Month: July, 2014

How Things Turn Out

I made the switch from working in museums and taught English at a girl’s school in Auckland for the last two years. It was the most rewarding, energising, and exhausting thing I have ever done. My students challenged me, frustrated me and amazed me every day. When I left, the tears, kind words and hugs were overwhelming and I knew I had found the career that I would continue for the rest of my life. I think about my students all the time and wonder how they are going, what they are reading and whether they are continuing to grow into the incredible young women I know they are.

I believe in education to expand student’s minds, they should ask questions and say when they don’t agree with something. I don’t think they should be consumed by rules and rote learning. So when I was offered a job at a school here, I thought long and hard, about the school itself and my very bizarre interview in which I was asked nothing about my teaching practice, and decided no. It was not for me.  I didn’t want to settle for a school which did not allow me to teach the way I teach and put the emphasis on the wrong things.

You never know where life will lead next. For me, it is to beautifully designed skin care. I will be working at Aesop. Not what I initially planned for living and working in this country, but I think it is going to be exciting. Their products are amazing, the design, beautiful and the other people that work for the company seem so lovely and friendly.

I start tomorrow so decided to treat myself and splash out for a hair cut so I’m looking good for my first day at work. I now have hair of varying lengths, a short and crooked fringe and a significantly lighter wallet. I am deeply unimpressed by my first American haircut. And Ollie is in China this week for work so I couldn’t even come home to rant at him about it.

But when I got home there was a beautiful book waiting for me, a delivery from a special friend far away. And so I sat down to write a blog post on things never quite being how you expect them to be. And how that isn’t such a bad thing.

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The Sexiest of Salads

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Eating a fig always seems so indulgent, splitting open the skin to expose the fleshy inside; the taste so sweet, yet so earthy. They arrive on our shelves for such a short amount of time, so when I saw the table piled with them at the farmer’s market this week, I almost fainted in excitement. I bought a bag (for only $3!!!) instantly ate one, and then set about making the rest into a salad to do the beautiful bowl we had just been given from two very dear and very generous guests as a thank you present for having them to stay for a week (more on these adventures to come). When I sent a picture of the salad I made to my friend Courtney, she replied with “Oh just stop it. Fig porn”. And so this sexy salad was born.

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Sexy Fig Salad

Rocket
6 ripe figs – black or green is fine.
4 slices of prosciutto
About 30g feta
Thyme
Honey
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Spread the rocket onto a big dish and arrange the quartered figs on top. I used a mixture of green Adriatic figs and Black Mission figs. Next tear your prosciutto into smaller parts and arrange it around the figs. Finally, crumble the feta all over the top.

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I dressed this with honey, thyme, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The balance of the salty and sweet flavours is pure perfection and I have no doubt that you will love this salad. We ate ours with some walnut bread and a glass of rose. It was summer evening bliss.

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Pasta al Pomodoro

Yesterday I talked with a friend who is back in the stifling summer heat of Milan for a wedding. I was taken back to my time living there and how the two of us realised we were living just down the road from each other, friends from school who had fallen out of touch. I could see her as clearly as if it was yesterday, in gumboots on the side of Viale Gran Sasso in the slushy grey snow as she waited for me. We were getting our first of many espresso together in the city we Kiwis were choosing to call home. Sometimes it seemed like we were the only sane ones in the whole city, other times it seemed like we were the ones creating all the drama. I was taken back to the friendships and the adventures, the flavours and fragrance of an Italian kitchen. The bag of tomatoes in my fridge were calling to me and I knew what I had to do with them.

