Athena Panini

I had to think of a fancy name for my absolute favorite sandwich of the moment. It’s essentially a Medittaranean sandwich, made with creamy goat cheese and marinated veggies.

I recently invested in a great little panini griddle, and I use it all the time because my daughter is obsessed with grilled sandwiches. But, I wanted to create a healthy vegetarian panini, which isn’t always easy because you obviously don’t want to fill a warm sandwich with lettuce or cucumber. However, marinated veggies are perfect in a panini.

I used a really creamy goat cheese (I only eat goat and sheep cheeses because they are easier to digest,) and I used marinated red bell peppers and marinated artichokes. I sometimes add pitted and halved black olives, too.

They key is really good bread. For this sandwich, I used an amazing Olive Sourdough loaf. I also slather the outside of the bread (the side that comes into contact with the griddle,) with olive oil.

I served my sandwich with a lightly dressed spinach salad.

 

Roasted Beet, Orange, & Hazelnut salad

I have bunches of beets! I can’t seem to stop buying them, and they always come in my farm box. I wanted to have a go at making the ultimate Seasonal Salad – one that is hearty, and that combines different tastes and textures. I was really happy with the result, as I managed to get in two flavors I love: hazelnut and cumin – they pair beautifully together. The only thing I really dislike about working with beets is the red dye that gets on everything. Be sure to pull on your rubber gloves before peeling and cutting your beets!

Roasted Beet, orange, & hazelnut salad

4 or 5 medium beets (this is normally what makes up a regular bunch.)

2 medium oranges

1tbsp red wine vinegar

1tsp honey

3tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed

1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted in a hot oven for 10 minutes

1 cup feta or crumbly goat cheese

1 ripe avocado

Serves 2

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Peel the beets and cut into bite-size wedges. Place them in a roasting tin.

Take one of the oranges and grate the zest into a small bowl. Squeeze the juice into another small bowl.

Whisk the vinegar, honey and olive oil together in a jug and season with sea salt and pepper. Divide this dressing between two bowls. Whisk the mustard into one of the bowls and set aside. Whisk the cumin, orange zest and half of the orange juice into the other bowl of dressing and then pour over the beets. Make sure each wedge is well-coated.

Lightly cover the roasting tin with foil, before placing in the oven for 50 minutes.

Remove when down and leave to cool (you can do all this the day before if you want.)

Peel the orange and cut away all the pitch. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the segments away from the dividing membranes.

Slice the avocado

When you are ready to assemble, carefully place the beets in a large bowl and add the orange segments. Top with the avocado, goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts. Drizzle over the mustard dressing, taking care not to toss or mix the salad, as you don’t want everything to turn pink.

 

ROASTED BEET & WATERCRESS SALAD

In my local Sunday Farmer’s Market there is a wonderful stall, Underwood Family Farms, that almost always (especially this time of year,) have a huge selection of beets. I go through phases with beets – sometimes I get really gung-ho and buy the magenta ones to grate onto salads and juice: sometimes I’ll buy the little golden ones to roast for a simple salad, but this week I spotted some giant pale pink ones. They looked like giant radishes, but Peggy (lovely farmer who is there every Sunday,) explained that they were candy-striped beats. I knew that they’d probably look pretty when cut open, so grabbed a bunch intending to put together a salad to beat all salads.

As far as I’m concerned a marriage-made-in-culinary-heaven is roasted beets and soft goat cheese or feta. What I love most about the salad is that aside from it’s exquisite complimentary tastes and textures, its also insanely healthy: walnuts, beets, sprouts and watercress are all in my top 10 healthiest foods category – so what a joy to be able to mingle them together into this perfect salad.

Make sure you buy enough of each ingredient so you can make this salad twice. I ate it 3 days-running for lunch this week.

 

Roasted Beet & Watercress Salad.

