Spicy Eggplant

I wasn’t sure what to call this dish. It’s based on a recipe called “Spicy Eggplant Relish” but I’m not entirely sure mine was very relish-like. I could see it topping off a rice dish, or dipping some pita in it, for sure. But me? I just went straight at it with a fork. And later over a more ladylike bed of greens, with an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Do what you want with it. Call it what you want, even. It doesn’t matter when we’re dealing with soft, velvety eggplant, addicting peppery heat and sweet fresh herbs and tomatoes, right? Right.

I snagged a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook at our local used book store and was instantly charmed by it. Mollie Katzen’s handwritten and hand-illustrated pages, along with her nurturing and laid back writing style, make it feel like the book was made just for me. First published in 1978, the Moosewood Cookbook is based on recipes from the kitchen of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York.

The restaurant was started by a collective of friends in a converted school gym. With an emphasis on vegetarian cuisine and seasonal produce, The Moosewood created many diverse and inventive vegetable-based dishes that were ahead of their time. (With the exception of the dated overuse of cottage cheese. But we’re totally cool with overlooking that.)

With the overwhelming amount of new cookbooks on my to-buy list, it’s refreshing to go back to something a bit old school. The recipes give numerous suggestions for additions and alterations that open each recipe up to personal interpretation. Thus, we end up with some kind of salad-relish hybrid that is just groovy with me.

Spicy Eggplant Relish/Salad
adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook (serves 4 as a side)

– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 1 large eggplant, chopped into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces
– 1 small red onion, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 small-medium green pepper/capsicum
– 1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
– 1/3 cup mixture of fresh chopped parsley and basil
– 10 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
– salt & pepper

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over a medium high beat. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil and the eggplant. Cook for 5 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir well.

Add a tablespoon of water, reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan to cook for another 10 minutes. After this your eggplant should be soft (cook covered for a few more minutes if not.) Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan heat your last tablespoon of olive oil and cook green pepper/capsicum over a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, until slightly tender. Add to the eggplant mixture and allow to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.

Once cooled add diced tomatoes, half of the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste, mix well. Top with the remaining herbs. Serve chilled or at room temperature in a pita, over salad greens, on crackers, etc.

Raw Silverbeet Salad, inspired by City Bakery

I worked at City Bakery in New York for a brief stint. They’re known for their hot chocolate (they allocate a different type of hot chocolate to each day of February! Insane!), handmade marshmallows, divinely buttery cookies and the invention of the pretzel croissant (oh dear lord, the pretzel croissant is perfection.)

I gained a few L.B.s that autumn. No big deal.

Oddly enough, my favorite part of working there was their lunch buffet, which we were given full access to on our breaks. Chef Ilene Rosen is responsible for this impressive savory spread that never failed to beautifully highlight seasonal vegetables. A mainstay of her salad bar is the raw kale salad. People love this dish. Rave about it. How does she make kale taste SO good?

I know that I have a strong affinity for all edible plants, but if ever a vegetable dish could be likened to crack – this would be it.

It’s so simple, but so perfect. Salty aged cheese with the fragrant crunch of hazelnuts, the sweetness and bite of a little red onion amidst a bed of dark emerald ribbons of kale.

Very romantic right?

I felt that a home made version was in order this week. Unfortunately, I cannot find kale in Sydney so I used silverbeet – that’s Swiss chard to my fellow Americans. I love kale, but this works just as well here. And truth be told, I think the good quality cheese and olive oil play a big roll in the crack-ishness of the dish.

Another thing I love about this salad is that it can be dressed hours before serving it. Because the silverbeet and kale leaves are much stronger than spinach or lettuce, they take on the olive oil gracefully – like they’re being marinated. You can of course eat it right away too – but I think it gets a little better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Raw Silverbeet Salad, City Bakery Style
(Serves 4 as a side)

– 6 cups-ish of silverbeet (or kale) leaves, center stems cut out and finely shredded*
– 1 small red onion or shallot, very thinly sliced
– 2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts
– 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 teaspoons white vinegar
– 1/4 cup good quality Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, finely grated.
– salt&pepper
– pinch of red chilli flakes (optional)

Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet on a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until golden and fragrant. Set aside.

