Mozarella & Tomatoes & Basil

It’s all in the title, that simple it is and not much can get simpler than this, in my opinion.

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Add some good quality olive oil, a sprinkle of salt & pepper to season and you’re right there.

Caprese Salad aka Insalata Caprese. Wide smile.

As I’m writing this, it is sunny, light breeze is playing with our garden curtain, tree leaf shadows are dancing in a fancy flickering manner all around, I can hear the neighbour mowing the lawn two houses away from here – the smell of freshly cut grass, so immense! – all of this making me feel very summery indeed – I almost don’t want to let go as the end of August dangerously approaches.

Just like I probably can never give up on this refreshing, beautiful salad, which you can make anytime you like, not just on hot days. We often make it on Sunday evenings, it has become a sort of a little habit, especially as a desperate attempt to balance heavier Sunday roast lunches.

If you need a little help further on with it, let me tell you that truly all you need for this classic echoing colours of the Italian flag is 250 – 300 g Mozarella cheese (amount depending on the number of servings and your appetite – I use cca 250g for 2 salad portions) and 2 large ripe tomatoes.

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To dress and season you will also need a good handful of fresh basil leaves, 2 – 4 tbsp good quality extra – virgin olive oil, salt and freshly – ground black pepper.

To make the salad, simply drain the Mozarella cheese and slice it evenly. Slice the tomatoes similarly, in about 5 mm thick rounds. Then arrange these red and white rounds one over another on a large serving platter – I usually follow a circular pattern from the edge towards the inside of the plate.

When adding the basil leaves, you can either pull them apart by hand and only scatter them all over the cheese and tomatoes, or you can insert single leaves in between the cheese and veg slices – again, in a pattern you personally prefer.

Do not make this salad by assembling all ingredients and tossing them as you often do with other leaf salads – the chances are you will end up with a good mash of tomato and cheese juices – remember, Mozarella is very moist, semi – soft kind of cheese.

For the final touch drizzle the salad with olive oil and sprinkle salt and black pepper to your taste.

We love it served with freshly toasted Ciabatta bread (Italian white bread; but you can also use baguettes or any nice artisan bread), sliced or just torn.

There’s always a little formal battle going on at the end of the meal when we wipe the veg, cheese & oil juices on the bottom of the plate with it. Absolute bliss!

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For a slight variation you can use cherry tomatoes combined with mini Mozarella balls, or indeed tomberries (very cute, only about 1 cm small tomatoes) and Mozarella pearls.

You can also dress the salad with Pesto alla Genovese which is a wonderful mixture of basil leaves, pine nuts, hard cheese, garlic and olive oil.

Hope you like it just as much as we do! Wink

 

Red Rice Salad

When looking for something heartier than just salad of greens, go for a mixture of those with rice for example, add some prawn jewels and you are where you want to be.

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Red rice looks particularly pretty on a plate, in  my opinion, and having higher nutritional value than white rice, while being high in fibre, it makes a very good choice.

Red rice cooks a bit longer than the white rice, usually up to 30 mins, but keeps its very pleasant nutty flavour which definitely is an advantage for this light meal.

Start cooking the rice first, prepare other ingredients meanwhile. Count your rice portions up to 70 g rice per person. Bring a large pan of water to boil, add the rice, pinch of salt and keep on a lower heat, simmering for 25 – 30 mins.

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Heat a large pan with a spoon of olive oil,  add 200 g peeled pre – cooked king prawns,  and stir fry them with two smaller chopped peppers ( I used red and orange to add warm colours). Do not overcook the peppers, you want them warm and only lightly fried, add radishes sliced alongside, and as the last add some sugar snaps. Stir all well and take off the heat.

Snap young cress (micro / baby cress) to top the salad.

Drain the rice and place in the salad bowl. While still hot, drizzle with Vietnamese dipping sauce and stir lightly. Add the prawn & green mixture into the bowl, stir lightly again, and give the salad one more sauce drizzle. Sprinkle generously with the young cress.

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Serve while warm, but naturally, it can be enjoyed as a cold salad, too.

 

 

Radish Side Salad

I don’t think this one can be added as a truly prepared recipe post, neither photo shoot done, because it was all about me taking the very first snaps using my brand new lenses. Shots taken just like that, very random takes indeed. Later on I thought I still could use them and why not?

