Sunday, February 10, 2008

Green Tomato and Lime Jam

Many years ago I enjoyed an appetizer of Parmigiano Reggiano, served with a green tomato preserve, at a restaurant in Darlinghurst, Sydney. This recipe is our attempt to recreate that memory. There's nothing quite like the taste of home-grown tomatoes. A green tomato jam is the perfect way to use up the end of season fruit still on the vine as winter approaches. If you can't wait, pick through the summer, before they ripen - these preserves are worth giving up a few of the red ripe ones!

2lb small green tomatoes
1 fresh lime
1lb 12oz white sugar
vanilla pod
glass jars with 2-piece lids for preserving (Ball brand)

1. Wash, wipe and slice the tomatoes thinly. Place in a bowl in layers with the sugar and leave for 24 hours.
2. Wipe the lime and slice it thinly removing pips.
3. Place all ingredients in a stainless steel pan and bring to the boil.
4. Simmer very gently, stirring occasionally until jam is golden, cooked and a set is obtained. This will take approximately 2 hours. Color should be a gorgeous green/gold.
5. Remove valilla pod and allow jam to cool slightly before filling steralized jars.
6. Seal and process 20 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
7. Excellent served with thinly sliced Parmigiano Reggiano and water crackers.

Chicken with Scallions

This chicken recipe comes from one of our most treasured, out-of-print books, Cooking With The Young Chefs of France, published in 1981. Author Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz selects favorite recipes on her journeys through the provinces of France, crediting the generosity of the chefs who shared their recipes with her. She also offers her own adaptations and includes recipes like this one, inspired by the sight of "very fat, fresh green scallions in the market".

1 whole chicken breast, boned and halved.
1 sweet potato roasted in the skin, in a moderate oven for one hour
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
4 tablespoons butter
2 bunches of scallions, trimmed, keeping 2 inches of the green part
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream

1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

2. In a heavy skillet with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and saute chicken breasts until they are lightly browned on both sides, about 4 minutes.

3. Add the scallions and saute for about 2 minutes longer.

4. Pour in the white wine and stock, cover, simmer until chicken is done, about 10 minutes. Chicken breasts are done when they are firm and springy to the touch. It is important not to overcook them as they lose their juiciness.

5. Lift chicken breasts and scallions to a serving dish and keep warm.

6. Over high heat, reduce pan juices to half. Beat in remaining butter, cut into bits, and stir in the cream until heated through. Spoon sauce over the chicken. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables. We chose young zucchinis and roasted sweet potato.

Tip: In the USA, we find the chicken from the Asian stores is more flavorful (actually tastes the way chicken should, tastes like chicken!). If limited to "supermarket" choices, look for chicken grown without antibiotics or hormones and other "additives".

Friday, February 8, 2008

Potato Soup

Winter is a great season for soup and this is one of my favourites. It is easy to make and a hit at any dinner party. Try this soup with a glass of Wolf Blass Gold Lable Riesling.

1/4 lb salted butter
4 leeks, wash well and finely chop
1 large sweet onion, fine diced
sea salt
Pinch of sugar
4 cups Chicken Stock (canned works well)
1lb russet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
chives for garnish

1. In a large, saucepan heat butter and add leeks, onion, sugar and salt to taste. Saute, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes.

2. Add chicken stock and potatoes. Bring to simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour

3. Lift out potatoes and puree in blender adding a little of the soup as needed. I like to leave the leek and onion diced to add texture to the finished soup. Nice contrast to the creamy pototoes.

4. Return the pureed potatoes to saucepan and bring soup just to boil, take off the heat then stir in the cream. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with chives and serve

Tip: Leeks often come with "complimentary" dirt! Cut the leeks along the length within an inch of the base, fan out and wash under running water and you'll avoid a mouthful of grit.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Taste for Life

$60,000 for the benefit of the American Cancer Society, that's the Goal for 2008. If you like great wine, great food and a great cause make your plans now to attend this years Taste For Life

What Would Aussies Know About Chilli

Robert is fascinated with Chilli Cookoffs. He's entered a couple but has one thing working against his success; What would an Aussie know about Chilli?! This small problem, however, does not deter him from constantly experimenting. And yes, he is particular about the level of spiciness. So here goes, in honor of the Super Bowl.

2 lb top round steak, (I prefer to very finely chop the steak, rather than buy ground)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 large onions, fine dice
6 garlic cloves
2 dried Anaheim chiles
2 Poblano chiles
2 tablespoons Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 tablespoons Coriander
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Basil
2 bay leaves
2 cans of diced tomatoes and green chilies (I recommend Rotel)
Sea salt
1 cans butter beans
1 can corn niblets
Tobasco Sauce, to taste
1 large Red Pepper, julienned

For Serving: large soft tortillas, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and red onion, grated cheese (Mex mix), chopped cilantro, sour cream, sliced avacado.

1. Place dried chiles in a sauspan, cover with water and bring to boil. Let soak for 15 minutes till softened.

2. In a large cast iron dutch oven, saute Onions in Olive Oil. Add finely chopped beef, cook until browned.

3. Remove chile stems and seeds, puree chiles in a blender using water used for soaking. Add to meat mixure along with canned tomatoes, dried herbs and spices. Add salt to taste. Add additional water if needed. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour.

4. Add Tabasco and adjust seasonings to taste. Add drained, canned beans, corn and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve wrapped in large soft tortilla (warmed in microwave for 10 seconds) with your choice of lettuce, avacado, tomato, red onion, cheese, cilantro and sour cream. Pyromaniacs can liven it up with extra Tabasco.

