Grilled Asparagus with Torn Bocconcini and Persimmon

Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (12 of 14)

CHARRED ASPARAGUS | A rich juxtaposition of vibrant colours to brighten up your dinner parties

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of asparagus? Well, for me, it is ‘versatility’. That’s right, asparagus is amazing versatile: steam, simmer, roast, batter, grill, pan-fry, or wok-fry – these are all the ways in which you can cook this delectably crisp and sweet vegetable. Heck, you can even slice it thinly and incorporate it into a salad in raw form.

The cooked spears can sport a variety of guises. Simple salt and pepper seasoning with butter or olive oil will often do the trick. For something fancier, try drizzling it with a beurre blanc sauce.  Or for an even bolder treatment, try a mixture of anchovies, garlic, olives and chiles.

How to shop for asparagus? First, at the market, look for spears that are brightly colored and have compact, tightly closed tips. Spears that are ridged or look dry have lost their flavor. Check the root ends to see how dried out they are; if they are truly brown, reach for a different bundle.

How to best cook asparagus? For stovetop cooking, a stainless steel or enamel-coated cast-iron pot is best. If you’re stir-frying, you’ll need a wok or a deep-sided cast iron skillet. For roasting, use a baking sheet or a small roasting pan.

For now, I am going to show you how to grill asparagus on a cast-iron pan and finish it off with a topping that comprises of torn bocconcini and diced persimmon.

Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (7 of 14)

Grilled Asparagus with Torn Bocconcini and Persimmon

COOK TIME: 3-5 mins | PREP TIME: 10 min | TOTAL TIME: 15 min | SERVES: 4 (side)

Ingredients:

  • One pack of asparagus (NB: thicker ones are better for grilling)
  • 100g of bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella
  • One persimmon
  • Sea salt and black pepper,  to season
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Drizzle of Pukara’s caramelised balsamic vinegar (optional)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (2 of 14)

Method:

  1. Clean asparagus and cut off about 0.5cm at the root end.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (1 of 14)
  2. Heat grill pan on medium-high, brush with oil. Grill asparagus until charred on both sides, roughly 3-5 minutes or so depending on thickness of the stems. During the grilling process, season with some salt and crack the good old black pepper.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (3 of 14)
  3. Chop persimmon into 1cm cubes. Break bocconcini or mozzarella into bite size pieces.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (6 of 14)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (4 of 14)
  4. Once asparagus is charred evenly on both sides, layer on serving plate.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (5 of 14)
  5. Topple the green stems with the torn bocconcini and diced persimmon to get the rich juxtaposition of bright colours. Grate some lemon zest and drizzle with some balsamic glaze to finish (optional).     Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (8 of 14) Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (13 of 14)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (14 of 14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (5 of 9)BABY CARROT LOVE | Sweeten those baby orange gems with a dash of maple syrup

For a simple and fast side dish designed to delight your guests, look no further than the baby carrot. Dress the carrots with maple syrup and a hint of brown sugar to accentuate the natural sweetness of these orange gems further. All in all, this side dish will take you no more than 15 minutes to dish up from prep to table.

A baby carrot is an immature carrot, grown in a small size. Alternatively, they can be cut from a larger carrot (what are called “baby cuts”). Baby cuts were invented by a guy called Mike Yorusek in the mid 1980s.

Back then, the carrot industry was stagnant and wasteful. Yurosek, itching for a way to make use of all the misshapen carrots, got tired of seeing all the carrots go to waste so tried something new. Instead of tossing them out, he carved them into something more palatable. At first, Yurosek used a potato peeler, which didn’t quite work because the process was too laborious. But then he bought an industrial green-bean cutter. The machine cut the carrots into uniform 2-inch pieces, the standard baby carrot size that persists today.

The beauty of these 2-inch perfectly rounded orange gems is that they need not be peeled, thus saving a lot of time. Simply give them a good wash and ‘bam’, they are ready to go.

Now, why is one little carrot so important? First and foremost, munching on carrots can prevent blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency.

