Having been born and raised in Sri Lanka, a country abundant in all things green (think of lush verdant forests, tree-canopied foot paths, blue mountains, endless paddy fields… I can go on forever..) it took me a while to get used to the flat, sand-hued landscape of Dubai. I love the green stuff, so much so that when I was a kid I used to imagine myself living in a flower-bed. For someone with this kind of ‘green’ obsession, like me, a visit to the local park is always a treat, especially when there is a bonus thrown in (which you shall soon find out)!
The parks in Dubai are beautiful – little emerald oases where one can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The mercury drops towards November (it used to be as early as August – effects of global warming methinks?) and the temperatures remain a pleasant 18-23 degrees till mid-April. The moment Dubai bids goodbye to the hot desert sun, out come the BBQ grills, the beach towels, the bicycles, the picnic blankets and my most recent finding – farmers’ markets. They sprout all over the city in various places – from parks to hotel gardens to more spectacular spots like the Dubai fountains. From delicious baked goods from artisan bakers to fresh veg and fruit from local farms, these markets have something for everyone and are a foodie’s paradise.
Last weekend I paid a visit to the Foodie Friday Market in Safa park (it’s hosted by Ripe, an organic food store in Dubai). The park itself is one of the most beautiful in Dubai, complete with sprawling lawns, a pine grove and even a duck pond! For those who live here, the market is near Gate No. 5 and is held every Friday from 9 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon.
A mélange of delightful sights, sounds and smells welcome you as you walk towards the market…the aroma of sizzling burgers and pancakes wafts through the air making your mouth water and breezy tunes from a solo guitar dance their way into your ears while little orange, green and white flags flutter overhead.
We spent hours browsing around the stalls sampling delicious titbits – from juicy sausages and crusty bread to freshly squeezed lemonade and gooey brownies.
I also bought this beautiful bunch of organic and locally grown radishes from the Ripe stall (they were so gorgeous that I wrote them a little poem). For lunch that day I made a simple radish salad which tasted amazing and oh-so-fresh! They say food tastes better when you know where it came from and who grew it, well I couldn’t agree more.
Arugula & Radish Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
adapted from Lemon Tart Recipes by Tami Moritz
8-10 radishes, sliced
1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
Arugula, washed, spun and dried (I couldn’t find arugula so used baby lettuce instead )
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
4 pinches coarse salt
Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Crispy fried shallots
Add the lemon zest into a large bowl. Pour olive oil over the top. Leave to sit about 15 minutes or up to 2 hours for the lemon zest to infuse the oil.
Just before serving toss arugula into the oil and zest mixture and toss gently with your hands. Allow each leaf to become coated with the oil. Add more oil if necessary, do not overdress. A coating is all that’s needed. Sprinkle on the lemon juice, gently tossing. Season with salt and pepper. Give another toss and then pick up a leaf and taste. Add more lemon juice if required.
Scatter over the radishes and apple. Using a vegetable peeler shave off curls of Parmesan and scatter liberally over the top of the salad and sprinkle over the crispy fried shallots. Serve at once.