Chelsea & Me: Salads

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe. And of course, her new book, Homemade Happiness, is on my Christmas wish-list!
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Like soup, salads are one of my favourite dinner options. As the weather gets warmer, I crave the freshness and lightness of salads, and Chelsea’s offerings have all come up trumps.

Bacon, Pumpkin & Chickpea Salad with Feta Dressing
Pumpkin and bacon in a salad can never be wrong, right (unless you’re vegetarian)? This was a really tasty dish, although I noticed all three of my boys picked out the chickpeas! I’ve written in the margin of this recipe that the dressing was very garlicky, but I also remember it being quite nice, so if I make this one again, maybe I’ll omit the raw garlic in the dressing.

Chicken Caesar Salad
I’ve never been a huge caesar salad fan, always finding them very salty and bit too rich, but this recipe was different, fresher and lighter somehow. The homemade dressing still had that rich, anchovy flavour but without the heaviness, and I think the chunkiness of the chicken and croutons especially made it better (I didn’t feel like every inch of bread was soaked in dressing; some mouthfuls had only the tiniest amount of dressing). I’ll be making this one again! You can find the recipe here.

Haloumi & Vege Salad with Capsicum Dressing
I’ve made this salad countless times and it remains a firm favourite. It features some of my favourite things: Portobello mushrooms, courgette, red onion, haloumi (squeaky cheese!!) and red capsicum. The herby capsicum dressing is wonderfully sweet and piquant and works so well with the cheese. I’m actually drooling a little as I think about it…

roasted vege and haloumi salad (Chelsea Winter)

Kumara & Asparagus Salad
I really liked this recipe, but none of the boys were all that fussed. It was possibly because I made it towards the end of summer when we were feeling a bit asparagussed-out, but I thought the flavour combo was lovely and the textures were deliciously contrasting.

Summer Chicken Salad
One of the most-made recipes from either of Chelsea’s books, this salad is so easy and super-tasty. Actually, the salad itself is pretty standard, but the herb and feta dressing is out-of-this-world-amazing. The combination of salad ingredients can be mixed up to suit your family, but the addition of the sweetcorn and crispy noodles are quite enlightened. And the dressing…have I mentioned the dressing? Tall and I fight over the last dregs, it’s that good. This is a great dish for fussy little people too, as you can serve all the components separately before mixing the rest together for non-fussy big people.

Summer Chicken Salad (Chelsea Winter)

Tricolore Salad
The combination of fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil is one that takes me right back to our time in Italy, and I think Chelsea’s recipe is a fitting replica. I made this for myself one evening when Tall was away for work, and ate the whole lot after thinking I’d save some for the following night. It’s fresh, light and delicious, and pretty as well.

Steak Salad with Crispy Onions & Herby Garlic Ciabatta
I’m only including this with the rest of these salads because Chelsea has called it a “salad”, however it’s much heartier than that might imply. The salad merely provides a bed for the steak to relax on; it’s a lighter backdrop for the crispy fried onions which aren’t particularly healthy that I could’ve eaten on their own which are a lovely textural topping. Flavourwise – yum, although Tall thought the dressing was a bit creamy (“This must be a Chelsea Winter dressing”).

Roast Chicken Salad with Super-Dressing
I’d never used Israeli couscous before, and my children were a little suspicious of this dish at first. They love couscous, and pasta, but took some convincing that this was a delightful mash-up of them both. I really liked the flavour and texture combos (pumpkin in salads = winner), but left out the grapes simply because I forgot to get them. Apparently the dressing for this salad is from Ray McVinnie – it was full of flavour and worked really well with the chicken and couscous.

Roast Chicken Salad with Super-Dressing (Chelsea Winter)

Smoked Salmon Salad
Such a classic combination of ingredients, all serving to complement the smoked salmon to perfection. Cornichons, capers and red onion are all smoked salmon’s BFF, and they are definitely harmonious in this recipe. The dressing had a nice tang with the inclusion of natural yoghurt.

Asparagus & Chorizo Salad
Yum yum yum. I love asparagus, and chorizo, so this was one of the first recipes from Everyday Delicious that I made. It was such a simple salad to make, and the while the flavours were all quite simple, together they had a real punch. I’ve also made this using courgette instead of asparagus, and while it’s still good, using asparagus is definitely tastier.

Asparagus & Chorizo salad (Chelsea Winter)

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Salmon and Avocado Salad with Dill Dressing

I’m married to a man who grew up on a cattle farm; his mum has a freezer full of beef and lamb. He rather reluctantly eats the vegetarian meals I prepare, always asking (with a cheeky grin), “Where’s the meat?”

