salad three ways

It is summertime, and therefore saladtime around here. 

I love eating salads all year round, its true, but there is something so seasonal about fresh herbs from the garden, the crispiness of cool lettuce and the crunch of raw vegetables - enjoyed under warm sunshine of course... 

Here are three of my favourite concoctions of late:
~Couscous with poached chicken, fennel, orange and parsley...

You will need: 1 cup of couscous, 250g chicken breast, fennel bulb, bunch of parsley, medium sized cucumber, 1 orange, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar. 

Bring about 2 cups of broth to boil on the stove; you can use chicken, vegetable or whatever you have on hand. I used some vietnamese soup paste for "pho" which has a lovely aroma of sweet spices in it. Drop in chicken breast and simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Set chicken aside to cool and pour 1 cup of remaining stock over your couscous in a small bowl - cover with a tea towel. Zest orange then peel and cut flesh into small pieces. Slice your fennel bulb thinly, peel and chop your cucumber in cubes and finely mince your parsley (yes the whole bunch of it). In your salad bowl toss together peel, orange, fennel, cucumber and parsley, olive oil and vinegar. I like a lot of olive oil but its quite up to you how much you put in. Next shred your chicken breast with your fingers into the salad. Finally add in your cooked couscous and toss till combined. Season to taste. Garnish with more parsley and toasted pine nuts if you so desire!
~Rice paper rolls with fresh ginger & lime sauce...

For the rolls: rice paper, vermicelli rice noodles cooked and cooled, an assortment of thinly sliced raw or cooked veggies like capsicum, cucumber, celery, carrot, avocado, lettuce, cabbage, plus lots of fresh coriander and mint **for extra protein you can also try adding seeds and nuts, chicken, tuna, beef, tofu, egg omelette etc**

Rice paper rolls are super easy to assemble. all you need to do is fill a wide bowl or dinner plate with boiling water - gentle slide in a piece of rice paper and carefully remove after about 20 seconds or so. Lay paper flat on a clear surface and heap an assortment of your salad and noodles in the middle. First fold up the bottom, followed by each side then roll towards the top - the rice paper will stick to itself as you do this. I like to cut my rolls in half when I'm finished so I can see all the pretty colours within.

For the sauce (for 2 persons): combine 1 heaped teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, juice of 1 lime, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, tablespoon of soy sauce **optional - drizzle of honey or sweet chilli sauce to sweeten it up - I prefer without**
~Raw vegies with capsicum-hummus, beetroot dip and homemade lavash crackers...

For the hummus: soak 3/4 cup of chickpeas (garbanzos) overnight in a bowl of water. the next day drain off soaking water and put chickpeas in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them with an extra inch above. simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until chickpeas "smoosh" easily with a fork. Drain and cool. In a blender combine chickpeas with 2 tablespoons of tahini, 1 clove of garlic crushed, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoons paprika, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and juice of 1-2 lemons (depending of your taste). **optional - cut a large red capsicum lengthways, remove seeds then grill in oven until skin is black and puffy. Remove from oven and cool before removing soft flesh from blacked skin. Add to hummus mixture and blend until smooth. Garnish with a good sprinkle of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil**

For the beetroot dip: parboil 2-3 large beetroots, then peel skin off and chop roughly. in a blender blend up beets with a small clove of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin. Transfer to serving bowl and stir in 1/4 cup of creamy greek-style yoghurt. Serve with a sprinkle of nigella seeds.

For the lavash: in a mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup of whole butter, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 1/2 cups of wholewheat or mixed grain flour with 1 heaped tablespoon of poppy seeds and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. using your fingertips incorporate the butter. then add about 1/2 cup of water to the mixture to form a dough (you may need less/more water so add a little as you go). On a floured surface knead dough into two balls. With one ball roll out the dough thinly and cut with a knife or cutter in your desired shapes. Place on floured or paper-lined baking tray and bake in a hot oven at 200'c for 10 minutes or until crackers are golden. Serve cool with dips, cheese and fresh vegetables.