop them coarsely)
Reserved Spiced Rhubarb Dressing

In a small bowl, cover the dried cherries with hot water (I just use the tea kettle). Allow the dried cherries to rehydrate for 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the carrots and Spiced Rhubarb Dressing. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Strain the rehydrated dried cherries and fold into the chilled carrot salad. Serves 2.

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Herby Bean Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Invariably during the heat of summer, I crave a good bean salad. Much of the time, if you try to buy a bean salad, it’s overly salty, made with canned beans that are loaded with chemical preservatives. I don’t buy beans in a can because of that, and I don’t mind cooking my own beans from dried.
The problem is, when I combine a streak of hot weather with the desire to cook beans, I usually have to get up at 4 or 5am while my apartment is relatively cool. I soak a number of different dried beans separately because they eat have their own unique soaking and cooking time. After soaking overnight (whole lentils don’t require a pre-soak), I cook each in separate pots for generally 35-45 minutes (white navy beans and lentils take a shorter amount of time, while red kidney beans or chickpeas take a bit longer).

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I also love grilled vegetables in summer because I can do a bunch of them and have them cold in my fridge on hand for any number of ideas: a quick toss with pasta and garlic, an antipasto-style platter with sausage and cheese, or in a salad.
Today, I’m combining these summer loves into a wonderful bean salad.

Herby Bean Salad with Grilled Vegetables

For the Grilled Vegetables:

2 sweet bell peppers (I like two different colours, like red and yellow)
2 or 3 baby zucchini (courgette) or summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1cm (1/2″) thick slices
1 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil

On a grill preheated to medium high heat (about 190C/400F), grill the vegetables brushed with oil until deeply golden on both sides. The peppers should be even darker in colour, nearly blackened on the skin on all sides. Take the vegetables off of the grill, place the grilled peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam the skins away from the pepper. After 15 minutes, peel the skin from the peppers, remove the stem and seeds and finely chop. Chop the grilled zucchini as well and set both aside.

For the bean salad:

2 cups cooked beans (I like a mixture of navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils)
Reserved Grilled Vegetables
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup fresh herbs of your choice (I used summer savoury, thyme and oregano, but any number of herbs would be great)

In a large bowl, combine the cooked beans, grilled vegetables, vinegar and fresh herbs. Allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, but overnight will bring together the flavours even more. Serves 4-6 depending on serving size.

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Chocolate Fruit Salad

Yes, every childhood dream when eating fruit was, “Can I add chocolate to it?”
Lately, every breakfast cereal has a “chocolate” version. It’s loaded with more sugar than anything else on the list of ingredients.
I wanted to be able to add chocolate to a fruit salad in a way that didn’t involve taxing the corn industry and its subsequent corn syrup production.
I eat fruit and yogurt regularly for breakfast and thought I could infuse a chocolate flavour into that idea. My morning breakfast usually has a homemade maple-flavoured granola, so the sweetener of choice was maple syrup (and because I’m achingly Canadian, eh?).
Feel free to use any summer fruit you’d like. I decided to have a mix of cherries, peaches, blueberries and strawberries because they’re all at the peak of their ripeness.

Chocolate Fruit Salad

For the Chocolate Yogurt Dressing:

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup amber maple syrup
1/3 cup pure cocoa powder (the ingredient list should only say “pure cocoa/cacao powder and nothing else. This will give a more potent “chocolate” flavour)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, vanilla, maple syrup, and cocoa powder until smoothly combined, free of any cocoa “lumps.” Set aside.

For the salad:

8 cups of summer fruit (blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, raspberries in any combination or ratio to make up 8 cups)
Reserved Chocolate Yogurt Dressing

In a large bowl, combine the fruit (chop the stone fruit into 2cm/1″ chunks and leave berries whole or cut in half). Lightly fold in the Chocolate Yogurt Dressing. Serve in bowls or on small plates. Serves 6-8.

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Louisiana Chicken and Egg Salad Sandwich

What came first, the chicken or the egg?
This question is almost cliché and is meant largely as a rhetorical question, but what is the real answer?
As a species, chickens evolved from dinosaurs. Dinosaurs laid eggs. The simple answer is the egg is first.
But is the answer a chicken egg came first? Or the chicken? If the chicken, as we know it, evolved from other bird-like creatures that may partly resemble a dinosaur, then maybe the chicken came before the chicken egg.
If we see the evolution as a continuum, then the egg itself is first. And if you consider that it has a common ancestor with reptiles along the way, like an alligator, and alligators love it in Louisiana, then the most reasonable conclusion….just make a Louisiana Chicken and Egg Salad Sandwich. All that rambling makes me hungry!! Ha!

