Seafood pasta


Margaret, Ty’s wonderful aunt, had thousands of RCI timeshare points that were going to expire by the end of last year and challenged us to find holiday accommodation for ourselves. We happily took that amazing challenge and sat determined to find the perfect getaway spot close to home. We ended up booking at Kagga Kamma, a gorgeous lodge in Swartruggens Nature Reserve about 250k from Cape Town, for a week in June to celebrate the end of the semester.

From our large chalet (it just sounds so fancy and posh!), you could see rock formations, boulders, desert shrubs, and sand, as far as the eye could see. And for allegedly being the most arid place in South Africa, it sure rained a lot! It was also very chilly and the electricity turned off at 11PM, so it was the perfect occasion for a continual fire, although the wood was so wet due to the rain, that we spent a large majority of the time fanning, blowing, and pouring copious amounts of cooking oil on the wood, begging it to catch. Nonetheless, we spent the entire week eating like gods, lounging around, watching all of the movies and series that we had, playing on the boulders, and faking work.

We invited our friends up for the weekend and our plan was to have a seafood braai feast the night that everyone arrived. However, unfortunately, due to the stormy weather in Cape Town the week before, all the fishies were scared away, but luckily Julie, my awesome fish monger, organized some frozen prawns, calamari, and salmon for me. So, on the Friday that we arrived, I made absolutely divine seafood pasta for my lovely guests, inspired by the Pioneer Woman.

seafood pasta (serves 8)

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 300g chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 250g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a small handful of freshly chopped basil)

For the seafood

  • 500g salmon cut into bitesized cubes
  • 500g calamari tubes and tentacles
  • approximately 40 prawns deheaded and deveined
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1-2 chopped fresh chillis
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 500g pasta

Directions

  1. In a large deep pan, saute the onions and garlic in butter
  2. add the tomatoes, wine, cream, basil, a dash of salt and pepper, and stir
  3. bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes until thickened
  4. about 15 minutes into cooking the sauce, cook the pasta
  5. in another pan, saute the garlic and chili in butter, add the salmon and half the lemon juice, and let cook for a few minutes
  6. toss in the calamari and prawns, add the rest of the lemon juice, and add a dash of salt and pepper
  7. in a few minutes, when the prawns are just beginning to turn pink, remove the seafood from the pan
  8. add the seafood to the sauce and let simmer for another minute or so until the seafood is fully cooked (but be very careful not to overcook the seafood!)
  9. toss the pasta into the sauce and serve with warm, fresh bread
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My Passover Seder


I am Jewish and my upbringing was very much influenced by Judaism and all its traditions.  I believe the best part about being Jewish is the delicious food but the worst part is being a hairy girl!  My favorite Jewish holiday has always been Passover because it entails lots of eating, really fascinating food symbolism, and singing.  “Passover” means the order and it is a celebration of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  We use a Haggadah, which means “telling”, to retell the story of Passover.  Check out this HILARIOUS rendition of the passover story.

Since moving to South Africa, I have not observed the Jewish holidays.  I think this is partly because I am unfamiliar with the Jewish community but also because I am searching for religious meaning in my life.  Ty and I were just accepted to the Birthright program, which is an awesome opportunity to travel to Israel with an organized group of young Jews to learn about our heritage, the history of Israel, and reconnect with Judaism.

This year, Ty’s parents came to visit, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to host our very first seder together.  It was really special to share something so much a part of my Jewish-American upbringing with my South African family.  All throughout our seder, memories came flooding in from all the previous years of passover seders – the huge Racow seders in Woodbridge, Grandma Jean’s mystery matzoballs, classic brisket, and enthusiasm, and me bashfully singing the four questions.

My four favorite Jewish foods are served on Passover: charoset, matzoball soup, noodle kugel, and matzo-brei.  This year, I was in charge of the Passover kitchen, which was a huge undertaking without my mom’s experience.  Luckily, Ty’s awesome mom, Beth, helped me cook and prepare for the seder. Unfortunately, I was so consumed by the cooking and preparing, that I did not take any mouth-watering, close-up foody photography, but believe me when I say it was all so so delicious!!!

My mom always made homemade chicken soup and then my sister and I made the matzoballs.  She would cook the soup and strain it in the morning before synagogue and I would burn my fingers and mouth while stealing stringy, delicious pieces of steaming hot soup chicken from the strainer.  When we got home, my sister and I would fight over who had to make the matzoballs, which usually ended up being me because I was the youngest.

