Almost Vicki’s Ancient Grain Salad

 

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Photography by Kim Mennan, Styling by Ali Nardi

 

The worst part of jetlag is the boredom. Being awake at all those odd hours with no one to pester but the cat. No matter which country I am in, this time difference business really gives me the sh*ts. Maybe we should revert to a nocturnal lifestyle in Australia? Of course I am thrilled to be back in NYC for a visit, but these first few days are always a little trying.

Lucky for me, a laundry list of must-do’s has piled up, including putting out this blog post with a recipe someone has been eager to get (you know who you are), so I don’t really have an excuse not to be productive during these odd hours.

About a month ago, when Anders and I had both hit sheer exhaustion after working without a break for we-lost-count amount of days and the cold weather just kept hanging on, we both took a day off and headed to a new friend’s country property for a mini-get away. Vicki Jackson and her partner Simon have a gorgeous little plot in a quirky town with just a post office, a pub, and some endearing little leftovers, like an old out-of-use gas pump in someone’s front yard where the gas-station used to be.

Vicki and Simon were fantastic hosts, and Vicki is a vegetarian chef and author of the Squirrels Vegetarian Cookbooks. She has cultivated an impressive veggie garden, and cooks from a wood-fired stove, which really brings it up a level. When she says she uses whole foods, she means it.

As you may have guessed, Vicki prepared an outstanding veggie meal for us and one dish was a real stand out: her Ancient Grain salad. I don’t know exactly what Vicki puts in hers, but after interrogating her at the table, I attempted to re-create it, or rather make something similar and as tasty, and I am pretty happy with the results. I added a few extras: seeds and buckwheat– but the rest is really all Vicki. This is a lose recipe and the tartness can be adjusted to taste. I like it fairly zingy. You could add almond slivers or an extra grain or take out the barley and add more lentils to make it gluten free. If basil is in season throw it in. It’s a good one to play with.

Vicki’s walnut maple pie was also insanely good, but it’s probably best I don’t know how to make that one…

Photography by Kim Mennen Styling by Ali Nardi

Almost Vicki’s Ancient Grain Salad
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup dry green or brown lentils, soaked, cooked and cooled
  • 1/3 cup dry buckwheat, soaked, cooked and cooled
  • 1/3 cup dry barley, soaked, cooked and cooled (omit and add extra lentils and buckwheat for gluten free)
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup sun flower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 red onion or small shallot, finely chopped
  • a few generous handfuls of fresh parsley and cilantro/coriander, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta or goat’s cheese (omit for dairy free)

For the dressing:

  • 1-2 tblsp pomegranate molasses or tamarind paste
  • zest and juice of one lemon (add in lemon juice gradually to adjust to taste)
  • generous tsp honey
  • a few tblsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over low heat until dry and fragrant. Cool and grind in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Combine spices with the following 8 ingredients and gently fold in cheese
  3. For the dressing, whisk ingredients until well combined (taste as you go) and add to the salad. Enjoy as a side or a vegetarian main
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One Thing Aussies Don’t Take the Piss Out of: American Punkin’ Pie

Photography by Kim Mennen Styling by Ali Nardi

Photography by Kim Mennan, Styling by Ali Nardi

First, I want to give a big thank you to photographer Kim Mennen, who has done some gorgeous photography for For the Love of Cabbage. She is super talented, and I am thrilled to have her on board! So thank you Kim!  To check out some of her other work, go here.

Now onto to that Punkin’ Pie….

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Thanksgiving in Australia has been a bit of a dud so far. It’s my least favorite holiday politically, but far and away my favorite holiday for the food and it’s always a hard one to be away for. The food, however, is incredibly heavy, and it is crazy hot here in Australia by November. Understandably, I don’t want to spend all day sweating it out like the would-be-turkey in the oven in the summer.

