Saturday, January 24, 2009

Minty tomato, peach and nectarine salad

This year I planted various tomato bushes, one of them being a yellow tomato, which has been a huge success, bearing luscious fruit quite fastidiously. They are sweet, fleshy, very little seeds, and make a colourful dish.

As the stone fruits are nearing the end of their season, I couldn’t help but look for a salad recipe to incorporate them with my lovely yellow tomatoes and bright red roma tomatoes. I love any salad with fruit thrown in as a refreshing change. Strawberries in a tossed salad are one of my favourites. Or honey dew melon and fresh garden green lettuce varieties.

Martha Stewart had the perfect recipe for what I was looking for, and I altered it slightly by using balsamic reduction instead of balsamic vinegar, and threw in a few finely shredded basil leaves for good measure. The mint, however, stood out as the ingredient to highlight the peaches. I also added a couple of nectarines as well.


The family had thought I’d finally lost my marbles when I put the salad on the table. However from the very first mouthful, there were thumbs up all round. I could eat a bowl of this on its own, it’s that good.


  1. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 tablespoon balsamic reduction
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 2 peaches
  7. 2 nectarines
  8. 3 red tomatoes
  9. 3 yellow tomatoes
  10. 2 small inner celery stalks, peeled to remove strings and cut into1/4-inch pieces
  11. 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, plus shredded basil for garnish


  1. Whisk together olive oil, balsamic reduction, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl; set vinaigrette aside.
  2. Halve and pit peaches and nectarines. Cut halves into quarters. Slice tomatoes into 1/2-inch rounds.
  3. Arrange peaches, nectarines, tomatoes and celery on a serving plate. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Coarsely chop mint leaves; add to vinaigrette. Pour over salad, and garnish with shredded basil.

Weekend Herb Blogging this week is hosted by Chris from Mele Cotte. Be sure to stop by her page to follow the roundup of this great event, culminated by Kalyn and inherited by Haalo.

Now I’m off to do something special with this haul from the garden. Wish me luck!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #165 – The roundup.

Returning back home after a couple of days of meandering the Great Ocean Road, or GOR, as it is commonly referred to, I am excited to deliver my first hosting roundup of Weekend Herb Blogging.  Funnily enough, GOR is also an acronym for gastro-oesophageal reflux, which had obviously struck a few families on the way, judging by the number of cars pulled in to the side  and children bent over in the "I'm gonna throw up" position.  And just like the GOR, with its never ending twists, corners, climbs and descents, the entries for this week are an indication of the versatile cooking cultures we are all part of.   With every submission that dropped into my mailbox I was again driving around a hairpin bend and discovering something new and exciting with each sharp turn.

Koala 1

Even Kev the Koala, would gladly give up his daily intake of intoxicating eucalypt leaves for all of these dishes.

So let’s get this show on the road.

pork & celery

Maria, from Organically Cooked, hails from the beautiful island of Crete, and she has used a Greek celery named σέλινο (pronounced 'selino' for the non-Greek speaking populous) and combined it with succulent pork.  Selino is darker (and apparently smellier whilst cooking) than the lighter celery familiar to most of us.  I especially like the addition of avgolemono sauce to her Pork and Celery if so desired.

almond corner ravioli

Next stop, Zurich Switzerland, where Chriesi from Almond Corner presents an interesting ravioli made from very rare and hard to find Red Danube walnuts. The “nutty” ravioli is stuffed with goats cheese and celery, finished with a burnt butter drizzle and parmesan.  I think I could go nuts over this one myself.


