Archive for ‘Spring’

May 11, 2013

3-Seed Fennel Slaw

3-seed slaw2

Truth time: I used to love me some KFC.

These days I don’t find myself at fast food restaurants that much…or at all. But as a pre-teen and teenager I was all about an extra-crispy meal with potato wedges and a biscuit. Ohhh the biscuits.

Between the heavily seasoned crunchy chicken and biscuit/potato double-carb-punch, the whole situation was near perfect for my 15-year-old palate. The one and only problem was that nasty little styrofoam container filled with mayo-laden, tasteless coleslaw. I just couldn’t get into it. I liked vegetables and salad (albeit less than fried chicken), but this was not that.

So I went along in life thinking of myself as an anti-slaw kind of lady; until one day it occurred to me that slaw could be made into something I could enjoy. I’m a total texture and crunch fan, so I knew we could make this work.

We could keep the cabbage and carrots aspect and add some fennel for gourmet flair, but we’d have to ditch that mayo business. In its place, we can use a Greek yogurt and vinegar-based dressing along with lots of seeds for tang and spice. (This method also works for eliminating mayo from tuna and egg salads.)

I’m bonkers for the fennel’s aniseed flavor and crunch and for the taste and texture of toasted sesame, fennel and cumin seeds. I like the lightness of the dressing and how it allows the spices and vegetables to shine through.

This is how we shall do slaw from this day forward in my house.

Bring on the (non-Kentucky) fried chicken. (Or veggie burgers.)

3-seed slaw 1

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February 1, 2013

Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant

voraciousvander -eggplant

Oh hey slow cooker, hey.

You’re looking really great over there on the counter, all warm and stuff.

But not too warm that you heat up the whole dang apartment like that gauche oven. No. You’re super classy and independent  You take your time, do your job well and I don’ t even have to supervise you.  You’re like the perfect job candidate.

Sorry.

I was just…ah, having a fake conversation with my slow cooker to provide a weird/funny introduction to a recipe that I cooked in my slow cooker. NBD, guys.

Slow cookers make me think of meaty stews and thick soups, so at first, they don’t really seem to fit in with summer cooking. But they’re actually pretty perfect for summer (and obviously winter, spring, and fall.) No oven, no stove. Just toss a bunch of things in there, leave it alone, and come back to find a whole meal of cooked food!

Great right?

I love our slow cooker, it’s easy to clean and takes everything from pork neck to big summer eggplants to flavor nation.

December 3, 2012

Kale Pistachio Pesto with Soba Noodles and Oyster Mushrooms

vv - kale pesto soba

We’re moving on today. Moving on from November, moving on from the weekend, moving on from losing the contents of our hard drive and moving into the holiday season.

Kale, in my opinion, makes for a fresh start. I know it’s not time for resolutions yet (thank God) but let’s be real, Mondays are when we get back on track after watching terrible movies and eating too much cheese all weekend. (P.s. Can someone give me another free day to watch bad movies and eat more cheese with my fiancé, please? Thanks.)

That’s where the kale comes in. It rights wrongs, just because it’s so dang good for you. That’s how it works in my brain anyway.

Pesto has always been one of my favorite ways to dress up pasta, sandwiches, grilled vegetables and salads. Today, we’re making it even more excellent with the (SMASH! BANG!) super powers of kale.

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.

October 17, 2012

Spring Vegetable Carbonara

The other night, I found myself on the bus home from the city dreaming of this dish. I mentally went through the contents of my cabinets and fridge and began building this dinner. I was soothed (yes, soothed!) by the simplicity of it, and excited for the flavors before I even got home.

To me, there’s nothing better than a big bowl of carbs after a long day. Pasta for dinner is a total triple threat: convenient, comforting and quick.

I realized that I don’t have many pasta dishes on this blog, which I guess is because I usually make pasta for dinner (real blogger talk: that means there’s no natural light to make it look pretty!) and it usually doesn’t follow any sort of recipe. I use whatever I have on-hand — a little of this, a little of that and then it’s eaten in a flash. That’s how pasta night works.

Pasta carbonara usually is involves pancetta or bacon in some form, which I, of course, encourage. But I thought I’d give you a vegetarian option to show another possibility for a simple, eggy carbonara sauce. I was even going to go so far as to call this Primavera Carbonara, but I think that’s confusing or too Italian or has too many A’s.

