Dates and Baby Spinach Salad With Almonds and Sumac | One Delicious Salad!

What defines a salad? There are salads of raw ingredients and salads of cooked ingredients, cold salads and warm salads, salads of vegetables and salads with fruit, and salads with dried fruits. There are salads without fruit and without vegetables. There are dressings with oil and vinegar, or miso, pomegranate molasses or tahini. There are salads without dressings. Salads can be tossed, mixed, layered and composed. How to define a salad!

The word salad comes from the French salade of the same meaning, from the Latin salata (salty), from sal (salt). In English, the word first appears as salad or sallet in the 14th century. Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times.

But as soon as we try to create some rules that categorically define a salad, we find exceptions. Despite the confusion, we can all recognise a salad when we see one. There is no confusing it with soup, or pudding, or a pasta dish.

Salads are also evident in most cuisines, even India has quite a few salads even though they are not well represented in restaurants or cookbooks. Today we travel to Israel via Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem. The salad is composed of marinated dates, crispy flatbread, toasted nuts, and baby spinach. It does sour via lemon juice, vinegar and sumac, hot with chilli, pungent with onion and sweet with the dates.

Sumac, a tart, deep-red spice, is a key ingredient for this recipe – buy yours from a Middle Eastern shop, it is quite different to brands available via the local supermarket. The pita and almonds in the recipe are cooked for a few minutes on the stove to crisp up, but that is the only heat required. The rest is easy.

It is Ottolenghi Cook the Books day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking mainly from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Spinach Stem Salad with Sultanas and Pinenuts, Glass Noodles with Spinach, and Orzo Pasta with Wilted Spinach.

Browse all of our Spinach Salads and all of our Israeli dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Jerusalem are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through his book Plenty More. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Fennel and Feta Salad with Sumac and Pomegranate

Fennel is a capricious vegetable, pretending to be summery with that fresh, crisp taste that needs nothing more than some salt and olive oil before it lands on the table. But only sorry specimens of fennel are available through Summer, and at exorbitant prices. But as Autumn wanes and winter pikes its head around the corner, fennel appears with bulbs big and firm, and the prices plunge.

Before the cold weather hits, it is important to taste some of those minimal dishes with fennel. I promise, if you slice fennel thinly, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, your salad dish might not make it to the table. It becomes so more-ish that it can be completely polished off in the kitchen before the rest of the meal is finished.

And blessings continue in the late Autumn. All of a sudden pomegranates fill the green grocers’ shelves again. Those ruby red kernels that add sheer joy to any dish and look divine at the table. These kernels of happiness also speak of Summer, but it must be of Summer-gone, because Autumn and early winter is their real season.

Fennel and pomegranate, unsurprisingly, make a great match in the salad bowl. One crunchy and liquorishy, and the other slightly tart and juicy. Ottolenghi in his book Ottolenghi, pairs them with feta and sumac. This must bring four of Ottolenghi’s most loved ingredients together – he uses them a lot.

He recommends Greek feta for the bite that it gives, but I have fallen in love with a more Middle Eastern feta, one that I can get from the local Afghan grocery. It is creamier and gentler, and I adore it. In this recipe, use your favourite feta too.

Would you like more Fennel recipes? Try Braised Fennel with Capers, Olives and Ricotta, Fennel, Potato and Tomato Salad with Garlicky Mayonnaise, Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella, and Fennel a la Grecque.

Or some Pomegranate dishes? Try Pomegranate Molasses, Pomegranate Salad with Green Coriander and Lime, and Crab Apple and Pomegranate Jelly.

Browse all of our Fennel dishes, Pomegranate recipes and the Ottolenghi dishes that we have made. All of our Salads are here. Or explore our Late Autumn collection of recipes.

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Cauliflower “Shawarma” with Pomegranate and Tahini

Cauliflower has been used for ages as a vegetarian answer to the classic Middle Eastern Shawarma recipe. The cauliflower is roasted with a range of spices including toasted cumin and coriander, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and sumac. In this recipe, the cauliflower is then dressed with tahini, pomegranates, pine nuts and rose petals. Beautiful Middle Eastern flavours.

This particular recipe, they say, originally came from Josh Katz of Berber and Q, and it is such a beautiful dish. It has sweetness, tartness, creaminess, ‘burntness’ (umami), warmness from the spices and a fragrance that brings the bazaars of the Middle East to your table. Its such a great dish.

Are you looking for Cauliflower recipes? Try South Indian Cauliflower Soup, Cauliflower Kitchari and Slow Cooked Cauliflower with Lime and Spices.

Or some Middle Eastern recipes? Try Rice and Orzo, Saffron and Rose Scented Aubergines, and Semi Dried Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses.