I was a bit nervous to make my own matzoball soup, for fear of sinking matzoballs, but luckily Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue as usual with an insanely tasty matzoball soup recipe.  When it came time to make the matzoballs, I passed the honor on to Ty, as his rite of passage, and they floated. Success!

Matzoball Soup (serves 4 + leftovers)

Ingredients

For the chicken soup

  • Have a roast chicken for dinner the night before (I highly recommend my Chicken a la Queen recipe), then use the chicken carcass with pieces of meat still on it for the soup
  • 3-4 celery sticks cut into big chunks
  • 3-4 carrots cut into big bunks
  • 2 onions peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbl whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbl coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3-4 liters water
For the matzoballs
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 4 tbl oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbl chicken broth
Directions
  1. Add all the soup ingredients to a very large pot
  2. bring to a boil and simmer all morning before synagogue (for about 3-5 hours)
  3. As the broth boils off, add some more water to top it up every so often
  4. My mom used to strain the soup and leave only the broth, but since I’ve grown up I have realized that the soup veggies and chicken are the best part! So, instead of straining the broth, which not only gets rid of the lovely veggies but is also a big scary mission, carefully ladle out all the chicken bones and leave the rest in!
  5. Have your favorite person mix all the matzoball ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes
  6. Then have your least favorite person use their hands to roll the mix into small ping-pong sized balls
  7. Bring salted water to a bowl, reduce the heat to a simmer, and carefully drop the matzoballs in to the water to cook for about 20 minutes (Within minutes of dropping them into the water, the matzoballs should (hopefully) begin popping up and floating on the surface and puffing up as they cook)
  8. Carefully remove the matzoballs from the water, place them in the chicken soup, and let them cook for another 10-20 minutes
  9. Serve the matzoball soup with the chunky veggies, two matzoballs to start with (so as not to lose your appetite for the main course), and freshly ground coarse salt and pepper

The best part of the seder plate is the charoset, which symbolizes the mud that the Israelites used to make bricks when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. I had also never made charoset and found a great and super easy recipe on Epicurious.com.

Charoset (serves 4 + snacks)

Ingredients 

  • 2 peeled, cored, and shredded red apples
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl brown sugar

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together and spoon heaping portions of charoset on matzo

Although I grew up eating Grandma Jean’s famous brisket on Passover, this year I decided to make a beef roast, so adapted a great pot roast recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

Beef Roast (serves 4 + leftovers)

Ingredients

  • beef roast
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • handful fresh rosemary
  • handful fresh thyme
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • oil
  • 4 potatoes cubed
  • half a small butternut peeled and cubed
  • 2 onion coarsely chopped
  • 4 peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 tbl garlic diced
  • maizena (corn starch)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Lightly oil the beef and rub lots of salt, pepper, and garlic all over it
  3. In a deep dish pan add the beef and create a bed of veggies, starch, and herbs
  4. Pour the stock and wine into the pan
  5. Cook the roast in the oven for about 1.5 hours and baste periodically
  6. When the roast is slightly pink inside, remove it from the oven
  7. Remove everything from the pan and pour the gravy into a small pot
  8. Create a maizena paste using about 2 tbl maizena and a tiny amount of water
  9. Bring the gravy to a boil, reduce the heat, add the maizena paste and stir until thickened. If the gravy has not thickened to your liking, add a bit more maizena and let thicken more until you are satisifed.
  10. Serve the beef with veggies covered in delicious gravy

My dad used to make sweet and oh-so-amazing matzo-brei as a special Passover breakfast. He taught me how to make it and I assure you that the tradition will carry on.  Then, in college, a friend taught me how to make savory matzo-brei.  So now I like to make both!

Matzo-brei (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces of matzo
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • maple syrup or golden syrup if you live in South Africa and cannot find maple syrup

Directions

  1. Run the sheets of matzo under warm water until they soften
  2. In a bowl, break the soft matzo into small pieces
  3. In a pan, saute the onions and garlic with a bit of oil
  4. In another bowl, mix together half the soggy matzo, 3 beaten eggs, paprika, salt, and pepper
  5. In the original bowl, mix together the rest of the matzo with 3 beaten eggs, sugar, and cinnamon
  6. Leave the mixture to marinade for about 5 minutes
  7. In the same pan that you sauteed the onions and garlic, add the savory mixture and fry up for about 10 minutes
  8. In another pan, add the sweet mixture and also fry up for about 10 minutes
  9. Serve the sweet matzo-brei with syrup generously drizzled all over it

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese


Growing up, my all time favorite food was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

INTERESTINGLY, Wikipedia.org and About.com Inventors say that Kraft was introduced in the US and Canada in 1937 during World War II.  The rationing of milk and dairy products, in addition to an increased reliance on meatless dinners, created a great market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families.  Their advertising slogan was:”Make a meal for 4 in 9 minutes.”

