Tag Archives: Light/Lighter

Chinese Cabbage Salad with Corn and Pickled Cucumber

When I was a teenager this simple salad was all the rage. I guess its popularity was first of all due to the new vegetable: Chinese/Napa cabbage. Even avowed lettuce haters liked its crunchiness, neutral sweetish taste and every home cook appreciated its long fridge life, its all-year availability, not to mention its low price. Some prepared this salad with vinaigrette, some with mayonnaise but my favourite sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise and yogurt with crushed fresh garlic. Though I prepare it all year round, I think of it as a typical winter salad: refreshing and light, but still quite filling.

After so many years I still love this salad and still wonder why the taste is so good because the ingredients are quite ordinary. The only explanation is a perfect combination of different flavours and textures: it’s crunchy (cabbage), sweet (corn), sour (pickled cucumber), with a slight pungency from the onion and the garlic and a creamy mayonnaise sauce finish. I always make sure to grind lots of black pepper for an awakening kick (actually I cannot imagine it without big amounts of pepper, no matter how weird it sounds…).

TIPS: If you want to transform this salad into a full meal, add some proteins such as cubes of hard cheese, hard-boiled eggs, ham, chicken breast or canned tuna.

I think salt-brined cucumbers are the best here, but if you cannot find them (they can be found in Polish, Russian or Ukrainian grocery shops, but I also find them in German organic shops), you can take the more international vinegared pickled cucumbers or even small cornichons. Do not use cucumbers pickled in a very sweet brine though. They must taste sour and sharp.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves four as a side dish or two as a main course, if protein added (see TIPS above)):

1 small Chinese/Napa cabbage (bu small I mean weighing 1/2 kilo or about 1 lb)

1x 250 g (about oz) can of corn (or the equivalent of frozen/fresh and cooked for 5 minutes)

3 medium salt-brined or vinegar-pickled cucumbers

1 medium red onion (you can also use spring onion, but red onion looks nicer, I think)

mayonnaise or mayonnaise+yogurt (I use approx. 125 ml/ 1/2 cup of dressing)

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

salt, pepper

Prepare the sauce with crushed garlic, salt, pepper, mayonnaise and yogurt (if using).

Chop the cabbage, slice finely the onion, cut up the cucumbers, drain and rinse the corn.

Give the salad a good stir and refrigerate.

If you don’t add the sauce immediately, the cut up vegetables will keep for several days (the sauce in a separate container too). It’s best to add the sauce one or two hours before serving; thus the flavours will mix better but don’t add the sauce as early as one day before.

Steamed Aubergine with a Korean Sesame and Chilli Sauce

I have good news for all those who avoid aubergines due to their scary fat absorbing capacity: they are absolutely delicious steamed! Though any aubergine can be used, I find mini and so-called “Asian” varieties particularly fit for this method, so I am always thrilled to see them finally in my grocery shop or on farmers markets. Steamed aubergine is not new to me, but this summer I tried it seasoned Korean way and loved it. Easy, quick and addictive, this is a perfect cooling summer side dish!

I found this easy recipe in Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo, a collection of fantastic and easy Korean home recipes, which was a wonderful present from a particularly kind friend of mine. As always I have slightly changed the amounts of ingredients and have also added some rice vinegar to make this dish even more summery (I always crave vinegared side-dishes when it’s hot), so make sure you check the original recipe in this beautifully illustrated book.

If one day you’ve had enough of the Korean flavours, you might try steamed aubergines with a Sichuanese chilli sauce:

Steamed Aubergine with Chilli Sauce

TIPS: You can serve these aubergines both cold and tepid, but I don’t advice serving them hot. (You can also prepare them in advance, but maybe several hours before…. they tend to lose taste and texture if kept for example 24 hours).

You will find the ingredients of this sauce in any Asian shop (or maybe even a “normal” supermarket). If you cannot buy Korean powdered chilli pepper, use any powdered chilli you have (adjust the heat level to your palate). In this case, the best solution, in my opinion, is to grind whole dried chilli peppers to a rough texture (not a complete powder), but even completely powdered chilli will be ok here.