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Last Night’s Pasta al Pomodoro

A generous glug of olive oil
1 big garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets
A sprinkling of chilli flakes
1/2 red onion
6 big fresh tomatoes (I had a few yellow cherry tomatoes I threw in too for good measure)
A peeling of lemon skin very finely chopped
6 green olives
1 Tbsp capers
Salt

Cover the bottom of a thick bottomed pan with olive oil and then add your whole garlic clove. When you can start to smell the garlic, add the chilli flakes and anchovy fillets and slowly slowly fry these until they dissolve into the oil making a delicious salty, spicy and garlicky oil (I have been known to finish here and coat the pasta with the oil for dinner. If I learnt one thing from Italy it is that simplicity is always best). Next, finely dice the red onion and add this with the lemon zest to slowly soften in the oil. Fill a bowl with boiling water and drop your tomatoes in. Leave for 30 seconds and then pull out and peel the skin off. Chop the tomatoes up and add these to the onion. There will be a lot of liquid from the tomatoes at this stage, so you want to leave them to simmer and thicken until you are left with a deep red sauce. Add the capers and stoned and cut up olives and you have yourself a sauce. Cook your pasta – I think something long and skinny is best for a sauce like this – and combine them. You don’t want your pasta to be swimming in the sauce, but nicely shiny from it. Top with grated parmesan to really make your meal amazing.

The beauty of pasta al pomodoro is that there is no one way to do it. I am sure there are many nonne out there who are shaking their heads at this recipe, but there seem to be hundreds of variations on eating tomatoes and pasta together. It can be as simple as oil, garlic and a tin of tomatoes. Either way, you know it is going to taste gooooood. It is my go to food, my comfort food and my favourite dinner in the world. Plus, I can put away serious amounts. Very happily.

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While the pasta cooked, we had a little marinated zucchini salad which was a lovely combination of fresh crunch, zingy vinegar and soft mozzarella. 

Marinated Zucchini Salad

Half a green zucchini
Half a yellow zucchini
1/2 clove of fresh garlic minced
Olive oil
The juice of a lemon
Salt
A splash of white wine vinegar
Handful of fresh basil, torn
A few balls of fresh mozzarella
Handful of baby spinnach
A few pieces of prosciutto torn into smaller pieces

Finely slice the zucchini and put in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, basil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Leave these for a couple of hours to marinate. Just before you serve, add the baby spinach, prosciutto and mozzarella. Easy as that.

Buon appetito a tutti. And Livs, I wish I was there with you x

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Passing Time

I am sitting at the table by the window, nail polish drying on my finger nails, cup of tea close by as I try to distract myself from my impending job interview. One o’clock must be one of the worst times to have one. I feel like I can’t really do anything this morning, because what if I am late? I am very good at being late. But it is also a long time to sit around drinking tea and wondering what questions they might ask, what questions I should ask them…

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So instead, I will tell you what we had for dinner last night.

Slow Cooked Chicken Tacos

For the chicken

2 chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp spicy paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of brown sugar
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Enough water to cover the bottom of your dish

For the slaw

1/3 small red cabbage
1/3 small green cabbage
1 big handful of baby spinach leaves
1 handful of fresh coriander
3 radishes
2 spring onions
1 small tin of pineapple
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
Salt

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Place your chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, in a dish with a lid. Combine the ingredients and pour on top of the chicken -they want to be snuggled in there quite tightly so they don’t lose all the delicious flavours.  Add some water to the bottom of the dish – this stops it from drying out- and put in the oven at 150 degrees celsius/300 fahrenheit for about two hours or until the chicken falls easily off the bone with just a fork. Take the skin off, pull apart and then pour all the delicious juices over the top.

While the chook is cooking, finely slice all the ingredients for the slaw, combine in a bowl with the lime juice, olive oil and a splash of the juice from the can of pineapple for the dressing. You can use whatever you want for the slaw, you just want to make sure you have a combination of flavours so there is earthy, spicy, tart and sweet crunching in your mouth.

Serve on either corn or flour mini soft tortillas and top with hot sauce should you wish. We have this amazing stuff that is made by firefighters in Palo Alto- sounds too good to be true huh?

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Normally by the time we have finished dinner the wind is blowing and the mist is swirling, but last night the evening was surprisingly balmy, so we climbed up to top of Buena Vista Park and looked out over the lights of the new city we call home.

A weekend of finding free things!