So, if anyone ever wondered whether radishes can be eaten warm as well, here you are, give it a go!

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So I used what I had on my kitchen table top at that exact moment. Two bunches of fresh radishes. There was also a bunch of fresh asparagus somewhere in the fridge, ready to be used as sides for our dinner later on. See the picture of the side salad lower.

I think I didn’t even use a diffuser. I liked the fresh vegetables and couldn’t wait to try the new glass. I used darker and brighter backgrounds to compare. Shot the ready made salad afterwards. End of the story.

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I never really had the habit of eating radishes warm. The most usual way to enjoy them in my old home country was, and I guess still is, served sliced – thinly or in quarters, or pretty zig-zagged halves, simply salted  and served with another meal, and with simple buttered sour dough slice most often.

Nowadays I got used to eating them warm, too, and it is also lovely. I think it makes them much milder, and it softens them. I am always careful not to cook them for too long though.

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Bring a pan of water to boil, then add washed radishes, tops and bottoms trimmed, and cook for 2 – 3 mins max. Turn the heat off and quickly drain and place the radishes under cold water – this will prevent them from ongoing cooking while still hot inside.

When they cool down a bit, halve them or slice them into shapes that will suit your salad.

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Mix extra virgin olive oil with few splashes of balsamic vinegar, drizzle the radishes and give them a nice toss.

Serve straight away!

 

Colourful Noodle Salad

This Vietnamese – style noodle salad has been a pure joy from the beginning till its last noodle.

It is full of colours and bursts with flavours – nicely combined to your full satisfaction.

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I got inspired to try it after seeing an episode from BBC‘s brand new Mary Berry‘s cooking series, Foolproof Cooking, and was happy I did, too, because this salad is so absolutely worth it.

I opted for not using carrots, red pepper and bean sprouts, due to our little  home demands, and swapped them for steamed sliced baby fennels and baby corn, adding bamboo shoots, too.

A little amendment, to make the smaller eaters more comfortable, which hasn’t made the original recipe’s idea short of nothing – we had crayfish tails, ginger, garlic, cucumber, spring onions, chillies, fresh herbs (corriander & mint) and fine rice noodles, all seasoned with salt & pepper, tossed together and served with an amazing dressing.

That is also as easy to make as well as to remember – it’s the 3 x 3 +1 combination: 3 tbsp of each fish sauce, lime juice, light muscovado sugar and 1 tbsp of sesame oil.

Serve with chopped peanuts if you like.

This salad, originally meant as a summer recipe, has the ability to get you through any of these last grey winter days in a jiffy! We loved it so much!  I am sure you will, too, so get the ingredients, and start your happy chopping & tossing! Wink.

 

For the image I used natural light from above and 1 o’clock, diffused, blocked by a V-flat from the left, reflected with mirrors, silver reflectors and a white card. My camera settings were: ISO 125, f/2.8 at 1/20s shutter speed.

Find the original recipe using this link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/oriental_vegetable_99308

 

 

Sweet Chilli Salmon & Potato Salad

Now that even the Indian summer’s gone – seemingly for good, and those good old rainy misty mornings and days are here – seemingly to stay, it feels quite nice to comfort yourselves with something warming – which this salad with its vibrant reds and chilli tones definitely comes up to.

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And it also is simple to make – a very cliched expression, but you know I wouldn’t bother you with that if it weren’t such undeniable truth.

Boil baby potatoes, keep skin on, of course, till they’re tender. These themselves are so sweet and crisp, ideal for any salad – warm or cold. While still hot, add a table spoon of butter and sprinkle salt over them, give them a light shake in the pan – this way the butter melts easily and covers them all.

The second hero there is the honey roast salmon – which I had bought in portions, and each package has about 200g. But use as much as you fancy – both with potatoes and salmon, it’s entirely up to you, depending how many people will have the dish. Count about 100g salmon per person, with about roughly 200g potatoes per portion.

Fork flake or use fingers to break larger or smaller chunks of  salmon, slice as many as you like French breakfast radishes ( I prefer them to the usual round radishes because I find them juicier and somehow more mellow… but naturally, the usual ones are just as perfect as French breakfast ones), finely chop a good handful of fresh parsley leaves.