So since my time here–(over a year and a half! cray cray….) I have been sneaking snippets of a the traditional thanksgiving meal into my everyday cooking. By snippets, I mean going straight to the best part: The Pumpkin Pie (although I am quite partial to sweet potato with marshmallow as well– yeah i know it sounds weird but it is seriously good).

Pumpkin Pie isn’t “a thing” here, and it’s almost funny how excited everyone gets when I make it. It is an American novelty, as is the way I say “coffee” apparently. Luckily, it lives up to the hype and everyone loves it. So I’m providing the recipe here–perhaps a bit late as Spring is upon us, but the weather is still a bit nippy. And since this one has coconut in it and it’s great cold from the fridge, why shouldn’t pumpkin pie be a hot weather food? I’ve managed to turn it into a breakfast staple at ours…

I don’t muck around with the concept of pumpkin pie too much. It’s one of those things that is great as is, and in my opinion, attempts to jazz it up just don’t really make it any more special than the straightforward version. So my approach to the pumpkin pie was to make it healthier, while making it taste as similar to the original, which was surprisingly easy. It is dairy free, gluten free, and if you are counting honey as Paleo, it’s Paleo as well.

It’s one of those cases where the back of the can got it right. I defer completely to LIBBY’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe, cause that Libby knows what she’s talking about. I just toggled a few things:

  • -The condensed milk gets switched out for coconut milk to make it dairy free and add the benefits of coconut
  • the sugar gets swapped out for honey
  • I use steamed pumpkin (squash), or sweet potato, or a combo of the two instead of the canned stuff (which honestly isn’t that bad…)
  • And the crust is a protein packed and healthy gluten free almond meal and coconut crust

I tried almond meal based crust recipes and had to make a few tweaks to get it to a good place, but I’m feeling good about this one, which is based on a recipe from Elana’s Pantry. It doesn’t deliver the same firm texture as a traditional crust, but it tastes great and gets a nice gentle crunch around the edges.

I’m not a huge fan of healthy versions of desserts that don’t taste like they should. I’d rather just not have dessert at all if it doesn’t taste like a dessert. And that’s why I’m sharing this pie recipe. It is right on the mark. I suggest serving it without letting everyone know you’ve adjusted it, so the skeptics won’t go in biased.

As they say here, this dish is a cracker!

Eat it for Breakfast Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from the recipe on the back of the can of LIBBY’S canned pumpkin/ Crust adapted from Elana’s Pantry

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • standard 9-inch pie dish
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 1/2 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut
  • ½ teaspoon good salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin (squash) or sweet potato (start with 1 1/4 lbs to get 1 1/2 cups– peel, steam, and mash with fork)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey (if you like less sweet, subtract 2 tblspn)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 175 C
  2. For the crust: In a bowl, combine almond meal, dessicated coconut, and salt. Add egg and coconut oil and mix to blend. Use fingers if needed. Press into a pie dish and blind bake for 12-15 minutes, until firm. Allow to cool completely.
  3. For the filling, mix ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Pour into cooled pie crust. Place on baking tray and bake for 60-70 minutes or until center doesn’t jiggle. Allow to cool completely.
  4. In cooler weather, just leave it out for a few hours. In warmer weather, pop into the fridge for a few hours. Then serve with whipped cream, or if avoiding dairy, whip up some coconut cream.

Just Beet It! Beets Three Ways

Photography by Clare Plueckhahn, Styling by Ali Nardi

When I met Anders, I was on a diet of beets (“beetroot” over here in Australia, pronounced bee-chroot or these savages won’t understand you…) with a few other flares, like arugula, parmesan, and balsamic vinegar. I was obsessed and it was the only thing I craved. I looked forward to waking up to eat beets for breakfast, packed some for lunch, and finished my day with a nice beet dinner– before I went out wandering the streets of Rome with a Peroni and cigarette in tow… (meanwhile, I am still recovering from two glasses of champagne Saturday night and it is already Monday afternoon…. I miss youth!).