This week things have started to fall into place. I have managed to get myself a subbing job in a bookstore, met up with some old friends, made some new friends and found some awesome free things in our area. Friday night was an album release party at The Mill with a band playing, free Josey Baker breads, 4505 nachos plus BYO beers- it felt like a really fun house party in a cool space. Saturday was more free drinks, live music and food at the Public Bikes opening in Hayes Valley. So after that and an afternoon of eating ice cream in the sun, we wandered up the hill for a dinner at home. Herb crusted roast chicken with yummy summer salads.

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Herb Crusted Roast Chicken

1 onion quartered
1 lemon quartered
A big handful of fresh herbs – I used parsley, mint and basil as that is what I had, but wintry sage, rosemary and thyme would also be a good combo
Small handful of capers
3 cloves of garlic
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
BIG glug of olive oil
Sea salt

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First of all, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion and lemon. Next, finely chop the herbs, garlic and capers and mix them with everything else. Slather all over the chicken and pop her in the oven for about an hour. While she cooks, pull the tray out of the oven and scoop up the liquid from the chicken and pour it back over so the chicken doesn’t dry out.

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I served the chicken with an insalata caprese – three types of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and plenty of good olive oil and sea salt – and a zucchini and quinoa salad – three types of zucchini, loads of fresh herbs, slowly cooked onion, quinoa and a smokey dressing. It was lovely, the company was great and we found that the wine from Bi-rite is very good.

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On Sunday we went down to Civic Center to watch the final of the world cup and it was awesome! Heaps of people, flags, food trucks and cheering. It seems to me that there is plenty to do in this city without having to pay. Here’s to a week to follow up a good weekend.

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Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad

This is the kind of salad you eat and feel like you are doing good things to your body. It is fresh, tasty and packed full of flavour. We had it for dinner by itself – there was enough to take leftovers for lunch today, but you could have it with some nice meat for a more substantial dinner.

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Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad

1 small green cauliflower head
1 small white cauliflower head
Half a red onion
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water (for cooking the quinoa)
Handful of baby spinach
Half a raw green zucchini, finely sliced
Half a yellow zucchini, finely sliced
Handful of fresh mint and parsley
Feta
Zest and juice of a lemon
Olive oil
Salt
Sprinkling of pumpkin seeds
Sprinkling of chilli flakes

Break your cauliflower into florets and pop in a 180 degree oven with the sliced red onion, a dash of olive oil and cumin. While the cauliflower and the quinoa  is cooking, finely slice the zucchini and put in a big bowl with the olive oil and lemon juice. This marinates it nicely before you simply add everything else, sprinkling the seeds, zest of the lemon and chilli flakes to finish. Happy Wednesday x

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Pancakes for the 4th of July

Firstly, please excuse my absence over the last few weeks. My family have been over from New Zealand and we have been too busy exploring and adventuring for me to be blogging. Now I know some people shudder at the thought of family holidays, all that time, all that family. I happen to rather like them. We have always enjoyed holidaying together so when I left home and then when my sister left home, somehow the holidays didn’t. We continue to meet up somewhere new every year, and this year it was the U.S. of A.

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We spent some time eating and exploring in San Francisco, and then went down to Monterey and Carmel for a bit of a beach holiday. Known as the fruit bowl of America, the fresh produce was incredible. So many berries, nectarines, cherries, peaches and artichokes! As well as the food, the seals and otters were pretty awesome- look at them all!

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To make things even better, while they were here my work visa came through. This means I have started the arduous process of trolling through job websites and sending my CV to anyone I think could be interested. But before I started that, we celebrated with the family all together at Bar Tartine- an absolutely incredible evening, by watching Dangerous Minds- to get me in sorted for teaching in America, and by celebrating our first Fourth of July eating pancakes- before spending the day in Dolores Park with friends.

My sister is actually the pancake queen in our family, but seeing as she had just got on a plane, I decided I would give them a go.

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Raspberry and Coconut Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
30 g butter or oil
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup frozen raspberries, broken up into smaller pieces
2 Tbsp shredded coconut

This is so easy! Simply mix your dry ingredients and then add your wet. If you are using butter, melt it first. This mixture will make four small pancakes, perfect for two people. I served them with some natural yoghurt and some of my kind of strawberry jam.

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Happy Fourth of July, and here’s to family x