From nuts to crackers, we turn the corner and head to New York where Rachel The Crispy Cook presents gluten free sesame rosemary crackers.  Even the non-Coeliac members of her family gobble these tasty snacks up at a “cracking” pace.  With the combination of sorghum flour, sesame seeds and flax seeds, these are a really healthy snack to have with hummus.  Who says a GF diet has to be boring?  Not in Rachel’s house, who BTW is next weeks hostess of WHB.

fruit cake bar 

Next pitstop is Manila (Phillipines), where Ning from Heart and Hearth serves up a very fruity contribution in the form of Fruit Cake Bars.  After the rich and heavy fruit cakes offered around Christmas time, this lighter version is a much welcomed reprieve.  Ning uses 5 cups of dried fruits in this recipe, including mango and dried jackfruits, a tropical specialty of the Phillipines.

kiwi fruit lemon grass slushie

Anna from Morsels and Musings takes us to sweltering Sydney (Australia) for a quiet slurp on a slushie.  With temperatures reaching into the 100’s, Anna finds cool relief with a Kiwifruit and Lemon Grass slushie.  Find out more about the Kiwifruit origins on Anna’s blog.  I personally would prefer the adult version of this drink as well.


From the scorching heat of Sydney, we’re off to Alaska, where the weather is decidedly cooler.  Laurie, from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska,  has adapted the traditional Greek Mousaka into a Leek Mousaka, using her own meat sauce recipe, leeks and a few variations of the original recipe which inspired her to make this dish.  Laurie also provides great tips on crediting recipe sources, which every food blogger should read.

 ginger lemony soup 

Continuing our journey about 3500 miles east of Alaska, Cheryl, from  Gluten Free Goodness resides in Alexandria, VA and submits an Asian Style Gingery Soup, with the addition of lettuce in the last cooking stages.  We all know that ginger is a tonic food, and this soup would surely pep anyone up who needs a boost of some sort.  And it’s gluten free. 


 Back to the Southern Hemisphere, and Haalo at Cook Almost Anything at Least Once, the new organiser of this event, has dug into her Périgord truffle stash, left over from Christmas, and made a beautiful truffle butter, preserving the last remains of this exotic ingredient just a bit longer.   I can only imagine what this would taste like melted over a rib eye steak.  Hopefully truffle growing in Australia will boom in years to come, and I might then be able to afford a sliver of one!


Two of my all time favourite foods are figs and chorizo, and Genie of  The Inadvertent Gardner, hailing from Oakland CA,  has combined them to make tasty tapas using dried figs.   I think this dish would blow the concept of tapas out the window, because a “small dish” of this wouldn’t be enough.  I’m waiting patiently for a good load of fresh figs to come into season in the next week or two, and this tapas is definitely going to be on the agenda.

broccoli pasta

 Scott, from  Real Epicurian, North Lincolnshire, (London)  has decided that after all of the Silly Season indulgences, it’s time to detoxify and what better way to do this than tucking into a bowl of healthy pasta laced with broccoli, cauliflower and garlic.  And why not throw in a chilli or two for exhilaration.   Simplicity at its best.

vege buns

On with the journey to the beautiful Garda Lake region of Valsorda (Italy) and Brii from Briiblog has made an architectural wonder of vege buns.  Yeasted bread rolls filled with an assortment of chopped vegetables.  What a great idea this is – a healthy meal in a bun.  It seems a pity that her work of art will be demolished at break neck speeds.


While we’re in the neighbourhood, we pay a visit to Cinzia, from Cindystar, who hails from Bardolino, Lake of Garda, (Italy).  Cinzia has made a Quick Fricassea, which she quotes  “is a popular Italian dish made of stewed meat (usually veal or chicken) and potatoes, savoured at the end with a soft cream made of beaten eggs and lemon juice cooked just a few minutes to thicken”.  The addition of  fenugreek and lime juice take this dish to new heights.  (Cinzia’s post is in Italian, but she has a language translator link on her page.)

canellini bean stew 

Back to the US, and into Kalyn’s Kitchen, whom we are all familiar with,  as Weekend Herb Blogging was born in that very kitchen.  Kalyn’s thick and hearty Cannellini Bean and Sausage Stew with tomatoes and basil would definitely satisfy even the fussiest eater  when the temperatures outside are hovering around the freezing mark.   Kalyn freezes her abundance of summer basil for occasions such as this and adds this toward the end of cooking time.

