sunchoke (topinambur) & apple salad with smoked mackerel

When I found these two small unusual looking tubers in my veggie box subscribtion I had completely no idea what are they and how to prepare them. Quick investigation (thanks google) and came out that my mysterious veggies are sunchokes. Also called: topinambur or sunroot, Jerusalem artichoke, earth apple or wild sunflower – depending on where you live. Topinambur sounds familiar but it reminds me of long thin root veg, and the one I got were small kind of ginger-like shape with brown potato-like skin.

Came out that sunchokes are species of sunflower native to North America, they vary in colour from pale brown to white, red, or purple and can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled. Despite one of its names, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relationship to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke though the two are distantly related as members of the daisy family. Italian settlers in the United States called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, because of its familial relationship to the garden sunflower. Over time, the name girasole in southern Italian dialects was corrupted to Jerusalem. Can you be more confused?

They are not articholes, nor sunflowers, look like ginger, but doesn’t taste like ginger at all. Actually for me they taste more like a potato, but much more creamy than starchy and with slight nutty flavour and also quite sweet. Although I tasted only baked version, so I’m very curious how raw one taste like.

About 150g of raw slices sunchoke contains about 3g of protein, 26g of carbs, 2.4g of fiber, 14g sugar. Although it contains lots of carbs, most of them are not sttarch but inulin. Inulin is a type of soluble fiber that balances blood sugar, and also acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are compounds that feed the good bacteria (probiotics) in our gut, thus enhancing digestive and immune health. It stimulates the development of a normal intestinal flora while inhibiting the growth of putrefactive and pathogenic bacteria, and maintains the correct pH. It can be helpful in any food poisoning. Moreover, inulin has an immunostimulating effect on the immune system as well as to bind and excrete harmful compounds that are left in your intestines.

So I started looking for a recipe inspiration as I always do with foods that I never prepared before. And I found a perfect one, as I had (almost) all ingredients. So that’s my version of this sunchoke and apple salad, prepared with the leftovers I already had in my kitchen. I had one organic Gala or Pink Lady apple, leftovers of smoked mackerel insteadt of trout, ordinary brown onion instead of shallots, plus some spring onions from the same veggie box instead of fresh basil. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the final taste. It looked a bit like randomly chosed ingredients, but somehow worked together very well.

Tangy and crispy apple, mellow and gentle taste of baked sunchoke, smoked fatty fish broken a bit by the taste of apple cider vinegar and onion. And lots of black pepper that I really enjoyed in this salad, all of that made a great salad I have ate with pleasure.

I’m definitely curious of more sunchoke/topinambur recipe options, and I will be looking for it in my next veggie boxes. That’s what I really like about my veg box subscription – I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before. Each time I found a veg I’ve never tried before I learn something new. And that forces me to experiment, try new recipes rather than stick to couple ones I know by heart and that are easy and convenient. And I encourage you to do the same – look for new ingredients you’ve never tried, find new tastes and flavours. You might fail in your discoveries but you also might find your new favourite taste.


sunchoke (topinambur) & apple salad

with smoked mackerel


INGREDIENTS (for one large portion):

  • 2 sunchoke (topinambur)
  • 1 small apple
  • half of small brown onion
  • handful of chopped spring onions
  • smoked mackerel
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • chopped dill for garnish
  • 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + tiny bit for a drizzle

DIRECTIONS

Thoroughly wash sunchokes and slice them in quite thick slices (leave the skin on). Sprinkle with black pepper and pinch of salt and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Prepare baking tray and piece of baking paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Spread sunchoke slices on the tray and bake for about 25 minutes, until they become golden and crispy on the edges. Then remove from the oven and let it cool down completely.

Cut apple in thin slices, drizzle with apple cider vinegar to prevent from getting dark and unappetizing. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Add very thinly sliced half of small onion and chopped spring onions.

Arrange on a plate together with sunchokes, add bits of smoked mackerel. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with fresh dill and enjoy.

grilled aubergine and chickpeas salad with sumac dressing

I’m a sucker for a good salad. Recently salads became my go to lunch options, I just open my fridge early in the morning and I pack my luchbox with bunch of veg with occasional addition of meat, cheese or egg. Sometimes it’s even hard to call it a salad, it rather looks like someone placed randomly some foods with splash of olive oil and cream cheese on top (oh, cream cheese is like ice cream for keto-people – yummy). But at 6am that’s sometimes the pinnacle of my abilities.

If I’m more fancy and I get myself together to prepare something on the evening before, it looks more like that.

Although this one looks and tastes much better when freshly made, rather than on a next day, when aubergine becomes a bit soggy and discoloured. Grilled aubergine (and courgette…and peppers… and mushrooms…oh and onion) tastes like heaven, so before I even managed to complete preparing this salad for photos half of it was eaten by my partner (nightmare of food blogers – while you setting up a photo shoot space, your other half shouting from the kitchen: “will you need that veg? I already ate some!”)

