Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Best of 2007

best of 2007

Decisions, decisions....especially at this time of year when my brain is fogged trying to decide what perfect gifts to give, along comes Zorra and Sandra with a fabulous event, inviting one and all to submit a mind blowing recipe that moved the world for them in 2007. You know, that OMG reaction?

Whilst not every thing I prepared this year was in that "incredible" category, most of it was good, even stuff that was on the more risky side, like Tamarillo chutney or Chickpea Fritters. New tastes and textures crossed our tongues on numerous occasions in the past year, things I would never have even dreamed of cooking a couple of years ago, thanks to the myriad of fabulous food blogs that abound the www.

One of the most "Googled hits" I have received this year was for the great Aussie Meat Pie, which was posted as "4 & 20 Blackbirds baked in a Pie". I'd like to think that the number of searches for this phrase was the world craving for an Aussie Pie, but maybe there are just a lot of people who don't know the words to the nursery rhyme. When I first made these pies, they definitely were a gustatory joy. I now make them on a regular basis to load into the freezer for the quick winter lunch, and even though they're still fabulous, I had to really fight the demons in my head and opt for this recipe instead.

The Chervil and Egg Custard Tart with Tomato and Capsicum Salsa was chosen probably due to it's versatility (and of course flavour). It can be served with a green salad for a light lunch, or sliced into bite sized fingers to have with drinks. Any left over custard can be used to fill mini quiche shells as well.

With only two sleeps to go, I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and hope to be back in the New Year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yuletide Greetings

I'm obsessed (apparently). Even my Christmas cards this year has a food theme!

I wish everyone a very happy, safe and joyous Christmas.

Bountiful backyard - natures gifts

My garden is a jungle! Long awaited summer herbs and vegetables, bursting with freshness, ready for the taking. I love nothing more than "harvesting my crop" each day. These are just a few examples of my outdoor greengrocery.

Summer's first tomatoes....even if they are only baby ones.

Romas to roast

Big reds to just eat, dripping in olive oil

Chillies to spice up our lives

Frilly basil to go with everything

Zucchini to overrun both the garden and my kitchen bench

Beautiful flowers to stuff

This dish called for 4 herbs that were readily available in my garden; parsley, oregano, thyme and bay leaves. I have a bay tree sitting patiently in a pot waiting for it's final resting place, which I have yet to decide on. The recipe is one from Rachel Ray, who unless you have pay TV in Australia, has not adorned our commercial screens as yet, not to my knowledge anyway.

Rachael's Chimichurri Chicken Bites

1 rounded tablespoon sweet paprika
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, a couple of handfuls
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 small white onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 3 splashes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds chicken tenders

Preheat a grill pan over high heat.

In a food processor combine paprika, parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, onion, garlic and cayenne. Finely chop the mixture by pulsing.

Heat oil in a small pan over medium low heat. When oil is warm, stir herb and garlic mixture into oil and heat 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat. The oil will become infused with the flavor of the herbs and garlic. Transfer to a bowl and stir in vinegar and salt. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Cut chicken tenders into thirds and place in a shallow dish. Wash hands.

Spoon half of your chimichurri over the chicken and coat completely and evenly. Using tongs, transfer the bites to the hot grill and cook 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Transfer bites to a serving plate. Serve with party picks and reserved chimichurri sauce for dipping.

Marinating in the rich herbal olive oil

Family comment was "this chimchiminy chicken is fantastic". I'm sure Mary Poppins would agree also.

This is my entry for the last Weekend Herb Blogging event for 2007, and is kindly hosted by Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A High Noted Dish

Summer has arrived, and with a vengeance. The days leading up to 1st December have been record breaking, scorchingly hot temperatures, so not much has been happening in my kitchen as far as innovative meals are concerned. A steak on the barbie with potatoes and a tossed salad has been pretty much my limit in the past couple of weeks. Not only has it been too hot to eat outside, but our outside guests this year are in plague proportions. I'm talking flies....sticky, baby bush flies that are so persistent and thick, one could easily inhale half a dozen whilst trying to eat. The drought has been blamed for the extreme numbers of flies this year, because the dung beetle numbers are down, so the breeding cycle for these pests have been given a free run this year. And when you think of where most of the breeding is occurring, i.e. animal excretion, swallowing the odd one just about makes you retch.

So after that little biology lesson, and my annoyance at not being able to enjoy summer meals outside, I've decided to stick to inside meals this week, and pray that the important dung beetle starts to populate again.....soon....very soon.

This is an Italian sounding dish, very apt since Simona from Briciole is hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, however it is an American dish named after a famous opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, who thrilled Americans at the turn of the last century with her wonderful voice.

There are many differing versions of this recipe, but I chose one from The Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis, a chef you either love or hate. It's really an operatic version of chicken and mushroom pasta.
Chicken Tetrazzini
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces linguine
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Melt 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a deep large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook until pale golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool slightly. Coarsely shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil to the same pan. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden, about 12 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.

Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, cream, broth, nutmeg, remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Drain. Add the linguine, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well blended.

Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the pasta. Dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown on top and the sauce bubbles, about 25 minutes.