Morrocan fruit salad 2 

Finally returning home and  into the Backyard, my contribution is a Moroccan Fruit Salad.  Fresh fruits of the season swathed in a Moroccan style syrup, finished with torn mint leaves.  Just what I needed after the exciting adventure of visiting new and interesting parts of the world, learning about new and unusual ingredients and food cultures.  Thanks Haalo for giving me the opportunity to host this fun event.  

Next weeks event will be hosted by Rachel, from the The Crispy Cook.  See all of the rules for entering here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fruit Salad with Moroccan Dressing

Morrocan Fruit Salad

With the warmth of the Australian summer, Mother Nature brings an abundance of juicy fruits and berries, and because I love all the fruits from this season, what better way than combining them all together, to devour in one greedy swoop.

Fruit salad never fails to satisfy, and when you combine nectarines, peaches, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, banana, ya ya pears and strawberries with this delicious Moroccan influenced syrup, and a sprinkling of refreshing mint leaves thrown in, you’re on your way to summer heaven. Of course you could use any fresh fruits you have available.

Moroccan Dressing

(from my fav TV show Food Safari)
1 cup water
1 small stick cassia bark (or cinnamon)
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
10 mint leaves, torn


Combine all ingredients for dressing except mint leaves in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and place in fridge for 1 hour, then mix dressing through the fruit salad with mint leaves. Don't forget to remove the cassia bark!!

As I’m proudly hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week, an event which was started way back by Kalyn’s Kitchen, and has now been passed down to Haalo from Cook Almost Anything, I look forward to receiving a wide variety of interesting recipes and dishes which incorporate a herb, fruit or vegetable as the major ingredient. I hope you can catch the roundup on Monday.

Morrocan fruit salad 2

Monday, January 05, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #165 hosted by yours truly

The next round of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event originating from Kalyn's Kitchen, is coming to my backyard this week. If you have something delicious which predominantly contains herbs or plants as the main ingredient, by all means send me your post and I'll gladly include it the roundup.

For those who are new to this event, Haalo from Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once has now taken this event under her wing, and has posted the rules here, along with future hosts/hostesses.

Please carefully read the entry criteria, and send your posts to backyardpizzeria at gmail dot com showing the subject line as WHB #165. Oh, and don't forget to attach a small photo and link to your entry.

Until then, I'm off to the beach to soak up some rays (hopefully) for a few days, and will look forward to receiving your entries.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year and yet another basil recipe!

Where has 2008 gone? December went with a flutter of the eyelids, which is quite obvious looking at the number of posts I've submitted this month. I blame that on the seasons. When it's cold and dreary, you stay inside and cook and blog. When it's warm and sunny, and vegetables need to be planted, tended, watered, beds weeded - who has time to be indoors? Obviously not moi!

The first edition of Weekend Herb Blogging for 2009 will be duly hosted by Haalo, of Cook (Almost) Anything at least once, who is the new Hoodoo Guru of herbs and cooking (and especially photography), and Haalo will be opening up a fantastic New Year of wonderful entries, recipes and a wealth of information provided by herb groupies. I think I can qualify to be one of them by now!

However, I'm starting to sound like a broken record with my first entry for 2009. Yep.....basil. Once again. But...wait....I'm talking about LEMON basil. Citrusy, tangy and "I just can't walk past it without picking a leaf or two and inhaling the scent" type of basil. Eat basil. It's good for arthritis, psoriasis, acne, constipation, stress, build up of gas from over-indulging over the Christmas name it, you've got basil!!

Lemon basil was born to be married to seafood. Prawns and lemon basil ....salsa agresto with a twang!! Throw in a fillet of Murry River Cod, and you have the perfect close to 2008.

Lemon Salso Agresto

1 cup (160 g) almonds

1 cup (100 g) walnuts

2 cloves garlic

2¾ cups flat-leaf parsley leaves

½ cup firmly packed lemon basil leaves

1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes

freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup (180 ml) extra virgin olive oil

¾ cup (180 ml) verjuice*

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Roast the almonds and walnuts on separate baking trays for about 5 minutes, shaking to prevent burning. Rub walnuts in a tea towel to removebitter skins, then leave to cool.

