Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Feta cheese was on sale the other day so I knew I had to buy some – I love salty and sharp cheeses! And as feta is practically synonymous with Greek cuisine, we enjoyed a Greek-style salad to go with cheeseburgers for dinner on Sunday. Didn’t have any lemon on hand so the dressing is honey mustard.

Salad with FetaCucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

I mixed the following together in a large bowl:
finely chopped red leaf lettuce
chopped cucumber (cut into quarters)
grape tomatoes
crumbled feta
and minced red onion

(Perhaps what was missing is olives!)

For the honey mustard dressing, I whisked together:
extra virgin olive oil
rice vinegar
country Dijon mustard (= Dijon mustard mixed with mustard grains)
honey (the runny kind)

This is the approximate proportion of dressing ingredients I like:
5 olive oil, 2 rice vinegar, 3 country Dijon mustard, and 2 honey.

I hope that makes sense. For example, if you use a teaspoon to measure, then it’s 4 teaspoons olive oil to 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar, etc. Depends on how many portions you are preparing. I would use like a quarter-teaspoon amount as the basis.

Salad dressing is just oil, some kind of vinegar, some kind of salty-tangy, and some kind of sweet all mixed together. If you have balsamic vinegar, or rice vinegar, then you’re pretty much set.

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Salad with Vietnamese-style dressing

saladviet2closeup

I love a good short-cut when it comes to cooking, but when it comes to salad dressing, I try where possible to make my own. Store-bought salad dressing is just never quite as good.

One day I’ll share how I make my own Honey Mustard, Caesar, and Thousand Island dressings but today – it’s salad with Vietnamese-style dressing. I love how it is sweet and salty with a tangy pungency that comes from the addition of fish sauce and freshly squeeze lime juice.

Back story: I deep fried a bunch of Malaysian/Nyonya style chicken over the weekend and wanted a sauce that would double as dressing for salad and dipping sauce for the chicken. Something really salty and flavourful, almost pickled. I remembered then the dipping sauce that one of the Vietnamese eateries near us serves (thank you LS for introducing me to Saiguette :P).

I looked at this recipe from Luke Nyguyen as a starting point, reducing the amount of rice vinegar but increasing the amount of lime juice. Sorry, didn’t get think to take a picture of just the dressing itself!

saladviet1Salad with Vietnamese-style Dressing

Ingredients (makes about 1/2 a cup)
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon white sugar

2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Chilli sauce (or 1 small red Chilli, de-seeded and finely minced)
2 tablespoons lime juice

Method:
1. Heat the water, fish sauce, rice vinegar, and white sugar in a small saucepan over low-medium heat just until sugar dissolves. Let cool.
2. In the meantime, mix garlic, chilli sauce (or fresh chilli) and lime juice in bowl.
3. Add the cooled fish sauce mixture to the bowl of garlicy, fragrant lime juice.
4. Taste – if it’s too salty, add more lime juice or a little bit of water.
5. Drizzle dressing over tossed crunchy vegetables like thinly sliced cucumber, carrot, onion, and a bit of tomato and cilantro leaves if you like. Also goes fantastically with grilled/deep fried meats.

Easy Niçoise Salad

There’s something about the word niçoise — it’s fun to say. Niçoise! A word with lots of  textures if you will, not unlike the salad. Now my French is extremely basic but I’m sure that niçoise means of, or related to, the French city of Nice, like how chinoise refers to things Chinese. The dish is supposed to capture fresh Mediterranean flavours: black olives, anchovies, olive oil, tomatoes, the smell of the sea. I did a quick Internet search and found tons of recipes, many declaring themselves to be either authentic. Now French food clearly isn’t my territory so I just want to share an easy version of Niçoise Salad, which I think is just a simpler take on the classic, without all of the claims to Provencal purity :P. No debates! Just a yummy and beautiful salad, perfect for a light lunch with minimal cooking.

a little rough around the edges, but good enough!

Easy Niçoise Salad

Ingredients, for 2 portions
1 can of tuna
1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 tomatoes, cut into small wedges
2 eggs, hardboiled and quartered (a little bit of runny yolk makes the salad even tastier)
100 grams of green beans, boiled in salted water until almost soft
a scattering of black olives, and feta cheese if you have any (I used a supermarket mix)
1/2 red onion, minced

for the dressing
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of white or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of mayonnaise – I like just a bit of mayonnaise to make the dressing a little creamier
coarsely ground salt and black pepper, to taste

Method — not much cooking here!
1. Hardboil the eggs in a medium-sized pot. At 6 minutes, drop green beans in – of course best if you had washed the eggs first!
2. Prepare all other vegetables, and whisk together the dressing while eggs/green beans are in the pot.
3. Crack some black pepper over tuna. Set aside.
4. At 9-10 minutes, drain beans and eggs carefully; remove shells from eggs and quarter them.
5. I like to arrange all of the components of the dish carefully on a plate, rather than toss them all together. Be generous with the dressing :).

I hope I have given a nudge to those who have always wanted to make their own versions of Salade Niçoise to give it a go. As I said above, minimal cooking but oh so good and relatively healthy!

a little closer…

Chinese-style Cucumber Salad

Today I was craving a bit of fresh salad after a having scarfed down a fast-food dinner last night at a friend’s, so I thought to recreate this Chinese-style Cucumber Salad.