Just to give you some statistics, vitamin A deficiency partially or totally blinds nearly 350,000 children from more than 75 countries every year. Roughly 60 percent of these children die within months of going blind. However, vitamin A deficiency is preventable. One cooked carrot has approximately 150% of the Recommended Daily Amount of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to prevent night blindness, dry skin, poor bone growth, weak tooth enamel, diarrhoea and slow growth.

Convinced to eat more baby carrots now? Even the late Steve Jobs was an avid carrot fan, often fasting on weeks on nothing but carrots (and apples).

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (9 of 9)

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 15 mins | Serves: 3-4 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ounces of baby carrots / baby cuts
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly torn thyme leaves
  • Drizzle of balsamic glaze (optional)

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (2 of 9)

METHOD:

1. Wash and drain baby carrots in a colander.

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (3 of 9)

2. Heat oil in a frying or skillet on medium heat. Throw in baby carrots, maple syrup, brown sugar, dill and thyme and gently toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally. until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.  Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (4 of 9)

3. Garnish with additional dill before serving.Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (6 of 9)

For those who like the added dimension of balsamic, feel free to drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the cooked carrots before serving. For this dish, I lightly drizzled some of Pukara’s fig balsamic (pictured below).

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (8 of 9)

 

 

Persimmon Caprese Salad

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PERSIMMON CAPRESE  | A new twist to one of Italy’s most simple and delicious salads.

Sick of the typical heirloom tomato mozzarella salad combo (aka Insalata Caprese)? Fear not, I’ve come up with a new twist to one of my classical summer salad favourites. Why not substitute the tomatoes for the persimmon fruit? Like the bright redness of tomatoes, the luscious orange glow from persimmons will also provide a sharp contrast in color when juxtaposed against the creamy whiteness of mozzarella cheese.

Persimmons are one of those fruits that, when you catch the right moment of ripeness – which is limited to only one or two days – truly offer a culinary experience of perfection.

Honey sweet and so soft that the skin care barely hold their juicy flesh, they make a perfect complement to Mozzarella di Bufala.

untitled (4 of 15).jpgAs for origins, this delicate fruit is native to China. From China, it spread to Korean peninsula and Japan very long time ago, and later was introduced to California during the middle of the 19th century.

In terms of nutrition, persimmon provides a powerful dosage of vitamin A, offering 55% of the daily value. Vitamin C runs a close second with 21%, plus excellent amounts of manganese, a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, for healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.

For those who aren’t so regular, persimmons are also an excellent source of fiber. B-complex vitamins are present to stabilise the metabolic system, along with copper and phosphorus.

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Persimmon Caprese Salad

Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 3-4 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 1 persimmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Bunch of fresh basil
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Sprinkle of cumin and cinnamon

Method:

  1. Rip mozzarella ball into bite-size chunks. Slice persimmon into wedges and then into bite-sized chunks. Tear off the leaves of the fresh basil.
  2. Mix walnuts with the cumin and cinnamon spices in a small bowl. On medium-low heat, slowly pan fry the walnuts until golden brown. Remove from slow and let cool.untitled (14 of 15)
  3. Combine olive oil, balsamic and maple syrup in a small bowl.untitled (15 of 15)
  4. Layer the persimmon chunks, mozzarella and basil leaves on a plate in a rustic fashion. Sprinkle the spiced walnuts on top. Drizzle the olive oil balsamic mix on top. If desired, squeeze some aged balsamic vinegar on top in a zig zag fashion for an extra dose of balsamic sweetness.untitled (7 of 15) untitled (3 of 15)untitled (9 of 15).jpg

Maple Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta

Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (7 of 19)

MAPLE BRUSSELS | If pan-frying your brussels sprouts with pancetta is not enough, try adding a hint of maple syrup for that extra ‘kick’.

Brussels Sprouts – these miniature cabbages – provide a chock full of nutrients. Provided you don’t overdo it, they are delicious when roasted, stir-fried, or steamed.

It is very important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooked cruciferous vegetables.

Boiling your sprouts for as little as 30 seconds takes away their crunch and bitterness, leaving you with a vegetable that is softened, mellowed, and ready for action.

