Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Black Bean Bliss

When I was an undergraduate (20 years ago? Eek!), I lived in southern California for a year and did a fair bit of travelling in Mexico. I have never recovered from the wonder of real Mexican food and it is a source of persistent distress that it has not become a mainstay of Australia's multicultural palate. Imagine my thrill when Lovely Partner arrived home the other day with a bag of glossy black turtle beans. It has been a week of bean bliss (although, certainly not of authentic Mexican cuisine, of which I still dream wistfully). I forgot to photograph everything, but here are a couple of favourites...

Black bean dip

Cooked black beans, garlic, cumin, lime juice, hot sauce, yoghurt, salt and pepper blended in the food processor and topped with chopped tomato and coriander. Delish!

Swordfish with blackbean salsa and roasted sweet potato

I've sworn off swordfish for ethical reasons, but when Lovely Partner unwittingly brought this locally caught morsel home, it had to be eaten. Gotta say, tasting it again made me feel self-righteously sacrificial about my ethical choice!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This weekend is all about...

The first limes on my patio lime tree...

Watching the happy beans grow...

Looking for shy beetroot seedlings...

Welcoming the lettuces...
Enjoying a gift from the caffeine gods, all the way from Melbourne...

...and relaxing with some soup.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mid-week dinner

Work from home day today - my favourite! In the garden, the seedlings are looking good, with no sign of possum interference (touch wood). In the gym, I pumped some serious iron for about 40 minutes and did 35 minutes on the cross trainer. Am now 8.5 kgs down and feeling strong.

In the kitchen, I managed a cooked breakfast (porridge), a cooked lunch (pasta with roast pumpkin, basil and feta), and ended the day with this... version of a nicoise salad, with lime honey mustard dressing. Tasted good. And the added bonus? An extra hardboiled egg for lunch tomorrow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekend in the garden and the kitchen

This weekend in the garden, I:

  • Mowed the lawns and used the clippings to mulch a bed in preparation for planting;
  • Fed my citrus trees - the leaf-eating grasshoppers have even been munching on my lemon tree, but it keeps fighting back;
  • Examined, with obsessive care, the progress of last weekend's seed planting. So far, the purple king beans are up, but there's no sign of the bush beans...

...and all the zucchinis have come up. Now we pray that the possums have found a more interesting food source elsewhere...

The lettuces and beetroot are also making a showing, but they're too small for meaningful photography at this stage.

This weekend in the kitchen, I have:

Made a moroccan fish stew, care of Bill Granger. The recipe is here. I made it with locally caught mahi mahi. It tasted great. We have a saying in our house; 'in Bill we trust'. That is, we never mess with Bill Granger's recipes. If you follow them, the food always comes out fantastically.

I was over at Saucy Onion, where I was inspired by Indira's Saturday pizza. Mine is not nearly as pretty as hers, but I did make the dough! Topped with a bit of tomato paste, roast pumpkin and fetta, then garnished with basil from the garden after it was cooked. Tasted great!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Half way there...

Today I did a nice long 90 minutes on the cross-trainer at the gym. For what they're worth, the scales tell me I've lost 7.5 kilos, which is half of what I need to get to where I want to be (I can't talk about 'goal weight' and 'smashing it up in the gym'. It makes me feel like a Biggest Loser contestant!). Of course, the scale is a fickle thing and next time I check it may not be such a happy story. But, for today, I'm going with it! No fun cooking food tonight - I have been procrastinating and need to apply myself to meeting a work deadline which is going to take me long into the night. So, leftovers it is...

Ten hour work day menu

Started the day with porridge. Looks a bit grim but tasted great. The oats were cooked with milk, water, a mashed banana and cinnamon. On top, a teaspoon of macadamia nut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup. The banana makes it sweet enough, so I will skip the syrup next time.

Followed up with a latte chaser, care of our trusty Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. With the family barista away for a while, it was not quite the caffeine perfection we are used to in this house, but it was pretty tasty...

A yumbo sandwich for lunch - baked ricotta, slow roasted tomato and mixed lettuce on Sol Breads' awesome organic mega-grain bread.

After 30 minutes of cardio at the gym, dinner was a couple of slabs of tofu basted in Disaster Bay Chillies' fabulous kasoundi and baked in a hot oven for 25 minutes, served with yoghurt, steamed rice and sauteed kale dressed with pepper and lemon juice. Meets my standards for a workday dinner - preparation time about 8 minutes and taste factor high.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dinner: chilli prawn pasta with garden-fresh basil

Inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe in this month's Delicious Magazine, with a few twists of my own...

Serves Two:

200g dried pasta (I used spaghetti. I LOVE spaghetti!)
8 green prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 brown onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1 medium red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
1/4 cup verjuice
1 large handful fresh basil (one of the few things surviving the pests in my garden this summer)
8 cherry or mini roma tomatoes
2 Tblspn olive oil
parmesan cheese, finely grated.

Brush tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil, place in a baking pan and roast in a cool (160 degree) oven for 40-50 minutes, until nicely caramelised.
Prepare pasta as per its cooking instructions
Sautee garlic, onion and chilli in remaining olive oil for 5 minutes. Add verjuice and simmer for 3 minutes. Add prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes, turning prawns as needed.
Divide pasta into serving plates. Pour on prawn/onion mix, place tomatoes and top with roughly torn basil.
Add pepper and parmesan to taste (some people think it is gauche to eat parmesan with seafood pasta, but I love it!).


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Putting in the autumn crop

I was meant to be working on a journal article today. Instead, I walked dogs, went to the gym and did 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training, then decided to plant out some Autumn crops.

After harvesting a gorgeous quantity of castings from my trusty worm farm, I did a bit of soil conditioning, working in the castings and some blood and bone. It's been raining here for over a week, so the soil was very easy to work with. I put up the stakes for a new crop of purple king beans. Then I threw in some bush beans, mini beetroots, mesclun mix and coriander. I am being pretty slapdash with vegetable gardening at the moment. A swarm of leaf-eating grasshoppers and some hungry possums all but ruined my spring planting efforts :( so I am trying to remain detached.