20 November 2016

salmon salsa, za'atar chicken with jeweled rice

I love it when the seasons turn toward summer - there is so much fresh produce becoming available locally (and growing in the garden), and that combined with more sun and outside time just gives me more energy and interest in cooking.  So, when my Mum got a My Food Bag delivered, I was keen to give a few of the recipes it contained a go - win win - I got to try something new with some cool new ingredients, and Mum got her meals prepared for a few days.  

The thing I liked about the dishes in Mum's bag was that you could easily add/remove/swap elements of a dish, to tailor it to your taste.  This is what I did, so that KB and I were enjoying some of the flavours of the meals too.  So... here're some of the tasty new dishes we have sampled over the past few days...

salmon salsa

No - the salsa doesn't have chunks of salmon in it.  But chunks of salmon are served on a bed of salsa.  This was such a tasty way to use up some of the veges in the fridge.  We used Aoraki smoked salmon (bought at Pak n Save, for those in NZ) - it was chunks, rather than thinly sliced, and had been smoked in oak with rum and brown sugar.  OMG.  I could have easily eaten the entire pack on its own, but it was delicious combined with roasties, fresh asparagus, caramelised fennel and salsa.  This will make enough for 2 people, but you can easily adjust the amounts for 1, or more.  

smoked salmon (you could even smoke your own?!)
asparagus (enough for 2) 
half fennel bulb
1 potato
1 small kumara 
1 carrot
oil and butter
salt and pepper
salsa ingredients (we used red capsicum, yellow tomatoes, apple, cucumber, red onion, fresh coriander)
balsamic vinegar
avocado, slices on the side

  1. Prepare salsa - dice ingredients up into a nice, chunky mix.  Stir through a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. 
  2. Cut up potato and kumara into rounds, cut carrot in half, then in half again long ways.  Roast at 180 degrees celcius until cooked.  
  3. Remove greens and core from fennel, slice longways.  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes - the fennel will start to release its own sugars and caramelise a little.  Remove, set aside (this is good either hot, or cold - prepare a whole bulb's worth and keep what you don't use in the fridge).  
  4. BBQ or pan fry asparagus in butter.  
  5. Plate it up - roasties, salsa, salmon, fennel.  Asparagus and avocado on the sides.  Your plate will be completely clean within minutes!  
za'atar chicken with jeweled rice

Za'atar is a middle eastern spice mix, so aromatic and tasty.  You can find pre-prepared ones in specialty stores, or some supermarkets (the Simon Gault Moroccan spice blend is pretty close, and can easily be used in this recipe).  But if you look online you'll find lots of easy to make variations.  I used Simon's blend, with some extra sesame seeds to bring it into line with an actual za'atar blend.  

Pomegranates seeds - they look so beautiful and are so full of goodness - fiber, vits C and K, potassium, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac qualities...  To remove the seeds, cut the pomegranate in half from top to bottom.  Between squeezing a little and tapping the outside of the fruit over a bowl, most of the seeds will likely pop out.  Those which don't I flick out with a knife.  You don't want the pith - it's really bitter.  

1 tsp butter
half red onion
3 baby carrot, or 1 normal carrot
1 tsp za'atar mix
1/2 cup basmati rice
3/4 cup stock
salt and pepper
1 tbsp sultanas (or golden raisins) 
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 radishes
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 chicken breasts
3 tbsp za'atar mix
4 tbsp natural greek yoghurt
  1. Heat butter and a drizzle of oil in a medium pot on medium heat. Cook onion and baby carrots for 2–3 minutes, until softened. Add first measure of za’atar spice mix and cook a further 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in rice, stock/water and salt into pot with carrots and bring to the boil. 
  2. As soon as rice boils, cover with a lid and reduce to lowest heat to cook for 12 minutes. Turn off heat, quickly add golden raisins and cover again. Leave to steam, covered, for 8 minutes. Do not lift lid again during cooking. While rice cooks, de-seed pomegranate. 
  3. Heat butter or oil in pan.  Coat chicken with second measure of za'atar mix and pan-fry until cooked through.  
  4. Remove pan from heat, cover with foil, and allow to rest for a few minutes.  While chicken rests, finely chop spinach and grate radishes. Add to pot with cooked rice, along with pomegranate seeds and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, mixed with lemon zest.

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