By choice and absolute pleasure rather than war time hardships and food rationing, I pretty much lived off of Kraft Mac & Cheese for the large majority of my childhood and adolescence.  I loved all of the special pasta shapes, like pin wheels, spirals, and blue Blue’s Clues dogs, which tasted even better than the original elbows.  Unashamedly, I was able to gobble down an entire box myself, which is most likely why I was such a chunker. But who am I kidding? Kraft remained a staple food group in my life all through college as well.

Ty had never had boxed Macaroni & Cheese, which led me to believe that he had a sad and deprived childhood.  SO, when he came to visit me in the US, we had a Mac & Cheese eating marathon where we indulged in Kraft and two kinds of Annie’s. Luckily he liked boxed macaroni and cheese, which reaffirmed my love for him.

When I moved to South Africa, I began having intense night sweat-inducing withdrawal as the bright yellow, artificial, creamy, cheese left my system.  Luckily, my mom sent us an emergency package full of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese sachets.  Since we had a limited supply, we rationed ourselves to 1 packet per month (like during war times), which enabled us to effectively maintain our supply for nearly 1 year.  It was devastating when we finished our last sachet and were forced to go many months without it.  However, earlier this month, a sweet sweet girl named Ann organized one of her American friends to bring us a few boxes when she came to visit!  Ty and I were unable to control our urges and are down to one box again!  Luckily, my mom’s friends are coming to South Africa JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to refill our supply!

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (complete with pasta and sachet of cheese)
  • water for boiling the pasta
  • 2 heaped tbl butter
  • 1/2 milk

Directions

  1. add water to a pot and bring to a boil
  2. add the macaroni and cook on high
  3. strain the pasta when it is done cooking and pour it back into the pot
  4. place the pot on the warm burner and add the sachet of cheese, butter, and milk and stir vigorously.  Add more milk if you want the sauce to be thinner
  5. note: I am an extreme purist when it comes to Macaroni & Cheese so I would recommend adding NOTHING else

End-of-Block Foodie-Fiesta


The Public Health Master’s program at UCT accommodates working professionals by holding what is called “Block” scheduling, AKA HELL.  For each of your courses, you sit in lectures for 2.5 consecutive days and cover approximately 50% of the course material.  Although this dramatically reduces lecture time for the remainder of the semester and enables working professionals, like myself, to do an MPH while working full-time, it is incredibly non-conducive to learning and is an exhaustive exercise.

This year, Block was even more hellish than usual, because I had two courses back to back, which equated to an entire week of 8:30AM-4:00PM classes. So you can imagine that by Friday my brain was absolutely FRIED. To celebrate the end of Block, Ty and I had a garden party at our house and invited MPHers from my cohort and this year’s new cohort to unwind and get to know one another.

The party was a success – great people, great vibes, great drinks, and great food=the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Everyone brought something to munch on and here are some of the highlights…

I am not such a big fan of cocktails but rather am more of a wine/beer girl, so when I say Whitney’s Pimm’s Cocktails were totally awesome, you know they are worth it.  But beware, they are deliciously deadly!

Ingredients

  • Pimm’s
  • Dry Gin
  • Fresh Lemonade (Which we couldn’t find but carbonated lemonade did the trick)
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon
  • Mint

Instructions

Mix together 1 part Pimm’s, 1 part Gin, and 3-4 parts Lemonade.  Add a few slices of cucumber and lemon, a few leaves of mint, and mash it all together to release the flavors.

Kirsty’s Chocolate Fudge Squares are a delicious traditional South African dessert with smooth chocolate and soft biscuits in every bite.

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 1 packet (500g) icing sugar
  • 40g (100ml) cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 packets Marie biscuits

Instructions

Place the butter in a bowl and microwave for about 1 minute until melted.  Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa to remove the lumps and stir into the butter until fully blended.  Beat the eggs and stir into the chocolate mixture. Microwave the mixture, uncovered, for about 2 minutes and stir.  Break up the biscuits and stir into the mixture. Transfer to a small deep dish, smooth with spatula, and allow to cool. Then place the mixture in the fridge to harden and cut into squares.

