Category Archives: local

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

It’s spring here, so I’ve been enjoying my life here in Sydney by refinishing furniture (as pictured here),

replanting seeds, and getting up to my usual shenanigans in the kitchen. This curried salad is from one of my CSA box experiments, and uses up some of the first signs of summer’s impending heat in the form of a roasted red pepper and some beautiful curly kale. I can’t wait until I have enough of my own produce to try a version of this from our balcony garden.

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

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Filed under almonds, experiments, local, main, quick meals, raisins, salad, seasonal, side, spelt, vegan, vegetarian

Meyer lemon tart and a recipe in pictures

Meyer lemon tart

One of our first purchases for our new home in Sydney was a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. $50 and several months later, we picked our first three fragrant fruit. Not bad for a partially sunny balcony in Sydney’s Inner West, don’t you think?

Meyer lemons, a cross between lemons and mandarins, have a bewitching floral scent and a sweet, tart, juicy interior, so they make especially good additions to baked goods.  With this in mind, I decided to use the juice from two lemons to make a tart and the zest to make a Meyer lemon vodka. The tart lasts several days in the fridge, and the Meyer lemon vodka lends the fragrance of these beauties to everything from cocktails to cookies for months after the citrus season has come to an end.

With the last lemon, we made homemade Meyer lemon-lime bitters—a fitting way to celebrate our first citrus harvest.

Meyer lemon vodka – a recipe in pictures

Meyer lemon vodka essentials

1. Gather ingredients.  Excellent vodka isn’t essential for this; Smirnoff or something similar will do.

Zest

2. Peel off the zest of the Meyer lemons, carefully avoiding the pith.

Finished product

3. Drop the Meyer lemon zest into the vodka, and let the flavor of the zest infuse in the vodka for a few weeks. When the vodka is fragrant, it’s finished.

This vodka is delicious in any fruity mixed drink, and also works well in baked goods calling for orange liqueur.

Meyer lemon tart with cardamom and orange zest
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Filed under Australia, baking, dessert, drink, local, Meyer lemons, seasonal

Strawberry basil lemonade

Perth seems like another lifetime by now.  I think I’ll save my report on Margaret River for later this week, since I have yet to upload the photos from that trip.  At the moment, I want to talk about strawberry basil lemonade, and the three weeks I spent in nuclear camp.

Yes, you read that right.  I am a nuclear physicist, and in an effort to try to figure out important life questions like what the hell I want to do with my life, I occasionally try new things. This was a summer school on nuclear nonproliferation, which covered everything from cold war nuclear hysteria* to what it would be like to be a UN weapons inspector.  It was awesome. So were my fellow students.  Maybe it was the return to dorm life, or the fact that we spent way too much time in the same classroom together, but I haven’t actually had so much fun since I was an undergrad. Perhaps that’s telling.  But I digress.

My point is that I realized I essentially want to save the world, to put it bluntly, and that I’m not the only one with that ambition.  It’s kind of cool to find out there are other people out there who feel this way, and that they’re talented, motivated, and fun to hang out with to boot.

Don’t worry. I won’t get totally serious on you all of a sudden. I plan on finding a job — any job — that gets us to Europe for a couple of years, before we have too many responsibilities.  The world can wait a little while.

So… Where was I? Oh, right. Lemonade.  It has absolutely nothing to do with this post, except that I was making it while I was thinking about career options today, and it sort of got tangled up with all of this in my head.  That and it’s a delicious accompaniment to a day full of making jam and putzing about in the garden.

*30,000 weapons, US / Soviet Union? Really? You could destroy thousands of worlds with that kind of stockpile…

Strawberry basil lemonade

I’m obsessed with lemon + basil at the moment, because I bought this tiny globe basil plant (with mini leaves) and can’t resist using it whenever and wherever I can.  We went strawberry picking on Sunday at a nearby orchard, and I happened to be making jam when I started craving lemonade, so that’s what this particular combination came from.  I sort of mashed up the strawberries and basil and threw it into the lemonade, chunks and all. You can blend it a little more thoroughly, or strain out the pulp, but try it first as is.  I sort of liked the texture.  Make sure your strawberries are ripe and flavorful.

  • 1/2 c. strawberry mash (This consists of ~6 medium-sized strawberries, pressed into a pulp.)
  • Juice from 6 small, juicy lemons
  • ~1 c. simple syrup (Heat about 3/4 c. sugar in 3/4 cup of water until the sugar dissolves, and let cool). Add this to taste — the amount of sugar you need depends on how sweet your strawberries are and what your personal preference is. Make extra simple syrup if you like things on the sweet side.
  • handful of basil, crushed
  • 3-4 cups of water.  This is also to taste, as the amount of juice your lemons produce will vary, and you may prefer a stronger or weaker drink.

Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust as required. Strain if you want a smooth drink; otherwise, don’t bother. Enjoy cold, preferrably somewhere sunny and warm.

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Filed under drink, lemon, local, strawberry, Uncategorized

More reasons to start a garden

Food porn opportunities are everywhere

Food porn opportunities are everywhere

Check out the gorgeous beans, tomatoes, and squash. Oh, the squash … We made some tonight, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Not grainy, like you get sometimes with acorn or kabocha squash that’s been sitting in your grocery store for something like an eternity, but smooth and supple, with a sweetness that makes dessert entirely unnecessary. Oh, and the flowering thai basil just makes me excited. But yah, that’s enough fawning over produce for one night.  I’ve got places to be. Tomorrow morning, in fact. I’m off to California, to visit a friend, say hello to some family, and go to a conference. And I have serious food plans. A tasting menu at Melisse in LA, lunch at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, and more excursions to the Cheese Board in Berkeley, because why wouldn’t I go if the conference is in Oakland? I want more bread …. Oh, and sourdough is calling my name.

squash warts

squash warts

But that’s tomorrow. For now, I want to leave you with one bizarre and sort of cool observation: those funny bumps you see sometimes on squash? That’s where it rests on the ground. It makes its own pillow!  And two, you can make an awesome meal from a random assortment of veggies, a few spices, tortillas, and cheese.  If the veggies are good, you really don’t even need the cheese.

Funky delicious potato

Funky delicious potato

So, I want to give you some ideas for an easy vegetarian meal. This isn’t really a recipe — just the best easy meal you could have on a Friday night.  You can use any veggies that take your fancy, as long as they’ll roast well.

My meal

My meal

We started with the garden produce we had on hand — a squash, bush beans, and a few peppers. We added in one very funky looking (but delicious) farmer’s market potato, and some cauliflower, button mushrooms, a bit of garlic (unpeeled), and rainbow carrots from the store.  We cut the squash into quarters, after scooping out the seeds, cut all the remaining veggies into similarly sized chunks, and pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees F.  After tossing everything except the potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, a tablespoon of freshly ground coriander seed, and a smaller portion of ground cumin (maybe < 1 t.), we placed everything in baking tins and threw it in the oven. For the potatoes, we tossed them in salt, pepper, olive oil, and spanish paprika. When everything was fork tender (maybe 1 hour later — this is a 1 dish go-about-your-business sort of dinner), we heated up a bit of cheddar cheese on some store-bought tortillas (habanero lime, from Trader Joe’s), and made our own fajitas.

The boys dinner

The boy's dinner

We both had the squash on the side, because it was easier. I didn’t feel like peeling it. But you could cut it up and roast it, too, or fork bits of it into your tortilla. You could use butternut squash, or acorn squash as a substitute, and it’d work perfectly.

This was a great first vegetarian night. We both got exactly what we wanted in a meal, no meat required. Really, even the cheese wasn’t that necessary — the veggies were tasty enough.  And I am definitely going to be excited about setting up a garden again next spring. Bring on the seed catalogs!

I’m not done yet …

James suggested I tell you what we grew this year, so here’s a list, with a few comments:

