Eating Australia and New Zealand

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My husband and I live in Oklahoma, a land-locked state in the heartland of the United States. It’s called the heartland to make it sound better than it really is.

We basically live in the middle on the U.S., where the ground is flat, the dirt is red, and the winds come rolling down the plains. You know the song.

Our town is not glamorous. After the land run, homesteaders settled here, many of whom farmed wheat and raised cattle. Later, an oil boom resulted in a population spike. Agriculture and the oil business, along with an Air Force base, are the mainstays of the local economy.

How we landed here is a long story, which I won’t recount, but we moved in 1989, and have lived here ever since. As much as I tried to get us moved out of Oklahoma over those years, (I was hoping for Colorado), there are advantages to living here.

There’s no traffic, there are no lines at any time, and no reservations are ever required, for anything. Plus, the people here are good, down-to-earth folks.

But most importantly, the cost of living is low. As a result, we get to travel, which is why we’re still here after our nest emptied long ago.

It’s especially satisfying to cross a long-awaited destination off of a bucket list, and that’s exactly what my husband and I were able to do recently. This past fall, in 2017, we visited Australia and New Zealand.

In Australia, we bounced from Sydney to the Outback, to Lizard Island, Kangaroo Island, then to Tasmania.




In New Zealand we explored Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, and Queenstown.



As usual, part of my initiation to these countries was to eat as much of the local foods as possible.

Of course the beef and lamb were both exquisite.

I also enjoyed barramundi, coral trout, Bondi squid, octopus, mud crab, Sydney oysters, abalone, and green-lipped New Zealand mussels.

Although we rarely pass up a gastropub, we also dined at upscale restaurants, like Quay, The Gantry, and Altitude, all in Sydney.

I have to thank Lorraine Elliott for her spot-on restaurant reviews on her well-known blog, Not Quite Nigella.

And, of course, there were fabulous wines, beers, and other drinks.

It was so much fun to look at wine lists, this one in Queenstown, New Zealand. Not like any back home.

I’ve always favored Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, but the Pinot Gris really took me by surprise.

The trip was incredible, and lived up to everything we hoped for and more, in terms of scenery, culture, destinations, the local animals and, of course, the food and wine.

Persillade

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Parsley in French is persil, so it’s not surprising that persillade is a parsley sauce, combining the freshness of parsley, with butter, garlic, and lemon. It is also called Sauce Persil.

Personally, I love all of the green sauces, like pesto, gremolata, and chimichurri, so I knew I’d love persillade.

I was inspired to make it because of my friend Stéphane’s blog My French Heaven, specifically the post is entitled “The Power of Love, Laughter, and Persillade.” (It’s one of my favorites!)

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On that post he has a recipe for grilled scallops with persillade, but it’s a wonderful addition to not only seafood but meat and poultry as well. I’m making it for roast lamb.

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Parsley, I feel is really an underused and appreciated herb, having filled the role in fine cuisine as primarily a decoration. But I use it in just about everything – vinaigrettes, pestos, marinades, and so forth.

There are many variations for persillade, I discovered. What I’ve noticed mostly is the use of olive oil instead of butter, and either lemon zest, lemon juice, or no lemon. But the parsley and garlic are always clearly the main players.

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Here’s what I did.

Persillade

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, patted dry
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
Squeeze of lemon

Place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and process. Add 3 ounces of melted butter and the salt and process, but don’t over process. You want to see the parsley and garlic bits.

Place the remaining butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Stir in the persillade and give the mixture a good stir, and once you smell the garlic, remove the saucepan from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon.

Serve immediately so the butter stays warm and melted. It’s challenging to keep the parsley and garlic in suspension in the butter, so the persillade ends up looking like a green blob.

With scallops and shrimp, they can be tossed in the persillade. I served the persillade with lamb slices and roasted tomatoes.

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Stéphane claims that no one really loves escargots. It’s all about the persillade. He might be right!

French Markets

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I don’t profess to be an expert on markets in France. In fact, I’m not at all. In the past, when I visited my family as a child, I don’t remember markets. I do remember walking to shops with my grandmother in her village, getting milk, then cheese, then meat, and so forth. I don’t think I remember seeing a farmers-type market until I was much older. I also remember my mother commenting on how much prettier all of the produce is compared to the U.S.