Luckily, he would choose seafood over meat 95% of the time. Tall loves fish, especially salmon, snapper and blue cod. We try to eat fish once a week (even though I am mildly allergic, bleurgh), and during the warmer months, we eat a lot of fresh fish and salads.

This is such a simple, quick dish to prepare; serve with fresh bread (I like the texture of a ciabatta or Turkish pide with this) and a chilled glass of pinot gris or beer.

Salmon and Avocado SaladSalmon and Avocado Salad with Dill Dressing – serves 2-4

mesclun salad leaves
2 avocados, diced chunkily
1 bunch fresh asparagus, steamed until tender
1/2 telegraph cucumber, halved lengthways and sliced
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 wood roasted/hot-smoked salmon fillet
200g baked ricotta (method below; omit completely for dairy-free)
3T olive oil
approx. 1T lemon juice
1T fresh dill tips*
1t brown sugar*
salt and pepper

Combine mesclun, avocado, asparagus, cucumber and tomatoes in a large serving bowl.

In a small jug, whisk together the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust seasonings to your own taste. *You might want to reduce or increase the amounts of sugar and lemon juice depending on whether you like a sweeter or tarter dressing.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine.

Break the salmon into bite-size chunks and add to the salad along with chunks of baked ricotta.

Serve with lots of bread to soak up the dressing, and a glass of something cold and delicious.

Salmon and Avocado SaladBaked ricotta:
Line a baking tray with a small square of baking paper. Plop the ricotta on top, in an evenly-spread disc. Drizzle with olive oil and season; add fresh thyme leaves or dill tips. Bake at 200degC for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and slightly crusty. Remove from the oven and cool. This can be made using firm-from-the-deli ricotta or fresh-from-a-pottle ricotta; I’ve tried it with both, and they are different in texture but equally delicious.

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Making Salads Super

Someone once told me that I make a good salad.

I laughed, thinking that there really couldn’t be anything easier to make than a simple garden salad, but having tasted some decidedly average ones, I realise it’s true – I do make a good salad.

Over the summer, we eat salads so often that I’ve had to come up with different variations to avoid getting bored. And because I sometimes forget that I need to save half an avocado for another day….there are times when I have to get creative.

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I give you, therefore, some simple tips for making salads super:

~ season a simple garden salad with salt and pepper, and it’ll transform it into something good; add a splash of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and it’ll transform it into something great.

~ experiment with textures: add crunchy croutons, sunflower seeds, pumpkin kernels or crispy bacon. Bake ricotta for 15-20 minutes, then crumble in large chunks into your chosen lettuce leaves. Combine crunchy iceberg with leafy mesclun and baby spinach, or add raw sugar snap/mangetout or radish. Fresh herbs like parsley (I prefer the grassiness of the flat-leaf/Italian variety), chives and mint are a wonderful addition too, as are sliced sun-dried tomatoes, olives or gherkins.

~ instead of having salad alongside your meat of choice, make the meat the star of your salad. My favourites include hot- or cold-smoked salmon pieces, or barbecued then finely-sliced steak; served with fresh ciabatta or baguette and a crisp pinot gris…yum.

~ make your own coleslaw dressing: dissolve caster sugar (say, 1t) in red wine vinegar (let’s say 1t there too), then add a good mayo (2T? However much you need), and season. Leave for the flavours to develop before mixing into your shredded cabbage, carrot and red onion. Adjust the amount of sugar and vinegar to suit your tastes; way nicer than pre-prepared dressing.

~ if, like me, you’re not a fan of big pieces of raw red onion, you can blanch rings or wedges in boiling water for two minutes before adding to your salad. You still get the flavour without the nasty bite.

~ dress cooked new potatoes with a combination of mayonnaise and basil pesto (3:1), then add toasted pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, and shavings of parmesan cheese.

~ curb your roasted vege cravings by drizzling bite-sized pieces with olive oil and liquid honey, then roasting for 30-40 minutes until tender. Allow to cool before adding crumbled blue cheese (feta would be good too), and a dressing of olive oil, liquid honey, lemon juice and seasoning. I made this for our early Christmas dinner over the weekend and we all had second helpings….it was divine, if I may say so myself. I used parsnip, kumara and courgette, but any roastable vegetable would work.

~ play around with different dressings until you find something you like. Try adding dijon mustard and brown sugar to a basic oil/vinegar mixture, or add fresh orange juice as your acid. As long as you taste before adding to your vegetables, you really can’t go wrong.