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Archive for February, 2011

Meals in our house are following two main themes at the moment; filling the men in my family and keeping dinner healthy.

We are big foodies in our family, but also (one of us more so than others) big eaters. Salad sometimes doesnt sound like dinner. Tonight we concocted a variation of Caesar salad which hit the sweet spot. This is not an easy task in our family, my son has a rule that no dish can contain more than three different vegetables. He also has an almost insatiable hunger. Since he was three he has never quite grasped the concept that eating things which are good for you should be part of your decision making when it comes to food. A legendary family story is the night he looked up at me at the age of four and asked me (as one would ask a particularly slow learner);

“Why do you keep giving me vegetables to eat, when you know what I like to eat is chocolate?”

We have not progressed a lot in the intervening fourteen years. The Caesar salad we modified tonight was filling, excited everyones taste buds and was a pretty healthy dinner, even Oli gave it the stamp of approval, as he tried to sneak the best parts before I served it!

This is the Caesar we made tonight:

Ingredients:

1 fresh tuna steak (about 250 grams), barbecued  by Mark – the tuna is an excellent substitute for chicken, goes beautifully with the anchovies in the sauce

4 slices of bread- we used Irrewarra sourdough (our favourite)

Olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

5 eggs

3 large handfuls cos lettuce or any other salad greens

8-10 asparagus spears (steamed, just for a couple of minutes)

8 slices proscuttio

3 anchovy fillets

2 large teaspoons dijon mustard

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

shaved parmesan to top the salad.

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

Crush one clove of garlic into a couple of tbsp of olive oil, use a pastry brush to brush the olive oil and garlic mixture over the four slices of bread, season with sea salt and black pepper, place bread slices and proscuttio slices in the oven for around 15 minutes or until crisp, then remove and set aside.

Place 5 eggs in water and boil, extract one egg from the boiling water after about 1.5 minutes so that it is semi cooked (coddled), leave the remaining eggs to hard boil.

Scoop coddled egg from shell into a dish, add mustard, mashed anchovies, remaining two garlic cloves (crushed), 1/4 cup grated parmesan, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of olive oil. This is the salad dressing,  stir/mash well

Assembly

Cut grilled bread into inch squares (croutons), peel, and quarter 4 boiled eggs. Break crisp proscuttio into pieces.

This is best served on a flat platter, however we used a wide bowl. Begin with the salad greens. Add croutons, boiled eggs, tuna steak (broken up into pieces), asparagus (cut into pieces) and proscuitto. Pour over dressing (which will be fairly thick) toss well.

Finally, top with shaved parmesan, serve with a nice glass of white wine.

Verdict:

Four out of four thought this was a keeper. It was filling and great to have a caesar salad made without mayonnaise. Tip from Oliver, this was about as much asparagus as he could handle,

‘with great (blogging) power comes great responsibility, don’t tell your readers to over-do the veggies in their salads!’

Fo

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The genesis of this blog was interesting, it was suggested to me by my daughter,  Nicki,  as something we could do together, and its a method of communication that she is fairly familiar with. As a woman over 50 it wasn’t that simple. There is a feeling in my generation that offering your thoughts to the world in an unsolicited way smacks of vanity. Maybe it was too many years with the nuns!

But there is a voice that says, what makes you think that other people would be interested in you yabbering on about your life and your thoughts? The same probably applies to twitter. When my daughter and I mentioned this project to my husband, he raised an eyebrow in a way that said… “pretentious?”  The voice of common sense which Mark often provides re-enforced my fears that this was not my sort of project.

However. the couple of blogs that I have embarked on with Nic have been lots of fun! I have allowed myself to be carried along by her enthusiasm which is one of her greatest gifts and I’ve enjoyed combining the recipes,photos, thinking and the writing. Its also lovely to have a twenty year old who does all the technological parts for you. Because of my inhibitions regarding blogging, I will probably focus a bit on the recipes initially, and very tentatively introduce my thinking about psychology and life.

Please leave a comment- I would love to know who is reading and what direction you would like to see this blog take- I’m about to embark on my next recipe, one thing this project has delivered has been a bit more creativity in the dinner menus!

Nicki and I (Vietnam 2010)

Nicki and I (Vietnam 2010)

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My favourite quote which I originally thought was Shakespeare, and I now know is Colleridge, is;

To be beloved is all I need, and those I love, I love indeed.

If you add good food, satisfying work and a bit of travel, this pretty much sums up my life. I am a firm believer that the connections we have with other people are the most important things we do . I also think that your family are not just the people that you are genetically related to, but the people that you chose to be close to throughout your life.

We have a couple of families nearby in Melbourne who we have spent the most special holidays (Christmas day, feast days) with, who I see as very much part of the family we choose. One of my chosen family is my Texan friend Kristen, who is now living in Australia but whose other closest friends are still in the states.

When her friend Sarah came to visit a few years ago, I immediately felt like she was someone who I wanted to spend a lot of time with. She has since become a host mother to my daughter when she did an exchange to Washington DC, and the ripples keep widening, her husband’s two sons have become two of my daughter’s closest friends, and we’ve had some wonderful times visiting.

When I was last visiting them in Virginia two years ago, I realised what a great cook and true foodie Sarah was.  I wanted to cook a dinner for them which I could be sure everybody would like – from the gourmet parents- to the 20 year old twin boys. And the vain me wanted them all to think I was a good cook! This is the one I came up with, and my measure of success was not so much the compliments from Sarah and Michael the parents, but the fact that Drew (one of the twins) had three serves!

Sarah, Leslie,the twins, and Nicki before dinner in VA

Since then I’ve cooked it hundreds of times, I now know it by heart, its easy, you can cook it inside an hour, and I haven’t known anyone not to like it. It originally came from delicious magazine, where the lovely staff actually read it out over the phone to me when I couldn’t find my recipe book!

Best Sicilian Chicken

Best pieces of chicken to use are chicken chops (thigh with the bone in) we take the skin off in a fruitless attempt to watch our waistlines.I allow two pieces of chicken per person, but we’re big eaters and theres usually a bit left over.

Put a couple of tablespoons of seasoned flour into a plastic bag, and shake the chicken in a couple of batches to dust it.

Fry chicken pieces in olive oil for about five minutes each side, until golden brown. Take pieces out and put them on a plate.

Slice four onions into rings, using the same pan fry until soft and brown. Add 3 garlic cloves (sliced) in the last few minutes of frying.

Add 1/2 dozen sprigs of fresh thyme (torn apart) and stir through onion and garlic mixture.

Place brown chicken on top of onion mix, cover each chicken piece with a couple of slices of fresh lemon, pour over 1-2 cups of chicken stock (enough to cover the ingredients but the top of the chicken should still be exposed)

Bake for 45 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, after 20 minutes of cooking, add 20 sicilian olives (they are green and have a beautiful buttery taste, push them down into the liquid) then return to oven.

For people who like a more lemony teaste, add a teaspoon of preserved lemon to the chicken stock.

Serve with fresh green beans, and rice if you want. Take the lemon slices off the chicken before serving.

(lemon slices give the chicken a great taste and stop it getting burnt on the top, but dehydrate a lot during cooking)

Enjoy with the family you choose, as well as the family you might have been lucky enough to be given!

Yve

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