A Summer Dress(ing)…

Hello and welcome to 2012! So, what are we? …16 days in?
A new year, a new start, a new outlook…blah, blah, blah. Nothing we haven’t seen before. After all it happens every 365 days. Just like your birthday! The only change happens with us. Looking back at 2011, I find it hard to grasp how much I learnt about myself. About my world, THE world and where/how I fit into it. I met the most amazing and inspiring people along the way and feel so lucky to have been able to share some of their stories. The learning is not over though and 2012 is merely a treasure box just waiting to be unearthed, filled with wonderful new experiences and challenges.

For some, it’s the anticipation of a wedding, or the arrival of a first child (I can’t keep up with the number of friends I have who are pregnant! Eish). For others, it’s simply moving to another city or starting a new job. With all the chaos that comes along with it all, we sometimes lose track of “now” and just being in the moment. As one of my yoga instructors last year explained (and I totally understand what she means because it happens to me a lot), is that our brain likes to play tricks on us by thinking too far ahead into the future or forever holding onto the past. But the present is all that we have, this moment that you’ve been given right now. The future is not real. It’s in our imagination. Of course we can dream but be present, be now and live for today!

…Good. Now that that’s out the way, can we please talk about food?!

What is January without a little kicks-tart of healthy eating? Thankfully down here in the Southern hemisphere we find ourselves smack bang in the dreaded heat of summer which makes it the perfect time to fill up on light, refreshing foods that are packed with flavour but low in calories. There’s nothing like biting into a big chunk of juicy pink watermelon or inhaling the sweet tropical fragrance of a mango.

Salads are one of my favourite things to eat during summer…actually, make that all year round! I love playing with texture and colour and enjoy anything with a good “crunch” like chopped up Israeli cucumber, water chestnuts or some toasted nuts and croutons. But what is a salad without a dressing? Call me boring but I’m a total sucker for a simple Balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette, although sometimes I allow myself to be swayed by something a little more interesting.

I developed this dressing last year and literally made it almost every second day because I just couldn’t get enough of it! You could see it as a sort of mixture of hummus (which I love), pesto and vinaigrette all whipped up into one. Sounds a bit odd, I know…but keep reading. You’ll thank me later!

I know I said this was a dressing but you could actually adjust the consistency somewhat by reducing the amount of liquid and use it on sandwiches, grilled chicken or fish, as a dip for chips, or even as a topping on a warm baked potato! There are no limitations on this one so go wild and try it on/with whatever your heart desires! Aaaand, it contains all the healthy high-protein goodness that your body needs 🙂

What you’ll Need
1x can chickpeas, drained
100g raw almonds
½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp garlic, creamed
¾ tsp cumin
11/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
150g coriander (or whatever herb you like)

What to do
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
Adjust consistency and seasoning to your liking.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Lasts 3- 5 days


Socca

I have just finished reading a novel by Nicky Pellegrino called Delicious.

The book is set (mainly) in a small region of Italy quite close to the town of Naples. You would be right in guessing, from the title, that this book focuses heavily on food. Italian food!

It is a compelling story of how a young girl from a poor family, runs away from home in search of a better life, only to be confronted with many challenges and decisions that inevitably steer her future in an unexpected and uncertain direction.

Family bonds (and lack thereof) play a major theme throughout the novel but one thing that remains constant and ultimately brings all the characters together in the end, is food.

“I have some of today’s fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and some home-baked bread.”

“tender young broad beans with warm goat’s cheese”

“they also plucked shiny red peppers from the vines and fried them in olive oil with a little onion, then simmered them in tomatoes.”

I love reading these kinds of books because it inspires me to cook “minimally” – in other words, simple recipes, with few ingredients, that, when ‘thrown’ together- produce nothing but pure mouth-watering magic.

It was to my excitement then, the other day, that I discovered ‘socca’. And although this appetising morsel is not native to Italy (although I’m more than sure it’s eaten in some regions!), it comes from Nice in the south of France.

Simply put, socca is an unleavened sort of pancake or flatbread that is eaten as street food, and as any well-travelled person will know, this is the type of cuisine you want to try if you hope to truly experience the culture of a new and exotic place.

Socca is traditionally cooked in a wood-fire oven and comes out hot and crispy. With just a shy sprinkle of salt and some pepper- the bread is then savoured with a glass of rose’  in the blazing European heat.

I don’t know about you but I can totally imagine myself enjoying this while wandering the busy streets of Nice, after a day of lolling in the waves and browning my body on a French beach. Sigh…

Now what makes the socca so delicious, I think, is that it’s made using chickpea flour which gives it a real nutty rich flavour. (This also makes it gluten-free) and although the classic recipe only includes the flour, some salt, water and olive oil- one can really jazz it up to one’s liking. I added a touch of cumin to mine but really, you could even make a  sweet ‘breakfast’ socca  by adding some sugar and perhaps some cinnamon.  The options are endless!

For now though- here is the recipe for the socca I made today. Trust me, this is one snack that I will be making again…and again. Simple, quick and completely Delicious!

Directions:

Combine water and olive oil and add to chickpea flour. Add salt. Whisk batter ensuring there are no lumps . It should be the consistency of thick cream. Allow to stand for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 250 deg C. To cook socca, heat a cast iron frying pan and pour enough batter to cover the surface of the pan. Once socca starts to bubble,  place in the oven until crisp and nicely browned. Cut into shards and sprinkle over some salt and pepper.

xxx