Photography by Jesse Hisco

Looking back, it was pretty weird and a little gross, but something we still joke of fondly as the “beet-phase” when we make them. Since those days, my addiction to both beets and cigarettes have subsided, but I still eat beets in moderation, and not always in that same old salad. They are also just a gorgeous veg, and I get them into photos whenever I have the chance.

At the green markets you can sometimes find gorgeous candy striper (chioggia beets), yellow and white beets. They are great just grated up raw into a salad, in fresh juice,

Or you can put a bit more time into to make something extra special and use them in my following three recipes: Beetroot Pizza with Balsamic Reduction (pictured above), Winter Veg Salad with Pear and Blue Cheese (pictured above), and My Spiced Pickled Beets (sorry, no photo). Enjoy!

Beetroot Pizza with Balsamic Reduction

Recipe by: Ali Nardi

Ingredients:

  • 1 x pizza base (if you’d like to make your own, see recipe for  Whole Wheat Pizza Dough here)
  • About 3/4 lb raw beets (any kind you like), scrubbed and trimmed
  • A few tbspn Reduced Balsamic Vinegar (can purchase or make at home)
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • fresh parsley
  • shaved parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F
  2. Place beets on foil on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Add some good salt and black pepper and close the foil to make a parcel. Roast in oven until you feel just a bit of resistance when you insert a paring knife into the beets (time will vary on size of beets but can take anywhere from 20 mins to an hour depending on their size).
  3. Allow beets to cool and set oven to highest possible temp. Peel beets and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  4. Brush pizza base with olive oil. Layer beets onto base, brush with oil. and sprinkle with a bit of black pepper and salt. Bake until pizza is ready (about 12 minutes in my oven).
  5. To your taste: Scatter fresh parsley leaves and parmesan shavings over top of pizza. Drizzle with a bit of Olive oil and Balsamic reduction and serve immediately

Winter Veg Salad with Pear and Blue Cheese (Serves 2)

Recipe by: Ali Nardi

This salad is really about what you feel like putting in it, but I will give some guidelines. This is a very hearty salad and would be a great vegetarian main

Ingredients:

  • 6 baby beetroot, scrubbed and trimmed, and halved lengthwise (leave a bit of the green on)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut about 1/3 inch thick or however you like
  • 2 small parsnips, cut into horizontally into 2 inch pieces (quarter the thicker pieces at the root end)
  • 1 carrot, shaved into ribbons with a veggie peeler (I used purple and yellow carrot in the photo above)
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • a few handfuls arugula (rocket)
  • about 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil and balsamic reduction to dress (or just regular balsamic vinegar)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F
  2. Place beetroot on a baking tray, and sweet potato and parsnip on a separate baking tray. Dress veggies on both trays with olive, salt, and pepper, and roast until tender: about 20 mins, moving veggies around on once or twice.
  3. This salad can be plated really beautifully on individual plates, or you can just toss it all in a bowl and treat it like any other salad. In any case, arrange the veggies, pear, rocket and blue cheese how you like, and dress with olive oil and balsamic reduction. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

My Spiced Picked Beets

Recipe by : Ali Nardi

These are so good in a green salad, or on bruschetta with ricotta, feta, or creamcheese, or chopped up in a grain salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup honey or sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 medium sized beets, peeled cut in half, and sliced about an 1/8 inch thick

In a pot big enough to hold all ingredients, add everything but the beets. Cook over a low heat until the sugar/honey is completely dissolved, and then bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add beet slices, and bring to a boil. Turn off and allow to cool completely before removing spices and transferring to a container. Allow to sit for a week in the fridge before using. These will last a long time, and just get better with time.

Unemployed? Have a Cookie

cookies 4Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

My housemate really likes ice cream. We have a freezer full of it. Sure, it’s his ice cream, but it’s right there, and it’s not just one brand and one flavor. It’s a whole selection. Damn you Tom!

