Grilled mushroom and green pepper salad with a basil vinaigrette (perfect for a weekend braai)

Cape Town is experiencing a heat wave at the moment, and this is as good an excuse as any to hand over the braai tongs to the man (or woman) in your live, and escape the hot kitchen. I love South African summer and, after another scorching day in Cape Town, there are few things as perfect as ending the day with an ice cold glass of chenin blanc and a braai whilst watching the sun set over Falsebay.  Perfect late summer evenings like the past weekend just reminds me again of how privileged I am to live in SA with our moderate climate (minus the heat wave of course) and fantastic wine.

Currently our favourite steak cut is rib-eye. It’s soft, juicy and absolutely succulent! I rubbed the steak with a dash of olive oil and NoMu’s Coffee Rub. NoMu (http://www.nomu.co.za) makes the best rubs I have ever tasted and is locally produced and preservative free. It also tastes fantastic, of course, and I have included their rubs in everything from steak to chicken pie! I am not going to go into detail about braaiing a steak-there are many excellent websites and blogs that cover that topic, and usually my participation in the braai goes as far as prepping the food.  What I do want to tell you about, is the salad.  In this heat (and keeping low carbs in mind), there is no other alternative except a salad. This salad recipe is also vegetarian, and filling enough to serve as a main meal with crusty bread and cheeses.

For this salad, I roasted mushrooms and green pepper over the coals, and added them to a bed of mixed lettuce ,rocket, fresh, plump tomatoes, cucumber, parmesan shavings topped with a basil and chive vinaigrette.

Salad recipe:

6-8 mushrooms, grilled over coals on a skewer and halved

half a green pepper (any colour will do), cut length wise in thick strips and across into large blocks, grilled over coals on a skewer until roasted

bunch of mixed lettuce, including rocket, shredded

1 tomato, cut into wedges

1/3 cucumber, cut into slices

1/4 cup parmesan shavings

handful olives

whatever other ingredients you would like to add to make the perfect salad

Mix or layer all your ingredients in a large salad bowl, and add your mushrooms, peppers and parmesan last. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

Basil and chive vinaigrette:

50 ml red wine vinegar

25 ml olive oil

25 ml balsamic vinegar

6-7 leafs basil, finely chopped

3-4 springs chive, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients together and mix very well. Drizzle over the salad just before serving.

Spicy chickpea and wilted spinach salad

It is summer in South Africa!  The mercury is hitting lower 30 degrees Celsius and salads are the order of the day.

I do not cook only for myself (I would very happily only munch on lettuce if I had a choice!), but I can imagine that my boyfriend will complain if I had to feed him only so-called “rabbit food”. Hence, when I make salad for dinner I “beef” it up by adding some low-GI carbs and proteins. I would thus like to introduce you to chickpeas.  Chickpeas are very under-rated but can form the staple of an incredible amount of dishes (think falafel, humus and tagine). They can be spiced, cooked, mashed or bought in a tin, ready to serve.  Many recipes ask for the tinned version.  It is quick and easy as the chickpeas are already prepared and can be served, heated or used as required with as little effort as opening a can. I, of course, like to take the hard route.  It is much cheaper to buy dry chickpeas but they require work (or careful planning!). Also, you can prepare only as much as you require whereas an opened can is an opened can.  Another disadvantage of canned chickpeas are their soft consistency- it turns into humus when trying to blend them in order to make falafel (read failed dinner but interesting experiment).

To prepare dried chickpeas you need to soak them overnight.  Being an impatient cook, I usually only soak my chickpeas on the day that I use them, and have realised that 6-8 hours is enough. Pop them in a container with water before going to work-they’ll be ready when you get home. They do still need to cook which takes another hour. Chickpeas have a low glycemic index (G.I) and is high in protein, so it is definitely worth going through the effort to prepare them.

This recipe serves 2 large or 4 small portions

1 cup dried chickpeas, covered in water and allowed to soak until double their original size (6-8 hours).

Rinse chickpeas and place them in a pot on the stove over moderate heat. Again cover with water, cover the pot with a lid and bring to boil. Cook chickpeas for an hour or until soft and ready. Remove from heat.

Spicy chickpeas and wilted spinach:

1 cup dried chickpeas, cooked and prepared as mentioned above

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2-3 fresh chillis, finely chopped

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

100 grams fresh, chopped spinach

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and brown for 5 minutes. Add the cumin and chilli and fry for another 3-4 minutes.  Now add the chickpeas and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the spinach, stir well and fry for another 5-8 minutes until the spinach has wilted and is mixed through.  Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

Salad assembly:

Previously prepared chickpeas and spinach, cooled

2-3 cups fresh, chopped lettuce of your choice (I use mixed lettuce as well as Iceberg)

1 tomato, sliced in wedges

1/2 green pepper, sliced

3 chives, finely chopped

1/2 wheel feta

10-12 olives

Assemble you salad according to your liking. I first add my lettuce and then layer my salad with the tomato, peppers and olive. I end with the chickpeas, and lastly crumble my feta over.  This is really a scrumptios low G.I, high protein salad that is satisfying for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.