Definitely I need to remember that I love grilled aubergine, and use more often my grilling pan that lives on the bottom of the cupboard – forgotten. Apart from being delicious, aubergine is simply beautiful with it’s shiny dark purple firm skin, I’m always amazed by their look. Technically aubergine is a fruit, but I guess apart from bunch of pen-pushers thinking about how to classify a plant or at what angle should the banana curve, no one cares. Aubergine is versatile – it can be baked, mashed into a dip, roast, grilled and cooked – as it easily absorbs other flavours, so it works great in meals rich in spices – like curry’s and stews. Aubergines have a high water content with almost no cholesterol or fat and are a source of vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, and manganese.

They are though a part of the nightshade family – which also include tomato and bell peppers – and in some cases are known to cause severe allergic reactions. So if you’ve never tried aubergine before and you have a history of food allergies , keep it in mind.

For the lucky ones that can eat aubergine without limits here’s a delicious recipe 🙂


grilled aubergine and chickpeas salad with sumac dressing


INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small aubergine
  • 150g can of chickpeas
  • baby salad leaves (spinach, different types of lettuce)
  • handful of cherry tomatoes
  • piece of feta cheese
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • couple tbsp olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Heat up a grill pan, drizzle a little bit of olive oil. Cut aubergine in about half inch (1-1.5cm) slices and grill couple minutes on each side. Set aside to cool down.

Prepare dressing: finely chop garlic (or use garlic press), crush it with pinch of salt, add lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and sumac.

In a large bowl place a bunch of baby salad leaves, arrange slices of aubergine (you can chop them in smaller pieces), halves of cherry tomatoes and chickpeas. Crumble some feta cheese on top and drizzle with sumac dressing. Serve fresh.

You can store it in the fridge for up to two days, but it tastes the best when fresh.

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summer radish salad with avocado and radish leaf dressing

Look at the colour of these beautiful leaves, don’t you think they look amazing on a plate? It’s a festival of textures and colours. They are almost velvety in touch and have deep purple hue. To complement the purples we have green and purple mustard greens with their beautiful frayed leaves. And last but not least spiky, green radish leaves. That’s something new – I used to put them to rubbish, but as you might know radish leaves are edible and you should not be afraid to add them to your salads.

I got this beautiful purple leaves in my weekly veggie box and I fell in love with their texture and colour. Quick research and looks like it’s edible wild plant called Orach also known as Saltbush, Garden Orache, Red Orache, Mountain Spinach, or French Spinach – plant of many names. They are found along North America’s coasts and on the shores of alkaline lakes inland. They are also found along seashores from the Mediterranean countries to inland areas in North Africa and eastward to Turkey and central Siberia. Some species prefer dry, salty soils and can be found in desert areas. The entire plant is edible raw or boiled. Young leaves and shoots have a mild chard-like flavour with added salt. They can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked by steaming or stir frying. They are also used to make a slightly sour soup and can be boiled with pasta to turn it pink.

For me in comparison to mustard greens and radish leaves they are gentle and velvety, very pleasurable to eat. Now let’s talk about radish leaves for a second. Their hairy and prickly texture don’t seem to be attractive for your mouth, and eating their spiky leaves might be a little bit weird. But they didn’t harmed me 🙂 And they are full of essential vitamins and minerals.

If you’re afraid to eat them in a salad they can also be sautéed with garlic and used as a side dish, chopped up and used as toppings for soups, noodles and sandwiches. You can also use them as a base for dressings, blended and mixed with olive oil, like I did in this recipe.

To finish up this salad I added boiled egg (the yellow-orange colour goes perfectly with purple) and dressing made with avocado – that’s for some fat content that will keeps me full for longer, as it was my breakfast salad.

I think it’s a great idea if you’re expecting guests who likes veggies, because orach and mustard greens look great on the plate arranged with other veggies, can look amazing on summer party table. I can imagine having this salad in a sunny garden on a lazy Sunday morning.

summer radish salad

with avocado and radish leaf dressing

INGREDIENTS:

  • Purple Orach leaves (also known as arrach, mountain spinach and saltbush)
  • mustard greens or rocket
  • radish with leaves
  • eggs
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch of natural rock salt
  • lemon pepper or freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of nigella seeds
  • optionally to spice up your dressing: chilli flakes, minced garlic or sweet chilli sauce/sriracha

DIRECTIONS

First boil the eggs. I cooked mine for about 4 minutes as I like them soft. Then cool them down.

Wash all your greens and radish to get rid of any remains of soil. Slice radishes, do not bin the leaves. Leave the nicest looking leaves to put to the salad, the rest place in a blender. Place also half of avocado to a blender adding lemon juice, pinch of salt, lemon pepper, 2 tbsp of olive oil ald about 1-2 tbsp of cold water. Water will thin the sauce making it more dressing like. Blend it all together until you get nice and smooth texture, add some more water if you feel like. You can spice up your dressing adding chilli flakes, minced garlic, or leave it as it is and add a splash of sweet chilli sauce or sriracha on top of your salad.

Arrange all the leaves on the plate, also adding some of the radish leaves. Add sliced radish and egg. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. Put some avocado and radish leaf dressing and serve. I also added some nigella seeds for extra flavour and as visual interest.

Enjoy!