Fast forward to married life, when my husband and I have, luckily, traveled in France and many other European countries. Because we always wanted to see the countryside, we’re typically on the move. We’ve never rented a home, spent a week, and cooked.

So it wasn’t until I visited Stéphane from the blog My French Heaven, that I really got to see markets and experience them.
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In 2013, when my daughter and I went, the three of us went to a different market on four days in four different towns! But I know that the one Stéphane frequents is on Sunday in Libourne, where he resides. Which is why he refers to it as his church.
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In France, as it is in many European countries, markets aren’t like a visit to a super Wal Mart. It’s about planning what to cook, seeing what’s in season, visiting with friends. It’s almost more of a social institution than just buying groceries.


After three trips to visit Stephane, I’ve been to the Libourne market many times now. I recognize his favorite butcher, who blushed when my girlfriend gave him a hug for a photo. I recognize the old curmudgeon of a foie gras guy. And there are the cute young ladies who sell seafood. And so forth. Can you imagine having such a relationship with a cheesemonger? I have none of that where I live.

If you’ve never been to a French market, please read Stéphane’s post, entitled “My Market is my Church.” It gives you tips on how to navigate a market, how to talk to the vendors, and also what not to do.

I thought this was such important information because if I’d never had guidance from my mother, I could be one of the ugly Americans, touching the beautiful produce, asking for samples, perhaps yelling when a Parisien butted in line in front of me.

That doesn’t happen in France. In fact, you keep your hands to yourself and you remain calm. Farmers are proud, and they’re not selling any strawberry or green bean that isn’t perfectly ripe. There might be dirt on the carrots and potatoes, but that’s the only thing that an American would consider imperfect. You tell the vendor you want a half a kilo of mushrooms, and he/she will place them in a bag for you. Payment is in cash.
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Farmers markets are also not like our food festivals in the US. They’re not giving out food samples to draw you in. They’re too busy doing what they should be doing anyway. If you want one of their cheeses, ask for it, or move on.


There are counterfeit farmers. In Stephane’s post, you’ll read that if you see stamped eggs, for example, or if a “farmer” has baby-bottom soft hands, chances are you’re not dealing with a true farmer. They’ve most likely stopped by the French Costco equivalent and are re-selling at the market.

When my husband and I visited Stephane recently, we spent a couple of days in his home town. This was at my request, because as much as I like traveling and eating out, I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like spending time with Stephane at his home, shopping with him, sipping the wine he’s chosen for you, and being served perfect food prepared by him.
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For lunch on our first full day in Libourne, he served my husband and I steaks with a green peppercorn cream sauce, and sauteed potatoes. Followed by a platter of cheeses.


We had purchased all of the ingredients that morning at the market.

In the evening, just for me, along with my Lillet, I enjoyed cured duck filled with foie gras.
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Then Stephane made us a dinner of his famous prawns in a Jack Daniels cream sauce.


How nice it must be to have a relationship with people who really understand their food, who have raised it, caught it, cooked it, and are proud of it. It’s wonderful to have trust in these vendors as well, and know their reputations. These people are so knowledgeable that they will tell you how to cook the eel they’re selling, still wiggling, of course, or even how best to prepare a cut of lamb. This is also a part of what makes shopping at farmers markets so meaningful.

A Seafood Salad

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There’s one thing that I really dislike after a vacation, and that’s having to go to the grocery store. Of course, no one else goes for me, so inevitably I drag myself out of the house to stock up on fruits, vegetables, and whatever I need for my planned meals.

But it’s especially nice to not have to go, especially the first day back. Especially if there’s some jet lag involved. Usually there’s unpacking, laundry, organizing, re-visiting lists, checking plants, and reuniting with the dogs that take precedence.

We have a pet sitter who will place frozen cuts of meat into the refrigerator on the day I ask her to, which is helpful. But my husband tends to eat heartier and meatier meals than I do. If you’ve ever seen me eat, you might be laughing at this. But seriously, I’d rather have a salad than a steak. Except that there’s no fresh lettuce and other veggies in the fridge after being gone for two weeks.

So enter my solution for having a nice meal on your first day back, without having to go to the store. It’s a salad of warm potatoes and canned seafood. It’s actually good when you have food in the house. The key, of course, is having good quality seafood on hand. The only think you have to plan ahead is to have some potatoes stored in the refrigerator before you leave town.
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So here’s what I did in order to procrastinate going to the grocery store for another day.