It’s slightly creamy, with a serious hit of salty Parmesan and an excessive amount of fresh ground pepper, topped with fresh spring asparagus and peas. (More real talk: the peas were actually from the freezer. No one dreams about shelling fresh peas at 6pm.)

AND this whole thing comes together in 20 minutes or less. It’s kind of the perfect weeknight dinner.

Spring Vegetable Carbonara
serves 2

- 220 grams or 8 ounces of the pasta of your choice
– 1 cup asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
– 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas thawed
– olive oil
– 2 cloves of garlic
– a pinch of chili flakes
– 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk
– a big handful of Parmesan, and more for garnishing
– salt & fresh ground pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add a generous sprinkling of salt and the pasta. Cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente.

While the water is heating/pasta is cooking, get going on the vegetables.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add garlic and chili and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add asparagus and peas and cook until just tender – about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

Whisk the egg and egg white in a large bowl. Add Parmesan and lots of ground black pepper.

Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. It’s time to work quickly now! Pour the hot pasta in the bowl with the egg and Parmesan. Toss vigorously to coat the pasta (the heat of the pasta cooks the egg.) Add your asparagus and peas and toss again. If the sauce is a little thick, add a tablespoon of the pasta water at a time, to thin it out. (I didn’t have to do that this time.)

Serve immediately, with more Parmesan sprinkled on top, if desired.

Tips:
– Make sure the eggs are at room temperature

- Generously salt your pasta water – it gives it flavor
- Set a timer for your pasta – it may seem silly, but I love perfectly cooked pasta and hate to risk it!
- Work quickly once you drain your pasta – it has to be warm enough to partially cook the eggs, thickening them into a sauce.

October 4, 2012

Avocado Green Goddess Dressing (Without Mayo)

Springtime in Australia means occasional beach weather (and ice cream and smoothie weather), sunny mornings and soft sand runs.

Do you do this? Do you run in the sand at the back of the beach where it’s perpetually difficult to keep your body in balance, nearly impossible to maintain a running pace and, overall, unpleasant?

This is the soft sand run.

I do it sometimes. And I hate it the whole dang time.

But for the last lap or two I run close to the water where the air is fresher and the sand is firm and actually accommodating to running feet. These last laps feel so much better than the sweaty-faced ones that preceded them, that I nearly forget about the whole painful, gasping trudge through quicksand. (It totally felt like quicksand.)

All winter I’ve given myself a break from this soft sand business because I had an excuse to. It’s cold! And sometimes rainy! Getting barefoot on cold sand? Pshhh. Not happening.

But I can’t ignore the warm air and sun and the sandals and the iced coffee. I’m all in for this springtime steez.

And, hey, at least I’m not in a morning “boot camp.” I’m so not a boot camp girl.

I made a fresh herb, extra-green green goddess dressing in honor of springtime.

Since I’m not a big mayonnaise fan, I used a blend of avocado and Greek yogurt for my dressing base – a little lemon juice and tons of fresh herbs add great zing, flavor and color. I love it as a dip for raw vegetables and pretzels, as a dressing for salads, a spread for sandwiches or on top of grilled chicken or fish.

You can swap or add whatever green herbs you’re looking to get rid of – some chives would be great up in here, for example.

Even if it’s not springtime where you are, get into the spirit! It doesn’t even have to involve soft sand or sweating.

Blitz it all together.

Boom! (You can see my favorite mug in the background. That’s real life.)

Avocado Green Goddess Dressing

- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
– 1/2 a ripe avocado
– handful of parsley
– handful of basil
– handful of coriander
– 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped green onion
– 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
– salt & pepper

Combine ingredients in the a food processor or blender and process until herbs are finely chopped and all ingredients are combined into a smooth sauce. Store for 2-3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

Green goddess dressing in action: lunch of kale, asparagus and sweet potato

August 23, 2012

Roasted Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Now that I’ve settled into my antipodean lifestyle (can we call it that?) in Sydney, I’m starting to accept the fact that I will always have some small degree of season envy. Like in February, while it was the height of summer, I would find myself yearning for sad winter peasant food like cabbage soup or potatoes on potatoes.

Which is ridiculous. And a little frustrating.

And while I’ve fully embraced our quick and mild winter by stewing, braising and slow cooking everything I could get my hands on, I’m left fiending for elitist heirloom tomatoes from the Union Square Greenmarket. I mean, did you see this Bon Appetit cover?!