Louisiana Chicken and Egg Salad Sandwich

For the Roasted Pepper Remoulade:

1 tsp flax seeds
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
1/4 cup rhubarb juice
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/3 cup roasted red peppers (roast or broil sweet bell peppers in an oven until the skin is blackened on all sides, cover with plastic wrap to steam the skin then peel and remove the stem and seeds), chopped
1/4 cup cold pressed canola oil
1/2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
3/4 tsp salt

Place the flax seeds in a blender and grind until coarsely milled. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Set aside for at least 15 minutes for the natural binding properties of the flax and mustard to thicken the remoulade.

For the Louisiana Chicken and Egg Salad Sandwich:

Prepared Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade
1/2 cup cooked chicken, finely minced
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted orange peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, coarsely chopped
4 slices whole wheat bread or whole wheat buns

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, egg, roasted pepper, cucumber and remoulade, folding together gently until all the ingredients are coated lightly with remoulade. Spoon the mixture over a slice of bread or split bun and top with another slice (or the top of the bun). Serves 2.

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Peaches ‘N Cream Panzanella Salad

When peaches are in season, I’m immediately transported back in time to my childhood visiting my grandparents who lived in the southern interior of British Columbia. A region with fruit orchards everywhere, my grandparents had cherry, plum, apricot, apple, pear and peach trees. The first explosive bite of a summer peach always resulted in the juices dripping down both arms. To this day, I refer to this as “elbow-dripping good.”
On a rainy visit to the farmer’s market this morning, I was approaching my favourite fruit vendor and saw the first peaches of the season. All I could say was “Peaches! Peaches! Peaches!” I was suddenly stricken with that same child-like joy I had when our family arrived at my grandparents place.
Earlier this morning, I went to my favourite German bakery, Artistic Bake Shop, where they make the best pretzel buns (and a lot of other wonderful baked goods, but their pretzel buns are superlative). When I got home, I was unloading my shopping cart and placed the peaches and pretzel buns next to each other. I mused for a moment and thought of the Italian bread salad, panzanella.
Normally, panzanella is a tomato and bread salad with a light dressing. I decided to try a grilled peach to boost the flavour and compliment the intense pretzel flavour.

Peaches ‘N Cream Panzanella Salad

2 medium peaches, pitted and sliced into 16 pieces (slightly underripe is best for this)
1 tsp cold pressed canola oil
1 pretzel bun, sliced like a small loaf of bread into 4 slices
1 tsp rhubarb juice (or lemon juice)
1/2 tsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp sour cream

Drizzle, the peach slices with oil and grill over medium high heat until golden on both sides (about 5-7 minutes total). Grill the pretzel bun slices alongside the peaches until golden. Allow to cool slightly.
Peel the skin from the grilled peaches and break them up into small chunks. Pull apart the toasted pretzel bun slices into rough pieces. Toss them in a medium bowl with the rhubarb juice and vinegar. Divide the salad over two plates and lightly drizzle the top with sour cream. Serves 2.

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Savoury Sweet Pea Potato Salad

Potato salad.
The idea is as an iconic part of summer as beaches, picnics and tan lines in inappropriate places. And like all of these icons, some are great and some, not so much.
Potato salad is a great foundation for flavour. Flavour the dressing, add vegetables, meat, spices, herbs, anything complimentary.
This past week, an overabundance of wonderful fresh peas (both edible pod peas-snow peas- and shelled peas) meant I’ve been putting it in everything. Today I thought I’d make a dressing with steamed shelled peas and incorporate some julienne snow peas into a potato salad with a few other vegetables that are bursting with summer freshness: broccoli and cauliflower.

Savoury Sweet Pea Potato Salad

For the Savoury Sweet Pea Dressing:

3/4 tsp flax seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 cup fresh shelled peas, blanched and cooled in ice water, drained
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh summer savoury
5 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil
1 tsp salt

In a blender, grind the flax and mustard seeds until cracked and relatively finely ground. Add the peas, vinegar, savoury, oil and salt. Purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside. If you leave it for 15-20 minutes, the natural emulsifying properties in flax and mustard will bind the dressing like a mayo without the danger of an egg if you choose to take it on a picnic. (it’s not 100% safe from food-borne illness, but far more stable than egg-based mayo).