Put silverbeet and sliced onion in a large mixing bowl, pour olive oil in and mix well (this coats the leaves so the cheese can stick to them). Add vinegar, chilli flakes, a little bit of salt* and a healthy grinding of black pepper. Toss again.

Add cheese in batches and toss, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Finally, add hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Serve within a few hours.

While the salad is perfect on its own, it also welcomes many different additions.
Some options:
– Toasted sesame seeds
– Granny Smith apple
– Red pepper, thinly sliced
– Avocado
– White beans

I would really recommend spending an extra minute making sure your silverbeet leaves are very finely shredded. Because the leaves are on the tougher side, the texture of the salad is much more enjoyable with thin ribbons of the bubbly leaves.

Only add a little salt, if any, of your own. The cheese will bring the saltiness.

Chocolate Pudding Parfaits

When Death by Chocolate was declared the January theme for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, I couldn’t help but be enthusiastic. Chocolate is almost as good as having a blank canvas – it’s full of possibilities and potential.

My first instinct was to bake. But I had to be real and think about what I really wanted to make and eat on a warm Sydney night. Ice cream crossed my mind, but then I got all sentimental.

There are some things that you don’t realize you’ll miss until you don’t have them anymore. I’ll spare you a relevant song quote, but it’s true. I never would have thought I would miss the New York subway system or the Avenue A Key Foods, but there you are.

And then, there are some things that you anticipate missing. You know at some point in the future you won’t have this thing at your fingertips and you’ll be bummed out about it. Usually when this thought of missing something in the future crosses your mind, you are presently enjoying that very thing, minimizing the impact of the feeling.

Let me illustrate this rambling session with some examples of things from America that I have anticipated missing, that have now become well and truly missed:
– My friends
– My family
– Our E4th Street apartment
– Fresh-caught fish from my Dad
– Franks Red Hot Sauce
– Trader Joe’s
– Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
– Fudgesicles
– Whole Foods
– Tapeo 29, favorite date-night and boozy brunch spot
Jello pudding cups

I’ve always known the pudding would be an issue. The lack of chocolate pudding (or puddin’, if you prefer) in my life lately does not go unnoticed. This recipe (from fellow blog-hopper and former New Yorker, JJ at 84th & 3rd) is perfect. It’s simple, has a much better ingredient list than the Jello brand, and best of all: it tastes and feels just like the pudding I miss a little bit.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that pudding actually means something else entirely in Australian dessert language – I don’t want to talk about it. Not now. Now, we eat chocolate pudding, raspberry and hazelnut parfaits!

P.s. Thank you for kindly ignoring the fact that there are two different types of hot sauce on that condensed list. I have a problem.

Chocolate Pudding
Serves 4 (recipe adapted slightly from 84th & 3rd)
– 1/3 cup of cocoa powder
– 1/4 cup of sugar
– pinch sea salt
– 2 cups of milk, divided
– 2 tablespoons brewed espresso
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 Tbsp cornflour
Parfait layers (optional)
– Crushed cookie
– Chopped hazelnuts
– Frozen raspberries
– Toasted coconut

Place sugar, cocoa and salt into a medium saucepan and whisk together.

Whisk in 1/4 cup of the milk into the dry ingredients until smooth. Add another 1 1/2 cups of milk and the espresso, whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, then reduce immediately to a simmer.

Stir corn flour and vanilla into remaining 1/4 cup of milk until smooth, pour into simmering chocolate mixture and whisk gently for 4 1/2 minutes. Pudding will thicken further as it cools.

Pour hot pudding into a medium heat proof bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Once cooled, make it a parfait by placing cookie, hazelnuts, toasted coconut and raspberries in the bottom of your serving cup and spooning the pudding over it. Create as many layers as you’d like or simply top off your glass with more of the same elements.

Other ideas for parfait layers:
– Sliced banana
– Whipped cream
– Ice cream
– Peanut Butter
– Chopped peppermint patties
– Granola
– Dried cherries
– Brownies

For more chocolatey goodness, head over to the Sweet Adventures Death by Chocolate Blog Hop page at the Hungry Australian.