Not only do brussels sprouts tastes good, they deliver a host of health benefits too. Just to name a few, brussels sprouts helps to lower cholesterol, supports immune function, prevents constipation, fights inflammation, and is a great source of folic acid. They also help to detoxify the body and help prevent bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate and ovarian cancer.

Moreover, the fiber content of Brussels sprouts — 4 grams in every cup — makes this cruciferous vegetable a natural choice for digestive system support. You’re going to get half of your Daily Value for fiber from only 200 calories’ worth of Brussels sprouts.

Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (17 of 19)

The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated and gained its name there.

Maple Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 2 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

  • Roughly 10 medium-sized brussel sprouts
  • 40g of pancetta, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Sprinkle of sea salt

METHOD:

  1. Wash brussel sprouts in a colander with running tap water.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (13 of 19)
  2. Parboil brussel sprouts for no more than 3 minutes. You can do this by boiling a pot of hot water. Once it simmers, add a sprinkle of salt then dunk the sprouts inside and set timer.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (15 of 19)
  3. Quickly drain in colander then dunk in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process immediately.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (12 of 19)
  4. Dry brussel sprouts thoroughly with tea towel or kitchen towel. You want to get these beauties as dry as possible to achieve a better caramelisation process and crunch factor.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (11 of 19)
  5. Get saute pan ready by turning on stove to medium-high. Add a knob of olive oil and pan fry the pancetta with the crushed garlic cloves for 30 seconds. Switch to medium heat and add the brussel sprouts. Sprinkle some sea salt to taste (optional: can also add a turnstile of crushed black pepper). Pan-fry for 4-5 minutes until the sprouts leave beautiful char marks.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (10 of 19)Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (8 of 19)
  6. Once charred to your level of ‘perfection,’ turn off stove and add a teaspoon of maple syrup. Mix with spatula to ensure the sprouts are all coated evenly.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (9 of 19)
  7. Serve as a side. Brussel sprouts are so versatile; they pair with a variety of main dishes be it pasta, roasts, or can even constitute a meal by themselves.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (4 of 19)The Brussels sprouts should be brown with a bit of black on the outside when done. Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (5 of 19)

 

Simple Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad (2 of 4)

Did you know the Caprese salad was originally made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green? 

Insalata caprese (literally, the salad from Capri) is the perfect summertime dish for cooks in a hurry. In fact, slicing the delicate mozzarella is the hardest part.

I love the simplicity and refreshing taste of this simple salad. Serve it as an appetiser, as a side, or as a mid-afternoon snack.

For this who want the added richness (and sweetness) of a balsamic glaze, feel free to to make a balsamic reduction to drizzle on top as a final garnish. Now, you’ll notice that on the moist/wet mozzarella, the balsamic reduction starts to seep and run (a watercolor effect )– but on the basil leaves and platter, it remains more of a semi-solid glaze. So if you’re artistic, you can create designs on the sides of your platter to really up the presentation factor.

INGREDIENTS:

  • A pack of maxi mozzarella (250g) or two packs of mozzarella (125g each)
  • A bunch of fresh basil
  • Two round tomatoes
  • Extra virgin oil, to drizzle
  • Balsamic reduction (optional), to drizzle
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

  1. Slice mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices. Repeat for the tomatoes. Separate basil leaves from their stems.Caprese Salad (4 of 4)
  2. Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter. Grind fresh salt and black pepper all over and drizzle with a high quality extra virgin olive oil. For those who like balsamic vinegar, feel free to garnish with a balsamic glaze. Caprese Salad (1 of 4)

Tahini-dressed Haricots Verts with Walnuts and Red Pepper Flakes

Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (2 of 9)

A quick and easy Middle Eastern inspired side dish reminiscence of the creamy richness of a ranch dressing.

Drawing inspiration from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Haricots Verts and Freekeh recipe with a minty tahini dressing, I’ve decided to create my own little adaptation by doing away with the freekeh and the dried mint. After all, keeping things simple and fast (particularly for the sides) is how I like to cook when hosting and managing multiple dishes.

