Archive for February, 2012

February 16, 2012

Brothy Chinese Noodles with Barramundi

I understand that, in some circles, slurping is considered rude.

But let’s be real. Hot soup, cool night, lots of broth and noodles… slurping is bound to happen.

Sometimes you’ve got to do it. The meal demands it. And hey, slurping isn’t really the rudest thing you can do, is it? …you know you want to.

This soup is easy to prepare, warming, satisfying, but light and brothy enough to eat the whole bowl.

The slurping of such a dish is non-negotiable though. Deal with it.

Brothy Chinese Noodles with Poached Barramundi  (serves 2)
Adapted from Eating Well

- 1 tablespoons sesame oil
– 1 red chili pepper, finely sliced
– 4 scallions or green onions, sliced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
– 3-4 cups vegetable broth
– 2 tablespoons soy sauce
– 130 grams/4.5 ounces dried chinese noodles
– 2 cups thinly sliced bok choy, roughly chopped
– 500-600 grams/1.25 lb of barramundi or meaty white fish, but into 5 cm/2 inch chunks

In a large pot, heat sesame oil over a medium high heat. Add chili, green onions, garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes until everything is beginning to soften and become fragrant.

Add vegetable broth and soy sauce and bring to a boil.

Add noodles and cook for 5 minutes.

Add bok choy and stir into the broth.

Place fish on top of noodles and bok choy, half-submerged in the liquid and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the pieces of fish over and cook for another 3 minutes covered. Fish should be white throughout and easily flaked with a fork.

To Serve, place noodles in a large bowl, with fish on top and pour broth over it.

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February 15, 2012

Simple Stewed Peaches

Listen, Australian peaches – we need to talk.

It’s summer. You’re supposed to be juicy and delicious. I’ve bought you from the local fruit shop, the farmer’s market and one of the big supermarkets and each time you’ve been all weird and mealy. Not to get all crass with you first thing in the morning, but WTF? For real.

What am I going to do with you? I can’t waste another piece of fruit.  I cannot deal with another un-peachy disappointment. I just can’t.

I’m this close to giving up for the season. Packing it in early. Watermelon is looking pretty good these days… but a little less travel-friendly.

Lemons to lemonade, you say?

Peaches to butter and honey and cinnamon? Yeah, that could work.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Summer stewed peaches on the easy. One more shot. Let’s do it.

Stewed Peaches
(serves 2)
You can peel your peaches, if you’re fancy like that. I didn’t, because I’m lazy like that.

2 peaches, pit removed and sliced into wedges
1/2 tablespoon of good unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons of water

In a large pan melt the butter and honey over a medium heat.

Add cinnamon.

When the butter and honey begins to bubble, add peach slices and stir them around in the pan to coat each slice.

Add 1 tablespoon of water, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 10 minutes. Check the peaches about half-way through, stirring gently and adding another spoonful of water if the pan looks a little dry.

The end result should be soft peaches in a small amount of thick syrup.

Perfect with a scoop of ice cream for dessert or with yogurt or oatmeal to make breakfast feel like dessert.

February 13, 2012

My New Favorite…Way to Cook Broccoli

Let’s take it niiice and easy.

Jog a little slower. Have an extra cup of coffee. Stop and take a picture of something pretty. Buy yourself a new book. Eat some extra greens. But make them taste like candy.

Green, caramelized, feta-flecked candy.

Be nice to yourself…it’s Monday.

It’s a simple concept, but roasting vegetables (as I have mentioned before) can really amp things up. Caramelizing is a powerful and delicious thing, my friends. Use it recklessly.

