Easy peasy al fresco sides
EASY SUMMER SIDE DISH RECIPES
It's been a tough week. I decided to stay south in sunny Provence for a little longer as a gesture of good will towards my neighbour in Paris. She’s started to take umbrage at my daily singing practice, which I'm welcoming as a compliment: her fraying nerves are undoubtedly due to my hard-earned increase in 'squillo' (piercing vocal quality that helps the human voice be heard over an orchestra. Or through walls and ceilings).
Anyway, there are worse places to hang out in May. Summer is already well under way, and the variety of produce at the local markets is sumptuous. Mum has been taking the culinary helm, which has proved a welcome and delicious break. I've been contributing here and there, mostly with some simple summer side dishes. She'd be the first to say that she's a traditionalist in the kitchen, so I like to add a few 'modern' touches to shake things up a bit. A dash of preserved lemon here, a grinding of fennel seed there, that sort of thing. We're not talking molecular cuisine.
However, there's certainly NOTHING wrong with the traditional, which is why I've included two of her classic summer side dishes here too.
These four could happily be served as a vegetarian al fresco spread (too 'modern' for carnivorous Dad), or as summer side dishes for barbecued meat or fish. They all travel well and are just as tasty cold, so perfect to add to a sunny picnic spread or packed lunch. Yippee.
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No mayo warm potato salad with caper, anchovy and walnut
Serves 4, takes 10 minutes
I made this zingy and delicious dish with some left over little roast potatoes. You can of course cook the potatoes specially - roast them in a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of seasoning in a hot oven until golden brown. You could also used left over boiled potatoes, but I prefer the texture of roasties.
* Roast potatoes - 400g
* Capers - 1 tsp, drained
* Anchovy - 2, finely chopped
* Mint - a bunch of leaves, finely sliced
* Extra virgin olive oil - a generous glug
* Sea salt - a couple of pinches
* Black pepper - a few cracks
* Lemon - Juice of 1/4
* Walnuts - a handful, chopped
If the potatoes have been in the fridge, pop them in the oven for about 5 minutes to heat them up.
Whisk the remaining ingredients, except the walnuts, together in a glass.
Put the potatoes in a serving bowl and toss in the dressing. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Mixed quinoa, tomato, avocado, fennel seed and preserved lemon
Serves 4, takes 20 minutes
This is a citrusy and light vegan salad. The ground fennel and preserved lemon add that little je ne sais quoi.
* Red and white quinoa - 1 cup
* Tomato - 1, diced
* Avocado - 1, peeled and diced
* Preserved lemon - 1/4, finely diced
* Fennel seeds - 1 tsp, crushed
* Fresh herbs (parsley/basil/oregano) - a handful, chopped
* Lemon - juice of 1/2
* Extra virgin olive oil - a generous glug
Simmer the quinoa in 2 cups salted water, covered, for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and leave covered to steam for a couple of minutes. Place in a serving bowl with all the remaining ingredients and a crack of black pepper. Mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Slow roasted peppers with tomato and anchovy
Serves 4 generously, 10 minutes prep, 50 minutes oven time
Melt in the mouth, caramelised peppers with salty anchovy and pungent garlic. Hard to beat.
* Red and yellow peppers - 4, halved lengthways and seeds removed
* Garlic - 3 large cloves, peeled and crushed
* Anchovies - 8, halved
* Tomatoes - 8, halved
* Olive oil - for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Place the peppers skin side down in a roasting tray. Divide the crushed garlic evenly between them. Tuck two tomato halves into each pepper then lay half an anchovy on top of each piece of tomato. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the peppers are completely soft and starting to caramelise. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Grilled asparagus, plain and simple
Serves 4, takes 15 minutes
If you haven’t already grilled asparagus, you’ve been missing out. In my opinion it’s the only way to go for tender, crispy and perfect spears. Serve with fresh parmesan shavings or flaked, toasted almonds.
* Asparagus - 2 bundles (about 40 spears)
* Olive oil - a drizzle
Preheat the grill to its highest setting.
Remove the tough part of the asparagus spears. Mum taught me the tip of bending each spear until it snaps - it will naturally break where the woody part ends.
Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place under the grill for 10 minutes, tossing once. When it’s done, the asparagus will be tender and beginning to colour.