But then again…maybe it’s just an adjustment thing. Now that I’ve had my first full year in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe I’ve set my cravings right?

All I know is – right now – I’m only thinking spring. There’s that change in the air, where a sunny day has actual warmth to it and I want to take all coffees, books and projects outside. I’m able to wear short sleeves on morning runs and open up the windows. Spring is here. And so are strawberries. And I. am. pumped.

Let’s get giddy with something frozen. Some good Greek yogurt, sweetened with honey and flecked with a little vanilla. (Totally inspired by this guy.)

Let’s roast some gorgeous Queensland strawberries with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a touch of maple and swirl them into our creamy yogurt. It’ll taste fresh, tangy and strawberry-y. Just like spring.

This post was also inspired by the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop‘s August theme: Berry Nice to Meet You! Head over to the Hungry Australian to check out the other berry recipes!

Knowing me though, I’ll be needing pumpkin-spiced EVERYTHING in a month. Whatevs.

Roasted Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Roasted Strawberries:
– 2 heaping cups of strawberries, hulled and cut in half lengthwise
– 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
– 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

Heat oven to 350 F/175 C.

Mix strawberries, balsamic, olive oil and maple syrup together in a bowl. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread out the strawberries.

Roast for 30-35 minutes until the strawberries are soft, give off a syrup and smell like candy. Allow to cool fully before adding them to the frozen yogurt mixture. This can be done the day ahead and cooled in the fridge overnight.

Vanilla Honey Yogurt:
– 500 mL (2 cups) good Greek yogurt
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Mix together yogurt, honey and vanilla. Place in the bowl of a frozen ice cream maker and churn for 30-40 minutes.

Mix in cooled roasted strawberries and serve.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, mix strawberries with the cold yogurt-honey mixture and place in the freezer in an airtight container. Check on it every hour or two, giving it a good stir with a fork to break up the icy parts.

Store in the freezer and allow to warm up about 10 or 15 minutes before scooping.

August 2, 2012

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I hate it when people say they “HATE surprises!”

Ummm, no you don’t.

You’re going to tell me that if I (or someone else you adore) showed up to your front door on a random evening with a quality baguette, cheese, wine and some fabulous conversation you’re going to be totally miffed? I highly doubt it!

Everyone loves a pleasant surprise – like a free coffee, unexpected flowers or getting a card in the real-life mail – but some people just prefer to feel in control of a situation they’re unsure of. And that’s completely okay.

But sometimes you just have to ease up and roll with the surprises. They’re probably going to be awesome ones.

This soup was a surprise – and a damn fine one. The surprise part came from adding some jarred roasted red peppers which gave the soup an excellent sweet-smokey flavor and generally tszujed the whole thing up.

Also, I suggest adding a tiny pinch of (surprise!) baking soda to your tomato soups (and sauces) – it reduces the acidity of the canned tomatoes allowing their sweetness to shine through.

If you’ve got some stale bread lying around, make some pan-toasted croutons to top this soup off – they’re super easy, thrifty and will impress the person who’s eating with you.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (serves 2-4)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 1 can of whole tomatoes (I used canned cherry tomatoes, but plum tomatoes are good too)
– 2 whole (or 1/2 cup chopped) roasted red peppers (from a jar)
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– salt and pepper
– a pinch of baking soda

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium high heat. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook stirring for 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add a little more olive oil if the pan goes a little dry.

Add tomatoes, red peppers and vegetable broth. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon as you stir everything around a bit. Add a small pinch of baking soda and stir into the soup. The fizzy action means its working.

Bring it all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

All the soup to cool for about 10 minutes and then puree it in a blender in batches. I left a  ladleful or two out, so keep a little texture. Do whatever you’d like!

Serve warm with chopped herbs (I got in on some chive action!) and pan-toasted croutons or bread.

Pan-Toasted Croutons
– 2 pieces of slightly-to-moderately stale bread (I used 3 day-old sourdough)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– smoked sea salt
– cracked pepper

Cut bread into bite-sized squares and heat olive oil in a medium pan over a medium heat.

Add bread, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and toss to coat the bread in seasoning and oil. Arrange the bread pieces in a single layer and cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. Store in an air-tight container for 1 day.

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