Archive for November, 2012

November 28, 2012

Technical Difficulties and What Else I’ve Been Up To

Byron Bay, NSW

Hi friends.

As you may have guessed from the title, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties over here at Voracious. I have some new recipes to share with you that I’m pretty excited about, but until our computer is revived (fingers crossed) and ready to edit my photos again, it’ll have to wait.

Let’s think of it as a beach getaway for the website (as pictured above) complete with morning swims, barbecued seafood and pina coladas.

In the mean time, here are some photos from my past week of life.

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November 20, 2012

Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Hash

In Australia, they call the beginning of summer the silly season.

As a general rule, I enjoy silly things. So a whole season of it? Sure, sounds cool to me.

It makes sense – the build up to Christmas and the New Year is filled with parties, long lunches, Christmas hams, champagne and sausage rolls. And to make matters more exciting/distracting, the weather is just starting to get good. I mean, it’s the beginning of summer combined with Christmas. Totes silly, right?

November 16, 2012

Green Beans with Chili and Roasted Red Peppers

I’m trying to plan a Thanksgiving for two.

We had an Australian version of the holiday last week, but I wanted to plan something closer to the actual day.

With the exception of pasta, I’m pretty skilled at figuring how much food will feed me and my very strong and handsome fiancé, and leave me a little extra for lunch the next day. (I just can’t figure out dammed dried pasta portioning!)

But a Thanksgiving feast for two is a whole different gig. I want a range of foods and familiar dishes just like the real thing, but I don’t want to have an out of control leftover situation.

So far, here’s my plan of attack:

November 13, 2012

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Dill Vinaigrette

My Thanksgiving came early and complete with stuffing, bourbon maple mashed sweet potatoes, and a pumpkin pie.

Oh and there was a quiz to test my Australian knowledge at a table full of people dressed like the Crocodile Hunter and Dame Edna. No biggie.

I didn’t do too bad, actually. I’ve got the koala key chain and beer koozie to prove it. (Yes, there were totally prizes, even though I was the only contestant.)

But did I mention that there was bourbon maple sweet potatoes? So yeah. No complaints here.

A girl’s got to pay her dues if she’s marrying into an Australian family. Especially if they’ve been so nice as to actually have a Thanksgiving.

November 9, 2012

Sweet Potato, Apple and Bacon Pizza

We’re rolling fast into tradition time, people! Everyone has different ways of celebrating the holidays – doing these things make us feel all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia and comfort.

I’m not going to lie, the past three Christmases (and two Thanksgivings!) on the opposite side of the world and hemisphere have been an adjustment. It’s hard to actually feel like it’s Christmas when you don’t have the usual people, weather, events and traditions.

Sometimes you have to make new ones to feel like you’re making something special for yourself in a new place. Theme party Thanksgiving (with costumes!) anyone? Cricket on the tv all the time? Meh. Piles of chilled peel and eat shrimp with dipping sauces on Christmas day? Yes please!

Ok, I didn’t actually create any of these, but I’ve adopted them.

One of my favorite non-holiday traditions from waaaay back in the day is Friday pizza night. For the majority of my childhood, my grandparents (Gam & Pop) would have me stay over their house on Friday night and we’d order pizza. I’d eat it sitting on the floor at the coffee table in front of the tv, dismantling my slice layer by layer (I’d eat the pepperoni, then the cheese, then the base – all separately. I know, I was a weird kid.)

I like the idea of continuing this tradition today (without the unusual eating method.) Pizza on Friday is a fun and easy way to celebrate the start of the weekend. Pizza Party!

This pizza isn’t quite as easy as getting delivery, but it’s totally worth it.

Feel free to use a pre-prepared pizza dough or base – I know how it is. Dough is intimidating, time-consuming and sometimes faulty. BUT if you’re curious about making your own dough – try this recipe.

That said, some notes about the pizza dough recipe below:

1. It’s awesome. I’ve made my own dough before,  with lack-luster and frustrating results. This dough will not produce either of those. There is no serious kneading and very little hands-on time, in general. It’s very forgiving, stretches out perfectly, and bakes up crispy and a little bubbly.

2. Don’t be afraid if it tears in places when you’re stretching it out, just pinch it back together.

3. I used more yeast than the original Jim Lahey recipe called for, which shaved off some time from the lengthy resting period. You do need to allow this dough to rest so the yeast and gluten can do its thing. This is what cuts out the kneading part. So if you want pizza on a Friday night, I would suggest making the dough Friday morning or the night before.

4. I used a combo of all-purpose flour and whole wheat. I’ve also used spelt and all-purpose. Both worked well, but if you’re keeping it simple you can just use 3 3/4 cups of all-purpose or bread flour.

5. Freeze the leftover dough if you’re only making one pizza. Next Friday, all you need to do is thaw it in the fridge.

SWEET POTATO & APPLE PIZZA

  • 1 pizza base (see dough recipe below)
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet potato, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1-2 rashers of bacon, chopped into small pieces.
  • 1/4-1/3 cup caramelized onions
  • 1 small apple (I used a pink lady) sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • salt & pepper

For caramelized onion: heat oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Place a medium to large red onion, thinly sliced in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and continue to cook for another 10 minutes until jammy, stirring occasionally. (Add a little water a teaspoon at a time, if pan looks dry at any point.)