I repeat, it’s his ice cream. But like I said, there was so much of it, and right there! I cracked the other night and stole far more than a modest scoop. Then I felt like the horrible housemate who steals food, and excessively apologized the next morning. I started with, “I did something bad,” which is up there with “Can we talk,” as a phrase that fuels anxiety. It was a poor sentence to start with. I could see the color drain from his face and feel those unpleasant butterflies fluttering around in his ice cream coated belly. He was thoroughly relieved when he realized I was just talking about ice cream.

I’m unemployed. It’s a state of being that I personally find really challenging, especially after leaving a perfectly good job. But, I simply had to move to Melbourne, and I don’t regret that. And starting over is kind of habit of mine, except for the past almost three years, instead of flying solo I’ve got a start over buddy whose beard looks like haven for birds at the moment (it suits Melbourne though).

There is of course the honeymoon period, where everything is new and exciting, and honestly, my interest in Melbourne hasn’t worn off in the slightest, and I am genuinely thrilled to be here. There is just the fact that I will eventually need an income if I want to stay, and I definitely want to stay.

So now just simply isn’t the time to go cold turkey on sweets, or I could end up dipping into something much worse as the psychological effects of starting over yet again and being unemployed slowly but steadily chip away at my self-esteem.

I know, it’s not to the most interesting or dramatic vice, but god forbid I revert back to my smoking days. I lost track of how many times I had to quit to truly kick my addiction to those delicious cancer sticks, and for the past few years it has been breezy. I have maybe two a year just for the nostalgia factor, and the next day I feel hung over and shitty.  I couldn’t go back if I tried. My body won’t let me, not to mention Anders would hound me the same way I hound him about eating bacon EVERYDAY. And I am grateful for that (not the bacon part, just the rest).

Yeah, being unemployed can suck, and that’s nothing new. Depending on where you are in your life and what your goals are, it can be a good experience too, if you can motivate to go do some cool things with your new-found free-time that don’t cost anything. Currently I am working on building defensive forces against the negatives of unemployment by constantly distracting myself with projects.

But the negativity still managed to slip in. In fact, I feel like I cause a lot of my own grief over not having a job.

choc chip cookies 2 asia

For example: I feel rejected even when I’m not applying for jobs! This is the most ridiculous contradiction I experience. Even if I am actively NOT looking for a job, I still feel like no one wants to hire me. What? That one just makes me angry at myself, and it is probably annoying to read. You might be thinking I need a good slap and a shake. I don’t blame you.

Another thing: Being unemployed is an excellent conversation killer, but I could easily eradicate this problem by simply lying. When people ask you, “What do you do?” meaning “what do you do for a living?” and not what do you do in your spare time for fun (unless you are in San Francisco, where it actually means, “what do you do that makes you happy”), they often get uncomfortable when you can’t provide them with an answer. If you are speaking to a gainfully employed individual, chances are you are making them feel like unemployment is contagious, and they must exit the conversation post-haste to save their own pay check. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m currently looking for a job….” or “Yeah, things are a bit slow right now….” I could be saying I teach Norwegian lions how to speak Spanish, or even better, I could say I am an Internal Project Manager Analayst Engineering Consultant. I guarantee no one will actually ask me details about that one.

Choc chip cookies

To cope with the “U” word, and that fact that I am back to having one friend within over 500 miles (shit that’s far, and true!–Anders alone has to act as my BFF, boyfriend, personal butler, and therapist all at once) , and so I don’t attempt to overcome the challenge of un-quitting smoking,  I indulge in sweets and watch The Biggest Loser in moments when I feel like throwing in the towel. Those are the bits I am willing to share with you at least. But I like to think I am being clever about it. I’ve been steadily baking sweets that aren’t going to harm me too much, and might actually help me on both the nutritional and psychological front. And ultimately, they prevent me from pilfering Tom’s ice cream.

choc chip cookies 3 asia

I do this by cutting out the flour (my usual MO) and adding some extra nutritional bits in there. There is a flourless chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte with lovely photos by Hugh Forte that I  keep coming back to. (They also have a blog by the same name with loads of recipes.) It uses almond flour and is so easy and delicious, and it ain’t that bad for me (so I let myself have way to many which bring me back to square one). It is without a doubt my favorite flourless recipe so far, and one of my favorite recipes in general. I have adapted it just slightly by adding espresso and chia seeds for flavor and texture and to keep my energy levels up.

