Tag Archives: basil

Fettucine and scattered December thoughts

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
~Dr. Seuss

The wonder of cherry tomatoes – mmmm unassuming red lockets just waiting to meet your lips and release streams of sweet juice into your soul. The playful look of yellow scallopini, like spinning tops dressed in buttercup playsuits. The crisp morning scent of mint, especially beautiful on unprotected fingers. The magic dust that people call “cinnamon”. The agreeable crunch of macadamia nuts. The foamy sizzle of white wine in a hot pan. The series of sweet pops that fresh snap peas generate. The humble but transformative lemon. The happy union between shallots and garlic which always releases a wonderful fragrance in any hot skillet. The curling, comforting quality of warm fettucine…

I am always interested in observing how ingredients react to other ingredients, to heat, to fingers, to teeth, to time… food is so fun, don’t you think? There are always so many possibilities.

So many possible results or consequences.

So many ways to make things as simple or complicated as you like.

So many ways to nourish yourself or scare your friends.

This evening, I went about making my dinner the Simple and Spontaneous way. That’s been my approach to life these few days, you see, and I’ve rather enjoyed the results of this approach. It’s the path to serendipity.

Over the last two days, I found, as a result of tangled weekend plans or totally spontaneous decisions: a lovely cafe; flamenco by candlelight; a chance to watch a minute or two of live filming with a professional crew on the closed-to-traffic road; a chat with a nice guy at the store about all things molasses; and a cool store.

Being Christmas/silly season, I’ve heard a lot about PLANS and LISTS and BEING ORGANISED lately. And I can see the point of plans and lists… they’re helpful. Fail to plan = plan to fail and all. At the same time, though, I’m finding myself increasingly partial to spontaneity and keeping a very open mind to adventure (within reason). I find that having too many plans and lists gets in the way of real life, if that makes sense; also, they can sometimes cause us to lose sight of the important things…

I don’t want to miss the chance to read or talk to a stranger, while wasting my anger on the stupid bus system in Auckland. I don’t want to plan my weekly menu in detail and overlook that week’s freshest market produce. I don’t want to insist on squeezing into a fuller-than-Santa’s-sack bar and miss discovering another place. I don’t want to let “goals” become more important to me than people. I don’t want to care more about how my Christmas ham turns out than how my family members are doing. And I absolutely don’t want to get caught up in gifting, feasting and festivities and miss the real, non-commercialised essence of Christmas.

Lately my world has been filled with social events, craft fairs, lots-of-work, ideas-sprouting-in-my-brain and invitations to Christmas functions and weddings (whoever told me that deleting my Facebook account would mean no more invitations was wrong). And life is good, but I am acutely aware of the need to focus on the important things.

Also, I’ve been eating all sorts this week, and my stove has been nearly spotless – so tonight I attempted to make a mess in my kitchen and eat some proper home-cooked food! This evening’s haphazard recipe follows in case you are interested… in any case, hope you all have a week of sweet surprises :-)

    Fettucine with scallopini, snap peas, macadamia and cherry tomatoes
    A knob of butter
    Olive oil
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    A handful of scallopini, ends removed and sliced horizontally (or use 1-2 courgettes)
    A handful of chopped macadamia nuts
    3-4 tbsp flour
    6 cherry tomatoes
    A handful of snap peas, ends removed
    1/2 lemon – zest and juice
    A few tablespoons of leftover white wine
    1/4 tsp cinnamon
    1 rounded tsp muscovado sugar
    Herbs of your choice (I used dried rubbed basil and chopped fresh mint)
    Chilli flakes
    Method to my madness:
    Set a skillet over a medium-high flame, and drop a knob of butter into it. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then throw in some salt and enough fettucine for two.
    Place the scallopini halves in a bowl and coat gently with flour. When the butter is hot and beginning to foam (or you can let it brown, but I was hungry so I didn’t), add in the scallopini, shaking off the excess flour as you do. Sprinkle in some chilli flakes and dried basil (rubbing the basil between your fingers as you do). Give everything a good swirl and toss, then add in the chopped shallot, garlic and macadamia nuts. Fry for a bit till everything smells a little more pronounced, then splash in a little bit of white wine and listen to the sizzle.
    Add in some olive oil if the pan gets too dry at any stage. Pour in the snap peas, cherry tomatoes and lemon zest. Add in the cinnamon and muscovado sugar, toss and add another dribble of white wine. Stir well, so nothing burns.
    Once the fettucine is cooked to al dente (approx 11 minutes), drain it, add in the lemon juice and some olive oil, and give it a good toss. Once there are no visible traces of wine, the cherry tomatoes seem ready to collapse and the vegetables are barely cooked, turn off the heat. Stir the scallopini mixture into the fettucine, then plate and serve with a generous sprinkle of chopped mint.
    Yields two servings. Substitute vegetables and herbs for ingredients of your choice, and adjust the quantities of everything as you like.