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For the vegetables:

1-1/2 cups new potatoes, cut into 2cm/1″ chunks
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup snow peas, sliced thinly
4 spring onions, sliced thinly

In a medium pot, add the potatoes with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, add the broccoli and cauliflower, replace the lid and simmer the whole pot for a further 10-12 minutes. Drain away the water and allow to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the cooked vegetables, snow peas, spring onion and Savoury Sweet Pea Dressing. Serves 2-3.

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Golden Borscht Salad

There is something primal that happens to me when I have ingredients that are commonly used in any Eastern European cuisine. Yes, my background is Hungarian, but over the centuries borders were more fluid: Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman, Napoleonic, and so forth. All of these cultures had their influences on the region my dad’s family now call Hungary.
I was exposed to as much Ukrainian influenced dishes as Hungarian. In the Canadian Prairies there was a large influx of overall Eastern European immigration over the last 50-60 years. The richness of each region added to the unique Canadian tapestry of cultural influences.
One of my favourite dishes from Ukraine/Russia is borscht. The intense, rusted violet-red colour of the beets, the rustic chunky bits of vegetables and smoky bacon or sausage make a hearty soup that borders on stew depending on the cook’s hand.
I thought I’d used some of the common ingredients I’ve seen in a borscht and make a salad: cabbage, carrots, peas, sour cream and csabai (a dry cured, smoked Hungarian sausage) along with golden beets. I could’ve used the traditional deep violet-red beets, but the golden beets don’t bleed as much of their natural colour and tint everything else with its hue. It’s more out of visual aesthetics than anything, so feel free to use any beet you like.

Golden Borscht Salad

For the Rhubarb Sour Cream Dressing:

2 tsp rhubarb juice (obtained by juicing fresh rhubarb or puréeing it and straining it through a sieve)
1 tsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp sour cream
1/4 tsp salt

In a small bowl, stir together the rhubarb juice, vinegar, sour cream and salt until combined. Set aside.

For the steamed vegetables:

3/4 cup golden beets, peeled and cubed into 2cm/1″ pieces
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and cubed into 2cm/1″ pieces

Bring a pot of water to a simmer over medium heat. Add the beets and carrots to a steamer basket/insert, place over the simmering water, cover with a lid and steam for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

For the Crispy Csabai Bits:

1/2 tsp cold pressed canola oil
1/4 cup csabai sausage (or other dry cured, smoked sausage), cubed into 2cm/1″ pieces

In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, heat the oil to smouldering. Add the sausage bits and fry until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels and cool.

For the salad:

Prepared Rhubarb Sour Cream Dressing
Prepared Steamed Vegetables
Prepared Crispy Csabai Bits
3/4 cup green cabbage, finely sliced
6-8 fresh snow peas, finely sliced on an angle
Rhubarb juice to accent

In a medium bowl, mix the cabbage, snow peas and Rhubarb Sour Cream Dressing together until uniformly combined. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes to soften the cabbage slightly.
Divide the steamed beets and carrots over two plates. Mound the cabbage-snow pea slaw in the centre of both plates. Scatter some Crispy Csabai Bits around each plate and lightly spoon some rhubarb juice over both salads. Serves 2.

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Grilled Sausage and Banana Pepper Salad with Caramelized Cabbage Sour Cream Dressing

At this time of year when so many veggies are at the peak of their freshness, I’m both gleefully excited and slightly melancholy. As I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, my dad had a wonderful vegetable garden when I was growing up. Even when we moved to a smaller place as I got older, he still planted more in a smaller space than anyone I knew.
I live in an apartment now and don’t have a hospitable place for plant life, so I rely on the hard work of wonderful farmers who grow amazing food. One such grower, who grows year round in our Canadian climate in a greenhouse, Doef’s, grows Hungarian banana peppers that immediately take me back to my youth. A time when my dad was beaming amongst the soil filled with pepper and tomato plants.

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He had his struggles with his health, just like I have had years later, but he found his joy in growing wonderful food, preparing it simply, the way he always knew.
I’ve taken his knowledge and passion and grown with it. It’s been almost 17 years since he passed away, but I carry the flavours he shared, hope I don’t “mess it up too much” and share something new.