Potato and Seafood Salad

2-3 medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled
Canned tuna in oil
Canned octopus in oil
Other canned tuna, if necessary
Lettuce leaves, optional
Olive oil
Vinegar of choice
Capers
Salt
Pepper

Begin with the potatoes. Chop them up in equal pieces.
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Place them in boiling water. When they are tender, drain them in a colander.

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Add all of the seafood canned in oil to another colander over a small bowl and let it drain. Save the oil.
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Place the potatoes in a bowl, and add most all of the saved oil from the canned seafood, or to your taste preference. If you feel that the oil is too “fishy,” simply add olive oil to the still-warm potatoes. But this is an important step because the oil keeps the potatoes moist. Add some salt and toss gently.
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On a serving platter, place the lettuce leaves decoratively.
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Add the still warm potatoes.
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Add the seafood to the salad.
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Sprinkle the salad with a little more olive oil, if needed. I do.

Then sprinkle some vinegar over the salad. Today I used sherry vinegar, but any vinegar except balsamic would work well.
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If you prefer, make a vinaigrette using oil, vinegar, and some Dijon mustard first and pour that over the top of the salad.

Then add capers, a little salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Serve immediately.
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You could always include chopped shallots or chives, if they’re available.
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As I mentioned above, other ingredients can be added to this salad, like fresh tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and olives, but on a day when you have a limited supply of food, it’s a delightful and healthy salad to make and enjoy.
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note: If you don’t have potatoes, the same ingredients can be added to cooked pasta. I would suggest warming some minced garlic in a generous amount of olive oil first, then adding the pasta and seafood. If everything is dry, a little chicken broth can be added. Heat everything through over low heat, with a lid on the skillet, to maximize absorption of the liquid. Canned seafood is a staple in my pantry!

French Heaven

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As many of you know, especially those who have seen the photos of beautiful French food that I’ve been posting, my daughter and I flew to Bordeaux to spend four days with Stéphane. He is the author of My French Heaven, his blog, and Your French Heaven, his business.
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As soon as he picked us up at the airport, we knew we were in good hands. Stéphane is so likable. Lovable, in fact. He’s funny, smart, and slightly irreverent, which suited our personalities to a tee.
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I’m not here only to promote Stéphane’s business; it needs no help from me. But for a little explanation in case you’re not familiar with it, he customizes your visit to the part of France where he was born and raised, based on your likes and desires and how many days you have to spend.

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Of course for me and my daughter as well, our daily plans revolved around shopping for food, cooking it, and eating it.
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But we also got to see the stunning countryside, enjoy the local wines, and see some sights for the benefit of my daughter and her specific interests in the world of art history.
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We also shopped at a brocante, which was a new word for me. It’s a combination of an antiques shop and flea market.

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This blog post could easily be a book because of how much we packed into each day.

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I’ll keep most of the details to myself as cherished memories, because Stéphane designed our time together just for us. He will most likely never duplicate these days, because of course all of the food we prepared together was based on what was fresh and available at the daily markets.

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Some people may not want to have the same extreme foodie days as we did!
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As much as I enjoy meat, we wanted to focus primarily on the lovely seafood available in that corner of France.

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My daughter and I stayed at Chateau Saint Jacques Calon, near St. Emilion, which is the B & B that belongs to Stéphane’s family. That is not mandatory, but it added to the magic of our holiday.

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In fact, the weather was so perfect on 3 of the 4 days that we took breaks and sat by the beautiful pool.

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After a generous breakfast every morning, we drove to a different market.

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No matter where we went in the area, everybody seemed to know Stéphane. It was lovely hearing him chat away in his native French.
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And speaking of that, Stéphane’s English is perfect. I had moments of remembering French words and phrases, as French was shared with English in my home as a child, but mostly I let Stéphane do the talking.

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Stephane always had a general menu in mind for the day, but it all depended on what was available at the market, of course.

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On the first day together, I got to get my hands “dirty” when I helped prepare a foie gras terrine that was planned for our last day.

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That first evening, we walked to a local restaurant, owned by friends of Stephane, and enjoyed a wonderful meal as we watched the sun set.