3 large beets (can be any color but the candy-striped makes it look spectacular)

I package of watercress

2-ounces of goat cheese that can crumble or feta

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup of sprouts (clover, alfalfa or broccoli is fine)

Dressing:

1/2 cup good cold-pressed olive oil

1tbsp apple cider vinegar

1tsp honey

1tsp dijon mustard

sea salt & pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Roughly oil the skins of the beets with any old vegetable oil and place the beets on a baking sheet covered with foil for about an hour or until a knife easily slips into the beet.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely. I roasted my beets on Sunday and when they were cool, wrapped them up in the foil I’d cooked them in and put them in the fridge until the next day.

When you are ready to assemble the salad:

Take the beets out and slip off their skins – they should come off really easily. Slice the beets into 1/4″ slices.

Arrange a bed of watercress on a pretty plate and lay the beet slices overlapping each other on top.

Crumble the cheese and sprinkle the walnuts over the salad. Finally add the sprouts and dress.

 

PEACH, PROSCIUTTO & MINT SALAD

It’s so hot around here. I’m fighting off the urge to click on the A/C, but being the green girl that I aspire too – I’m bound and determined to keep it off! I’m also looking at thisĀ  bowl of peaches, (that came in my farm box delivery,) and trying to figure out what to do with them beyond the obvious, which would be a cobbler. I do love a cobbler, but in this heat it’s a no-no. Hmmm – it’s got to be a salad of sorts, and since I have a bag of arugula, it’s got to be a heavenly peach & prosciutto salad with mint, creamy goat cheese and yummy crutons.

I like as many different flavors and textures in a salad as possible. This is the perfect balance of juicy sweet (the peaches,) salty (the prosciutto,) soft (the goat cheese,) and crunchy (the croutons.) It’s also dead easy to throw together in a couple of minutes. It’s perfect for a light Summer lunch or a dinner party appetizer.

The peaches need to be ripe, but not too ripe – so pick the ones that are just soft-to-the-touch. I used wild arugula because the leaves are more delicate and I also threw some micro-greens on top. Please don’t think I’ve gone all fancy and pretentious on you what with the micro-green thing – I simply picked both the wild arugula and the greens up from a Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a T.J’s near you – you won’t die with regular arugula and no micro-greens! You can also substitute baby spinach leaves for the arugula, but you obviously won’t get that lovely peppery taste, which works so well with this salad.

If you’re vegetarian, this salad won’t be a disaster without the prosciutto – maybe toss some salty almonds on top, so you get the salt with the sweet.

As far as the cheese is concerned, your best bet is to find a real goat cheese that crumbles. Most grocery stores now carry goat cheese “crumbles,” which aren’t as good as when you self-crumble, however, it obviously makes life easier. You could also use feta crumbles.

The one thing you can’t live without is mint. If you’re not already growing it, I urge you to do so as it’s so easy to grow a big planter of it – even on a balcony or tiny patio. It’s wonderful chopped into virtually any salad and takes a simple sparkling water to the next level. Just to be really fancy, I have a regular mint and a chocolate mint in my yard.

The only fiddly part of this recipe is that you really need to peel the peaches – but it’s a small price to pay for a mouthful of heaven.

Peach, Prosciutto & Mint Salad
Serves 2

2 slices of Sourdough bread, cut into mini cubes
1 large peach
4 slices of prosciutto (very thinly slices)
1/2 cup goat cheese or goat cheese crumbles
A couple of sprigs of fresh mint
A handful of micro-greens (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (says she trying to save energy!!)

Coat the Sourdough cubes in some olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until crispy and brown. Transfer them to a paper towel and set aside.

Place your peach in a large measuring jug and cover with boiling water. Leave for 1 minute and then remove and run under cold water. Peel the peach as best you can and if some bits of skin just won’t peel off easily, slice it off with a sharp knife. Cut the peach into 8 segments.

The Dressing:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2tsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp raw honey
1 peach segment
3 mint leaves
Sea salt & pepper to taste.

Simply whizz up the above ingredients in a blender. This is where I could not live without my Magic Bullet Blender. It sits on my counter and gets used gazillions of times a day.

Spread out the arugula leaves on a large plate and add arrange the peaches and cheese. Gently roll the prosciutto slices and place one roll by each peach segment. Add the croutons, and micro-greens. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and top each salad with a sprig of fresh mint.