All you need to do is the prep, then kick back and let the oven do all the fancy work. Nice and easy.

~~~

This recipe is based on Adam Roberts’ (aka The Amateur Gourmet) The Best Broccoli of Your Life who based it on Ina Garten’s (aka the Barefoot Contessa) Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli. So you know it’s good.

I decided to use marinated feta and toasted sunflower seeds instead of Ina’s Parmesan and pine nuts – but the slightly nutty, browned broccoli is the real star here.

My Favorite Way to Cook Broccoli
– 1 head of broccoli (about 2 cups), cut into small florets and stems cut into small pieces
– 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
– salt & pepper
– zest from half a lemon
– toasted sunflower seeds
– 2 tablespoons cup crumbled feta

Heat oven to 200 C/400 F.

Toss broccoli with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt & pepper (to taste, but I prefer a heavy pour with both). Add more olive oil if all of the florets aren’t coated well.

Spread broccoli out on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes (tossing half-way through) until florets are beginning to brown a little.

Zest the lemon over the broccoli and let cool.

Toss with feta and sunflower seeds to serve.

Notes:
I used feta marinated in preserved lemon, olive oil and herbs. But regular feta with a squeeze of lemon juice works well too.

February 9, 2012

Polenta Pizza with Cajun-Spiced Mushrooms and Zucchini

I’ve had a bag of polenta burning a hole in my cupboard for a couple of months now. When I found a recipe for polenta pizza in the Moosewood Cookbook, I thought it sounded quirky enough to be kind of awesome.

I worked with the polenta base a little bit because I wanted it to be crispy and less like a polenta-based pie or casserole. I also adjusted it to serve 2 as an appetizer or a small meal.

AND I decided to top it with Cajun-seasoned vegetables because something about cornmeal and spicy southern flavors just feels right.

If you don’t keep a good Cajun spice blend in the house, I would highly recommend you make it a priority.  (I like Joe’s Stuff.) It brings a little bit of heat, but mostly just a fabulous punch of flavor. I love it sprinkled on roasted veggies, as a seasoning for salmon, shrimp, chicken, rice…everything. Seriously.

Polenta Pizza (Serves 2)
(adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)

Crust
– 1/2 cup polenta
– 1/2 cup cold water
– 1 cup boiling water
– salt
– 1/4 cup Parmesan finely grated

Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F

Bring one cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Place polenta in a bowl, pour the cold water into the polenta and mix until well combined.
When water is boiling, add the polenta/cold water mixture and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until polenta becomes thick and comes away from the sides of the pot easily.

Remove from heat and stir in salt and Parmesan. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Spread polenta out onto well oiled baking tray.

Bake for 40 minutes until crispy around the edges. Take out and add desired toppings.

Cajun Vegetable Topping
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
– 1 zucchini, thinly sliced into half-moon shape
– 1 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
– salt, to taste
– cheddar cheese grated (optional)

Heat oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes until soft.

Add zucchini and Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until softened. Remove from heat and reserve until the crust is ready.

Spread vegetables over crust and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake an additional 10 minutes in the oven.

Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

February 8, 2012

Prawn Saganaki

That just-showered post-beach feeling.
Listening to your favorite album on repeat.
A frosty glass of beer on a hot day.
Watching Marie Antoinette in bed while eating squares of dark chocolate.
Finishing a good book.
Coffee, just the right amount of milk and sugar.
Fresh herbs picked off of your own balcony.

You with me here?

I’m painting a picture of contentment.

My picture, anyway.

Perfectly toasted, garlicky slabs of sour dough slathered with a simple combination of fresh summer tomatoes, salty feta, and pink prawns.

Oh yes. I would put that in my sálon.*

I’m so glad prawn saganaki came into my life. It’s the perfect balance of fresh and warming flavors and it demands to be eaten with good bread.

And good bread is the key contentment. Always.

*Andre Leon Talley, I’m stealing your catch phrase. Count it.

Prawn Saganaki (serves 2)
Recipe adapted from Chef Greg Everett’s recipe at Box Fresh

- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– about 350 grams (3/4 lb.) of prawns, peeled and deveined
– 1/4 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
– pinch of red chili flakes
– 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
– salt & pepper
– 2-3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
– 1/4 cup combined fresh basil and parsley, roughly chopped
– good bread, sliced, toasted or grilled, and rubbed with a garlic clove, to serve

Heat oil in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add prawns, olives and chili flakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the prawns turn pink.

Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes until they just start to break down. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh pepper, to taste.

Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle with feta and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes until feta is melted.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with fresh herbs. Serve with garlic-rubbed toasts.

Notes:
This is meant to be made in a skillet of sorts, but I just used a pan with a heat-resistant handle. If you’re using a skillet, you can pop the entire thing into a hot oven for 2 minutes to melt the feta instead of covering over a low heat. 

February 7, 2012

Salads That Travel: Roasted Sugar Snap Peas & Quinoa Salad

Not to brag or anything, but I am a total expert on bringing lunch to work. An entry-level salary in publishing and an interest in nutrition motivated me to get into the habit of brown bagging it a few years ago.

In the beginning, there was a lot of was trial and error (think soggy lettuce, disastrous salad dressing leaks, etc.) but I pushed on to become a queen of Tupperware-toting.

This skill has proved useful in more fun areas of life too – like picnicking and long-distance travel.

Grain-based salads are great to have in your byo meal arsenal. Filling, vegetable-ful, and easy to pack and assemble – they check all the boxes. They keep well for a couple of days in the fridge and go well over a big bed of greens, if you’re looking to bulk up your bowl.

This recipe roasts sugar snap peas with shallots prior to adding them to the salad. The sugar snaps caramelize making their naturally sweet flavor more complex. White beans, roasted red peppers, toasted almonds and nutty quinoa come together to balance out the sweetness of the sugar snaps and shallot.