Stir potatoes with sliced radishes and parsley in a bowl. Sprinkle juice of a quarter of lemon over and give another light stir. In a separate bowl with the flakes and chunks of salmon, drizzle well with sweet chilli sauce – here again, it is about what you prefer better – I love the lighter one, but should you enjoy the hotter one more, add that one.

Finally, place the sauced salmon chunks over the potato base served in the salad bowl – and enjoy!

This salad is so season versatile – chilled in the summer days, and warm & chilli hot in autumn or winter – its colour, texture and taste will definitely kick in some hue and life to the grey days ahead this autumn!

 

Fresh Garden Peas

These beautiful garden peas are an instant childhood memory for me. I loved them especially as a pupil in the spring as a promise of the summer holidays coming. Nowadays it is more about their sweetness as it is, but still one particular joy stays the same as ever before – opening up the pods to get the peas out. Fantastic! Such pleasure every single time.

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The warmest season is gone now, and having the Indian summer here smiling at us is quite a lovely follow on.

We had such nice holidays, both my “Little Persons” enjoyed the company of their family here visiting us, as well as some really breath – taking trips around our county and central Scotland. Amazing days! We’re quite sorry all that is gone, but looking forward to the coming new seasons. I can already feel the morning and evening chill, as well as the days getting slightly shorter.

That together with having loads of baby gadgets like a walker, play pen, feeding high chair, play mat… and so on, with the Littlest Person himself becoming much more on his move than before, I also do realize there will surely be no safe space for my winter umbrellas as it used to be – meaning my photographic gear, and I am trying to get as much of the natural light as possible. Besides that, I decided to try out something a little new, a smaller kind of “daylight – like” lighting, and we’ll see how that will work for me.

One of the first shots I used it for, just trying, was these fresh garden peas and the garden pea salad that I made with them. Delicious! And what do you think of the light? It seems it can work when needed – especially in darker autumns and winters.

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For the salad I also used boiled new baby potatoes, finely chopped mint, lemon juice, olive oil and grilled Halloumi cheese. I made my favourite dressing with natural yoghurt, white balsamic vinegar and honey. The garden peas were cooked in boiling water for just two minutes. All quick to make – and quick to eat as well. We liked it very much, it is refreshing on warm sunny days, and can be served both for light lunches or dinners, whichever you prefer. I found the original recipe in BBC’s Good Food July 2015 issue – as many other inspiring ideas.. and gorgeous food images as always.

Hope you will like it and enjoy the last of the summer beams!

 

Apple Salad On Mushroom Croutes

This fine light salad adds juice and colour to your lunch scheme, it’s easy to prepare and joy to have any day.

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Some salads truly may be complex, built by chefs from the scrap bottom to the top of textures and flavours they want to enhance and offer you. Others, on the other hand, are absolutely easy, and yet, looking gorgeous and tempting as ever. Well, the chefs know best I suppose.

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I found inspiration for this simple lunch by seeing one of “15 – Minute Meals” episodes by fantastic Jamie Oliver. (Look for links to his sites at the end of my post.)

It was actually a recipe for a mushroom soup with Stilton, apple & walnut croutes. What caught my eye more than the soup was the actual toasted bread with mushrooms and apples, and I decided to go for something similar. I used artisan bread, which I toasted on a dry iron cast pan, with slices of chestnut mushrooms at the side, then  rubbed the toast with halved garlic clove, seasoned with a bit of salt and freshly – ground black pepper, placed slices of brie on top and let on the pan till the cheese started running.

I used half red and green apples each to slice quite thinly, sprinkled with freshly – squeezed lemon juice and tossed with a handful of chopped parsley leaves in a bowl. Then I simply served it with my toasted bread, mushrooms and cheese.. and thought I was in some sort of lunch heaven for a little moment.

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(I made the croutes the other day with slices of cheddar, and the effect was basically just about the same.)

It really doesn’t take that much to make one happy – such little effort for so much lovely taste!

Have fun! Wink.

 

Find the complete original recipe for Mushroom soup with Stilton, apple and walnut croutes by Jamie Oliver here:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/mushroom-soup-with-stilton-apple-walnut-cro-tes/#Gbl85hIBSx1yUxz5.97

For more culinary inspirations by Jamie Oliver have a look here:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/#fvYRgRdpCJVk4Gco.97