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves two as a side-dish):

4-5 small aubergines (by small I mean the small thin-skinned variety) or 1 medium Western aubergine

toasted sesame seeds

Sauce:

1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or more, if using low-sodium soy sauce)

2 long stems of spring onion, chopped

1-2 big crushed garlic clove(s)

1 heaped teaspoon Korean chilli flakes/powder or any other chilli flakes/powder

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Preheat water in a steamer, a rice -cooker with a steaming plate or in a pan (if you use a steaming basket).

Cut the small aubergines in two lengthwise, and then in two widthwise (removing the leaves and the stem of course). If you use a Western bigger variety, cut it in four lengthwise and then cut each piece in two.

Steam at high heat for about ten-fifteen minutes.

Serve cold or tepid with the sauce on top, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Takeaway Strawberry and Yogurt Mousse, or Strawberry & Yogurt Mousse in a Jar

Throughout the years I have posted many versions of this refreshing yogurt mousse, my favourite guilt-free dessert. Apart from yogurt, it usually includes fruits, gelatine and sometimes a thin layer of chocolate ganache. I prepare one batch a week and since I’m the only one who likes yogurt in my house, this way I can enjoy individual portions for several days ahead.

Today I’d like to propose you to make these portions in individual glass jars, the idea I wish I had many years ago… and don’t worry, it’s not my take on the recently fashionable ubiquitous food presentation in jars, but simply a matter of convenience. Actually, jars with lids make excellent takeaway containers and thus allow me to have a delicious refreshing afternoon sweet treat at the office. I have also taken them on car trips and can only imagine how practical they would be on a picnic…

The below recipe is just one of the many variations of this yogurt dessert. If you don’t like it or don’t have all the ingredients, you might like one of these:

Light Yogurt Mousse with Passion Fruit

Unsweetened Strawberry and Blueberry Mousse

Greek Yogurt and Chocolate Mousse with Cherries

Black Currant and Yogurt Mousse

Greek Yogurt Mousse with Canned Peaches

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Strawberry Coulis

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

You can replace blueberries with strawberry pieces or other fruits, or you can simply skip them!

If you prefer a sweeter ganache, you can add sugar. I never do because even bitter chocolate is sweet enough for me (of course the instant coffee can be replaced with several teaspoons of strong espresso or skipped; I practically always add a pinch of coffee to my chocolate desserts because it enhances the bitter chocolate flavours). The chocolate ganache can be prepared with milk chocolate too.

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh). If you want to serve them for a dinner, you can prepare the mousses a day before and cover with ganache just before the guests arrive. They will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

If your lids are slightly rusty underneath, make a protection layer with cling film or baking paper and then put on the lids. (I sometimes do it because I don’t like the idea of rust leaking into my desserts… though maybe I exaggerate).

Obviously, if you transport this dessert in a jar and plan to eat later, put it into an insulated bag and make sure it doesn’t fall.

If you keep these in the fridge for two days or more, cover them. (Put the lids on the jars if you prepare them in jars). 

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (4 portions, or jam jars):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

the amount of gelatin necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too)

Chocolate ganache:

70 g (about 2.5 oz) good quality chocolate (I have used 72% cocoa chocolate), roughly chopped 

70 ml (about 2.4 fl  oz) natural liquid cream, min. 25% fat (do not use crème fraîche or any thickened cream)

(1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or several teaspoons of strong espresso) 

(3 handfuls of blueberries or other fruits)

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes, (throw some blueberries inside each dish/jar, if using).

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

When the mousses are well set, prepare the chocolate ganache.

Bring the cream to a boil. Put aside.

Throw the chopped chocolate and the instant coffee into the pan and, quickly stirring, dissolve in the hot cream (do not boil the mixture of chocolate and cream!).

Distribute the warm (not hot) chocolate ganache equally among the mousse portions and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes more.

Serve very cold. You can add blueberries or pieces of strawberries on top just before serving.