Roasted Sugar Snap Pea Quinoa Salad
(Makes 2 serves)
– 1 cup quinoa, cooked
– 1 1/2-2 cups sugar snap peas
– 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup cooked white beans, rinsed
– 1/4 cup roasted red peppers/capsicum
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, more to taste
– salt & pepper
– pinch of red pepper flakes
– toasted almond slices

To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup rinsed dry quinoa in 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered until the liquid is adsorbed (about 10 minutes.) There should be little white tails that come out as each grain puffs. These usually indicate that the quinoa is done.

Roast your sugar snap peas (based on a recipe from Eating Well): Toss sugar snap peas and sliced shallot with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt & pepper and chili flakes together in a bowl. Spread mixture out on a baking tray and place in a 200 C/400 F oven for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

To toast almonds: Scatter in a dry pan and cook over a medium-low heat until they become golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes.)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently to combine. Add more olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

February 6, 2012

Chili: Always a Good Time

Veggie-Packed Black Bean Chili

It’s been unseasonably rainy and cool in Sydney lately, save the beautiful weekend that just past. Since it’s expected to carry on like this for another month (I don’t think this has anything to do with Ground Hog’s Day, but I can’t be sure) – it’s best to just happily embrace it.

At least undesirable weather gives me an excuse to cook hearty meals that make staying inside a little more fun. And let’s face it: a big pot of chili is always a good time!

Don’t worry, I have a garnish that will make the meat lovers come around to this otherwise vegetarian chili. A generous sprinkling of crispy chorizo on top of this colorful chili will kick it into omnivore territory and add another layer of smokey flavor.

Good tortilla chips, avocado and a nice sharp cheddar are strongly encouraged as additional garnishes.

Veggie-Packed Black Bean Chili
(Serves 4-6)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 large (5 small) cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium sized red pepper, roughly chopped
1 medium sized green pepper, roughly chopped
2 cups squash or pumpkin, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mild chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smokey paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of chopped chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce
3 cups of cooked black beans
1 cup of corn kernels (canned or frozen and thawed works)
1 can (1 1/2 cups) of diced tomatoes
1 cup water
Salt
1 chorizo sausage, finely diced and browned in a pan until crispy (optional)
In a large pot with a lid, heat olive oil over a medium high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook for about 3-4 minutes until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add peppers (both red and green) and cook for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant, stirring often. Add squash and carrot, cook for another 2 minutes.
Add spices and stir to coat the onions, pepper, and pumpkin and cook for 1 minute. Pour black beans, corn, tomatoes, and water in the pot and stir to combine everything well and season with salt, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.
Cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring gently every five minutes or so. Test the squash, if tender then you’re good to go, although this does benefit for sitting covered and warm for an hour or so and then re-heating when ready to eat.
For meat-lovers chorizo garnish: place diced chorizo in a dry pan heated over a medium-high heat. Let cook until the oils are released and the chorizo is deep golden brown. Scatter over individual bowlfuls along with any other garnishes desired.
Notes:

  • Butternut squash is particularly good for holding its shape. For tips on pealing and dicing your squash, here’s a Food52 video.
  • If I have leftover roasted squash on hand, I’ll use that instead – cut it into 1-inch chunks and add to the pot in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  • If I can’t find chipotle peppers in Adobo (like when I’m in Australia) I use 2 tablespoons of smokey BBQ sauce.
February 3, 2012

Peanut Butter and Date Granola

Let’s talk about peer pressure.

I think it gets a bad rap. I’m actually a big fan of peer pressure.

It doesn’t always involve doing something potentially dangerous or bad. Sometimes your friends just persuade you to do something different that turns out to be a great idea.

Like an impromptu road trip to suburban New Jersey. Sure, that doesn’t sounds particularly enticing, but when there’s home cooking, puppies, and sweatpants (NOT velour ones) at the end of that drive, it’s pretty hard to see a downside.

There are only so many times that I can read about sweet or savory crunchy, creative, and satisfying homemade granola before I feel a pull to my kitchen. All of the sudden, I’m reaching for the oats and getting down to it.

I’m chalking the urge to make my own granola up to food blogger peer pressure. It’s not that I’m anti-granola, it’s just that I’ve been in a natural muesli phase for a couple of years now. Not that that’s a real excuse.

Anyway, a peanut butter twist sealed the deal, and the result was a happy one.

A subtly sweet, nutty, crunchy granola made with natural sugars and organic oats hit all the marks. Thanks, peer pressure!
I feel a granola phase coming on…

Can’t wait to make some savory granola next.

Peanut Butter and Date Granola
Inspired by this and this and this

- 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
– 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
– 1/2 cup wheat germ
– 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
– 2 tablespoons pepitas
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/2 cup peanut butter (I go for crunchy, but that’s a personal choice)
– 1/3 cup honey
– 1/2 cup dates
– 1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 150 C/300 F

Combine your oats, coconut, wheat germ, sunflower seeds , pepitas and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

Place dates in a food processor with a teaspoon of water and puree until a paste forms.

Heat honey and peanut butter together in a medium saucepan over a low heat until just melted together. Remove from heat.

Pour oat mixture into the peanut butter and honey and stir until all the oats are coated.

Add date paste and mix until well combined.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until deep golden. It’s ok if the mixture is still a little sticky at the end of that time, it will dry out. Let granola cool on the baking tray.

Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.

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