Chocolate Chip Chia Espresso Cookies

Adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods

Yields 22 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups almond meal
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
  • ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil (or oil of choice), melted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat over to 375 F/ 190 C
  2. Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl as well as chia seeds if using.
  3. Beat egg until doubled in volume and foamy. Whisk in butter and vanilla (make sure butter has cooled so it doesn’t cook the egg!)
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry and allow to stand for 10 minutes
  5. Wet hands, and roll dough into balls the size of a large marble (about 1 tblspn dough per cookie). Place dough onto ungreased baking tray and flatten dough balls with palm.  Bake for 7- 10 mins. (Almond meal tends to brown fairly quickly, so it’s best to make these small so you don’t end up with a burnt outside and undercooked inside)

The Celebrity Chef Season of The Bachelor: Who Will Win My Cabbage?

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I spend a fair amount of time these days worrying about whether or not I need to freeze my eggs to give me more time decide if I want children. That biological clock that is supposed to be making me baby crazy…well, that clock seems to be broken in my case and at the ripe age of 27, I feel the pressure. I regularly negotiate with myself about when I need to make this decision by. When I was 23 it was 28. When I was 26, I bumped it to 30. Now that I am 27, I’ve tacked a few extra years onto that, bringing my decision deadline to 33, and frankly, that seems waaaay too soon to  figure it out. So the freezing thing doesn’t sound like too bad of an option. Of course, I’ve given myself a generous few years to figure out if I want to freeze the eggs, and at that point, the purpose of that might be lost over time. Essentially, I cannot think about the concept of babies, without totally freaking out, and needing to move onto a different course of thought fairly quickly.

Anyway, before I think about these babies, maybe I should be considering what kind of partner I would like to raise a baby with. Not to say you must have a partner, but in my case it is definitely a must, as I plan to be the 30-percenter while my partner is the 70-percenter…possibly the 80-percenter when the weather isn’t good.

So as you can see, I have clearly put a lot of thought into this and honed in on the most important factors involved in having a child….

My spousal search shall start where it should: Celebrity Chefs

For the sake of not discriminating, I have included chefs that are popular in the US, and some that the Aussies dig too (I’ve also tried unsuccessfuly to draw them, because all the images of them are copy written, and for that I apologize). I’ve tried to include some non-red heads here which is tough. Have you ever noticed the frequency of carrot tops in the celebrity culinary circuit? I’ve narrowed it down to five contenders, and chosen a diverse batch (I attempted to draw and write about Mario Batalli as a sixth option, but just felt really shallow and bitchy doing that).

Yotam Ottolenghi

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He’s tall, dashing, and his food is incredible. Simple, fresh whole foods with lots of color and care. If I wasn’t cheap and waiting for his book Jerusalem to go on sale, I would be working steadily through every one of his recipes.

I can see myself coming home to a freshly made salad and his beautiful fig and goat’s cheese tart while he changes nappies and teaches the baby Hebrew.

But alas, Ottolenghi prefers bananas to figs if you catch my drift, so I simply don’t stand a chance.

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Heston Blumenthal

It’s not that I mind a guy without hair on his head, I just don’t really like my food being messed with so much. He has his scientific passion for food, and I respect that, but I don’t want my kitchen to turn into a science lab.

I would be afraid to let him change nappies, and isn’t nappy changer the whole point of having a partner? He might do odd culinary experiments with the baby poo– Poo mousse tart with a urine caramel glaze perhaps? I shudder to think of the possibilities.

Sorry Heston, but this catch just isn’t taking the bait.

