This salad recipe is inspired by the popular festivities held in Lisbon and Porto around this time of the year. In these events, it’s common seeing people gathering on the streets to eat, and you can literally feel the smell of barbecued foods in the air wherever you go – mostly sardines and peppers. I don’t eat sardines (or any fish for that matter), so I came up with a recipe that still conveys the spirit of the festivities, but that is animal-free. I don’t usually brag about recipes I post here on the blog but I have a special place in my heart (and belly) for this one. I made this salad three times since last week and I seem not to get enough of it (as a matter of fact, I also had it for lunch today). To make it more of a complete (nutrionally speaking) meal, you can toss in some grilled tofu or cooked red beans. You could also eat it in a bruschetta, by grilling some bread slices and topping it up with spoonfuls of the salad (I’d leave the potatoes out in that case). I believe you can add flavour to your foods without depending on oil to get it, but it’s crucial to this recipe to use the amount of the said ingredient specified in the directions and not a bit less .The oil and vinegar mixture will coat the vegetables thoroughly, imparting them a beautiful flavour so, make also sure you use a good quality olive oil in here. Olive oil is a key ingredient to many Portuguese-inspired dishes, and this one really is no exception. Enjoy!
Grilled Pepper and Onion Salad with New Potatoes
(serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side)
1 medium sized red pepper, cut into strips
1 medium sized green pepper, cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into rings
10 small new potatoes, skins on (about 300 grams)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the vegetables
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers (optional, but highly recommended)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small handful coriander, coarsely chopped
1. Fill a medium sized pan with water, add the potatoes and about 1 teaspoon of salt, and let it boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to medium and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes. Then, pass them through cold running water. Transfer the potatoes to a cutting board and when they’re cool enough to handle, cut them into halves. Set aside.
2. Brush a grilling pan with olive oil and set it on high heat. When it’s hot, but not smoking, add the peppers’ strips, skin side down, seasoned with a pinch of salt. Grill them for 7 to 10 minutes, or until slightly charred – to get visible grilling marks, I like to press down the peppers’ strips with the back of a spoon against the grilling surface. Grill on the other side for about 5 minutes. Transfer the grilled peppers to a plate and set aside.
3. Add the onion rings (also lightly salted) to the grilling pan and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft and browned.
4. In a medium sized bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and whisk until incorporated.
5. Put all the vegetables (onion, peppers’ strips and boiled potatoes) on a large serving plate. Pour the oil and vinegar mixture over them and toss well. Finally, add the capers (if using), minced garlic and coriander on top. Serve immediately.
I’m so sorry for my absence around here but, lately, and for various reasons, my life has been a bit on the hectic side. Anyway, today I wanted to talk with you about polenta, something I recently found out I’m particularly good at making. There’s this friend of mine – Hi Ana M.! – who had had polenta twice and was quite disappointed at how bland it tasted. For a birthday party we were both invited to, I made thick pan-fried polenta slabs and not only did she enjoy, but also asked me for the recipe. I don’t follow a recipe for this particular dish, and usually add whatever herbs I have on hand and whatever quantity of polenta there’s left on the package but, this time around, in order to write down the recipe for her (and for you as well), I measured the ingredients. Also, on a recent get-together to which I brought polenta fries, everyone at the table realised they go extremely well with guacamole – the creaminess of this avocado-based spread contrast so nicely with the crunchy polenta. You probably don’t need a recipe for guacamole (who does?) but, anyway, I decided to include in the post the way I usually do it.
(makes enough for 4 to 6 people)
for the polenta fries:
2 cups (350 g) polenta (I used an organic brand)
4 cups (1 liter) water
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
for the guacamole:
2 medium-sized avocados (150 g), peeled, cored, and mashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
pinch of salt
red chilli, minced
1. In a pan over medium heat, combine the polenta with water. Add the salt and stir constantly for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it reaches a very thick consistency. At this point, add the herbs and stir once again to incorporate.
2. Spread the polenta in a baking tray of about 25×35 cm. Smooth the top with the help of a spatula. Let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes, and then put it in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, or until chilled.
3. Adjust the oven rack to the upper third position and pre-heat the oven to 250ºC/480ºF.
4. Cut the polenta into thick “fries” (mine were about 2 cm wide).
5. Brush a large baking tray with olive oil. Add the polenta fries and brush each one of them with olive oil as well.
6. Bake the polenta fries in the upper third of the oven, for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Serve with the sauces of your choice. Goes particularly well with guacamole (recipe follows) and tomato-base sauces.
for the guacamole:
1. Add all the ingredients (except the olive oil and the minced red chilli) to the mashed avocados. Drizzle with olive oil and, finally, sprinkle with the minced red chilli and a bit more salt.