Chinese-style Cucumber Salad

I first tasted version of this at one my family’s favourite restaurant in Hong Kong: a tiny, literally 7-table eatery tucked away in North Point. Amongst ourselves we referred to it as ‘North Point Noodles’, and honestly I never knew its real name! Hard to believe, I know. There was a signboard above the narrow shopfront but we got so used to calling it by its nickname, and their noodles and dumplings were so distractingly good, it never really mattered what it was called. Its exact location we guarded like a jealous secret, but we would go back every two weeks for its delicious minced pork and preserved vegetable noodles, pork and cabbage dumplings, and this cucumber starter.

The cucumber is served chilled, after having been dressed with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, a little sugar and soy sauce, and tossed with pan-fried garlic and chilli. Sometimes the cucumber’s fleshy side is ‘smashed’ with the back of a knife, rather than chopped, to allow it to soak up more of the dressing. I’ve gone for chopping here as my chopping board was covered in cucumber ‘guts’ and juice already :P.

I particularly love the balance of sour with sweet and salty, and the way that the coolness of the cucumber plays against the heat from the chilli; it’s these flavours that make it an appetite-inducing starter.

Chinese-style Cucumber Salad

Ingredients
1 large cucumber – scraped out the seeds and chop into 2 inch chunks
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small red chilli, minced
1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil, to fry the garlic and chilli
salt

for the dressing
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1.5 teaspoons of white sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
a dash of soy sauce

Method
1. Prepare cucumber, using a knife to cut down the lengths of the fleshy seed part of the cucumber, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.
2. Chop cucumber. If you’re feeling ambitious, use the back of the knife to smash the cucumber, flesh side up, to allow it to absorb more of the dressing later.
3. Sprinkle salt across cucumber pieces to draw out some of its moisture.
4. Mix ingredients for the dressing. Set aside.
5. Heat pan on medium heat, add vegetable oil; when oil is hot, fry garlic and half the quantity of red chilli you’ve prepared.
6. Fry until garlic is just about turning golden and turn off heat.
7. Tip in garlic, chilli and hot oil into the dressing mixture. Stir.
8. Drain excess liquid from cucumber. Add dressing, mix well. I like to do this in a plastic container so I can really shake the salad around and coat it with the dressing!

Hope those of you who are intrigued will try this out :).

P.S. Like my new blog theme? Brings out the Pisces in me, ha!

Nyonya Chicken Curry & Mango Kerabu

WS and i invited some friends around for a Malaysian-themed dinner on Sunday, spending most of the afternoon in the kitchen preparing our dishes. it was good fun, both the cooking and the hosting. food-wise, we went for a Malaysian-Chinese theme because we thought that it would be a new experience for our american/ german/cypriot friends and would touch upon WS’s cultural roots.

Nyonya Chicken Curry with Potato

Nyonya comes from Baba-Nyonya, which refers to Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia and Indonesia in the 15th and 16th centuries. (Also known as Peranakan Chinese people.) These ethnically Chinese settlers generally assimilated into the local communities, adopting Malay customs and speaking Malay – often at the expense of their own Chinese language abilities! ‘Baba’ and ‘Nyonya’ are loan words from other languages; Baba referring to these Peranakan gentleman, and Nyonya, to the ladies.

Nyonya curry is different to Malay and Chinese curries in the way that it is a little more diluted (hence less creamy), and that it makes use of ingredients like lime juice for sourness that lends an extra dimension to the heat of the chilli and ginger. I can’t really eat very spicy foods despite wanting to be able to stomach it (!) so I loved this curry, made with the help of the Ayam brand Nyonya curry paste and coconut milk. i have helped to make curry paste from scratch and wouldn’t be able to do so without a proper food blender!

Mango Kerabu (mango salad) pre-mixing

Now this, this, is a new favourite of mine. Mango Kerabu, aka The Best Mango Salad You’ll Ever Have. Sadly I only got a shot of this before we mixed it all together with the dressing, but ok, I’m going to make it soon so I’ll update this post at a later date.

Mango Kerabu is very similar to Thai Papaya Salad, which makes use of green papaya. So instead of papaya, you use unripe mango. (There weren’t any purely green mangoes at the supermarkets so I went for the firmest one I could find.) This is a fantastically cooling salad comprising of shredded carrot, cucumber, mango, shallots and coriander dressed with a mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, a little bit of fresh red chilli (chilli padi), and a dash of white pepper. Portions are easy: 1 of everything! (1 medium sized carrot, 1 cucumber – you can omit the watery seed core though, 1 mango, 1 +1 shallots – oops i lied, and 1 bunch of coriander leaves!) as for the dressing, i would experiment with the ratios and volumes but i suggest lime juice: fish sauce is in a 1:1 ratio, and the rest is to your personal taste. If you prefer the dressing to be more tart, then up the lime juice though I suggest you also add a little more sugar just so that the sour is balanced with the sweet.

all right this entry doesn’t do Mango Kerabu justice so i’m going to write up a post on it another time, with a better picture of the salad mixed! 🙂 in the mean time, has anyone else ever made Mango Kerabu before? what kinds of proportions did you use for the dressing?