Grilled Sausage and Banana Pepper Salad with Caramelized Cabbage Sour Cream Dressing

For the Caramelized Cabbage Sour Cream Dressing:

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil
1-1/2 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp white vinegar

In a small pot over medium high heat, add the 1 tsp of oil with the cabbage and 1/2 tsp salt. Fry, stirring constantly for 7-10 minutes until the moisture content begins to draw out from the cabbage and dry, starting to lightly brown. Reduce the heat to medium, add a few teaspoons of water if the cabbage starts to stick to the bottom and continue to slowly draw that new moisture out. The cabbage will start to gradually brown over the course of the next 15-18 minutes until a deep golden colour is achieved and it holds together into an almost paste like consistency. Allow to cool.

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When the caramelized cabbage is cool, stir it in a small bowl with the sour cream, oil, salt and vinegar until smoothly combined. Set aside.

For the sausage and peppers:

150g/6 oz smoked Hungarian paprika grilling sausage (or a quality smokie style sausage. I get mine at a Hungarian deli in town that makes it in-house)
2 medium sized hot Hungarian banana peppers, cut in half lengthwise,stem and seeds removed
2 tsp cold pressed canola oil

On a grill over medium high heat, grill the sausages until golden on the outside. Rub the peppers with oil and grill for a few minutes until the skin is blistered and deeply golden brown. Allow both to cool completely.
Slice the sausage in a long angular bias cut and julienne the slices. Julienne the grilled peppers.

For the salad:

Julienne sausage and peppers
1/4 cup Prepared Caramelized Cabbage Sour Cream Dressing
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
A pinch or two of sweet paprika

In a medium bowl, toss the julienne sausage and peppers with the dressing. Divide over two plates and scatter each plate with the halved cherry tomatoes. Garnish the top with a pinch of sweet paprika. Serves 2.

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Raspberry Wilted Green Salad with Za’atar Pesto Peas

Pesto: a paste of something green, oftentimes basil, ground with pine nuts, cheese, garlic and oil. Used as an accent flavour to bruschetta or pasta.
Za’atar: a blend of herbs, seeds and oil, sometimes ground, sometimes rubbed together. Used as an accent flavour to flatbread.
The similarities of these ideas span the Mediterranean. When I found a bundle of fresh herbs at the farmer’s market this past weekend, the flavours immediately said “za’atar.” Summer savoury, thyme, oregano. And the herbs were next to another farmer who had flax seeds along with his other grains and flours. And across from him was fresh cold pressed oils. It was practically screaming at me to make za’atar with fresh herbs. And since I oftentimes make my pesto with flax seeds instead of pine nuts (or other nuts, no reason, just like flax better), the union of flavours meshed together immediately.

Raspberry Wilted Green Salad with Za’atar Pesto Peas

For the Za’atar Pesto Peas:

1 Tbsp flax seeds
3 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
3 Tbsp summer savoury leaves
3 Tbsp sorrel leaves
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup 8 year old cheddar, finely shredded (or any aged cheese with a dry texture; pecorino, parmesan, etc)
1/4 cup cold pressed canola oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup fresh peas

In a blender or food processor, grind the flax seeds until coarsely ground, but not a fine powder. Add the thyme, oregano, savoury, sorrel, spring onions, cheese, salt and oil. Grind with a pulsing action until it is mostly smooth with chunky parts.

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Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the peas and simmer for 4-6 minutes until tender but with just a bit of fresh bite. Immediately remove them from the boiling water and immerse in ice water to set the colour and chill them quickly.
Stir 3-4 Tbsp of prepared Za’atar Pesto into the cooled and drained peas. Set aside.

For the Raspberry Wilted Green Salad:

2 tsp cold pressed canola oil
4 spring onions, white and green parts chopped and kept separate
1/3 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups packed mixed cooking greens (I used radish and beet greens with arugula)
1 tsp vinegar

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and white part of the spring onions over medium high heat. As the onion starts to soften and grow more aromatic, add the raspberries and half the salt. Add 2-3 Tbsp water and start to simmer to break down the raspberries, mashing them with a wooden spoon to aid in the process.

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As the raspberries break down, add the greens, reduce the heat to medium and simmer to wilt the greens. I find arugula on its own only takes a few minutes to wilt, but firmer greens like beet or radish greens can take upwards of 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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As the greens wilt to a desired doneness, push them to one side of the pan, add the vinegar and the rest of the salt and let the juices reduce to a syrup-like consistency.

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To serve:

Fold the spring onion greens into the wilted green salad. Divide half of it between two plates. Top the centre of each with prepared Za’atar Pesto Peas and drizzle lightly with the tart raspberry syrup. Serves 2.

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