The Living Room, Auckland.
The other night we went to Living Room on Ponsonby Road for dinner and it was really very nice. Kim’s salmon fillet served on bruschetta was interestingly flavoured with wood smoke. While the components of the dish didn’t integrate that well, working more as a piece of grilled salmon with a bruschetta chaser, it was still generally delicious. I ordered the seafood chowder which was generously laden with mussels, whitefish, squid and cockles.
Both of these dishes were from the cheaper ‘light meals’ menu but were more than sufficient to ensure that eating the sides we ordered was more of an indulgence than a necessity. I hate to think how large the mains were.
Wednesday Night Dinner Report.
Ok, I admit the menu was a slight repeat on a previous occasion, but the company was new! Thanks to Wendy and Jonathan for joining us for what will be the last of the Wellington Wednesday dinners. (Depending on how things work out we might be starting an Auckland chapter soon).
Guests: Wendy, Jonathan, indoor Yeti and outdoor Igor
Appetiser: antipasto with feta, chilli olives and dolmathes
Main: broccoli pasta with super-size garlic bread
Dessert: peach … soggy crumble with cream
Words: armadillo, wasabi, tumescent
Training: advice on dogs
Peach crumble-gunge made a good warming breakfast after taking the dog for his morning walk in the painfully cold southerly. I miss my tuque.
Other dinner parties this week: The Amateur Gourment cooks and presents the Big Pot of Food and a Dessert Theory of Dinner Parties. We’d probably alter that to “Snacky Things, A Big Pot of Food and a Dessert”.
So, avocados. (Or as I like to call them, guacamoles.) As far as I can tell there are two types of avocados:
1. Those that contain a stone and a whole lot of green lusciousness that is sort of velvety smooth in the mouth.
2. Those that contain a stone and some watery tasteless stuff.
The first sort is amazing and can lift an average burger, sandwich or breakfast to a whole new plane of goodness. Or you can just put some on hot buttered toast and have it for a yummy light meal. Then there’s guacamole… take one or more avocados, mush it up with a little garlic and maybe some chopped tomato and onion, and then use it as a dip for corn chips or anything else.
Anyway, the point of this post is not just to rhapsodise about avocados. What I need to know is how to tell the difference between the two types of avocado – the good and the bad (they’re all ugly).
Is there some simple test I can apply when in the supermarket?
Photo taken by Avlxyz
Other random facts about avocados:
- They’re poisonous to cats and dogs.
- People called Daniel are allergic to them (sample size = 1).
- They originate from Central America.
Potato, Chickpea and Tomato Casserole
Living in the middle of town has changed what and how I eat. It’s too easy to go out and buy yummy seafood mee goreng from KK or visit a cafe for coffee and a toasted panini. While it’s very pleasant it costs a bit more and isn’t always so good for the whole “healthy eating” thing.
Tonight I resolved to cook something, anything, using just the ingredients that I had on hand. This was complicated by the fact that we’re house sitting at the moment and don’t have a well-stocked larder. I came up with the following and it was damn good.
Potato, Chickpea and Tomato Casserole
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
- 3 tbsp extra light olive oil
- 3 medium potatoes
- 3 tsp ‘cajun spices’
- 1 medium onion
- 1 can chickpeas (drained)
- 1 can tomatoes in juice (not drained)
- 1 cube vegetable stock and a little hot water
- A bit of grated Parmesan to go on top
1. Wash and chop up the potatoes into small chunks (I am a fan of leaving the skin on)
2. Put the olive oil into a large frying pan and bring to a medium-hot temp
3. Add in the potatoes and then sprinkle the spices over them
4. Turn occasionally and cook until fried golden and worth snacking on
5. Drain any excess oil and turn down the heat to medium
6. Chop the onion and add it
7. Stir the potatoes and onions until the onion is just done
8. Drain the chickpeas and add them
9. Chuck in the tomatoes
10. Dissolve the stock cube in a little bit of hot water and add it
11. Put the plates in the oven to warm up, and simmer the dish for 10 minutes or so
12. Add salt to taste
13. Serve and sprinkle some parmesan on top
14. Get the person who didn’t cook to wash the dishes
New Improved Mushrooms on Toast
You might have seen my earlier post about the problems I have with cooking mushrooms. Things had improved, but I knew there was room to do better…and today I found it (with the help of a little pointer from a magazine).
For this technique you need:
- mushrooms (say 20 brown caps)
- a good non-stick frying pan
- a little bit of butter (about 1tsp)
And for serving/eating I I also suggest having:
- salt and
- hot buttered toast
1. Remove any obvious grit from the mushrooms and chop into thick slices.
2. Put the frying pan on to a high heat (don’t leave it there too long, they tend to buckle).
3. Put the mushrooms in and stir occasionally.They’ll heat up and generate their own juice.
4. When they look a bit browner/smaller and nearly cooked, add in the butter. You’ll need less than you think.
5. Quickly stir the mushrooms around to absorb the melted butter.
6. Leave in for another minute or two, stirring.
Serve on hot buttered toast and sprinkle with shaved parmesan.
