Heirloom Tomatoes and Sumac – a perfect match

Switching from cooler autumn weather in Munich to Dubai’s still summery temperatures with every day sunshine and a perfect blue sea in the close vicinity, I rediscover my love for light, vitamin rich, raw food.
Arabian flavors are a new favorite of mine – recently I incorporated more and more of the traditional ingredients and tastes into my cooking, thanks to the Jumeirah Munich Culinary Week I was proudly part of.
Try this easy to make salad I am now indulging at home quite often, being a fan of pomegranate since ever, this is really delicious and light. We had a similar dish in Munich served to the guests of Designreisen Deli and journalists alike:

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD with Sumac vinaigrette
2 portions

What to Buy
6 Heirloom tomatoes
2 spring onions (green part)
2 sprigs fresh zaatar
1/2 bunch basil leaves, picked
1/2 pomegranate
1/2 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon agave syrup or acacia honey
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac powder

How to Make It
Wash the tomatoes and cut them into wedges. Pick and wash the aromatic basil and zaathar leaves. Slice the spring onion green into very thin stripes and place them for 5 minutes in ice water. Strain them after they have curled up. Open the pomegranate and release the ruby red kernels. Peel the garlic clove and mash it with the salt using the flat side of a knife. Mix balsamic vinegar, agave syrup, sumac, olive oil and garlic mash to a vinaigrette. Arrange the tomatoes on plates, garnish with the aromatic leaves, spring onions, and pomegranate. Drizzle generously the dressing over the salad, sprinkle some extra sumac over it and enjoy! 

Chef Gabi’s Tip
Sumac is a red powder with a taste resembling of citrus fruits. It is made from the fruits of shrub called rhus and a very popular ingredient in Middle eastern cuisine. It is perfect in salads to add that special fruity fresh note.
Zaatar is a strong aromatic herb from the oregano family. I love to use it fresh in salads and in dishes with potoes and green beans! It supports digestion, has antiseptic properties and provides chlorophyll.

By the way …. In Munich we met Bavarian institution, Chef Alfons Schuhbeck in his famous place “Das Platzl”, where guests can indulge in an extensive speciality tea shop, well stocked spice shop, very special chocolates, home made ice cream (with fancy flavors like lichee pepper pistachio or Wies’n beer – which I gave a try of course – yum), a  relaxed coffee shop and his famous gourmet restaurant and cookery school. I am now even prouder to have had the chance to cook twice next to him at Germany’s well known Friday night cooking show “Lanz kocht” !

More about Edible Weeds

Don’t be surprised I am talking about weeds again. And their culinary potential. It is just due to the fact that their presence is in direct interdependence to my (very regular) absence from my garden.
Luckily I am relaxed about weeds in the garden. Because most of them are not just edible, but a culinary upgrade for my cooking. I am cooking a lot with herbs. And with weeds.  Today I harvested and cooked with chickweed (lat: stellaria media), one of my favorites.
The tiny, light green leaves are hiding between salads, under zucchini plants, between parsley and mint – simply everywhere. In summer they prefer shade to grow their tender leaves. But you can find them already in early spring until autumn. Even in mild winter. In my kitchen they play often a star part for salads, soups, and garnishes. I love them and cut them like cress. They are equally delicate, delicious and so beneficial. They provide Vitamin C, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and kalium. They help to strenghten the heart and the eyes, cleanse the blood and have a cooling effect.

Chickweed has been even in the limelight and photographed last week in our kitchen cum once-in-a-while-temporary photo studio by a professional photographer and dear friend, Klaus Maria Einwanger for his project www.white-plate.com.  We, my mother and I, are very honored to be part of his culinary art project! More about it soon on this blog.
See how our Majlis looked when Klaus and his creative team were at our home in Berchtesgaden:

If you find chickweed in your vegetable patch, come with a scissor and cut the tips carefully to support continuous growth of this lovely herb/weed. You then could try the following recipe, another bavarian staple of my home:

My Bavarian Potato Salad

What to buy
6 medium size salad potatoes
2 eggs
1 white onion
4 table spoons apple cider vinegar
100 ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave syrup or acacia honey
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 good handful chickweed (I often substitute it with either curly parsley, wild dandelion leaves or wild watercress)

How to Make It
Steam the washed potatoes in their skin for around 30 minutes until they are entirely soft inside. Peel the skin off the hot potatoes and allow them to cool just a little bit before you slice them. Boil the eggs for 8 minutes and peel them as well. Cut the eggs to wedges. Dice the onion and braise it in olive oil. Add the oil and the onions while still hot to the potatoes. Bring the vinegar, vegetable stock and honey to a boil, stir in the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Gently mix the potatoes with the hot mustard stock. Check the seasoning again, it could be you need to add a little bit more salt or vinegar. Add the eggs and arrange on plates. Garnish generously with the picked and washed chickweed and serve the salad immediately.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
To make a good potato salad is a science. Not really difficult, but a few things are vital to achieve the best result. First: Use salad potatoes. They are totally different to those used for mashed potatoes for example and most important, they don’t fall apart when mixed with the dressing but absorb the delicious liquid. Second: Use warm potatoes, not chilled ones. And use a hot dressing. So they can absorb flavors much better. Third: The Bavarian potato salad has an oily and a watery part in the dressing. Add the oil first to the potatoes and then the vinegar part. So you get the desired shiny and succulent texture. And last: Serve it at room temperature. There is not much worse than fridge cold potato salad.

Enjoy my Bavarian comfort food and don’t forget to check your garden for edible weeds!

Post-Festive Detox Crunchy Salad

Now is the perfect time to stimulate your system.

Getting rid of all the extra pounds gained through the festive days is a good plan after all!

I am sharing today one very simple but delicious recipe with you for one of my favorite raw foods. It is a crunchy salad, with fresh ingredients that are very easy to get from the region, full of stimulating flavors and vitamins.

What to buy:

Cucumbers: We get beautiful small and crunchy cucumbers here in the UAE. I definitely fell in love with these baby cucumbers, where you can eat everything, even the tiny seeds and the soft skin.  Fresh cucumbers pack a lot of nutrition and provide plenty of “distilled” water and chlorophyll if eaten with their skin. They are an excellent source of the Vitamins A, C, and folic acid. Cucumber provides also silica, which is a trace mineral that contributes to the strength of our connective tissue.
Ginger: The root is one of the only foods which can increase digestive heat without over stimulating.
Chili: Chili’s increase digestive heat and stimulates the stomach secretions.
Lime: Limes contain natural anti-parasitic agents and natural bitters which stimulate liver function. A high content of Vitamin C supports our immune system.
Coriander: All green herbs act as natural carminatives. Coriander improves digestion, helps to eliminate excess water, and can reduce fevers.
Mint: Mint leaves have a cooling effect on the body, strengthen the stomach, defines the skin and is a perfect stimulant.

How to make it: 

Wash all ingredients. Slice 2-3 small cucumbers lengthwise into thin shavings with the help of a good peeler. Peel also a small piece of ginger and grate it finely (perfect with a micro plane grater, available in good kitchen and home stores). Peel one garlic clove and grate it on the same grater. Deseed one (or a half, if you don’t like your food to be hot and spicy) chili and chop it. Grate the skin of 1 lime with the micro plane grater and press the lime juice. Pick a generous amount of equals mint leaves and coriander leaves. Now mix all ingredients gently, add a little bit of salt and a generous splash of olive oil.

Crunchy Cucumber Salad

Chef Gabi’s Tip:

Serve the salad immediately after you have prepared it. The cucumbers don’t stay crunchy if they rest in the dressing, and most vitamins are also not resistant to oxygen. The amount of chili is up to everyone’s taste – start careful with a few slices for the first time.

Another favorite crunchy cucumber dish is “Cucumber, Quinoa & Feta”. We serve it at Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah, and you definitely should try it when you are there!

For a refreshing drink just place some fresh mint leaves, one slice of ginger and lime into your glass of water.