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Jamie Oliver

Does he need an introduction? He is simply brilliant, and I love his book Jamie Does: Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece, France. Yeah, he does a lot of things.  This particular cookbook is a bit excessive on the vanity pics but it’s Jamie we’re talking about here. Plus Anders (my current partner who is facing stiff competition with these celebrities) likes to cook Jamie stuff for me and it is always great.

But I’ve seen his wife, and as gorgeous as she is, she looks a bit worn down by the massive personality that is Jamie Oliver. He also demonstrated  on national TV how the baby stopped crying every time he took it from his wife, and then started crying again when he handed it back. Yes, it is a sign that he has a way with kids, but as someone who is planning to be a 30-percenter, I must have the appearance of a 100-percenter, and that just wouldn’t work for my reputation. But thanks for your Swedish Caesar salad recipe, we can’t get enough of those chicken fat croutons. I love you, but I just can’t love you in that way.

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Marco Pierre White

He is one scary chef. His intensity and knife skills are to be admired, but they are also to be feared, as these are also characteristics of a killer. I can imagine serving him something just mildly over-salted, and the outcome being death, or preferably, divorce.

Nah, but he has got a soft side to him, and I think he is probably a family man at heart. However, like all of the contenders, the big issue is really that I would have to be the 80-percenter, or even worse the 100-percenter, because career ambition like this doesn’t leave much room for family time.

Sorry Marco, I know you are”looking forward to spending some time” with me, but I don’t always cut my veggies uniformly, and I hate to julienne carrots so I don’t think it will work.

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Bobby Flay

Hi Bobby, how’s it going? You want to prove you can bake better banana bread then me? This throw down is on!!

I love a bit of competition, and Bobby is definitely up for it. Of course, when he beat those two little old ladies in a fruit pie Throw Down, the world felt cruel. But I must say, there is something about the Flay, and out of all the contenders, he might actually stand a chance. He knows an incredible amount about so many different foods, and his recipes always work. He just seems like he has it together, and he can juggle a million things at once, including bottle feeding a baby while bringing in the dough and flirting with Giada De Laurentiis (cut that out! Sorry Giada, I’m just jealous).

Plus, he has got a tough New Yorker feel to him that appeals. Bobby, if you want to go out sometime, just catch me on my blog. Just make sure you bring your grill along so you can grill me something tasty.

Whose your favorite celebrity chef and why?

The Jew-Factor: Just Follow the Matzo Crumbs… Passover Carrot Cake

Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

Except there are no matzo crumbs.

Being a Jew in Australia is both comical, and a little difficult to swing.

Here’s an example of the comical: Many Aussies assume that because I am Jewish, I am an expert on the Jewish religion– even though I am more of a Jew by heritage if you catch my drift. A friend wrote Anders an email when she returned from a trip to NYC: “While we were in New York, there were all these Jewish people dressed in traditional clothing going into these makeshift rectangle rooms. I think they were celebrating something? And the young boys were going around asking people if they were Jewish. Does Ali know what they were celebrating???”

The Difficulties: It’s not that I feel unwelcome or anything. It’s just that there isn’t really much of anything Jewish going on if you are a “casual Jew” like myself (something like a half-blood from Harry Potter, who grew up celebrating all Catholic and Jewish Holidays but never really tied any religious significance to either). So it’s hard to keep up with Passover, Yom Kippur, Chanukah. It’s also difficult to find egg noodles to make kugel with, and this is the real tragedy of it for me.

Being a Jew has always been a bit like wearing an accessory in my case–something I identify with to a certain extent and enjoy having as an extra flourish, but not something that I defined myself by…. until that is, I started living abroad and until I met Anders. In New York I am one of many who get called out while in the NYC subway: “Are you Jooeesh?” Here, it’s more of a novelty, because I am the only Jew most of my Aussie friends have ever encountered, or rather, known personally. And whether or not I chose to tell people doesn’t make a difference, as Anders has made it a well-known fact. It’s cute… sort of.  I didn’t understand how widespread the word was until people were leaving bacon just off of my plate (I do not keep kosher for the record). My favorite bit though is when Anders told his father I was Jewish before his father met me, and he said “Well don’t hold it against her!”