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The most exciting thing for me was the walk through the French countryside, with grape vines just popping new leaves, and flowers showing off their spring splendor.
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The one good thing about hanging out with another blogger is that it’s okay to constantly take photos. My daughter was often the focus of our photos, because of her innocent beauty. She might have cared, but she didn’t show it, which is a testament to her calm and patient personality.
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She was often my model.

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As well as my hand model.

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Every morning we went to the market, and also stopped by Stéphane’s favorite bread baker for fresh baguettes.

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Then we’d go back to his house to prepare and enjoy lunch, typically outside because the weather was so perfect.
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One day we visited the beautiful village of St. Emilion.

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Which is where we also went to a wine tasting.
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Stéphane also showed us a beautiful part of Bordeaux.
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I’ve never been to this corner of France before, so everything was new to me. The expansive vineyards are quite impressive, especially along the Dordogne.
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Stéphane made sure we always sampled the many different regional wines, and kept us well stocked.
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He also made sure we enjoyed some of our favorite cheeses, as well as experience a few I’ve never heard of before. Fabulous!

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On our final full day with Stéphane, he put out a variety of cakes that he’d ordered from his favorite patisserie in Libourne.
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Both of our birthdays, mine and Stéphane’s, are in April, so we celebrated Easter as well as birthdays!
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I even got a birthday candle!!!

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For our final dinner together, we began with the foie gras terrine paired with Sauterne. Life just doesn’t get much better than that!
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It was bittersweet leaving France, but at least I got to spend a few days with my daughter in London, before leaving her behind and returning home. But we both shared fun, beautiful, and delicious experiences, thanks to our host, Stéphane Gabart.
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And I didn’t have to do dishes!!!
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Au revoir Calli!
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Shrimp and Sausage Soup

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It was when I first prepared Creole and Cajun cuisines that I learned about pairing proteins together that I hadn’t discovered before. I mixed chicken and ham in a étouffé, shrimp and chicken in a gumbo, and ham and Andouille sausage in a jambalaya. All of these pairings go so surprisingly well together, that when I decided to make a soup today, I decided on the combination of shrimp and sausage, inspired by these cuisines.
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Now, this sausage could have been Andouille, Italian, or even Chorizo, but I chose Polish sausage, otherwise known as Polska Kielbasa. I goes well with beef, chicken, and seafood.
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I had no real plan when I started this soup, and it could have gone many different directions, but I’ll share what I did because it came out so wonderfully! And even though it’s summer, the shrimp and the veggies lighten it up.

Shrimp and Sausage Soup

Olive oil or bacon grease, about 3 tablespoons
1 purple onion, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 pound Polska Kielbasa, sliced
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 yellow squash, chopped
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Chicken broth, 2-3 cups
1 heaping tablespoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
Ground cayenne, optional
1 pound shrimp, cleaned, sliced in halves
Cayenne pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. You want to sauté without any caramelization. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for five minutes.
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Then add the Polish sausage and turn up the heat. You want some browning on the sausage.

Then add the can of tomatoes and the squash. Add enough chicken broth to make it soupy, 2 cups at least.
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Then add the spices. Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20 – 25 minutes.
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Add the sliced shrimp and cook just until they become opaque.

just after the shrimp was added to the soup

just after the shrimp was added to the soup

right when the shrimp are cooked they become opaque instead of translucent

right when the shrimp are cooked they become opaque instead of translucent

To serve, sprinkle soup with some cayenne pepper flakes. If desired, you can also serve the soup with avocado slices.

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note: You could certainly make many variations of this soup. I chose the yellow squash because I have an overabundance in my garden at this time. And it could be definitely made more Southwestern with the addition of chorizo, chipotle peppers and lots of cilantro. Corn would be nice as well! And, black beans….

I encourage everybody to make a soup today. Once you get the hang of it, you can make soup in your sleep. Trust me!

Boxty

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Of all things, my first boxty was not eaten in Ireland. It was, in fact, enjoyed in an Irish pub in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s called Kilkenny’s, and it’s been an established and popular Irish pub since 2002.

I really enjoyed the boxty, which I’d never heard of before. I only ordered it because I wanted something traditionally Irish since I was in an Irish pub. And of course it was good – it was a giant potato-based crepe filled with creamy goodness. I can’t really remember all of the details now, but because of that experience, I was determined to have one in Ireland… which I did just a few weeks ago.

