Summer has well and truly plonked its big, fat, stinkin' hot bum smack bang in the middle of Queensland. It's only November you say? Summer can't be here yet you say? Don't get me wrong, I prefer the heat over the cold, but goodness, when you stand in the open hoping a gentle cooling breeze will waft over you, and you get a suffocating warm wind instead, I feel like I've been duped!
Nevertheless, summer does bring great tans, amazing moods, and the opportunity to not think too hard about what to wear, because no one is going to judge you when you wear next to nothing in 35 degree weather! Another great thing is salads. SO obsessed with salads during summer. It's like the perfect accompaniment to summer I think.
Often during summer, I don't feel like having any kind of heavy meal (let alone cooking it in a hot kitchen...) and all I want to do after a hard day at work is to sink into the couch and snack on something cold and refreshing while perusing TV or a trashy magazine (don't judge, I know you do it too!). Sadly that scenario has been left far behind in my single hey days, and nowadays, I have to be the good role-model and have dinner at the dining table. But, but, but! That doesn't mean I have to forget about my beloved salads. This is where this Thai influenced pineapple salad enters.
When most people think of salads, it usually is a bunch of veges tossed together. With my upbringing though, there is definitely a strong Asian influence throughout my salads. This usually includes fruits of some sort, and a fantastic way to add sweetness to an otherwise boring salad. I love summer and the fruits they bring, and you'll find that fruits such as pineapple, mango, papaya, lychees will feature in many of the salads I create.
Originally I was going to make a green papaya salad, but then laziness struck, and I couldn't be bothered to go all the way to Inala in the middle of the week (in my defence, I was going to go there on Saturday!). So, what do we do in these situations? We look around and see what we can you instead. Enter stage left, this pineapple. So instead of papaya, I substituted the pineapple. I am the first to admit that this certainly is not a traditional recipe by any means, but hey, if it tastes good at the end, it's a win! And I guarantee to you that despite this recipe initially being a 'put everything in and hope for the best' deal, it has turned out to be a real winner.
Half a pineapple, cut in bite size chunks
1/2 cup of roasted peanuts
4 strings of long beans, sliced into 3 or 4cm long
3 stalks of coriander, finely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, finely sliced
1 shallot, finely sliced
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (use fresh lemons or lime, however you can also buy those in a bottle these days if you don't have any fresh ones available)
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of palm sugar
3 birds eye chillies (now this depends on your level of spicyness.. 3 is hot.. you can try with just 1 and test if you can take the level.. before putting in the 2nd)
5 cherry tomatoes, halves
In a pan, toast the peanuts until they are brown. Often I find the pre-roasted store peanuts aren't toasted enough and ergo, not enough oomph to the taste for me. So I toast them a little further to release the peanuttiness (is that a word? No, but it is now). You can choose to omit this step, but honestly, it's worth the extra time to do so.
Set aside to cool when done. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the peanuts to chunks. I prefer my nuts a little rough around the edges, but you can crush to the size you prefer.
Using a mortar and pestle, give the lemongrass, shallots and chilli a good pound. Mix in with lemon juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. When done, remove everything from the mortar and set aside. With the remnants of the dressing, put your beans into the mortar and pound together. You don't want to create a mush, just enough so that the beans can take on the flavour left behind in the mortar. If your mortar is bigger than mine, you can do it all in one lot, otherwise do in batches.
Combine the dressing and beans with the cherry tomatoes and coriander. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes as it tastes best chilled, however if you prefer at room temperature you can omit chilling.
Just before serving, add the pineapples to the chilled salad mixture. Give it a good toss. Sprinkle the roasted peanuts on top.
Serve with a side of summer, and perhaps a pina colada (I won't tell!). I hope every is enjoying their summer days!