Sydney Sunday Crepes

Over the 11+ years we've spent in the USA, we've continued a tradition the family enjoyed at our home in Sydney. On Sunday mornings the children awoke to the unmistakeable aroma of butter browning in the crepe pan. Robert's crepes are a great brunch treat for friends and family.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter
Fresh fruit; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, any berries.
Whipped cream
Maple syrup; the real stuff!
extra butter for the pan

1. Combine flour, sugar and salt; mix well. Add milk and eggs; whisk until batter is smooth. Cover; let stand 1 hour. Melt butter over low heat until it just begins to brown. Stir into batter.

2. Heat a small amount of butter in crepe pan or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons batter into pan; immediately rotate pan until batter covers bottom with a thin layer. Cook until lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Run spatula around edge; turn crepe (or if you are feeling lucky, toss crepe). Continue cooking until bottom is browned. Remove; keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with berries, whipped cream and maple syrup.

Byerly's Wild Rice Soup

When we first moved to the USA we lived in Minneapolis. You don't have to be in Minnesota for too long before you are introduced to wild rice soup. The local supermarket, Byerly's, is famous for this unique Minnesotan dish.

6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/3 cup diced ham
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
3 tablespoons chopped slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of half-and-half
2 tablespoons dry sherry
snipped chives

Melt butter in saucepan; saute onion until tender. Blend in flour; gradually stir in broth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in wild rice, ham, carrots, almonds and salt; simmer about 5 minutes. Blend in half-and-half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with chives.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup:
Reduce chicken broth to 2 1/2 cups. Substitute 2 cups cubed, cooked chicken for ham. Omit salt. Substitute 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated skimmed milk for the half-and-half. Prepare as directed.

Windows On The Bay

Windows on the Bay is rated one of Maryland's Top 10 Chesapeake Bay area restaurants. The casual atmosphere overlooking the sailboats bobbing in their slips at White Rocks Marina is almost at odds with the top notch dishes created here. This is no casual waterside crab shack. It's an oasis in the desert of crass and culinary-deficient dining experiences currently available in Pasadena. Free transient slips are available for those arriving by boat.

We had no idea when we rented a slip for our first sailboat, Sandpiper, that we had stumbled upon award winning owners/chefs Dennis Walz and Mark Morgan, quietly serving up such dinner delights as
Johan Black Steak, a marinated NY Strip served with a zinfandel sauce, Veal Bearnaise, scaloppini of veal, sauteed and topped with jumbo lump crabmeat, mushrooms and asparagus; and Windows' Seafood Pasta with grilled scallops, shrimp and mussels in a red peppercream sauce.

All of the appertizers are great, especially Monday to Friday when they're half price during happy hour! Sit at the high stools in the bar for
Grilled Scallops with basil and sun-dried tomatoes; Portabella Imperial stuffed with jumbo lump crabmeat and topped with imperial sauce; and Trish's favorite, Classic Quesadillas. Robert says the Oysters are great!

On weekends, don't be surprised to find that the restaurant is booked out for a wedding party.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

True Blue Aussie Meat Pie

Mention the word "pie" to an Aussie and he or she will be thinking about meat pies. The Aussie meat pie is equivalent to the American hamburger as the classic fast food. Gourmet meat pies include "steak and onion", "beef and mushroom", and the ever popular "South Sydney" (pie, peas and ketchup) named in honor of the South Sydney Rugby League footy team for their green and red jerseys. We've developed a family-size recipe that is the closest we have come to that classic Aussie flavor.

(photos l-r: wikitravel "Sydney at Night", wikipedia "Australian Meat Pie")

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup stout or dark ale
1/2 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
1/4 teaspoon oinion salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 beef bouillon cube
Grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
1 pie pastry (shortcrust) for 10 -inch pie
1 sheet puff pastry

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onion. Cook until onion begins to soften; add beef. Continue cooking until meat is browned. Add stout, ketchup, onion salt, celery salt, beef bouillon cube and nutmeg to taste. Bring mixture to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to low; simmer 15 minutes. Spoon flour into cup and add water, mixing well. Stir into meat mixture. Continue cooking until meat mixture is thickened. Remove from heat; refrigerate 2 hours or until chilled.

2. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 10-inch pie pan with shortcrust pastry; brush edges with water. Add meat mixture. Cut 11-inch circle from puff pastry; place over meat. Press edges of pastry to seal; cut vent hole in center. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Serve with mashed potato, mushy peas and ketchup.


A simple Hungarian peasant dish from "The New Gourmet" by Guy Deghy. This book was published in 1980 and is now out of print however, the recipe is a family favourite.

1 lb Onions, sliced into fairly thin half-circles
2-3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
Olive Oil
3 teaspoons Paprika (scharf or hot)
1 lb Beef, diced reasonably large
2 teaspoonfuls of Caraway seeds
1 lb Potatoes, peeled and medium diced
1 tin of peeled tomatoes
Salt (not sea salt)

1. Fry Onion and Garlic in Olive Oil until translucent. Take off heat add 1 cup of water and stir in 3 teaspoons of Paprika.

2. Fold in diced beef and allow to cook without lid until water shows signs of having evaporated.

3. Add 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds and 1 cup of water, allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Add tomates, potatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to cover well. Cook with lid on over low heat for an hour.

5. Serve in a bowl with a dollop of Sour Cream and Polish or Hungarian pickled gherkins.