Blend the nuts, garlic, herbs, salt and 6 grinds of black pepper in a food processor with a little of the olive oil.

With the motor running, slowly add the remaining oil and verjuice. The consistency should be like pesto. (If required, thin with more verjuice*.)

*If Verjuice is unavailable, you could try mixing white wine vinegar, lemon juice and a bit of sugar as a substitute.

It's the last day of 2008, so I take this opportunity to wish each and everyone a Happy New Year, and may 2009 bring you everything you wish for, plus more.

I'm off to the beach for a couple of days (taking my beanie, winter woollies and Ugh boots...thats Summer in Australia for ya)! Catchya next week, when I'll be the Hostess with the Mostest!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Tarts

These little tarts make one of the fanciest entrees that could adorn your Christmas table. An Australian Christmas can either be a traditional turkey, chicken, pork, roasted vegetables and all of the trimmings, or as is more popular in the last few decades, BBQ’s and seafood, casual and laid back, a trait that Aussies are famous for.

This is yet another dish utilizing what I have growing in the garden, and whilst the tomatoes are a little while off from being ready to cultivate, the basil is winning by miles. Last year my basil crop was just OK, so I covered myself this year and planted nearly double the amount of seedlings. As it would be, every single plant has flourished and I’m already freezing pesto for the ensuing winter doldrums.

basil pesto tarts 2

Baby Bocconcini & Roast Tomato tarts with Pesto
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 110g plain flour
  • Pinch of icing sugar
  • 60g cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tub of baby bocconcini, drained
  • 1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
  • Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
  1. Sift flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a food processor, add butter and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. Process until mixture forms a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  3. Bring pastry to room temperature, roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line four 1 x 4cm tart pans with removable bases. Refrigerate for 10 minutes (in really warm weather, I usually freeze the pastry to hasten the chilling process).
  4. Line the pastry lined pan with aluminium foil and fill with pastry weights or rice. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes in the oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on a baking tray.
  6. Remove tarts from oven and remove foil and weights. Return to oven with the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until pastry is golden and the tomatoes have softened slightly. Spread a little pesto over base of each tart and fill with bocconcini and tomatoes. Place in oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Serve with remaining pesto and basil leaves.

Source: Delicious Magazine January 2002 from Valli Little

Chriesi of Almond Corner has kindly given her time to host this weeks installment of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event founded by Kalyn, that has been one of the most successful food blog events in history, now capably overseen by Haalo from Cook Almost Anything at Least Once.

basil pesto tarts 1

Bon Appetit and Buon Natale to all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Basil French Toast

Sunday morning brunch is usually not an event that occurs on a regular basis in this household. Breakfast is normally, whatever you can get yourself, you're more than welcome to have. As the family was musing on what topping to put on their toast, either Vegemite or Peanut Butter, eldest daughter spotted a Donna Hay creation in the Sunday Morning Magazine supplement, that took her fancy.

The basil in the garden is flourishing beautifully, and all of the other ingredients, amazingly were available. So a basil brunch was on the menu. With assistance from the notorious "anonymous" commenter on many of my posts, AKA, Bunny the Boyfriend, a family breakfast was enjoyed by all.

Siri, from Siri's Corner is hosting this next round of Weekend Herb Blogging, and event that highlights the use of herbs and vegetables in every cuisine known, and is now under the wings of Haalo, from Cook Almost Anything at least Once.

Basil French Toast with Bacon and Tomatoes

Serves 4

8 rashers bacon, trimmed

250 gm cherry tomatoes

1 tblsp olive oil

Sea salt, cracked black pepper

4 eggs

¼ cup pouring cream

½ cup finally grated parmesan cheese

½ cup chopped basil

20 gm butter

8 slices sour dough bread

Preheat oven to 220c. Place bacon on a baking tray and cook for 12-15 minutes or until crisp. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 5 minutes or until the skins just split. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the eggs, cream, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Heat the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Dip the bread in the egg mixture and cook, in batches until golden. Serve with the bacon and tomatoes.