  • Pink brandywines – awesome heirloom tomatoes, and much cheaper to grow than to buy. They’re a bit finicky if you live in a rainy environment, but how indulgent is brandywine tomato sauce? You will be making a lot of it from the tomatoes bugs started tasting first.
  • Sungold tomatoes – these are orange cherry tomatoes. They’re a hybrid, a heavy producer, and are DELICIOUS.  Slow roast them and savor them in everything.
  • Yellow pear tomatoes – these are cute but not as tasty as sungolds, and definitely not as disease resistant. We won’t be growing these again next year.
  • Yellow and purple bush beans, haricots verts. The yellow and purple bush beans are my favorite. They seem to achieve a nicer texture when cooked, and have a nice flavor. The haricots verts really didn’t produce much at all.
  • Swiss chard – Awesome. They’re gorgeous, and they keep throwing up stalks when you cut some off for dinner. They weren’t terribly prolific in our garden, but we had enough to feed us with greens all summer.
  • Sweet nantes carrots – Also awesome. These are small, and really need to be grown in potting soil, because CT has rocks everywhere. They’re sweet and flavorful, and have a cute wrinkly witch finger look about them.
  • Arugula – Yum, but eat it before it gets warm and starts flowering. It gets bitter once it gets leggy.
  • Thai and genovese basil. Both varieties did really well as companion plants for the tomatoes, and gave us some tasty meals. The thai basil is gorgeous — it has lovely purple flowers, and a slightly exotic taste (gee, you think?). It’s also hardier than the typical genovese, but is a bit too strong for pesto.
  • A fingerling potato from the Union Square market – Complete failure. It seemed like it was going to work, but it died off, and then there was nothing left in the soil!
  • Sage, marjoram, oregano, cilantro, rosemary. All good herbs to have. We kept these in pots, since they can be brought inside when it starts to get cold.
  • Pea shoots. You can eat these, and they’re easy. They also like cold weather. They’re so cute — they have curly tendrils!
  • Onions, shallots. These hated our rocky soil. I did get the onions to grow a bit, and pickled them when they were still pretty small. Yum.
  • Kale – these are just tiny shoots right now, because we just planted them. They look happy, and are a cold weather crop, so I can’t wait to see how they do.
  • Peppers — I bought a 5 variety mix, and I think we had three different types pop up. I have no idea what kind — some kind of bell pepper, some longer, low-heat pepper, and I think some jalapeños. Yum.

Ok, that’s all I can remember so far. My flight leaves early, so I’m off to sleep. I’ll be back before Halloween, with an awesome lime cookie recipe, and some reports on Zuni Cafe and Melisse. See you then!

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Filed under carrots, cheese, gardening, garlic, local, main, potatoes, roasted vegetables, San Francisco, squash, stories, travel, vegetarian

In which we take on London, in search of edible fractals

Produce at the Borough Markets. Look, fractals!

Produce at the Borough Markets. Look, fractals!

Nothing makes me want to live in London more than the Borough Markets.  You can wander through the stalls and check out all this beautiful, exotic (mostly local) produce, fragrant unpasteurized cheese, olive oils, Italian produce, and oh yes, the classic pork pie. Don’t forget the coffee — Monmouth is worth every sip. The coolest thing, though? Romanesque, pictured above, which I had never seen close-up before. It’s a perfect example of fractals in nature (and supposedly delicious, too). How awesome is that?

Borough Markets

Borough Markets

These markets are the best of accessible, affordable London, and if they’re open when I’m passing through, I make a point to head over there.  They’re a huge series of warehouses full of goodness, over near the Tate Modern, so go check it out. We met a friend there and wandered through, tasting this and that, bought a bit of bacon for James’s lunch the next day, and then headed over to the Tate to “interpret” modern art. Purely serious, I assure you. Ahem.

British Museum Interior

British Museum Interior

There was much more to the trip; I’ve basically only given you the tail-end. But a lot of it was pretty touristy — you know, the usual checklist. We basically did a three day hike across London — running in Hyde Park, walking outside the Tower of London because we couldn’t afford the entry fee (and checking out the gift shop for free interior pictures … Almost the same, right?), visiting the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, and just soaking in the atmosphere via a long series of misdirections, frustrating detours, and really awesome crepes from a street cart run by a lovely elderly woman. The pictures, should you be interested, are here.  We had a nice visit with James’s uncle, and had a great time exploring London. I suppose it’s a little understandable that I wasn’t quite ready to get on the train to Gatwick Sunday morning, to make my way to Warsaw.

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Mock pad thai

Ingredients

This is the story of a girl who craved pad thai, but didn’t want to leave the house.

Greenery

Good thing her pantry was full. She was missing a few ingredients, however. No flat rice noodles for her — only vermicelli could be found. And shrimp? Well, the dried variety would have to do. Bean sprouts were completely out of the question. But with her garden’s bounty, and a few substitutions, she found she could make do.

Mock pad thai

Did she regret staying in? Not for a second.

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Filed under garlic, garlic scapes, local, main, pasta, vegetarian

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Beautiful

I thought I’d share this one while strawberries and rhubarb are still in season. We had a pile of each sitting in our house, wilting in the humidity, and I decided to take matters into my own hands and do something about it before they both went to waste. A good thing, too, given that strawberries were $6 a quart last week, and they weren’t even that tasty.

Compote

I can’t blame them, really — with all this rain, we haven’t managed to actually harvest any of ours before they’ve started rotting. But onto more pleasant things…

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Filed under dessert, local, rhubarb, strawberry, vegan, vegetarian, wine