Summer is here, which means a return to lighter eating habits as supermarket shelves and farmer’s markets fill up with gorgeous, fresh seasonal produce that warm weather brings. Think crunchy, delicious salads and fresh, mouthwatering fruit and veg just begging to be whipped into tasty, satisfying and (most pleasingly) guilt-free dishes.
Tomato & basil bruschetta
Take advantage of summer’s abundance of fresh tomatoes with this classic Italian appetizer. Raw tomatoes are antioxidants-rich and a fantastic source of niacian (vitamin B3), which can help to lower bad cholesterol, as well as the antioxidant lycopene – which can help to minimise free radical damage associated with a whole host of health issues, from premature ageing to cancer.
The quality of the tomatoes is important though. Try to buy organic and/or from a farmer’s market (supermarket ones tend to be bland or mealie), and only choose ripe, firm, bright red fruit. The tomatoes, garlic and olive oil in this recipe are all key elements of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
8 slices fresh crusty ciabatta
6 fresh, ripe tomatoes
About 10 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
4 garlic cloves (don’t worry – you won’t use them all!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Grill the bread to until golden brown (the effect you’re going for is crunchy and golden on the outside, chewy in the middle).
2. While the bread is grilling, slice the tomatoes in half and then removed the seeds and discard. Cube remaining tomato flesh into small cubes, about 1cm, and place in a bowl with the basil. Stir to combine.
3. Once the bread is toasted, take a clove of garlic and rub it all over the topside of the bread. (You might not need all four cloves.)
4. Top with tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Asparagus & quinoa salad
A rather weird-sounding grain (pronounced keen-wa), quinoa is one of the most nutritious foods on earth. It’s packed with nutrients and antioxidants, and is a complete protein, which means that – like fish, meat and eggs – it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle (minus the fat and cholesterol found in animal protein). It’s also a fabulous source of dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and calcium, plus it’s gluten-free, which makes it easy to digest. Asparagus is packed with vitamin K (important for strong bones and blood clotting) and antioxidants (these little tykes repair damage done by free radicals – which cause ageing and disease – and can help reduce risk of serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer).
3/4 cup quinoa
5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
300g asparagus, rinsed, tough ends chopped off
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup each fresh mint and coriander, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, finely chopped
Toasted almond flakes
1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions (usually, much the same way you would cook rice).
2. Using vegetable peeler, peel lengthwise strips from asparagus, beginning at bottom end. Once you can’t peel any more slices from a stalk, break off the thick end (reserving it for another use, such as soup) and add the remaining thin strip to the bowl. Add the spring onions.
3. Whisk together the lemon juice, honey and salt (to taste) until smooth. Add oil in a steady stream, whisking until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.
4. Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl and toss with the herbs and 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss asparagus and spring onions with remaining vinaigrette, and season to taste.
5. Top quinoa with a tangle of asparagus and spring onions. Pour over any remaining dressing, sprinkle with almond flakes and serve.
Images: Liv friis-larsen/Shutterstock.com