For whatever reason, I always view the coming of autumn as a time of renewal and positive change. It may seem odd, but the churning of the earth as the last blooms sprout forth, when the air can no longer be warmed and thickened by the sun, marks the beginning of a season that I have always believed was built for contemplation and self-reflection. Or, as my friends sometimes call it, my hibernation period.
After a truly magical summer in France, it’s time to hit the refresh button and get my body back on track after months of French wine, daily croissants, and little exercise (before you judge me, no one really exercises in Paris and hey, I wanted to have a local experience!).
Ironically, considering my love for food, I have a very sensitive stomach and if I am not careful, I will be plagued by daily stomach aches. When this starts to become a pattern, I know it’s time for the Clean Gut Cleanse by Dr. Junger.
I’m not a dieter. Not because I am completely happy with my body (is anyone?) but because I love food in all its iterations and I believe that anything can be enjoyed, in moderation. The goal is to alleviate digestive pain and to identify things, such as gluten, that you are sensitive too. Basically, the plan is to eliminate sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten and diary from your diet before carefully reintroducing each potential irritant to see how you react. I highly suggest buying his book The Clean Gut Diet, if you have stomach problems and want to work towards a solution but it is also achievable by yourself if you have an iron will (which I do not).
This Indonesian Gado Gado salad with peanut sauce was my first step on my month long refresh (without any baked goods… wish me luck!). It is a chock-a-block salad brought together by Ottolenghi’s complicated but delicious peanut sauce from the Plenty Cookbook. You can really use any vegetables you have on hand which makes it a perfect vessel for leftovers, but the inclusion of sprouts and cabbage make for a great textural contrast. The recipe makes a huge amount of salad that should be able to last you all week. Even if you aren’t on a diet or worrying about your stomach, this salad is an absolutely delicious meal.
For the peanut sauce, if you don’t have pomegranate molasses and you can find tamarind paste then use that, or, as both can be hard finds, substitute 1 part brown sugar to 1 part lime juice.
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
- 2 one inch pieces of peeled fresh ginger
- 4 medium shallots, peeled
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1½ cups roasted unsalted peanuts
- 1¾ cups water
- 1½ cup coconut milk
- 1 large yam (or sweet potato), chopped
- 1½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ medium purple cabbage, shredded or chopped
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1 cup green beans, trimmed
- ½ medium cucumber, diced
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- 3 teaspoons garlic, chopped
- 8 oz (approx. 2 cups) firm tofu, diced
- 3 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3 cups loosely packed lettuce
- 1 avocado, peeled and chopped
- 4 eggs, poached
- In a food processor (or blender) blitz the garlic, lemongrass, sambal oelek, ginger and shallots. If the paste isn't coming together, add a drizzle of olive oil.
- Transfer to a saucepan over medium heat with the rest of the olive oil and cook, stirring constantly, over gentle heat for 45 minutes until the oil separates from the paste. Add the salt, honey and paprika to the mixture before adding the pomegranate molasses. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, roughly crush the peanuts in a food processor (or by hand using a mallet or the flat of a large knife to crush the peanuts in a plastic bag). Put the peanuts and the water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 25 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the mixture is thick. Add this to the spice paste and stir in the coconut milk. Keep the peanut sauce warm.
- For the tofu; heat the 1½ tablespoons in a pan over low heat before adding the garlic. Cook until golden brown and add the diced tofu. When the tofu has a golden crust, add the soy sauce and pepper. Toss until evenly coated and cook for another minute before removing from heat.
- Boil to pots of water. In one, add the turmeric, cinnamon, and the chopped yam. Cook until the yam is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and drain.
- In the other pot, first blanch the purple cabbage for 1 minutes, followed by the bean sprouts for 30 seconds and finally, the green beans for 4 minutes. Keep the vegetables warm.
- Assemble the lettuce, vegetables and tofu, either layering or stacking, on a large serving platter. Add the poached eggs and drizzle the entire salad with the peanut sauce. If there is sauce left over, it will refrigerate for up to a week.