 

Fresh Goat Cheese and Wild Garlic Spread/Dip

Wild garlic season is short, so I make sure I buy it every week while it lasts. Last Saturday, the nice lady who keeps my favourite goat cheese stall (at my French farmers’ market there are now three stalls selling exclusively goat cheese!) suggested I combine fresh goat cheese and wild garlic. As soon as I came home I made this simple spread and it was so perfectly delicious I still wonder why I haven’t thought about it earlier… If you’ve never tasted wild garlic, chopping it into a bowl of fresh cheese and spreading it on a slice of bread is a great starting point.

Ramsons, wild garlic, buckrams, bear’s garlic, bear paw garlic… (Allium Ursinum) is a wild, wide-leaved plant with a very distinct garlic scent and apparently a favourite of bears, who would dig out its bulbs (hence the name). Its edible long leaves are very similar to those of the lily of the valley and mixing them up is very dangerous, since the latter are toxic. The strong smell created when the leaves are rubbed is the only way to distinguish them if one is not an experienced forager. Planting its bulbs in one’s garden (the seeds are sold in Swiss gardening shops) or buying from a trustworthy market stall is even safer! … 

Wild garlic grows all around Europe but while its use in the kitchen is popular in certain countries, it is almost non-existent in the others and often limited to rural areas. In Switzerland it appears in April and disappears in May and is so popular, it can be found on many market stalls and even in supermarkets. It is extremely versatile and can be treated as a spinach or other leaf substitute but also as a condiment, a milder cousin of garlic. If you find yourself with a big bunch of wild garlic, here are some other ideas:

Chicken with Wild Garlic and Cashew Nuts

Chicken with Wild Garlic and Cashew Nuts

Wild Garlic Pillows

Wild Garlic Pillows

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

TIPS: I’ve used here fresh goat cheese but if you don’t have access to it (or don’t like it), you can use cow or ewe cheese instead (or thick yogurt, such as Greek yogurt). It just must be fresh and slightly tangy.

Preparation: about ten minutes

Ingredients (serves as a snack for two-three):

250 g fresh goat cheese (or cow/ewe fresh cheese)

125 ml yogurt or sour cream

10 big wild garlic leaves choppes

salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients, add more yogurt if the consistency is too thick (and maybe more wild garlic leaves).

You can serve it immediately, but the taste improves (becomes more garlicky) after several hours in the fridge.

This spread/dip will keep several days in the fridge.

Filo Rolls with Buckwheat (Groats) and Mushrooms

If you like Japanese soba noodles and don’t mind a typical coarse texture of certain grains, you might be tempted to test this combination of buckwheat and mushrooms in crisp thin layers of Greek filo rolls. I can only hope you will love the results as much as I did. If you have never tasted buckwheat, forget all the health benefits you have heard about (I know it puts some people off…) and see it as I do: just another delicious fuss-free carb, versatile enough to go with Greek pastry or spicy Korean meals.

I know many people put it in the same bag as quinoa or other recent wonder food discoveries, but in countries where buckwheat groats/grains have been eaten for generations (Ukraine or Poland, for example) it’s simply an alternative to rice, potatoes, pasta or bread. The traditional method is to toast the grains before selling them and I advise against the non-toasted version (see the TIPS below). In Poland it’s eaten mainly with meat or mushrooms (or both) in sauce, but sometimes also as a filling in dumplings; I guess there are also some regional dishes I’m not aware of. I grew up eating buckwheat quite regularly topped with meat in sauce and I’m pretty sure my mum never insisted on it as being healthy (the way she did with some vegetables…). This attitude made me appreciate buckwheat the way it is: beautifully nutty scented, strong-flavoured carb that nowadays reminds me at the same time of Polish and Japanese cuisines (a curious and rare coincidence!).

It might be seen as a step too far by some of my dear visitors, but I see buckwheat most of all as a nice change from rice in many Asian dishes. After many experiments I realised it’s more versatile than I thought! I find it perfect with spicy Korean dishes, such as bibimbap or the Chicken Simmered in Gochujang Sauce. It’s also delicious when replacing… rice in fried rice! Because of its nutty strong flavours, it pairs perfectly with mushrooms, such as in this Japanese-inspired eringi and teriyaki version.

