Archive for the ‘food’ Category

I heart summer

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

I guess it’s safe to say summer is over? But I still have some tomatoes on my plants, and lots of basil!

This was my last pick of the red tomatoes. The ones left on the vine are green and I doubt they will ripen now, so what to do but make lemons from lemonade, or, er, something like that.

Fried green tomatoes. I learned to make them from a southern belle I knew in Los Angeles. She tossed it off in conversation peppered with her delightful southern drawl. Here it is:


In a bowl, mix flour and polenta or cornmeal in equal quantities (a little of each). Add fresh ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Cut your tomatoes into 1/2″ slices and have them ready. Heat some olive oil in a pan (olive oil browns things very quickly which is important because you don’t want the tomatoes to cook for too long) and when the oil is almost smoking, toss a few tomato slices in the floury mix and put into the pan. Sizzle on both sides and voila! You have your fried green tomatoes. They’re delicious with scrambled eggs and tabasco sauce.

How much do we love meeting friends in faraway places, thanks to the internet?

I found these two stylish ladies on Ravelry recently. Both have made my Abigail cardigan which was on the cover of The Knitter last year. Not only  did they do an exquisite job of knitting it, they also went to the trouble of taking lovely photos. It’s a designer’s dream. Thank you ladies!

note: the pattern is now available as a PDF here.

Here is Valda, from Ukraine. What a gorgeous emerald green.

Schnauzer love

and Joanna, from Poland, sans collar. Love her pink and red. Joanna made the neckline into a picot edge to match the hems.

All I can say is wow!

summer evening

Friday, January 7th, 2011

In search of a change of scene and a new place to walk, David and I drove on a recent evening to St Heliers, a bay on the edge of the harbour about 20 minutes from the city central. How beautiful it is. At one end are cliffs surrounded by steep streets, ideal for a brisk walk and a touch of calorie burning. Pausing frequently from my huffing and puffing I made a note to self to take my next overseas visitors here on their first evening.

Here’s a view from the cliff top, looking back towards the city.

Beneath the cliffs is a little bay at the bottom of a steep path. It’s known as Ladies’ Bay but the sign indicates that Gentlemen have been now been included.

Clinging to the cliff are our ancient friends, the pohutukawa trees. Thank you, trees, for holding the cliffs together and providing such a beautiful frame along our coastline.  You have been here for a long time, I know, hundreds of years for some.

Before we went walking, I made my favourite summer salad. It’s a hybrid of Caesar and Niçoise, and it could easily veer more towards either, depending on what you choose to add to it. Beans and tuna for Niçoise, grated parmesan for Caesar. Anyway, it’s not so much what’s in the salad, but what you put on it that counts. The dressing is the star. It’s delicious on anything, even a plate of plain cucumber.

a moment of appreciation for the beauty of lettuce green.

Croutons, the most caesar-y ingredient, are fried in a little curry powder, homage to my father’s fried bread. Mmmmm. I once tried baking them in the oven to see what that might be like. It makes them very crisp, but almost too crunchy, tooth breakingly so.

Here’s my recipe:

Mel’s Caesar

several leaves of Romaine [cos] lettuce

2 eggs

8 cherry tomatoes sliced in halves

1 scallion, chopped

3 slices whole wheat bread, diced into cubes.

2 tbspn olive oil

½ tsp curry powder

4 asparagus spears

4 olives, sliced


Snap asparagus spears where they break naturally and blanch for 1 min in boiling water. Set aside to cool.

Boil eggs for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a frying pan, combine oil and curry powder. Bring to a heat and add cubed bread. Gently stir bread and oil until the cubes are coated. Fry until lightly browned, turn and fry other side. Drain on a paper towel.

Slice asparagus in thirds. Peel and slice eggs in half. Assemble the ingredients on a plate or in a bowl. My arrangement is pretty casual. It tastes just as good if you chop the ingredients more.

Drizzle the chilled dressing. Toss if desired.


Makes 1 cup.

½ tsp Dijon mustard

1½ tbspns lemon juice

1 large clove garlic

1 egg

3 tbspns olive oil

a dash of Worcestershire sauce or 1/4 tsp anchovy paste

Combine crushed garlic, mustard and lemon juice.

Put mixture in blender.

Coddle the egg by placing in boiling water for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Add olive oil gradually, 1 tbspn at a time, to other ingredients in blender, blending on a low speed after each addition.

Scoop inside of coddled egg (white and yolk) from shell and add to blended mixture. Blend to a smooth, thick liquid.

Taste dressing. If too tart, add more olive oil.

Add Worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste and blend again. Chill before serving. Refrigerate for ½ hour before serving.

foot note: this gadget is very useful. If you prefer to buy your olives intact, as I do, this so easily pops the pits out to make them sliceable, you’ll be amazed. No more carving little bits and pieces off the olive! It works well for cherries, too.

not just for knitting

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Veggie gardens are like kids. If you don’t watch closely, they might grow up and go rotten while you’re not paying attention.

This I discovered with my newly planted patch. It’s yielding so much so quickly I have to keep a daily watch. It helps that it’s in my front yard (the sunniest patch) so I can’t avoid casting an eye out whenever I walk to the front door. It was planted just before my trip to the USA in June and by the time I returned home 3 weeks later, there were all kinds of exciting developments.

Mizuna (below) which I had never tasted before, wins the prize for being most productive in the fastest time (not that it’s a race).

I can’t toss it in enough salads or lay enough grilled salmon on it to keep pace. It’s unstoppable and delicious in its slight spiciness.

Bok Choy was the first to go to seed, in a good way.

Lovely yellow flowers developed, reminding me of the phlomis I used to grow in Santa Monica. Although I was reluctant to harvest it and spoil the Sissinghurst effect, it was expanding and threatening the silver beet with extinction, so steamed bok choy it was.

The fava beans (called broad beans here in NZ) were hiding discreetly behind the other veg, drooping all over the ground and needing to be set upright so they could continue to flower.

When I asked David if he’d buy a few lengths of bamboo and some string at the hardware store, I thought his quizzical look indicated a reluctance to do the errand, which would be out of character for him. But no, he was remembering the bags of yarn strewn around our house. Silly me.

So my Favas were propped up and tied with some leftover Habu linen paper (photo below), which may make them look pampered but I do love favas, and want them to go forth into the sunshine and multiply! A bag of Favas from the grocery store is never quite enough, is it?

It used to be that no vegetable was served in my house without butter or cheese sauce. Mmm.

However, I have been dairy free since developing asthma almost the minute I arrived in New Zealand. My doctor suggested I give up cow’s products. What, no butter on your morning toast? has been the reaction of many, and I’m happy to say that jam, honey, or even something savoury like vegemite and sliced tomato tastes just as good. Sheep and goats cheeses don’t seem to cause my airways the same problems so I can happily sprinkle pecorino on my pasta and goat feta on my Greek Salad.

I’m going to eat my favas as I do all other veg, with a dash of olive oil and Bragg’s natural seasoning which I learned about from my LA friend, Anna. It’s available at markets in the US, and I found it at Harvest Wholefoods in Auckland. The flavour is somewhere between marmite and soy sauce and it’s delicious on all vegetables, even steamed potatoes. Try a little garlic sautéd in olive oil in the bargain. Butter will be a distant memory.

p.s. There are a few snails who have come to love my vegetables as much as I do. Does anyone have an organic  solution to this problem?