Heat oven to 425 F/220 C. Place sweet potatoes on an oiled baking sheet and season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes in the oven until softened but not mushy. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large plan over a medium high heat.  Cook bacon in the pan for 2-3 minutes until just cooked through and a little browned.

Heat oven to 500F/260 C. Oil a baking sheet well and spread the pizza dough out on it. Patch it up where needed.

Sprinkle half of the provolone and Parmesan cheeses on the base. Arrange sweet potatoes, apple, bacon, onion and rosemary on the base and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes (watch your pizza and toppings – cook time really depends on your oven.)

Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.

Makes about 8 square pieces when spread out on a rectangular baking tray.

NO KNEAD PIZZA DOUGH
Based on Jim Lahey’s recipe via Tracy Shutterbean, makes 2 pizza bases.

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water
  • olive oil for the baking sheet

Combine yeast, salt, and flours in a large bowl and stir to distribute the yeast evenly.

Pour  in water and stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until combined and you have a raggy dough. Cover with a tea towel and allow to stand at room temp for at least 2 hours. (I let mine sit around for about 5.)

When you’re ready to use the dough, heat the oven to 500 F/260 C. Oil a baking tray well. Place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface and push down into a round disc and divide in half. Mold the halves into rounds. (You can freeze the other half if you’re not using it that day.)

Stretch the dough into the shape of your baking tray. Place on the well oiled baking tray stretching it out with your hands and patching it up in places where needed.

Arrange toppings and bake 15-20 minutes.

November 7, 2012

Broccoli and Leek Soup

I’m gearing up to tell some stories. Actually, I’ll just be telling one specific story, multiple times.

This weekend, F’s parents are throwing us our Australian engagement party. It’s going to be a lovely night in the backyard with friends, family, good food and bubbles.

There’s one catch: I’ll be obliged to tell the story of our engagement to many of the guests. While I’ve already had quite a bit of practice in the two months we’ve been engaged, I still haven’t got better at telling it.

Where do I start? One minute, I was on a rooftop in New Orleans’ French Quarter laughing at his pre-proposal speech, not being able to take a compliment and the next I realized what was going on. I think I probably just sound like a jerk when I tell it…I dunno.

It was a perfect night – like, majorly – and we were the happiest couple in NOLA, I just wish I could express the sequence of events better!

It doesn’t really matter though – we’re just excited to celebrate with the people we love.

I wish I had a better story about this soup too, but the truth of the matter is that I found myself on a Monday waiting for my fruit and veg delivery and very hungry. I scraped around the crisper and came out with a head of broccoli and a big leek. Instead of an omelet or some quick stir fry I opted for a simple and silky smooth soup.

Admittedly, you have to be a broccoli fan for this one, but you could try subbing in more potatoes or roasted carrots instead. I like to garnish the whole thing with chives, which add a nice mellow onion-y compliment to the leeks. I also think a little grating of Parmesan or cheddar would go over extremely well in this situation.

The end.

BROCCOLI & LEEK SOUP

  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts sliced thin
  • 1 small-medium white potato, pealed chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 liter or 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped chives, to serve

In a large pot, heat a glug of olive oil over a medium high heat. Add leak and garlic and sauté until the leek is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook for another minute.

Pour in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and potato and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes until the broccoli and potatoes are tender.

Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes and purée with a stick blender or in batches in the blender.

Pour back into the pot, bring to a boil and and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Serve with chopped chives and extra black pepper.

November 1, 2012

Snow Pea and Pumpkin Stir Fry

On October 31st, I hope…

You made your favorite people a sugary treat.

You did something spooky. It could have been watching a scary movie…or Hocus Pocus. That Bette Midler is pretty dang spooky.

You carved a pumpkin.

You wore an awesome costume.

You drank something called “witches brew.”

You saw trick-or-treaters.

You ate your favorite candy.

You didn’t wear a sexy officer/Disney character/zombie/animal costume. Dressing as a sexy cat is not cool anymore, guys. It’s just not.

You brushed your teeth.

In honor of the day after Halloween, I’ve got another savory pumpkin dish for you. I included lots of greens (to make up for the candy) and some sweet chili sauce too (just in case you’re having sugar withdrawals.) I have a weakness for Asian sweet chili sauce, especially with foods like pumpkin and sweet potato. I try to seek out organic brands that don’t use sketchy-sounding ingredients.

It only takes a little chopping and some pre-roasting (of the pumpkin) to get this show on the road. The beauty of a stir fry is that once you’ve got your ingredients ready to go, the cooking part takes less than 10 minutes.

Boom. You’ve got a hot and satisfying meal ready to go.

SNOW PEA & PUMPKIN STIR FRY

  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 small red chili, seeds removed or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup asparagus, chopped into
  • 1-inch pieces1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I used white button mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce

To roast pumpkin (can be done ahead): Heat oven to 400 F/205 C and cut pumpkin into 1-inch chunks. Place pumpkin on an oiled baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes in the oven, until golden, completely cooked through and soft.

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large pan or wok over a medium-high heat. Add garlic, chili and ginger and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and not yet browning.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Toss in the asparagus and cook for a minute, then add the snow peas and cook for a minute longer.

Add your cooked pumpkin, soy sauce and sweet chili sauce and cook, stirring, for another minute or two until the pumpkin is heated through and the green vegetables are slightly tender but still have a little crunch.

Serve hot with rice or on its own.

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