Source of knowledge:

https://www.organicgardener.com.au/blogs/satisfying-saltbush-orach

https://www.wildernessarena.com/food-water-shelter/food-food-water-shelter/food-procurement/edible-wild-plants/orach

easy-peasy but fancy – pears & camembert salad

I would like to warn you right away, that not everyone will like this combination, but if you like to experiment – go ahead! I really enjoy this fusion of sweet and juicy pear, camembert and of course walnuts! Nuts and camembert are magical combination, and works perfectly together. Addition of some sweetness of fruit and spiciness of rocket, makes it not only looking quite fancy and elegant, but also gives a nice taste twist. All that makes it a great summer salad for more elegant party or romantic dinner for two. It’s so easy to make, you only need a couple minutes to prepare the ingredients. Then just place them nicely on the plates and there you go.

I like delicate, creamy, buttery, clearly noticeable mushroom aroma and taste of camembert. But if you like more brie or blue Stilton, you can use it instead.

Did you know that camembert cheese was invented by a woman? More precisely, Marie Harel, who in 1791 (the year when the French constitution was created) received a recipe for brie from a priest hiding on a farm. The ingenious girl modified the recipe of Beaumocel cheese, which was produced on the farm where she worked, and added mold bacteria to it, thus giving life to the first piece of Camembert cheese.

Also according to scientists, apart from zinc, copper and calcium, as well as many vitamins, cheese contains tryptophan – an amino acid that strengthens the nervous system and is involved in the production of serotonin. What is serotonin? Of course, the happiness hormone! So increasing the cheese in your diet, will make you happier and more positive. Just be careful if you’re pregnant. Woman expecting a baby should avoid eating this kind of cheese, as it can contain higher levels of the listeria bacteria, which can cause listeriosis – possibly leading to miscarriage and stillbirth.

I like this unusual combinations of fruits and salads, when you think: no way! this things can’t go well together! And then surprisingly you find it absolutely tasty. If you also like this kind of experiments try my orange and Chinese cabbage salad or keto salad with strawberries.

pears & camembert salad

INGREDIENTS:

  • bunch of rocket
  • 1 pear
  • piece of camembert cheese
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple tbsp olive oil or other you like (grapeseed oil in my case)
  • 1-2 tsp spicy mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of coarse pepper
  • pinch of natural rock salt

DIRECTIONS

First start with the dressing. In a small cup or jar mix together: oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, a bit of salt and pepper. Dressing should be quite intensive – spicy and sour.

Rinse the rocket if needed. Peel the pears and slice as you like. Also cut the camembert cheese as your fantasy suggests. Put the rocket, pears, cheese and walnuts on the plate and pour the dressing over it. I suggest you eat it right away, before the pears turn dark and the rocket gets soggy.

Enjoy!

orange and chinese cabbage salad (vegan, gluten & dairy free)

Very summery, light and slightly tropical salad recipe. This orange and Chinese cabbage salad will refresh you on a hot summer day. If you’re vegan and you like mixing veggies and fruits – that’s a great salad idea for you. Or if you just want to take a break from meat and dairy, that’s also a great idea.

We have some healthy crunchy cabbage, sweet and juicy oranges that gives the tropical vibe and grated carrots full of antioxidants (good for eyes). For even more crunchiness we have also hazelnuts (or walnuts) – perfect source of healthy fats, vitamin E and fiber that helps you to digest properly. To finish this crazy mix – we have slightly Asian sauce, spiced up with apple cider vinegar that improves digestion.

With one bowl of this mix, you get whole world of vitamins and microelements:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • folate
  • calcium (oh yes, it’s in cabbage, carrots and hazelnuts)
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • zinc
  • copper
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (again cabbage and olive oil)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids (again cabbage and olive oil)
  • antioxidants
  • choline

That’s a a quite nice bunch of goodness, isn’t it? Colours will make you happy even before you eat it. I personally love adding different kind of nuts to my salads, they not only adds a nice crunch to it, but are also a source of fats, that make your belly feel full.

Preparation is as easy as it can be and will take you not more that 15 minutes. Just dice all the ingredients, make a sauce and your salad is ready. You can keep in in the fridge for about 2-3 days in airtight container.

If you enjoy this kind of veg & fruit mixes, you also have to try this crazy keto strawberry salad.

orange and Chinese cabbage salad (vegan, gluten & dairy free)

INGREDIENTS for at least two people:

  • small Chinese cabbage
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 carrots
  • 100g hazelnuts or walnuts
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 3 tsp spicy mustard
  • pinch of coarse pepper
  • 1 tsb gluten free soy sauce
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp parsley (I prefer dried because it has more gentle aroma)
  • 1 tsp dried basil

DIRECTIONS

Finely chop the cabbage, grate the carrots. Peel both oranges, remove white membranes and dice the flesh.

Using olive oil, mustard and spices prepare the sauce. You can make it very quickly using a small clean jar – just put all ingredients into the jar, cover with lid and shake until you get smooth and uniform liquid.

Now basically just stir all ingredients together, add sauce and nuts (you can use both types of nut if you have) and voila! Salad is ready.

Enjoy!