Crunchy, Savory and Sweet Spinach Salad

Truth: I eat a lot of salads.
Falsehood: All salads are delicious.
Truth: Honey mustard is a wonderful invention.
Falsehood: I eat salads just because they’re good for me.
Truth: Salads can be downright awesome with the perfect combination of textures, sweetness and salt.
Falsehood: Crispy apples, crunchy toasted walnuts, mellow chickpeas and caramelized shallots drizzled with honey mustard just don’t work together. (SO FALSE.)
Truth: I love tawdry historical fiction dramas with a strong female protagonist. …which is totally besides the point, I’m sorry. (Not sorry.)

I also love everything about this salad – the combination of the apple, raisins and honey mustard almost make it a dessert, while the spinach, walnuts and chickpeas bring it back to lunchtime. And the caramelized shallots – they’re just there for a dash of sex appeal.

The Ultimate Spinach Salad
(makes 2 meal-sized servings)

– A few large handfuls of spinach (Baby spinach works well. I had English spinach so I cut the leaves into small ribbons.)
– 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, rinsed well
– 1 apple, sliced thin (I used a gala apple)
– 2 tablespoons of raisins
– 2 tablespoons of toasted walnuts
– 1 shallot, sliced thin
– 2-3 tablespoons of honey mustard dressing (see below)
– salt&pepper, to taste

To toast walnuts: place nuts in a dry skillet over a medium heat, tossing occasionally until slightly browned and fragrant (3-5 minutes).

To caramelize shallots: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat. Add the shallot slices and a dash off salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. They should become dark brown in color without burning.

Place all your ingredients (besides the dressing) in a large bow. Add the dressing slowly, tossing as you go. Serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Dressing
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– 2 teaspoons of mustard (I used 1 teaspoon of wholegrain and 1 teaspoon of Dijon)
– 1 tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

Place ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake well.

Thai Red Curry Mussels

I totally wanted to be amazing and make my own curry paste for you. I really did. But it was a Sunday. What should have been a lazy day. But we spent this particular afternoon scurrying to the fish market, to the regular market and to celebratory engagement (!!) drinks for friends.

In order to restore the laziness balance of my weekend, I used some store-bought curry paste.

So yeah, I cheated and I kind of don’t regret it at all.


Mussels are one of my favorite meals. Eating them is an event – a snacktivity!

Sure, looking at the little mollusks at the seafood shop, they can seem a little intimidating. But they’re really friendly and totally laid back. I promise.

The truth is,ย  I made a deliciously spicy pot of mussels with a velvety coconut sauce. And it was super easy.

Do you want to do this? (And cheat a little bit?) Let’s do it.


Thai Red Curry Mussels
– 1 kg of mussels, scrubbed and debearded
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
– 2-3 tablespoons red curry paste (depending on how much spice you like)
– 1 small red pepper/capsicum, diced
– 1 small green pepper/capsicum, diced
– 1 carrot, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
– 1 cup of coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
– 1/2 – 3/4 cup of vegetable broth

In a large pot with a lid, heat olive oil over a medium high heat. Cook onions for 2 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for 3 more minutes until garlic and ginger are fragrant and the onions are soft. Add the curry paste and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently and adding a little water if the pan is dry.

Add diced capsicum and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Pour in coconut milk and vegetable broth. (Use however much vegetable broth you’d like here. I used about 3/4 of a cup – it was just enough to make it soup-like, without making it too thin.) Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover – cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add mussels and cover again. After about 3-4 minutes, give the mussels a stir – some should be beginning to open. Cover again and cook for another 3-5 minutes. By now the steam should have opened all the mussels. If any mussels are still closed, discard them.


I served these over soba noodles, but you could serve them over rice or with some nice toasted bread – what ever gets you excited.


Notes on dealing with mussels:
– Make sure you rinse and scrub your mussels well. You want them super clean because the shells will be mingling with your broth.
– Once you’ve scrubbed your mussels, discard any that have cracks in them or remain open after you handle them. (They should slowly close if you shake them around a bit – that means they are healthy and good to go.)
– Again, if any do not open after 10 minutes of steaming. Toss those too.