Sunday, May 27, 2007

A salad to see in spring (even if it's actually wet and gloomy outside)

Before I start I need to apologise for my long, long absence. Some of you that know me away from this blog will know that I have had a rather difficult start to the year and needed some time to withdraw into my shell. I'll save you all from the miserable details but needless to say, for once in my life, solace wasn't found in the kitchen. In fact I stayed further away than I ever have. However in the last few weeks I have slowly tiptoed back in the kitchen making an omelette here, raspberry fool there and finally going the whole hog. Or rather whole leg of lamb for a dinner for eight. And I loved it. The next day I passed hours catching up on food mags and cookbooks that had collected a light layer of dust. But I'm nearly back to my old self and it feels good. It's where I want to be. So sorry to those of you missing your fill of Xochitlcooks. But I'm back and I plan to make up for lost time. On that note...

Oh yes another wet, grey Bank Holiday weekend. I shouldn't have expected anything other than that but after a few days of London sunshine and a sunny, hot, long weekend in Italy my blood was warmed and ready for summer. I had to settle for a salad to remind me of clear skies instead. I can't complain though since it was lovely and fresh and took a whole 10 minutes to make. Sometimes I think I can trick myself into believing the weather is nicer by wearing shorts and a vest in the house while eating summer fare. Occasionally it works, try it. I highly recommend having a BBQ in February- sure one unlikely sod has to bundle up in his normal winter clothes but the rest of you can make believe it's summer when you tuck into burgers fresh from the grill.

Anyway, enjoy the salad.

Broad Bean, Mozzarella and Rocket Salad

Serves 1 (but add more to feed a crew)

Broad beans, 1-2 handfuls*
Rocket, 1-2 handfuls
Fresh bocconcino (small ball size) mozzarella, 3 , quartered
Olives (black or green), a few to garnish
Fresh mint, small handful of leaves cut into ribbons
Prosciutto, 3 slices
Olive oil

Place the slices of prosciutto on a piece of foil on a baking tray under the oven grill until crisp on both sides which should take about five minutes.

While the prosciutto is cooking, get the salad ready.

On a plate, place the rocket, broad beans and mozzarella. Sprinkle the mint on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Add the olives and prosciutto.


*A note on broad beans-
Ever since The Boy had these in the mac and cheese at Fog City Diner in San Francisco, these have become a favourite veg in our house. One reason I like them is that I like the idea of working for my supper. Their pods that you have to break into to free them from their furry little cocoons. The key to broad beans is to remove the outer layer of the bean. The milky green outer layer makes the bean taste a little tough. Remove it and you get the best bit.

The easiest way to peel off the outer layer is to blanch them for one minute in boiling water. Rinse them under cold water and when cool enough to handle, sit in front of the TV and peel away (using your nails or a paring knife to cut through the layer if they don't pop out). I give them one last rinse once peeled to wash off and residue. Eat cold in a salad, toss into a pasta, add to a frittata.