Green beans are low in calories, and a good source of fibre (which is essential to ensure regular bowel movements). Moreover, they are an important source of vitamins C and B9/Folacin. The first is vital for the formation and maintenance of connective tissues; it is also a highly effective antioxidant in protecting the cornea, skin, and tissues. The second – vitamin B9 or Folate – is required by cells to grow and multiply: it is recommended for women hoping to get pregnant, children and anyone whose body requires cellular renewal (during growth or convalescence, etc.).

Given their nutritional content, one should regularly consume more green beans as a side dish or as a salad. This recipe is ideal for those who find green beans too bland and want something that tastes similar to the consistency of a ranch dressing (but minus the calories). Since this side dish is served cold, it can be prepared in advance so that it leaves you with more ample time (and hands) to work on your main course.

Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (3 of 9)

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves 3-4 as a side dish)

  • 1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

METHOD:

  1. Wash and drain haricot verts. Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (9 of 9)
  2. Cook haricot verts in a pot of boiling water for ~4 minutes. Immediately dunk in an ice bath (bowl of cold water with ice) to stop the cooking process.Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (7 of 9)Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (6 of 9)
  3. Prepare the tahini dressing by whisking the garlic, oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, tahini, and 1 tablespoon of water together in a bowl. Season with salt. Add the haricot verts and toss around until evenly coated. Top with the chopped dill, cilantro, parsley, walnuts and red pepper flakes before serving.

Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (4 of 9)

Super Easy Homemade Hummus

Homemade Hummus  (8 of 15)

Hummus is living proof that the best tasting things in life are simple to make.

What is one thing Natalie Portman is totally obsessed with? Hummus. The beautiful vegan actress once told Vogue that she “consumes [her] own weight in hummus everyday.” Hummus is living proof that the best tasting things in life are simple to make. Drilling down to the basics, all you need to make hummus are seven ingredients and a food processor (or blender in my case as I don’t possess a powerful version of the former (not yet at least)).

Gluten-free, nut free, and dairy free, this tasty dip has a lot going for it, both in terms of taste and nutrition. Chickpeas, hummus’s key ingredient, is full of protein, good-for-you carbs and fiber. Like other members of the legume family, they routinely top lists of the world’s healthiest foods. Garlic and olive oil, are both part of Mediterranean Diet, which numerous studies have concluded to be the healthiest and most sustainable diet in the long run. As a bonus, hummus can help with weight management. Since hummus is so rich in protein (hence ideal for vegetarians), it can help fight hunger cravings and balance sugar levels. Moreover, the calcium in chickpeas and tahini can make your bones from stronger (important for women in their golden years to ward off osteoporosis) while the iron content helps deliver oxygen to red blood cells, thereby helping to alleviate anemia. You can now say goodbye to the store-bought version and make your own hummus at home by following the simple steps set out below.

INGREDIENTS:

  • One 15-ounce can (425 grams) of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • 1/4 cup of tahini (for the easy homemade version, refer to my previous recipe here)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (basically the juice of one large lemon)
  • One large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, depending on taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • Dash of ground paprika or sumac for serving

Homemade Hummus  (15 of 15) METHOD:

1) Squeeze the juice of one mighty large lemon. Get rid of the pips. Homemade Hummus  (14 of 15) 2) Drain the liquid from the can of chickpeas and rinse well with running water. Homemade Hummus  (12 of 15) 3) In the bowl of a food processor/blender, combine the tahini and lemon juice. Process for 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom and process for another 30 seconds. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini to ensure a smoother and creamier hummus.

Homemade Hummus  (13 of 15)

4) Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin and the salt to the mixture. Process for 30 seconds, scrape sides and bottom again, and process for another 30 seconds. Homemade Hummus  (1 of 1) 5)  At this stage, the hummus will be too thick and still have tiny chunks of chickpeas. To fix this, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until the desired consistency is achieved. If you have a food processor, you can leave the motor running whilst you do this. Homemade Hummus  (11 of 15) 6) To serve, scrape the hummus into a bowl or plate and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with paprika or sumac. Hummus makes a great dip for pita bread or vegetables, and you can also use it as a sandwich spread. Homemade Hummus  (10 of 15) Homemade Hummus  (3 of 15) Note: Homemade hummus can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to one week.