Asparagus and Feta Mousetraps
It’s another wintry Sunday afternoon here and I was all on my lonesome in our rather cold house (welcome to New Zealand). Time for comfort food like mousetraps with asparagus, served with a nice pot of tea.
We’ve featured mousetraps here before but I just wanted to point out that the addition of lumps of feta cheese under the cheddar makes a good thing even gooder.
The Dominion Sunday Times did a little survey of the commonly available types of cow’s milk feta today. They favoured the Zany Zeus variety followed by the Bouton d’Or. Unfortunately they didn’t cover my favourite budget feta from Mainland. It’s on the crumbly side of the family and is quite salty which makes it perfect for cooking.
My parents were disappointed when I overcame my childhood aversion to eating mushrooms . It wasn’t that they had something against the consumption of fungus by young people – it’s just that they’d have to share.
Now I live with Kim and we both like mushrooms on pizza and in hamburgers, but I can’t get her to appreciate the simple beauty of mushrooms on hot buttered toast. Sadly I think that the fault might be mine as I seem to have an inability to cook them consistently. There seem to be three possible outcomes whether I fry or grill them:
1. Too dry – burnt and leathery
2. Too wet – soft and slimy
3. Just right – hot and juicy and tasty
Today’s effort was one of the better ones and I’m going to keep using this technique until I learn a better one (tips greatly appreciated!).
Take sufficient portobello mushrooms. Shake off the dirt and slice thickly. Heat a large (in relation to the amount of mushrooms) frying pan with a little bit of canola oil. Put the mushrooms in and shake/stir them fairly continuously. Put the toast on when the mushrooms are starting to sweat. Butter the toast and put the (with any luck) cooked mushrooms on top. Eat with a knife and fork.
Potato and Leek Pizza
Potato Pizza is a simple way of combining both major food groups into one delicious meal.
In the past I’ve always had problems getting the potatoes just how I want them. Either they’re too leathery, or too hard and underdone, or … just not as good as they should be. Indeed, I would say that I generally have problems with frying things and it’s my worst cooking method (although I seem to have finally got the hang of frying eggs).
Tonight I decided to take a different approach and decided to roast/fry the potatoes in the oven – and it worked just great and the pizza was delicious. Here’s how I did it.
Potato and Leek Pizza
(serves 1-2 depending on desired belly fullness)
– One small pizza base (yes, I’m lazy, feel free to make your own)
– 2 tbsp basil pesto
– One large potato
– 1 sprig fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tsp dry rosemary (inferior, less classy, easier)
– Extra light olive oil, or other cooking oil
– One leek (or about four spring onions)
– 30gm grated mozzarella cheese
– 30gm grated cheddar cheese
– salt grinder
1. Heat oven to 200c
2. Scrub the potato and cut into thin slices. Cut the slices in half if they’re too big.
3. Pour a little oil into a baking dish and make sure the bottom is covered.
4. Put in the potatoes, drizzle over the rest of the oil.
5. Sprinkle the rosemary over it.
6. Cook until half-done (5-10 minutes) and then turn. Complete cooking.
While waiting for the potatoes:
7. Spread the pesto on the pizza base
8. Chop the leeks. They can be small to large depending on your whim.
9. Nibble on some of the cheese (we call this “emergency cheese” as we’re normally pretty hungry by the time we start cooking).
And now the potatoes are done:
8. Put the potatoes in a single layer on the pizza. Eat the rest.
9. Arrange the leeks over the potatoes.
10. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese.
11. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese (yes, the order is important).
12. Put on a baking tray at the top of the oven, cook until golden and bubbly (5-10 minutes)
13. Grind some salt over it, cut it up and serve. Don’t be too hasty and burn the roof of your mouth.
I often take pleasure in getting the little things right when cooking.
One thing I like to do, especially in winter, is to make sure I heat the plates the food will be served on. Obviously this keeps the food warm for longer and if you’ve living with a food blogger it gives you more time to take photos. Don’t do this if you’ll be serving something like lettuce which won’t like the heat.
To warm them I either just put the plates into the oven at about 50c degrees, or if the oven is in use I stack the plates on the hotplate above the oven vent.
Mousetraps with Asparagus
(Or how to get your asparagus fix in winter)
You will need:
- Four pieces of bread (wholegrain recommended)
- One can/jar of asparagus spears
- About 100gms (3-4 oz) of cheddar or another good melting cheese
- A grill (broiler for the US folk)
- Salt and pepper grinders
- heat the grill
- thinly slice the cheese
- drain the asparagus
1. Toast one side of the bread under the grill.
2. Remove the bread and arrange the asparagus spears on the non-toasted side.
3. Put the sliced cheese on top. If you’re as picky as me you’ll leave no part of the bread uncovered. This also helps avoid burning.
4. Place the mousetraps back under the grill. Leave them there until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
5. Remove, add salt and pepper, eat. Don’t burn the roof of your mouth!
I think the Americans call this grilled cheese. I’ve always called them mousetraps and I assume this comes from the theoretical appeal of bread and cheese to mice.