Friday, June 22, 2012

Food from New Zealand Year Three and a Bit About Pavlova

For three summers in a row I've taught a study abroad program in New Zealand for undergraduate students from the U.S. I try to avoid romanticizing the country--it has extreme health disparities and environmental problems despite its squeaky clean image--but one thing I do love through and through is the food. Being a part of the Pacific Rim means that there is a lot of amazing Asian food available, and they also cater to food allergies so it's a delightful place to be gluten-free.

Poached eggs with potato cakes, spinach, and tomatoes
It is not that I've even had any extraordinary meals there. It's just that I love the day to day food. Lots of roasted veggies, amazing cheese and yogurt, asian flavors and spices, lentils and beans in every salad, kumara and squash aplenty, and fantastic chocolate. Yum. 

Unfortunately I spent a large portion of this trip with a very sick student in and out of hospitals, and that zapped my energy for taking photos and doing some of the things I would usually do while traveling. So, I didn't take as many food photos as the first year I went, but here are some shots of a beautiful dessert I had in Auckland, the country's largest city. The professor I taught with convinced me that we should spend our last afternoon grading in the city's space tower, where we had high tea. It was absolutely lovely. The photos are a bit blue, sorry!

Macaroons and other goodies

Kiwi fruit with chocolate and a mini Pavlova with preserved lemon

One new thing I learned this year is that Pavlova is a dessert that originated in New Zealand (or maybe Australia, I think this is contested). I am not a huge fan of meringue, but the owner of a country home that I stayed at may have changed that. She served us a Pavlova--which for those who don't know is basically meringue cake with a crisp outer shell and a soft, marshmallowy inside--that was absolutely delightful with homemade whipped cream and blueberries. In the photo above it was served with preserved lemon. I preferred the berries. 

Maureen, the lovely woman that I stayed with, has promised to send me the recipe. Until then, the best I can do is refer you to Shuna Lydon, who has a nice Pavlova recipe over at one of my favorite websites, Simply Recipes. 
See why I keep going back?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pasta with Multi-Herb Pesto & Flash Fried Spring Veggies

CSA box conquered in one dinner:

A hailstorm thinned the proceeds for the first week of our CSA, so I won't go declaring victory over the piles of greens too loudly.  I found myself with a mix of relatively small quantities (about 5 sprigs each) of dill, parsley, cilantro, sage, and oregano, plus a lot of green garlic (scapes!  new to me!  curly and great-smelling!) and arugula.  I decided to blend them all into a pesto, and boy am I glad I did.

Heidi outlines the method for making pesto by hand here.  Basically though, you just need an ulu (or mezzaluna if you will) and about 45 minutes to chop, and chop, and chop, and chop.  Chopping by hand instead of with an electric blade really does lead to a whole different texture.  Plus, you know... wrist strength.... for.... better typing? 

I used all of the abovementioned herbs (though only a few leaves of the sage), and I am pretty confident that all kinds of other things - mint, tarragon, basil itself - would have blended just fine into the fresh springy flavor.  Instead of garlic cloves I used 3 of my scapes, and instead of parmesan I used a hard goat gouda (very goaty, great flavor with the herbs).  And of course, pine nuts:

After chopping, and chopping, and chopping, I finished with some lemon-flavored olive oil:

(I probably chopped for another 10 minutes after that pic....).  Then, I sliced a bunch of small red carrots; a small head of broccoli, and a bunch of asparagus into paper-thin ribbons, and chiffonade-d a few kale and kohlrabi leaves, then flash-fried these in very hot lemon olive oil with a little salt.  Tossed it all with fresh pasta as shown above.  Nothing like fresh veggies!!  <3

Farmer's Market Finds

I adore farmer's markets. I appreciate that they have the same feel wherever you are, yet each is unique. Most of all, who can complain about the opportunity to purchase local and fresh produce and products? Two friends and I decided to make good use of our Saturday and scout one in the area.

flowers from Maya's Farm (at the Farm at South Mountain)

I bought yellow heirloom tomatoes ( I love all the true colors of tomatoes), and already have made Simple Chicken with Tomatoes with those. I'm deciding what to do with my zucchini and carrots, purchased from the International Justice Mission's refugee farm. I may make a small zucchini boat, or zucchini bread when I finish my sugar fast later this week. I'm entirely open to suggestions or new recipes.

I made sure to buy a fresh baked loaf of bread, because I refuse to buy any with high fructose corn syrup. Lastly, I bought pasta that I always find at farmer's markets here and that is a personal favorite. I chose Spinach Basil Garlic, and plan to mix it with some garlic goat cheese and Queen Creek Olive Oil according to a tip from the owner of Pine, Arizona's Goat Creamery (where I bought the goat cheese earlier this summer).

What are some of your farmer's market finds from the summer? What do you plan to make with them?

peach cooler and raspberry lemonade popsicle made from fresh juice

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Costa Rican Casado and Guanabana Batidos

Last summer, I studied abroad in Peru and Costa Rica for nine weeks total, an adventure I miss on a daily basis.  This summer, I'm braving the heat (read: whining a lot and attempting to resist the temptation of blasting the air-conditioning) in Phoenix.  I recently had dinner with two of my roommates from Costa Rica, and we decided to attempt to recreate our favorite Costa Rican meal.

why we really miss costa rica and wanted to make a meal to help us remember

Typical Costa Rican fare is simple, but delicious. When one goes out to eat in Costa Rica, one goes to a soda, or small family-owned restaurant.  For breakfast, there's gallo pinto, or rice and beans mixed together.  For lunch, there's casado, or a plate that usually consists of rice, beans, a small piece of meat (or vegetables, for vegetarian), and either plantains or yucca.  The plantains can either be maduros, soft and simmered in cinnamon and sugar, or tostones, crispy and fried in oil and salt.  For a drink, they serve batidos, which are fruit juice blended to make it frothy.  Guanabana, or soursop juice, is a popular pairing for casado. Here's what casado looks like when actually in Costa Rica:

my mouth is watering at the memory

For our recreation, I google'd like crazy.  I was surprised at the lack of recipes, but pieced together my own recipe from a large number of others.  In reality, each soda has its own version of casado, so this recipe is for the version I would serve, if I were to own a soda.  I can't guarantee it tastes exactly spot on, but the concept holds true.

For the Rice: 
Simmer diced onions and peppers and some garlic in a little oil until the onions are translucent.  Add one cup rice, mix until it's been covered with oil.  Add one cup water and cook as normal. Basmati is best.

For the Beans: 
Simmer diced onions and some garlic until onions are translucent.  Add a can of black beans and simmer until finished.

For the Side Salad: 
In Costa Rica, this is often cabbage with maybe just shredded carrot.  If you want to get really fancy, look up a Heart of Palm salad.

For the Tostones:
Take a plantain.  Slice it shortways, into pieces about half an inch thick.  Fry each in oil, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove from oil, flatten with either a spatula or all at once by pressing down with a plate.  Dip each in cold water before returning it to the oil for about one minute per side, until crispy.

For the Chicken:
I simmered chicken in a saucepan with chicken broth and more onions and peppers.  Seasoned with salt and pepper.

For the Guanabana Batidos:
Buy guanabana nectar from a store like Food City.  The kind we got came in a can.  All I did was pour it in the blender with a tad bit of milk and some ice, then blended until it was nice and frothy. It should separate quickly into juice and froth, you can continually stir it up before you drink it or drink it just that way.

So there you have it.  We found that this healthy dose of casado, along with a long round of looking at pictures and sharing memories, was the best cure for Costa Rica longing we could cook up here in the States.