We had lunch in Dublin at Gallagher’s Boxty House one Sunday. We went there knowing that it was a touristy sort of place, but I had to have my boxty. Gallagher’s Boxty House is an unassuming little joint of a restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

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It actually seemed like only locals were eating lunch there – especially families with children. The young man who waited on us was 17, and the son of the restaurant’s owner. It was nice finding out it’s a family business.

But touristy or not, we all have a fabulous lunch. I chose the seafood boxty and it was delicious.

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That day in Dublin was Latvia Day, as we surmised after passing loads of people dressed up in their traditional Latvian garb. (Of course, we had to ask what the hoopla was all about…)

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Aren’t these women beautiful?!!!

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I only mention Latvia day because the presence of the singing and dancing Latvians added to the frivolity of walking around Dublin on a beautiful Sunday when everyone seemed to be outside enjoying themselves. And the parade that ensued went right by the Boxty house while we were enjoying our lunch!
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Okay, little things like that get me excited. But back to the boxty.

After returning from Ireland last week, I wanted to make boxty. I own a book on Irish cooking*, and it revealed that the boxty originated in the north of Ireland, actually. The word boxty came about from the fact that people cut holes in boxes in order to grate the potatoes to make this dish! I now appreciate my metal grater even more than ever.

There are also, not surprisingly, a few different versions of boxty. One is exactly like what I had in Tulsa and in Dublin – an oversized pancake with filling. Another version is a pancake on a smaller scale served simply with butter.

The third version, which I didn’t make today, is from a thicker pancake batter – essentially a dough. Round shapes are cut out of it much like our biscuits, and baked. I think I actually saw these on breakfast menus in Ireland, because they were described as hash brown potato cakes. I’m sure they were delightful but unfortunately I never had one.

Here’s my version of the giant boxty pancake with a creamed ham and cheese filling, and boxty pancakes with butter.

Boxty with Creamy Ham and Cheese Filling

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk, I used whole
Butter

Chop up two of the peeled potatoes and boil them until done. If you’re not sure, stick a fork in the pieces to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes; set aside.
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Grate the remaining two potatoes and place them on paper towels for a few minutes to drain.

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Then place the grated potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the flour and baking powder. Mash the two cooked potatoes and add to the grated potatoes in the bowl.
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Give everything a stir, then slowly stir in the milk. The batter should have some consistency, yet be somewhat thin as well.
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Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a generous amount of butter for each pancake. When the skillet is hot, almost completely fill the bottom of the skillet with the batter. Don’t make it too thick, but also fill in any thin spots or holes. Turn down the heat to medium, and cover the skillet with a lid.

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After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low to finish cooking the pancake. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to flip over these “pancakes,” so I just let them cook on the bottom side slowly.

After a few more minutes, slide the pancake onto a large plate, turn up the heat again, and make a second pancake. When the second one is done, slide it onto a separate plate.

Complete as many pancakes as you wish, then proceed with the filling:

Filling

1 recipe for white sauce
About 2 cups of chopped ham
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese

Make a white sauce according to the directions using butter, flour, and milk or cream, whichever you prefer.

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Stir in the ham and the cheese. I also sprinkled in some white pepper, but that is certainly optional.

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Add a generous amount of the filling to each boxty, and fold the other side over. Repeat with the remaining boxties that you made. The filing will generously fill four boxties, approximately 8″ in diameter.

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Serve immediately, or reheat later right before serving.

Boxty Pancakes

Make the same batter for the boxty using the grated and mashed potatoes, the flour, baking powder, and milk.

Add a generous amount of butter before adding the batter to the hot skillet. Make these the size as breakfast pancakes, turning down the heat to cook them through and prevent burning. It should take about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and cook for about another minute.

To serve, add a tab of butter to the hot pancakes. These can be served as a side dish, or eaten as is. Personally I would have to have them with a side salad, or a few wedges of tomatoes.

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verdict: I think this boxty batter recipe pretty well tastes like my Dublin boxty. You could also substitute a crepe, but the potatoes really add something to the “pancakes.” And they’re not much work at all. The smaller boxty pancakes were good, but I prefer my own version of potato pancakes, that have less flour in them, and have much more texture. But both versions of boxty were fun to try!

* It’s called The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.