But like I said, no one I know has an issue with it. For the most part, they just didn’t grow up with it as part of their lives. During December holidays in Brisbane, there was no such thing as saying “Happy Holidays!” It’s just, “Merry Christmas!”

Bottom line: it’s good that people have a curiosity to know what it’s all about. I just wish I knew so I could tell them!

I feel like I should participate a bit in this inherited culture though, even without mom and dad and the olds here to organize Passover. I gotta represent! So this year, I have decided to do a mini Seder on the second night of Passover (tomorrow). In Brisbane, finding Passover products just wasn’t happening. But now we are in Melbourne, where the possibilities are endless (and the laksa is amazing!). Sure enough, there is Carlisle St. in Saint Kilda, an area that feels a lot like Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, about 45 minutes away from me via bike. So I took my wheels on an adventure yesterday, and got the necessary bits for passover. Matzo meal to make matzo balls, matzo bread (this is also nice to have in the house to snack on), and red horseradish (my favorite). The rest I can find at Vic markets tomorrow.

I also made a Passover Carrot Cake (flourless) that we can enjoy at the mini Seder and throughout the week, because I like having something sweet around that is nutritious enough to eat as a meal. I’m not a big fan of chocolate, and the typical flourless chocolate cakes at passover are too sweet and heavy for my taste, but I love a good carrot cake.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Elana’s Pantry. I’ve spiced it differently, added dried figs, and since I originally posted this, I have altered the frosting, as her cream cheese frosting didn’t really do it for me and can now give you an awesome cream cheese frosting recipe! Also, I simply don’t use gave in my food.

Instead of doing a two-layer cake, I do a one layer cake, and then make the rest into cupcakes, or do them all as cupcakes as a sweet snack to have during the  week– no frosting when going for the snack idea! (You might notice two are missing in the photo. Photographer Asia Upwards dog Bear got to them when we turned our backs for a second!)

Note: This cake is flourless (almond-meal), and can also be made dairy free by swapping out the melted butter with your oil of choice (I recommend coconut oil, or the original recipe calls for grape seed oil).

carrot cake 2 Asia

Flourless Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry

  • 3 cups blanched almond flour (DO NOT use Bob’s Red Mill. It is too coarse)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup honey or agave nectar
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 3 cups grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup raisans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup walnuts (plus a few extra for decoration)

Frosting

  • 1 cup creamcheese (about 250 grams)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick (115 grams) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease two 9 inch cake tins, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, using your fingers to break up any clumps of almond meal.
  3. In a seperate bowl, mix together eggs, honey and melted butter. Stir in carrots, raisans, figs, and walnuts.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry, and divide batter evenly into cake pans.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If the top starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil. Allow to cool before removing from cake pans.
  6. For the frosting: With an electric beater, beat cream cheese until smooth in a  medium bowl. Add butter and honey and beat until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat cream until you have a nice thick whipped cream (don’t let it go to butter!). Combine with cream cheese mixture. Store in Fridge for up to a week, and store in freezer after that. To revive it, just beat it til smooth again.

The Pros and Cons of Shared Housing: Persimmon and Brandy Chutney

DSC_0463W are finally in Melbourne, and I’m simply loving it. Some places you feel a connection with. Others, you don’t. For me, Melbourne is one of those cities where that clique happens, at least this time around. When visiting in the past, I didn’t necessarily feel that connection, but now that I am settling in for a good stay, I have opened up to the city and in turn Melbourne has sent its love back. Currently, that love is in the form of a 5 kilo round of pecorino cheese my lovely new housemate Tom brought home from work. Ah, cheese, the way to my heart.

