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

Citrus-baked Mackerel with Couscous

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Also known as maccarello in Italian, mackerel is one of the highly recommended oily fish for a healthy diet. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, this fish helps lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Mackerel also contains anti-inflammatory compound which helps lower joint pain and stiffness in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Wheat’s more, consuming mackerel on a regular basis is great for those who are prone to depression or suffer from frequent bouts of mood swings. Research has also proven that people consuming high dosages of omega-3 fatty acids are at lower risk of getting affected by depression. Mackerel is loaded with DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and consuming this fish lowers your chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

Rather than just pan-frying mackerel with salt and pepper, it doesn’t take that much more time to add a citrus twang to this popular fish. With the juice and zest of an orange plus some ground coriander, cumin and crushed ginger, you can now be serving mackerel with a new moroccan twist.

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves 2)

For the fish:

  • 2 mackerel fillets
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Pinch of freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

For the couscous:

  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  •  1/3 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

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METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius and line a roasting tray with parchment paper.

2) For the fish, make a paste by grating the zest of 1/2 orange along with the cumin, coriander, oil, ginger and some salt. Make 3 slashes on the mackerel fillet and rub the paste all over.

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Citrus baked mackerel with couscous (4 of 17) Citrus baked mackerel with couscous (3 of 17)    3) Pour the fresh orange juice over the fish and bake for 12-15 minutes until the fish is cooked.

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4) Meanwhile, cook the couscous. Put the couscous in a bowl and in a separate pot, heat the stock or water until it boils. Pour the hot liquid over the couscous, close the lid and set aside for 6 minutes till all the liquid gets absorbed. Fluff up the grains with a fork and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Feel free to grate some orange zest and throw in some raisins.

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5) Make a bed of couscous and place a mackerel fillet onto each plate, spooning over the pan juices to serve.

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Super Easy Homemade Hummus

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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.

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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.

Cumin and Coriander Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Crushed Almonds

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Did you know that cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6? What’s more, it’s also a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin. Additionally, it contains a good dosage of vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and magnesium. So if you want a food that wil help lower your risk of contracting cancer, improve your digestion, and help with calcium absorption, this white cruciferous vegetable is the choice for you.

But wait, isn’t cauliflower super bland, tasteless, and lacking in texture? Short answer: Yes and No. “Yes” by its very nature but “No” if you know how to cook it the right way to deliver maximum punch and texture. What is the right way? For me, it involves roasting the cauliflower with a concoction of cumin and coriander spices, then adding chopped dates for a touch of sweetness, and throwing a handful of crushed almonds to pack in the extra “crunch factor”. Mmm….suddenly, cauliflower has taken on a new dimension, delivering a really incredible flavour that one can be impressed by (well, at least marginally).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets, outer greens removed
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Half a cup of pitted dates, chopped into halves
  • Handful of roasted almonds, crushed
  • 1 piece of fresh coriander, chopped

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Blanch cauliflower in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes then transfer to a colander and give it a good shake to get as much water out as possible. Allow it to steam dry (don’t want any water or else it won’t roast properly).

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2) Bash the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle. Combine with the cumin. Repeat for the almonds.

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3) Chop the pitted dates into halves.

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4) Add knob of butter with some olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Throw in the cauliflower and throw in the spices, almonds, and dates. Mix together thoroughly to ensure cauliflower florets are covered with the spice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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5) Transfer contents to a roasting tray and roast for about 15 minutes to crisp up the florets.

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6) Serve and garnish with some chopped fresh coriander.

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Tahini-Miso Dressed Kale Fig Salad

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For a hearty lunch, you can’t go wrong by opting for a delicious kale salad. Kale pairs perfectly well with a fresh home-made creamy tahini dressing. Add some chunks of avocado to give it more smoothness and toasted walnuts with maple syrup to give the salad the extra crunch and dimension. Throw in some figs for some added fibre.

