I'm addicted to pistachio nuts. Well, I'm sure I could develop an addiction to any nut really, but pistachios have a special don't-mess-with-me-when-I'm-eating-pistachios place in my heart.
Around 15 years ago when I was just a naive and ignorant young jet setter travelling around Egypt, I was a real wimp when it came to eating street food and didn't dare touch any of it. Luckily I had a bag of pistachio nuts from the Greek island of Aegina with me. For four days I survived on those pistachios. You'd think I'd get more sick from eating only nuts for four days than I would eating Egyptian street food. But these nuts got me through my ridiculous food phobia on that trip and I've loved them ever since.
Pistachio nuts have been cultivated in Aegina for over 150 years and they are like no other pistachio in the world. Because of the combination of a warm climate, rich volcanic soil and close proximity to the sea, they are larger nuts and with a more intense flavour. For this reason the island is now a Protected Designation of Origin and the nuts have been awarded the accolade of being a Protected Origin Product. Pistachio farming provides the island's population with its main source of income, with most of the pistachio trees naturally growing on small family estates.
It's difficult to find good pistachios here in Australia so I don't get the opportunity to use them much in cooking, but our local supermarket was having a special this week for 500g bags so I thought I'd give them another go. They weren't bad (of course I needed to munch down at least 45 of them to come to that conclusion) so I decided to adjust tonight's meal to include these lovely little salty gems.
Originally we were just going to put together a simple tofu Greek salad with some capsicum and a dill dressing, but after a bit of thought we realised a few other alterations were in order to make the salad substantial enough to have as a meal.
Melbourne's weather has been a bit horrendous today. We had some fierce storms, heavy rain and very strong winds... but I still made Tony go outside and fire up the barbecue so we could char-grill some vegetables for the salad. I must sound really mean, but truly, he actually wanted to. He loves any excuse to use his barbecue. It's a man thing, you know how it is.
So, some char-grilled veggies, tofu, rocket, feta and of course the pistachios would make up tonight's delicious salad with a lemon and dill dressing. The peppery rocket went really well with the charred flavour of the vegetables, and needless to say, lemon and dill always infuses well with feta-featured salads.
Tofu Greek Salad with Char-grilled Vegetables, Rocket and Pistachios, and a Lemon Dill Dressing
Serves 2 as a main meal
- 1 eggplant, sliced into 1cm thick strips
- 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1cm thick strips
- Oil for char-grilling
- 200g firm tofu, cut into wedges 1cm thick
- 100g baby rocket (arugula) leaves
- 60g feta cheese, crumbled
- 30g shelled pistachio nuts
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Char-grill eggplant and zucchini strips on a barbecue or ridged griddle. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Fry or char-grill tofu wedges in a little oil and salt. Set aside to cool.
- Arrange rocket leaves in salad bowl, then tofu wedges, char-grilled vegetables, feta and pistachio nuts.
- Combine lemon juice, olive oil and dill and drizzle over salad.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
We loved this salad. It had a great mix of salty, creamy, crunchy and soft which covers all bases as far as I'm concerned!