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Salads for hot weather, and artichokes not for the win

With my studying having got a bit quieter, I've been able to get back into my kitchen again and start cooking something a little bit more interesting for me.

Like I mentioned last week, I've taken to adding lentils into my rice to give things more fibre and more flavour - brown rice and green lentils are my favourite combination at the moment. There's something that goes off in my brain when the lentils and rice go together, saying 'yeah, this is great!'. Not so long ago, I saw a recipe idea on Green Gourmet Giraffe and knew immediately it was what my belly had been crying out for: teriyaki tofu, rice and kale.

GGG's recipe looked fab, but I had to put some lentils in for good measure. Because, you know, lentils. And mushrooms, because, well, because I didn't know what else to do with them. Johanna of GGG roasted her tofu, which is a much better plan as it does wonderful things to the texture of the tofu, but I was feeling too lazy to wait for the oven to heat up, so I stove-topped the lot.

Can you see the little green bits in the rice that aren't the lentils? That's radish greens, in both their fresh and dehydrated form. I only discovered them recently, and I'm totally in love with them right now. I always used to top and tail my radishes and ditch the greens - what a waste!

I used the furikake recipe from Just Bento for the fresh radish leaves, and to make the dehydrated version, I just tossed some radish greens, soy sauce and a bit of chilli sauce together and then put them in the dehydrator for a few hours until they were sort of leathery.

Sounds disgusting, but tastes amazing. It's great on top of rice, or just generally for spicing up grains that need a bit of pep.

As the weather's been really hot recently (the mercury's been north of 30C at the weekend - yowza!) so there's been a few salads over here.

The first one was a semi-successful attempt to get to grips with chicory. I think the only way I actually like eating that stuff is when it's been braised slowly in stock and served as part of a Sunday roast, when all that bitterness gets caramelised into sweetness.

To try and turn chicory from also-ran to all-star, I thought I'd try making something a bit Thai-style, using chopped chicory, peppers, carrot and spring onion. There's a bit of coriander in there - the culinary equivalent of a fig leaf - but otherwise the salad's naked in the picture.

I did put a dressing on it honest, but I didn't take picture of the dressed version because it looked sort of wrong. It was mix of soy, lime juice, chilli, and peanut butter. It was pretty nice tasting though. I mean, you couldn't really taste the chicory, so in that sense it was both a success and a failure!

Another salad stopover was called for after a particularly vigorous fry-up. Yep, I managed to cook up a breakfast so big and heart-stoppingly bad for me, I couldn't manage lunch. By the time dinner came around, all I wanted to eat was a salad. I had a bag of avocados with no particular home to go to, so I thought I should introduce them to some broccoli and see if they couldn't make a go of it.

Turns out they were a perfect match - broccoli, cherry toms, marcona almonds and basil, all wrapped up in a big avocado dressing (yeah, it's guacamole, but let's pretend its something fancier).

I ate two big bowls of this, it was that good. I'm totally patenting it and selling it to Whole Foods for £5 a tub under the brand name Brocc and Guac.

My favourite way to eat broccoli I think is to roast it. There's something about the way the smokey edge it brings to the broccoli just makes everything better. I thought I'd apply the same logic to other veggies.

Have you ever tried roasting radishes? If not, give it a go. Just put on some oil, some salt and pepper and roast til the skins go a little wrinkly and then enjoy. The taste is totally different to the raw version - the sharp crisp flavor mellows - and it becomes a really nice side dish.

I thought I'd try the same trick with one of the veggies that's always been a bit of a black spot for me. I mean, I've tried to love artichokes, but I just can't. Granted, in the weird light I took this photo in, it looks like they've crawled out of a swamp, but that's not the reason for my lack of artichoke love.

I think it's the effort to taste ratio. I mean, I spent 10 or 15 minutes getting three tiny artichokes ready for the oven, peeling the leaves, chopping the tops off, putting them in lemon water so they didn't decolour, all that jazz. And then, for what? It's a decent vegetable, for sure, but for that work and knife skills, I want wonderful and superb!

Artichoke lovers, help me out here - what am I missing? Show me the path of artichoke righteousness!

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  1. Yay - glad you loved the teriyaki tofu - I actually fried mine but I think the original recipe might have been to bake it. Adding lentils to rice sounds great to me. I have a lentils, fried onion and rice recipe that I have tried once and need to try again to get it right.

    I have always found radishes a mystery and never understood why people buy them but I feel I am ready to get to know them - must try the roasting idea.

    Sorry can't help with artichokes - I have never thought them worth the bother of all that preparation - if I use them I use them from a jar but mostly if I buy them they languish at the back of a fridge. I think some of my favourite uses for them are muffins and in a wild rice salad.

  2. Roasted radish! I've never thought of having them warm but it sounds good. I'm afraid I can't help with the artichokes either. I might some from a jar on a pizza but that's about it.

  3. Beautiful salads, and the tofu dish looks fantastic! I wish I knew how to cook artichokes, but I'm in your boat - the learning is still in progress!

  4. The tofu plate looks super, love everything on there! And the salads look pretty darn good too. Now I'm curious, what was the heart-stoppingly bad breakfast? :-) Artichokes are good grilled especially the smaller ones. For the bigger ones, steamed and served with a dipping sauce.

  5. Wait- what did you do with the artichoke leaves; did you throw them out? I usually wash, snip the ends, stuff with a breadcrumb mixture, and steam standing up in an inch of broth. They're phenomenal!

  6. Mmm brown rice and lentils! I had Amy’s lentils stew (canned) and served it with brown rice and tamari, it was just super delicious and a quick meal to make! I love Johanna and her blog, she’s amazing, too! The rice dish you made reminded me of a Japanese version - it’s like a seasoned rice with bit of protein (i.e, edamame) and furikake. Goodness, I would eat the whole bowl of that Brocc and Guac (love the name btw). Me too, I love roasted and ‘smoky’ broccoli, so good, including the radishes! I’ve had fresh artichokes before and grilled them and drizzled them with cilantro & tahini dressing (on my blog), but I don’t like handling them.

  7. Loving the lentils- I've been going mad for them lately, too. I love to "splurge" and buy beluga lentils for salads and such, but the humble red lentil will always be my workhorse legume when it comes to soups, stews, curries, and beyond. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned Turkish red lentil soup, spiked with a good dose of cumin. Even in the summer, I'll cook up a big pot for later meals and enjoy it chilled.


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