You can also browse all of our Cauliflower Recipes, all of our Middle Eastern Recipes and all of our Pomegranate dishes. Or take some time to check out our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Na’ama’s Fattoush

Fattoush, as its simplest, is another tomato and bread salad – a common combination around the globe. And as tomato and bread is a very very good basis for a salad; it is no wonder that it is popular.

But mention Fattoush to anyone from the Middle East to Israel, and  you are likely to find yourself in a discussion (argument?) about the composition of the salad.  Is sumac essential? Should other spices be included? Is garlic necessary? Is the bread to be toasted? Or fried? What is the dressing made of? What herbs are included? How big should the pita pieces be?

It is one of THOSE salads, loved and protected by all who eat it regularly. It is a type of chopped salad with tomatoes and includes pita. A salad that is best when all ingredients are the freshest and best quality available.

Arab salad, chopped salad, Israeli salad – whatever you choose to call it. Wherever you go in the city, at any time of the day, a Jerusalemite is most likely to have a plate of freshly chopped vegetables – tomato, cucumber and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice – served next to whatever else they are having. Friends visiting us in London always complain of feeling they ate ‘unhealthily’ because there wasn’t a fresh salad served with every meal.

Ottolenghi and Tamimi, in their book Jerusalem, have a recipe that comes from Sammi’s mother. Sami can’t recall anyone else in the neighbourhood making it. this way She called it fattoush, as it includes chopped vegetables and bread. She soaks the untoasted or fried bread in a kind of home-made buttermilk, which makes it terribly comforting. It is a gorgeous salad and the home made buttermilk dressing is wonderful. It does make it quite different to other versions of Fattoush.

Try to get small cucumbers for this as for any other fresh salad. If you need to use the larger, long cucumbers, perhaps remove the seeds before using, if you wish.

Summer purslane, a tangy succulent with fleshy leaves and something of the lamb’s lettuce about it, is commonly found in fattoush in its homelands, and is well worth adding for its lovely lemony flavour. I have included it as we have it growing.

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Pink Grapefruit and Sumac Salad with Nasturtium Leaves and Garden Flowers

Colourful, juicy, delicious.

It is Spring, and the nasturtiums have leaves as big as lotus leaves and flowers of all hue peaking out from beneath.

This dish is an adaptation of an Ottolenghi recipe – a salad using pink grapefruit. I had a dozen pink grapefruit and this seemed an awesome opportunity to play with this recipe. The original recipe uses watercress, which is difficult to find here – its not common and is expensive. Not having the inclination or the time to drive the 30 mins it takes to get to a green grocer that does stock it, I substituted with produce from my garden. Into the salad went baby nasturtium leaves, yellow and red nasturtium flower petals and marigold flower petals. It was extraordinary.

This is a salad that, even in its original form, appears on paper like it won’t come together with Ottolenghi’s usual balanced and banging flavours. It feels like too much sumac. There is a chilli in the dressing.  And crispy, sharp raw onion. But the flavours are massive and surprising! Bright, puckery grapefruit gently mixed with peppery watercress (in my case, nasturtium leaves), bitter Belgian endive, sweet leaves of basil basil, sharp red onion slices, and a tangy vinaigrette heavy with the lemony tangy sumac. Flavour clash? Not at all. A beautiful, balanced, juicy salad that is colourful and divine.

Pomelo can be used in place of the grapefruit. Pink Pomelo can be found over Summer in local Asian green groceries.

Similar recipes include Locquat Salad, Three Citrus Salad with Chilli, Ginger and Almond Salsa, Pink Grapefruit Salad with Avocado, and Pomelo and Green Mango Salad.

You might also like to explore our extensive Salad recipes and Grapefruit dishes. Our Ottolenghi recipes are here. Or browse our Early Spring dishes.

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Oven Dried Tomatoes with Sumac

These are quite easy to make. It just takes time – a very slow oven and a few hours.

I have a love of two things – Farmer’s Markets and making pickles, preserves, pastes, purees and dried things. I love to turn fresh ingredients that will preserve them in some way. This recipe is perfect for perfect little cherry or grape tomatoes. It oven dries them in a very slow oven to make a great intensely flavoured snack, or ingredient for pasta sauces and salads.

The first time I made these little beauties, my Office Assistant and friend ate the whole batch! They are very more-ish.

You might also like to try Haloumi Pizza with Semi Dried Tomatoes, Tomato Tarte Tartin, and Semi Dried Tomatoes with Pomegranate. You can browse all of our oven dried tomato recipes here and here. Or have a look at our Tomato Recipes here and here.

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