As usual, I want to tell you about way too many things and haven’t the time to tell you about it all properly. Not the way I talk. Well, going by the glazed look in the eyes of some friends who made the mistake of asking about what I’d been cooking over the holidays. So instead, here’s a condensed version – filled mostly with photos – of some things that have me terribly excited at the moment. Edit: who am I kidding? Of course, this became a behemoth of a post that broke nearly every blogging convention. Sorry.
Seeds and acidic stuff on top of things
In the first few weeks – I went through a pretty bad tahini/citrus phase. This recipe from the My New Roots blog started if off. Even if you don’t like coleslaw because of all that funny mayonnaise (shudder), you might just like this recipe. The salad dressing is best used straight away, by the bye.
When people got sick of sesame flavoured stuff being smothered all over their salads, I changed tack. This coincided with a monthlong beetroot bout. So we ate slices of orange, beetroot wedges, greens and pecans dressed with grape seed oil, mint, orange juice and lemon or verjuice…a fair bit. There’s something so pleasurable about eating fruit with steak.
More recently, I came into ownership of one humongous lettuce. Now, I’ll be honest, I avoid the stuff. And I definitely wouldn’t by an entire lettuce just for fun. I’ve eaten so many stock standard garden salads, that I’d rather have baby spinach or kale in my salads nowadays. I remember watching in horror as a girl ate an entire bowl of lettuce – straight – at ballet class once. But last week, I ordered a box of fruit and veg. I don’t live real close to any good farmers markets or similar; and what’s more, I am quite possibly Australia’s Slowest Fresh Produce Shopper. Family members will agree. Back and forth. Umming and ahhing. So I decided I’d give the lucky dip approach a try: fill out Kevin and Deb of Fruit at Home‘s survey form (no iceberg lettuce ever and cauliflower occasionally thanks), email them with any questions, make payment, and have a large lidded styrofoam box full of goodies turn up in a shady and out of view spot on your porch on your neighbourhood’s designated day. You’ll get a selection of produce, based on your survey preferences, selected that morning from the Canningvale grower’s markets and delivered by Kevin free of charge. My fruit and veg have kept well over the week, and their $30 ‘small’ box works just great for one week of generous fruit ‘n veg consumption for 1. And you know what? It’s a great way to make your cooking more seasonal (local and fresh all the way!), and you’ll probably try new dishes and combinations.
So there it was, this green monster staring at me from my bench top. Thinking I’d be smart, I made a huge green smoothie with stone fruit; and pile yoghurt, fruit, LSA and seeds on top. Barely touched the sides of that lettuce. So I admitted defeat and figured: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. In other words, make a salad that’s all about the lettuce. I filled a big noodle bowl with torn lettuce leaves. And then I added some oil, some acid (balsamic in the case), some salt (parmesan cheese), some crunch (pepitas) and some carbs (grainy toast rubbed with garlic and smothered in EVOO). Best darn bowl of lettuce I’ve ever eaten.
So much so, that I did a similar thing with EVOO, lemon juice and sunflower seeds to accompany a fresh batch of zucchini slice. The lemon works so well against the gooey cheese in the slice. So y’know, maybe lettuce isn’t that bad after all.
Ok, who doesn’t love dip? I forgot how easy it is to whip up a batch of hummus though. Especially with plenty of lemon and some roast garlic – yum! It’s great to have on hand for snacks, adding splodges to salads, and smearing on toast. Please, at least try it on toast. Cannelini beans taste great when blended up with some oil and garlic too.
But my absolute favourite thing is a dip that was made in front of me at a friend’s house. Everyone has a version of this. You know – spinach, good mayonnaise and cheese warmed ’till soft and oozing. This version added a can of artichoke. Salty, textural genius! Positively the most addictive stuff that one could serve up to guests of any age at barbecues.
Being on holidays, I had the luxury of making some more leisurely breakfasts this summer. And because the whole family eats minimal wheat these days, I figured it was time I reclaimed my favourite breakfast treat. My attempt at sweet potato pancakes didn’t go so well (might stick to savoury sweet potato fritters). But, oh my, you simply must try this fabulous recipe for banana and almond meal pancakes. The pancakes are moist without being heavy; and somehow eggs, banana and almonds (which I blitz unpeeled in a blender to make fresh almond meal just for the recipe. Leftovers keep just fine in an airtight container in the fridge. Try some paleo baking, or blitz in a food processor with some walnuts/pecans to make up 1c nut crumbs. Then add 1c of dates and a few tbsp of cacao or cocoa to taste, and pulse until a homogenous mix forms. Press into a lined container and refrigerate. Ta da! Raw ‘brownie’ slice.) make a perfectly convincing pancake batter. The suggested topping of cocoa sauce, cranberries and coconut is just scrummy:
As is stewed berries with Greek yoghurt:
And of course, strawberries and cream. As a little girl, I once had this plate of pancakes smothered in strawberry sauce, cream and fresh strawberries at a little hotel restaurant. The combination is so beautiful, that when my grandpa supplied a large punnet of his homegrown strawberries, it was obvious what we were going to do. Banana pancakes, billowy whipped cream and strawberries macerated in a handful of chopped mint leaves and a dab of honey that is.
Finally, no more tennis balls! Fresh in caprese salad, or roasted and popped on pizza – now is the time to go to town on tomatoes. Oh, roasted tomatoes are also divine when combined with parsley, pine nuts, feta cheese, oil and lemon juice, by the way.
Oh dear, so much for short and sweet. But one last thing… In my neck of the woods, plums are cheaper than apples at the moment. Oh happy day! I just love their mellow drama. Softly sweet yet tangy, and golden or purple (sometimes both) – plums are just plain classy. So I’ve been making hay while the sun shines. First up, I messed with an old family lunchbox favourite originally given to us by a friend. My version looks like this:
1c SR flour (try spelt flour, half white and half wholemeal)
2/3c raw sugar
1c of ‘stuff’. e.g. rolled oats or dried coconut
1c of ‘things’. Our family loves apricots and almonds (with coconut). I have a soft spot for dates and walnuts. This time, I used chopped plums.
Mix until just combined, and bake for 45+ minutes at 180 degrees C, or until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean. Eat at least one piece while the cake is still warm and crusty on the outside. I implore you.
Mental note: perhaps using leftover roast fruit, which has less water in it, would be better. Fresh juicy stone fruit leaks a bunch, and messes a tad with the surrounding cake mix.
I’ve been throwing plums on my bircher muesli with LSA, seeds and yoghurt at breakfast too.
But even plums for breakfast every day straight wasn’t fixing my problem. A sizeable pile of very ripe plums remained. ‘I know! I’ll sauté them in a little butter!’
But I forgot that very ripe plums, a good amount of heat, and a glance in the other direction for a few minutes make jam. Oops. Still tastes great over muesli, or layered with chia seed pudding. Better yet, add fresh plums (and bananas and homegrown strawberries. Oh my) on top. ’nuff said.
Did you know that when you add honey, vanilla and cinnamon to chia, it tastes like egg custard? Mind blown. Add some raw cacao, and you have choc yogo.
1c milk, almond milk or coconut milk
45ml chia seeds (3 American tbsp, or 2 Aussie tbsps + 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp honey
Layer with pureed fruit (or cooked stone fruit!), seeds and generous spoons of LSA. If you use a good 1/2 cm (at least) of LSA, it’s like sinking your spoon into a pile of cookie crumbs. No really. In the pictures below, you can see that the bottom layer didn’t have nearly enough LSA.
But now I should go. Before I give myself RSA, or yourself a sore neck. Happy cooking!