FLAVOUR NOSTALGIA

Some flavours stay with you for a long time. And when those flavours bring memories along for the ride, one bite can really take you back. Food is a time-machine! So this is a taste of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, one of my first Californian restaurant experiences. That was 23 years ago. I still use this recipe today.

Zuni was iconic: ground-breaking Californian cuisine of its day. It was the golden age of Cali cuisine and a time when braver restaurants were doing away with flavours stolen from other places and instead letting locals speak for themselves, that is local growers, local tastes, local combinations.

I lent my copy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook to someone years ago and never got it back. Luckily I had this scrawled in a notebook!

Zuni Cafe Caesar Salad

Serves 4 to 6

This recipe is adapted from “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” by Judy Rodgers.

  • 2 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed, dried, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon (generous) minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon (scant) red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • – Pinch sea salt
  • – Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound chewy, rustic French or Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 cold large eggs, well beaten
  • – Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons), or to taste
  • 2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, cored, leaves left whole, chilled

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 160°.

Combine half of the anchovies and garlic in a bowl. Add the vinegar, the 2/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

At serving time, slowly whisk the oil mixture into the eggs to form an emulsion. Add the remaining anchovies and garlic, the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the cheese.

Thoroughly toss the lettuce leaves with the dressing, being careful not to bruise them. Taste for salt and add, if necessary.

Divide the salad among chilled serving plates. Add the croutons, dust with more freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Cray-cray for kale

It seems like everyone’s gone a little kale crazy. Kale smoothies, kale chips. But keeping it simple is the way to go, for two standout reasons. If you fiddle around with the best ingredients you run the risk of resenting them, they are sucking time from you! Second, the best ingredients need nothing much to deliver up their health properties and their tastiness. Respect that.

Kale is a hardy cabbage really, like the kind of cabbage you can imagine living wild. It is part of the brassica family so has relations who are cauliflowers and broccoli, but we eat the leaves and no real head forms in the middle. it’s an intense green, and has similarities to spinach and silver beet.

Here’s a way to serve it that’s respectful and simple:

Braised Kale

1 bunch kale, washed and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely sliced

2 anchovy fillets

Pinch of chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Grilled country style bread

Perhaps a poached egg on top?

 

Blanch the chopped kale until just tender, then drain and set aside.

Sauté garlic and chilli gently in olive oil.

Add the anchovy fillets and kale and season with a little salt and pepper.

Cook covered very gently until the kale is soft.

Serve on grilled sourdough, with a splash of extra oil.

 

Prawn fattouche two ways

As a last hurrah, as Summer slips out the door, here are two delicious prawn salad recipes we have used this past season in our kitchens. Both have Middle Eastern flavours, one is a classic fattouche (a bread based salad) and the other introduces an amazing spicy ingredient called zhoug.

These will send you back to sunny days eating al fresco as we come into Autumn and the colder months ahead. Rug up warm and kept BBQing! It’s the only way to stave off Winter blues!

Prawn Fattouche Salad

This is how I cook, adjusting the ingredient to use what I have, you could add coriander, or feta, or watermelon, to this salad, even cooked zucchini.

Allow 5-8 prawns per person, peeled, seasoned cooked as you like.

This is a great salad for b.b.q or fry the prawns and add to the salad below.

Just adjust the amount of ingredients for how many people you have, sprinkle the salad with lots of sumac, some extra mint leaves and throw some lemon wedges on it before serving.

Combine in a bowl:

Marinated red onions

Roasted bread.

Salad Greens, any type from your garden, a small handful for each person. e.g.rocket, baby cos, mesclun.

Washed and chopped radishes, tomatoes, seeded cucumbers, flat leaf parsley and mint leaves .

Add enough dressing to suit your taste, squish in your hands a bit to mix the flavours.

For the marinated red onions:

1T sumac

¼ t allspice

¼ t pepper

1 red onion finely sliced

Soak sumac in cold water for a few mins and remove any husks, put the onion, sumac, allspice and pepper in a bowl and rub everything together, leave to marinate foe an hour at least.

For the roasted pita bread:

¼ round per person.

Tear pita bread into bite sized chunks, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking tray.

Roast in a pre heated oven, 175 degrees C, until golden, stirring often to get an even colour.

For the dressing:

Mix together (adjust ingredients to taste):

1 garlic clove, crushed with salt to a paste

Juice of one lemon

3T extra virgin olive oil

1T white wine vinegar

Zhoug prawn salad

You will need:

7 cooked prawns

½ large avocado cut into chunks

2 heaped spoons of sumac pickled cucumber and a good spoon of the liquid

1 heaped spoon of zhoug (make your own – here’s how) http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/spicy-zhoug

Pinch salt

Coriander

A few mesclun leaves

To assemble:

Mix prawns, avocado, cucumber and liquid and zhoug in a bowl. Add coriander, mesclun, flatbread and salt.

Sprinkle with sumac and pomegranate seeds.

 

 

 

Comfort food on a rainy Monday

This is what I want to eat right now, for lunch. I’m sharing the goodness with you. We’re hunkered down feeling the tail of Cyclone Pam whip around us.

WAXY POTATO SALAD with chickpeas and chorizo

For the dressing:

1T fennel seeds

1 T coriander seeds both lightly roasted and crushed

4 shallots finely diced

1t white pepper

1T thyme leaves

Honey

2T white wine vinegar

80ml extra virgin olive oil (evo)

Juice ½ lemon

2 large mild chilli

Put all into bowl and allow to infuse for at least 1 hour

For the salad:

300gm waxy potato

100gm chickpeas

2T evo

160 gm chorizo, thickly sliced

100gm lettuce

1C coriander leaves

2 medium soft boiled eggs

Boil potatoes until tender, slice in half lengthways. Warm chickpeas and toss both in some of the dressing while still warm. Fry the chorizo in evo and add to rest of the salad ingredients. Serve topped with a soft boiled egg.

(I ate mine before I could photograph it so this image is from Stone Soup Cookery)

Squash toast

Just when I think I’ve tasted too much, smelt too much, thought too much and talked too much about food I find something that reminds me that some simple food needs so little to make it perfect.

Recently, as blood thirsty children loosely disguised as Halloweeners traipsed around the neighbourhood in search of sugar, I found a sweet little recipe for squash toast. So perfect when there’s hollowed out pumpkins lit from within on the porch but so wrong when we’re six months from traditional ‘harvest’ season.

Smitten Kitchen blogs her edible adventures from a tiny kitchen in New York City. She calls herself fearless. And attempts mastery of some complex things, restaurant standard but prepared by a mum in the city with a toddler at her ankle. “Comfort food stepped up a bit”, she says.

This squash toast recipe originates from Jean-Georges Vongerichten via ABC Kitchen NYC – miles away from Smitten Kitchen in equipment, combined experience and skill. The recipe comes out of Jean-Georges’ commitment to keep things simple and tasty. His food is not weighed down by tradition and he looks to the East for inspiration. Heavy stocks and creams are replaced by vegetable juices, fruit essences and light broths. Herbs, fruits, veges. And he keeps things true in another way too: no pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics, hormones. His restaurants may have grown up to be some of the big players in the game but his happy place is a simple kitchen, and his favourite food more likely to be found at a Thai street-food cart than on an a la carte menu.

A recipe for squash toast has sent me on a yummy little journey through different kitchens. A recipe can become an heirloom, a keepsake, a gift, a memento, a snapshot. From the huge kitchen of ABC to the tiny one of Smitten, a recipe becomes a portal through which a love of simple deliciousness can travel from one cook to the next.

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