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char-grilled asparagus, courgettes and manouri salad


since getting the new ottolenghi cookery book i regularly sit back, flick through the pages and have fantasies of the beautiful deli-style meals that i will create – mounds of salads, all with exciting and contrasting flavours, beautiful cakes, giant meringues and exquisite pastries.

needless to say, i’ve been doing a bit more reading and imagining than actual cooking! however, i have recently tried another of the recipes in the book – a char-grilled asparagus, courgettes and manouri salad.

the flavours in this were delicious - lots of contrast between fresh green (courgette ribbons, basil oil), slow-roasted and sweet red (tomatoes) and creamy white (fried halloumi). the one thing i didn’t like was the char-grilled asparagus which, instead of tasting slightly smokey just seemed oily. i was glad that i’d decided not to char-grilled the courgettes as well, and next time will just use steamed asparagus.

this dish, if served in small portions, would make a lovely light summery starter and, as such, is my contribution to this month's monthly mingle which is hosted by the lovely mansi of fun and food and has the theme of vegetarian appetisers and hors d'oeuvres.

ottolenghi char-grilled asparagus, courgettes and manouri (serves four to six.)

350g cherry tomatoes, halved

140ml olive oil

coarse sea salt and black pepper

24 asparagus spears

2 courgettes*

200g manouri, sliced 2cm thick**

25g rocket

for the basil oil:

75ml olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

25g basil leaves

a pinch of salt

¼ tsp black pepper

preheat the oven to 170c/325f/ gas mark 3. mix the tomatoes with three tablespoons of oil and season. spread them out, skin-side down, on a baking tray lined with parchment, and roast for 50 minutes, until semi-dried. set aside to cool.

trim the woody bases off the asparagus and blanch in boiling water for four minutes. drain, refresh in cold water until all vestiges of heat have gone, drain, then transfer to a bowl and toss with two tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper.

slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise (a mandolin would be very useful for this job, otherwise use a vegetable peeler) and mix with a tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper.

place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave for a few minutes until very hot. grill the courgettes and asparagus, turning after a minute - you want nice char marks on all sides. remove and leave to cool.

heat the remaining oil in a pan and fry the manouri for three minutes a side, until golden. drain on kitchen paper. (or char-grill the cheese on the griddle for two minutes a side.)

to make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

arrange the rocket, vegetables and cheese in layers on a flat serving plate - build up the salad while showing all the individual components. drizzle with as much basil oil as you like (save the rest for another dish) and serve.

* i used a vegetable peeler to make thin courgette ribbons which i added to the salad raw. this helped lighten the flavours and is, i think, better than chargrilling them.

** i used halloumi as i couldn’t find any manouri. slice it c6mm thick and dust with a little flour seasoned with black pepper, before frying as instructed.

Reader Comments (6)

Abby! I am cross with you! On the basis of this post I am going to have to break my "no new cookbooks until I have cooked at least 2 things from every book I have" rule!

It looks lovely! and to be totally honest I had almost made the decision to buy the book as my boss has been raving about it every morning as he works his way through it. So we can blame him for inciting my book purchase not you!

Have you eaten at Ottolenghi yet? It is on my list to go to soon.

H x

June 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHippolyra
I'm obsessed with this book too. Try the roast chicken with sumac za'tar and lemon recipe, sooo good.
June 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteremma
hippolyra - ddefinitely blame your boss not me! and then cook two things from the ottolenghi book so you are back on track ;)

emma - that chicken recipe is one of the ones i've book-marked!

i'm planning to have supper at ottolenghi in a few weeks - i've only been for brunch/cake so far.

June 9, 2008 | Registered Commenterabby
Good logic abby. In fact i shall blame my boss' wife as she has also been telling me about what they have eatern from the book!
June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHippolyra
if you want a dining companion let me know!

I have also crossed off the prawns with tomatoes, olives and arak - really good and very easy.
June 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteremma
emma - are you still offering your services as a dining companion? my original date has fallen through and i need a new ottolenghi buddy!

hippolyra - what have you made from the book?
June 22, 2008 | Registered Commenterabby

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