When experimenting with buckwheat never forget a sauce (either served on top, aside or mixed into the dish) because buckwheat is very dry. I have served these rolls with the spicy Gochujang and Sour Cream/Yogurt sauce and it was just perfect:

Gochujang and Sour Cream Sauce

This Greek Yogurt with Caramelised Onion would be fantastic too:

Yogurt/Quark Spread with Caramelised Onion

or this Bulgarian cousin of tzatziki:

Bulgarian Dill Salad/Dip (Dry Tarator)

I have posted two other buckwheat recipes, both very easy, so in case you want to explore other options…

Eringi and Buckwheat Groats

Fried Buckwheat Groats

TIPS: If you have never had buckwheat, make sure you buy a toasted version (the colour is medium to dark brown, while the non-toasted is light greenish), which is the traditional one and which has these unique wonderful nutty flavours. The non-toasted one is bland, softer and, just like many people who grew up with toasted buckwheat, I hated the non-toasted form when discovered accidentally in a health food aisle in Switzerland.

Cooking buckwheat is not difficult, but follow the below instructions because it quickly becomes mushy and inedible. The result should be dry and crunchy.

Do not omit fresh parsley! It suits perfectly the mushroom and buckwheat mixture.

Make sure you have another sheet or two of filo pastry just in case… The mushrooms might lose more or less water and you might want to put more or less filling in each roll.

If, on the other hand, you have leftover filling, you can add some vegetables, even some meat leftovers, and prepare it like stir-fried rice, adding some soy sauce, putting a poached or fried egg on top…

The soy sauce is not obligatory. You can add some more salt to taste or nothing.

Preparation: about 1h30

Ingredients (serves two if eaten with a salad as a main course):

6 – 7 sheets of filo pastry (make sure you have one or two more, just in case you have more filling to use up)

250 g (about 1/2 lb) button mushrooms 

200 ml (about 6.8 oz) uncooked toasted buckwheat groats + 1/2 teaspoon salt

6 big European shallots (or 2 medium onions)

6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or 3 tablespoons normal soy sauce (I use Japanese soy sauce, but if you use Chinese, choose the light coloured one)

a handful of chopped fresh parsley

ground pepper

thick creamy sauce (such as the above gochujang sauce)

oil for stir-frying and for brushing the rolls (you can use melted butter to brush the rolls)

Put the buckwheat groats into a cup.

Measure the double of the buckwheat’s volume in water.

Pour the water into a pan. Bring it to a boil, add the salt.

Throw the buckwheat into the pan and let it cook partially covered at medium heat for about ten minutes.

Lower the heat and let it simmer, fully covered, for about 5 more minutes.

The water should be completely absorbed by the grains. If it’s not absorbed yet, put the pan aside, leaving the cover on and it will get absorbed without cooking too.

As soon as it’s absorbed, don’t uncover the pan and put it aside keeping it warm, for example wrapped in a blanket, though in this dish you use the buckwheat cold, so simply don’t lift the cover and prepare the rest of the filling.

Chop the shallots and the mushrooms.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and stir fry the shallots at medium heat.

Put the shallots into a big bowl.

Stir-fry the mushrooms in another tablespoon of oil until they start losing volume, season them with salt and add to the shallots.

Finally add the buckwheat groats, the soy sauce and the chopped parsley.

Season with freshly ground pepper and combine all the filling ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Spread one filo sheet on a big chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge which is closest to you, a portion of the filling (5-6 heaped tablespoons per sheet).

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

(You can also cut the filo sheets in two and make smaller rolls; this is what I did obtaining the tiny size of rolls you see above).

Brush the top of the rolls with some oil or melted butter, place on a baking tray or baking paper and bake in the oven until slightly golden (about 30 minutes in mine). Watch them often as they tend to burn quite quickly.

Since the filling is dry, make sure you don’t forget a sauce!