Grabbing cabbages for my wasabi slaw at a very sparse green grocer in Corfu.
I said I wasn’t going to write more about the boat, but it’s just part of my treasure trove of culinary stories, and so I’m tangentially delving back into those three weeks. After I was contacted to do the job, in the agonizing two weeks of anxiety and self-doubt that preceeded the actual work itself, I spent hours planning three-course menus, making lists of provisions, flipping through my iPad issues of Food & Wine and Bon Appetite magazines, searching for inspirations and meals that I thought could easily be prepared in a 2 meter by 1 meter space at a 45 degree angle. Really, it was all for naught.
Each day, after the breakfast malay had cleared and I had figured out what I would be fixing the crew for lunch, I was summoned on deck to consult with the hostess about what I’d fix them for lunch. For the first couple of days I tried to stick to the menus I had prepared in advance, but it was to no avail. “We’ll have some surf and turf and then just a few salads please.”
Salads, light enough for the heat but hearty enough to fill them up, became the bane of my existence. Thankfully, I’ve experimented with more than my fare share over the years, and have a stockpile of recipes suitable for her request. Here are recipes for three that I’ve found to be fresh and hearty and delicious no matter who you might be serving.
This first one I pulled out of Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty, while I was in DC visiting my family. It’s a huge hit…the edamame adding an unexpected and fresh taste to the dish, so I urge you not to leave them out if you’re tempted to do so. There are lots of individual steps here, but the result is well worth it and it’s delicious pulled out of the fridge for days, so good to pack for a work lunch (or if you happen to have 7 hungry crew members lurking in your home, this might just tide them over until the next meal).
Pasta Pesto Salad with Fried Zucchini and Edamame
Adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty
sunflower oil for frying
3 medium zucchini (I cut into small wedges)
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
100g frozen edamame out of pods
50g shredded basil
15g chopped parsley
75ml olive oil
250g pasta – like fusili or bow ties
grated zest of one lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
2–g buffalo mozzarella torn into chunks
salt and pepper
Fry the zucchini in batches until golden brown and transfer to a collander to drain. When all cooked place in a large bowl and coat with red wine vinegar. Blanch edamame in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain, refresh under boiling water and allow to dry. Combine half the basil, parsley and olive oil in food processor, season with salt and pepper a bit. Cook the pasta and rinse under cold water. Leave to dry. Now just put everything together and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
This might have been the very first recipe I tried out of Jane Coxwell’s book that I raved about in an earlier post. I absolutely adore coleslaw and try to find a reason to put cabbage in almost anything. This is an unusual take on the traditional but I’ve even made it since I got home as the perfect accompaniment to everything! Again, it lasts for days in the fridge (and I think improves as it sits), so as summer draws to a close, bring this to your Labor Day BBQ and just wait for the raves.
Asian Slaw with Wasabi
adapted from Fresh Happy Tasty
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
juice of 4 limes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared wasabi (or wasabi powder made into a paste)
1 garlic clove, grated on microplane
1 tablespoon agave nectar
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
large handful of cilantro (coriander) roughly chopped
In a very large bowl, combine the onions and cabbages. In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, mayo, wasabi, garlic, agave and rice wine vinegar. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and onions and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the cilantro and black sesame seeds just before serving.
Finally, a couscous salad that I served with a seared beef carpaccio (seriously, all I did was liberally salt and pepper the outside of a lovely piece of beef tenderloin and sear it in a very hot pan with olive oil until just brown all over, no more than a couple of minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, then slice very thinly and serve – I made a horseradish and arugula sauce). I’ve been making this salad for over ten years now, occasionally playing with the bits I add it, but always coming back to this tried and true combination. The list of ingredients may seem daunting, but most are spices I’d bet you have sitting in your cupboard! Couscous was my go-to grain on the boat. It’s quick to prepare and you can season it in so many ways to change it up. This is yet another salad that the longer it sits, the better it tastes.
Couscous Salad with Pistachios and Green Olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of ground allspice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
handful chopped mint
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped dry apricots
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green olives
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Now add all of the spices and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the broth and bring it to a boil. Now add the couscous, cover and remove from the heat. Allow it to stand for about 5 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the couscous with a fork. In a large bowl combine all of the remaining ingredients – and then the spiced couscous. Season and serve either warm or at room temperature.