Kirsty’s Bruschetta, adapted from Jamie Oliver, is a simple yet delicious hor d’oeuvre for a dinner party and was gobbled up within minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 french loaf cut into slices
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lots of chopped garlic
  • 2 finely chopped and seeded tomatoes
  • 1 cup of fresh finely chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 packet of mozzarella thinly sliced

 Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Spread the sliced bread on a pan.  Mix together the garlic and olive oil and then spread onto the bread. Bake the bread in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper.  When the bread is getting crusty, remove from the oven, spread the tomato mix onto each slice, and top with a slice of mozzarella. Put the bruschetta back into the oven until the cheese has fully melted and serve while still warm.  If you are feeling lazy, you can substitute the tomato-mix for ready-made basil pesto or tomato tapenade.

For my contribution, I made a variety of home-made gourmet Pizzas throughout the evening.  At one point, I had 5 excited girls standing around me asking questions as I built my pizzas, which was a truly blissful moment for me.

I don’t remember where I got this full-proof Pizza Dough recipe but I am completely against buying pre-made bases because of how easy it is to make and the fun-factor of rolling it out to my desired thickness, depending on my mood.

Ingredients (yields 4 big pizzas)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (white, wheat, or a mixture)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

Instructions

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the oil and warm water, stir a bit, and then remove from the bowl and go wild kneading the dough with your hands.  No need to wait for the dough to rise.  Roll the dough out, place in a greased pizza pan, and add toppings.  Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes until desired brownness.

I found the Barbeque Chicken Pizza recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s blog, which was modeled from the California Pizza Kitchen version but even better.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • About 1 cup of rotisserie chicken cut into bite size pieces (or 2 raw chicken breasts)
  • About 1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • About 1 tbl of honey
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 thinly sliced purple onion
  • 1/2 thinly julienned red pepper
  • a dash of dried basil
  • a dash of salt
  • a handful of chopped coriander

Instructions

Note: You can bake your own chicken directly in BBQ sauce but I used already cooked rotisserie chicken for convenience-sake.

Preheat the oven to about 180C.  In a bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce and honey.  In a separate bowl, mix together the chicken and half the sauce.  Lightly grease your pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Drizzle the remainder of the sauce all over the pizza base, then add a layer of mozzerella cheese, chicken, purple onion, red pepper, and a dash of salt.  Bake the pizza for about 25 minutes or until your desired brownness.  Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh coriander all over the pizza and serve while still hot, or cold because nothin’s better than cold pizza for breakfast.

I also got a few ideas for Mushroom Garlic Pizza from Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray but created a culmination of the two using my own personal pazazz.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • 3 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
  • a dash of red chili flakes
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 250g assorted mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • a handful of fresh rocket

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C.  In a pan, mix together the EVO, garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper and saute on medium heat for about 3 to release the flavors.  Add the mushrooms and paprika and cook until the mushrooms are brown and tender.  Lightly grease your pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Add a layer of mozzarella, mushrooms, and drizzle the remaining garlic sauce on top (but do not add too much oil or else the pizza will become oily).  Cook for about 25 minutes or until your desired brownness and top with rocket.

My dearest friend Renee introduced the Grape Pizza to me many years ago during University and it completely changed my perception that pizza is strictly a savory meal.  When I visited the US in August, Renee, Kate, and I had a reunion and of course made Grape Pizza and devoured every last piece.

The Grape Pizza Original with Renee and Kate

I wished to spread the love of Grape Pizza internationally, so made it for my garden party guests, and everyone was pleasantly surprised by the unique combination of sweet and  savory flavors that produced an almost dessert-like pizza.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • 1 cup halved purple seeded grapes
  • 1 small block of gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 small packet of fresh rosemary
  • honey to drizzle
  • A small handful of mozzarella (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Push the grapes gently into the dough facing downward and bake for about 10 minutes.  Pull the pizza out and sprinkle gorgonzola, mozzarella (optional), and rosemary all over the pizza. Lastly, lightly drizzle honey all over.  Place back in the oven for another 10-15 or until desired brownness.

Enjoy!