Basil bread

If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.
~ Robert Browning

When you go home on sick leave, everyone always drowns your ears in an ocean chorus of “go home and lie down! Feel better soon!”… but there are certain kinds of Sick that do not get cured by you lying down for hours. I mean the sort of Sick where panadol and manuka honey do zilch and leave you feeling like a burdened donkey (not well enough to concentrate and do a good job at work, but not sick enough to die yet, either).

I had a good rest at home, chatted on the phone with a friend in Wellington, cooked and ate my breakfast at 4pm:

– Chicken + mustard + garlic + lemon + basil

– Silverbeet + red pepper + oyster mushrooms + muscovado + salt + a pat of butter + sundried tomatoes + anchovy (yes, I had a “creative moment” and just went nuts).

It was a random meal, but I felt better after that.

Then, just ‘cos I could, I decided to try making some basil bread. The scent of basil certainly did my sore head a lot of good.

Sometimes I think that scaling flour mountains helps me think of ways to move the mountains in my own life. I know that sounds ridiculous, but… well, I do it. :-)

The yeast drove me nuts! Four failed attempts later (at making it activate), I got it to foam/bubble at least a little and I think I now have a better idea of what “lukewarm” water should feel like.

If you try making this bread (I adapted this recipe), you may want to use a bowl or make sure you have a very wide bench. The centre of the well has a tendency to gush.

Keep going with those sticky fingers and you’ll get some good-looking, good-smelling dough flecked with green.

It takes some waiting around.. but not too long. Just keep reading and singing while the dough plays its rising game.

I’ve only baked bread a few times in my life, and each time I enjoy it immensely even when parts of the process (read: fussy yeast, flour-showered pants, etc) drive me a little batty.

It fills the house with good smells…

Crusty, soft, warm…

I’m not sure if this violates any informal code of conduct re eating bread, but I really enjoyed having salt and butter and a tiny splash of balsamic vinegar on this bread. I ate a warm roll as the sun gave my window a goodbye hug.

Affirmation pasta

Little by little, one travels far.
~ J R R Tolkien

I ate this for breakfast today, and named it Affirmation Pasta because this name floated firmly into my head and I can think of no alternative.

Hope you are all having a glorious Monday!

    Affirmation pasta
    2 cloves garlic
    1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced on the diagonal
    1/4 cup frozen baby peas
    3 shakes of the fusilli carton (or enough pasta for you)
    a pinch of dried mint
    a sprig of fresh basil
    olive oil
    shaved parmesan
    black pepper
    Heat a saucepan of water over medium-high heat, and add in a few teaspoons of salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then add in enough pasta for you.
    Meanwhile, smash, peel and chop the garlic cloves and prepare your vegetables. Dribble some olive oil in a small skillet, set it over medium-low heat and swirl the pan around to spread the oil around the base. When the oil is sufficiently warmed, add in the garlic – watch it sizzle. Once you can smell the garlic, add in the zucchini slices and saute them for 2-3 minutes. Add in a pinch of dried mint, rubbing them between your fingers as you go. Finally, add in the frozen baby peas, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir occasionally so nothing burns!
    When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and put it on a plate. Pour the vegetables on top, then add the parmesan and torn basil leaves. Add a sprinkle of salt and black pepper… serve immediately.
    Yields one serving.

Chocolate and Herb Infused Imsomnia

Ever close your eyes
Ever stop and listen
Ever feel alive
And you’ve nothing missing
You don’t need a reason
Let the day go on and on
~ Enya, Wild Child lyrics

Dear Imsomnia,
I wish I could wish you away with a snap of my fingers, or drown you in a river of champagne, or set you a-sailing on the back of a yellow rubber ducky.

The minutes tick on, and you grow in my mind – a mountain reaching far beyond the highest storm clouds.

I am going to conquer you. Someday soon.

Even if meanwhile I have to bake a cake on tiptoe while my flatmates frolic in Dreamland.


* Pictured above: chocolate cake with rubbed basil, marjoram, thyme; caster & muscovado sugar. Frosting: a rich dark chocolate buttercream.

Inspirations: here and here (Thank you Camilla and Deb).