 Of all the healthy greens, kale ranks no.1. Super high in nutrients and super low in calories, kale is among the most nutrient dense food on the planet. It helps combat inflammation and contains vitamin K, which can help prevent against cancer.

Tahini is mineral rich containing zinc, iron, selenium and copper and also provides omega-3 fatty acids, a source of healthy fat.

Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fibre. Figs are rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A, E and K that contribute to health and wellness.

Walnuts not only taste great but are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of those hard to find omega-3 fatty acids.

This shredded kale salad with tahini  dressing is also gluten-free, vegan and paleo and can easily be made protein-rich with the addition of fish, meat, tempeh or beans (but I personally like it without the meat)

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side):

For the tahini dressing:

  • 1/3 cup tahini paste (see below for recipe)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • salt to taste

For the salad:

  • half a pound of kale
  • half a large avocado
  • 2 fresh figs
  • handful of walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of honey/maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

METHOD:

To make tahini:

1) Toast sesame seeds in frying pan until they turn lightly golden in color. (NB: this is optional but toasting the seeds will give it a nuttier flavour). Transfer seeds to a plate / roasting pan and let it cool completely.

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2) Grind in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process for 2-3 minutes until sesame seeds form a crumbly paste. Next, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (NB: any neutral oil will do, including grapeseed or sesame oil). Process for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture forms a thick and fairly smooth paste. For a thinner consistency, add more oil. Add salt to taste and process until combined.

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4) Transfer the tahini to an airtight jar (I love the mini Weck ones). It will keep in the fridge for a month or longer (sadly, mine was demolished within two days). If the mixture separates, stir the tahini to redistribute the oil.

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To make the kale salad with the tahini dressing:

1) Wash kale leaves and remove stems. Cut into strips (width according to your liking).

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2) Slice figs and slice avocado.

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3) Toast the walnuts. Turn fry pan on medium heat, pan fry walnuts until they turn light golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and add some honey (or maple syrup), cinnamon, and cumin. Toss until combined.

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4) Make tahini dressing. Add 1/3 cup tahini with 1/3 cup of water until desired consistency obtained. Add the dollop of white miso paste (optional) and shake vigorously until combined.

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5) Mix walnuts, avocado, figs and kale salad together. Dress with the tahini miso dressing.

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Grilled Squid With Lemon, Garlic, and Cumin

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Squid Attack! Last week after catching up over brunch with some friends at Cupping Room in Wan Chai (one of the more casual and decent brunch places in HK with coffee on par with Sydney standards) I walked pass the wet markets and saw some fresh squid eyeing me back. Picked two of these up and subjected them to the grill.

These slimy creatures are capable of providing the body with 90% of copper, a trace mineral which plays a role in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron and the formation of red blood cells (nb: copper deficiency may show in the form of anemia). What’s more, squid is good for those of us who are stressed out as it is rich in magnesium, which is able to relax nerves and muscles. Squid is also a good source of protein, helping us maintain healthy hair, skin, muscles, and nails.

Squid is a sustainable seafood that is easy to cook in seconds. Here is a simple recipe that I adapted.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 squids, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove, diced finely
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 diced chilli (optional)

METHOD:

1) Instead of slicing the squid into rings, aim for a concertina effect with the squid sliced, but still holding together. To achieve this with ease, simply push a large knife inside the ‘tube’ of the squid and and leave it inside flat on its side. With a sharp knife, slice the squid as if you were going to chop it into rings. The knife that is lying inside the body of the squid will prevent you from slicing right through.

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2) Mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, cumin and sea salt in a bowl and rub it all over the squid. Throw in a diced chilli if you like some heat. Marinade for 1-2 hours.

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3) Heat a griddled grill pan till it gets smoking hot. Remove squid from marinade and lay them flat on the grill. Flip after 2 minutes each side to get those lovely charred marks.

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4) Serve squid on a warmed plate with a sprinkling of sea salt and a wedge of lemon.

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