Die Strandloper – A Pirate’s Feast


For Christmas this year, I took Ty to Langebaan for the weekend – a quaint coastal holiday destination on the West Coast.  We stayed at Quiver Tree, the same bed and breakfast where Ty took me on our first romantic getaway together and I arranged for him to go kite surfing all day Saturday in the waters of the kite surfing capital of the world.  Ty had to wait  28 excruciating days to redeem his Christmas present, so as you can imagine, when we woke up on Saturday morning without a poof of wind, Ty was utterly disappointed.  Fortunately, the weather was perfect for all other activities besides wind sports, so we spent the day on the beach and perused the shops.

To further cheer Ty up, and also to make my dreams come true, we booked dinner at Die Strandloper, an outdoor seafood restaurant famous for its incredible 10-course rustic dining experience on the shores of Langebaan beach.

We arrived at Die Strandloper and were greeted at the door. We brought a coolerbox full of drinks and were told to grab some glasses, and awesomely there was no corkage fee.  As we walked into the restaurant, we felt like we were in a pirate’s den or fisherman’s graveyard. There were nets and buoys draping over the dining areas, seafaring paraphernalia laying about,

a skull and cross bones flag waving in the air,

and a talented guitarist who started off playing random Afrikaans songs but transitioned to playing personalized and funny renditions of classics such as “Lucy in Langebaan with Diamonds” and laughter escalated throughout the night.

The four dining areas were situated around the main feature of the restaurant – a beautiful stone braai pit – gearing up for a long night ahead.  While we were waiting for the festivities to begin, we watched as the staff stoked the coals, stirred the potjie pots, and prepared the fish.

The menu

A staff member walked around to each dining area to let us know that the courses were ready and we could help ourselves.  We were given paper plates and clean mussel shells to be used as our knives and forks for the night. Minimalist and beautiful. 

The bread was baked in gigantic steel cylinder ovens encased in cement.  We helped ourselves to a slice of bread and dallops of homemade butter and jam.  It was divine but we forced ourselves to sample only a tiny piece in order to save room in our stomachs for all to come.  We also brought home a whole loaf and made awesome panzenella and breadcrumbs, which made up for only having a small bite during dinner.

Prior to Die Strandloper, I had only ever tried canned mussels while hiking in Fish River Canyon and wasn’t too impressed. However, the fresh black mussels cooked in white wine and garlic butter sauce were phenomenal and changed my opinion of mussels forever.  I so badly wanted more but restrained myself with extreme difficulty.

We disposed of our paper plates and prepared for weskus haarders, a small local fish.  We chose our fish and then had them expertly deboned in seconds using mussel shells and the skeletons were thrown to the excited scavenging seagulls.

Since I had just made seafood paella a few weeks ago, I was very interested to try theirs and compare.  The seafood paella was full of mussels, white fish, crayfish, veggies, and bright yellow rice. It was nice but Ty and I both confirmed that my paella was (of course) worlds better.

The snoek with potatoes and rolls was one of my favorite courses. The women squeezed perfectly circular dough balls from their hands and quickly cooked them on the grill.  The homemade rolls were doughy, tasty, and moreish.

The deliciously braai-charred snoek was served with soft and buttery potatoes and sweet potatoes.

The peppery and hearty waterbloemmetjie and lamb bredie was a pleasant and delicious break from the fish. Waterbloemmetjie is Afrikaans for “water flower” and they are traditionally cooked in meat stews.  They are surprisingly savory and delicious and completely intrigue me.

By this point, Ty and I were certainly getting full and began consciously pacing ourselves to ensure that we would last for the rest of the courses, especially the crayfish.

The smoked angelfish had unusual smokey woody flavors and the stompneus was very light and buttery.  We both wanted seconds, but new it would push us over the edge, so refrained.

And finally we had reach the grand finale of magnificent crayfish that we, along with everyone else, had been waiting for all night. Dozens of crayfish were piled onto a giant grill and slathered with a huge paintbrush dripping with garlic butter, which elicited a salivating response.  For any seafood lover, it was sheer heaven watching these babies cook and everyone was rapidly snapping photos as proof of the unthinkable.

Ty and I coveted the crayfish laying elegantly on our plates.  We delicately pulled off small pieces of soft meat and slowly chewed each bite, savoring the experience for as long as we possibly could.

To end the night off perfectly, we had deep fried syrup drenched koeksisters and coffee because there is always room for dessert.

I heart seafood. And Die Strandloper.

The cost: R205.00 per person. The experience: Priceless

PS – Yesterday we drove back to Langebaan and the wind was blowing, so Ty finally got his kitesurfing day!