Yes, you read correctly–we have a housemate. Actually, we have two housemates. I had assumed that after making the transition to living with just my boyfriend we would continue living just us. This expectation was swiftly squashed however, when we realized Melbourne ain’t cheap, and we are still keen to continue traveling (a hobby which can burn a whole into the pockets ril fast). And so, for those trips to happen, and really so we have extra cash for eating all of the amazing food in Melbourne, we are back to housemates.

The cons of having roommates are obvious, the main inconvenience in my opinion being the unspoken agreement that it isn’t cool to walk around the house naked. But some of my closest friends today were originally just strangers who I shared the same toilet with. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of living with someone else and just sharing a utility bill. Why would you want to live with someone you don’t even want to know? How would you trust them not to dunk your toothbrush into the toilet? Even if you aren’t walking around naked, chances are, one of your housemates is going to spot your wobbly bits at some point, and better you know that person likes you and won’t be inclined to snap it and put it on Facebook.

Sure, we have all had our bad experiences with roomies–i.e. Being locked out at 3am cause they bolted the door and passed out, coming home to find a housemate’s friend’s asleep in your bed, and of course, the forever dirty fry pan, a situation which John Birmingham explores in depth in his book He Died with a Felafel in his Hand. Yup, Mr. Birmingham did indeed come home to find a flatemate who had died while in the process of consuming a felafel.

The examples given above are pretty run of the mill (except the one about the dead guy)– annoying but not life threatening. They can over time build into a frustration that might translate into small doses of insanity if you live with, say, a neurotic New Yorker by the name of Ali, but there won’t be any blood shed (scrap that–a guy was locked up in Australia recently for killing his housemate because he kept leaving the bathroom dirty). Anyway, if you can get past the inevitable annoyances, and realize you yourself do just as many things that rub your housemates the wrong way, having housemates isn’t so bad.

DSC_0454

Apart from landing some pretty chill housemates, we also live a walk away from the amazing Queen Victoria Markets, possibly the largest and oldest market in the Southern Hemisphere. We have only be here two weeks and I have easily been 6 times, and eaten at least that many spinach and cheese boureks while wandering the premises. From the deli section, to the meat and fish section, to produce, to prepared foods and an awesome night market in the summer, this is my favorite place to spend time so far in my new city. If you make it to this year’s last Suzuki Night Market next Wednesday (March 27th) I highly recommend the Mr. Calamaro stand. I had the “Bocadill0”– amazingly light calamari on a roll with aioli and a piquillo pepper. Yum!

Lisa's Appled BrandyBottled Dec 2012

Lisa’s Appled Brandy
Bottled Dec 2012

Vic Markets is a great place to get seasonal veg, and persimmons are in right now. With fuyu persimmons and some delicious apple brandy that my friend Lisa “appled” herself and bottled in style (but that I am too wimpy to drink straight), I made a persimmon and brandy chutney adapted from a recipe in Saveur Magazine by Marisa McClellan, author of  Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. I’m not a big fan of super sweet chutney, so I have cut down on the sugar, and added brandy and some spiciness. It tastes good right off the stove, but I prefer my chutney after it has sat on the shelf for a few months so the flavors can mesh and the acid can mellow.

What’s your favorite foodie spot in Melbourne?

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Persimmon and Brandy Chutney

Recipe by: Alexandra Nardi (adapted from: Marisa McClellan’s recipe in Saveur Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 3 x 270 ml jars/ half pint jars and lids
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 cloves
  • 3-inch piece cassia bark or cinnamon stick
  • 2 1/2 pounds (1100 grams) persimmons, chopped
  • 1/2 pound (200 grams) apple, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup H2O
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  1. Wash and sterilize jars and lids.
  2. In a large pot (large enough to fit all ingredients), toast mustard seeds, fennel seeds, coriander, and cardamom pods over medium heat. When the mustard seeds begin to jump, add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until you have the chutney texture where you want it, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. Remove cassia bark and lemon zest strips.
  3. Transfer chutney to jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/3 inch space at top of jars and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.