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

The ultimate recipe


Hey foodies,

I am sorry that I have been so quiet with my posts lately!  Life has gotten hectic with work, school, and my new found love for climbing.  I promise to post a new recipe before the week is over, but in the meanwhile, here are some photos of what I’ve been up to outside of the kitchen…

Climbing

ingredients

  • beautiful scenery
  • good weather (anything except raining)
  • gear
  • awesome friends who bring the ropes and quick draws
  • screaming cheers of support
  • guts
  • adrenalin
  • lots of chalk for sweaty hands
  • sun screen
  • sun glasses
  • food in secure tupperware so that lizards don’t steal it
  • lots of water
  • arnica for excessive bruising (which my incredibly bruised legs need badly)
  • lotion for excessive hand scraping
Directions: mix all the ingredients together on a Saturday and have a rockin’ time!

Leading my first route in Silvermine

Paarl

Ty’s first bouldering problem…solved!

At the Taal monument

The view from Rocklands

Team Rocklands

My guru Fede

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

Chicken a la Queen


Every year, my stepmom makes turkey tetrazzini with the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner, which is my absolute favorite meal not only because of its creamy, chicken-y, pasta goodness but also because it is special, in that I have to wait an entire year to enjoy it! When I first moved to South Africa in 2009, I cooked a giant Thanksgiving feast and of course made turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers to continue the tradition all the way in South Africa.

Salford Road Thanksgiving 2009

Ty absolutely loved it and from that moment on, I was determined to incorporate the comforting taste of home into our South African diet and embarked on a journey to create the perfect rendition of turkey tetrazzini.

As I was writing this post, it became evident that my experimentation occurred in phases:

  • Phase 1 – substituted chicken for turkey because it is much more convenient but just as delicious
  • Phase 2 – refined my sauce recipe to perfection
  • Phase 3 – mixed the sauce and pasta together and served immediately as opposed to baking it in the oven because it is quicker and dirties less dishes but is just as delicious
  • Phase 4 – experimented with vegetables to give a healthy flare
  • Phase 5 – learned (kind of) how to exhibit self-control in order to prevent oneself from going back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths
  • the most delicious Chicken alla Queen recipe for any and all occasions – not just the day after Thanksgiving!

Chicken alla Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers (incase you haven’t realized by now, we love our leftovers))

  • 1 heaped tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 500g shredded rotisserie chicken or homemade boneless skinless herbed chicken breasts
  • 250g sliced brown mushrooms
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbl maizena (corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your liking (Ty’s favorite is gouda (on everything))
  • 250-300g pasta with ridges (I prefer penne)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. melt the butter in the pan and saute the onions and garlic until lightly brown
  2. add the chicken (raw or cooked) and mushrooms and stir in the spices
  3. when the mushrooms have softened, add the stock, milk, and cheese
  4. at this point, cook the pasta
  5. once the sauce starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium
  6. create a maizena paste and slowly mix it into the sauce
  7. let simmer for 5 minutes while stirring periodically
  8. if the sauce is not thick enough to your liking, add a bit more maizena paste
  9. once the pasta is done, mix the pasta into the sauce and serve
  10. top with a dash of salt and pepper to taste

Mozambican Fish Braai


To celebrate the New Year in 2010, Ty and I went to Mozambique.  Despite getting lost for 3 hours, being forced to drive through mini-lakes with unknown depths, risking our lives on a rickety raft across a wild river, getting stuck in nearly knee-high sludge without airtime, sliding closer and closer to water-filled trenches, and putting up our tent in near hurricane weather, we woke up to cloudless skies and the woes of yesterday forgotten!

We were Queen and King of Pisane Lodge and spent 5 luxurious days lounging around, chatting, frisbeeing, playing rummikub, being looked after by 10 stray dogs who adopted us, soaking up the sun on the beautiful beach, and eating like gods.

One afternoon we spotted a spear fisherman leaving his rowboat with a gigantic catch.  We ran down to the shore and asked him what kind of fish it was and if we could buy it. It was a gorgeous, massive barracuda with shimmery scales and yes, we could buy it for a mere R70, inclusive of scaling, gutting, and de-boning! wow! We proudly walked back to camp, excitedly started up the braai, and prepped the fish with whatever goodies we had in stock.  It was the absolute best fish I’ve ever had and sustained us for 5 meals!

Last month Ty and I started ordering fresh, sustainable, local, seasonable deeeelllllliiiccciiiiiioouuusssss fish from Julie.  She is a SASSI “South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative” participant who delivers the freshest fish straight to your door anywhere in Cape Town. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  We first ordered flawless Norwegian Salmon and proceeded to make the most delectable melt-in-your-mouth salmon sushi rolls for two nights in a row.

Last week we ordered Angelfish and had an amazingly delicious reminiscent Mozambican Fish Braai after an awesome afternoon of rock climbing in Silvermine Nature Reserve with UCT’s Mountain & Ski Club!

Mozambican Fish Braai

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 400g Angelfish
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 1 julienned red pepper
  • 1 chopped tomato or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  • some oil
  • salt & pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 1 cup cheese (of your preference)
  • about 1/4 cup Mrs. Ball’s Chutney

Directions

  1. Prepare the braai
  2. Rub the fish with oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and place it in a disposable metal deepdish pan
  3. Layer the veggies, spices, cheese, and chutney on top
  4. Cover with tinfoil and cook for 10-15 minutes until the fish is beautifully flaky and the veggies are aldente

Foolproof Banana Bread


Growing up, whenever we had over-ripe bananas in the house, my stepmom and I would make banana bread with the beautiful and coveted Kitchen Aid mixer, which I can only hope that I have in my kitchen one day. My job was to measure out the ingredients and help pour them into the mixer and I remember watching with excitement as they swirled and blended together to make heaven.  The best part was and still is licking (or taking entire spoonfuls of) batter from the bowl and wooden spoon, even if it meant getting a tummy ache. Why does batter on a wooden spoon taste so incredible?

The spicy sweet aromas that float from the oven through the house during the excruciating hour of baking banana bread makes my mouth salivate and my tummy grumble.  Once the bread is done, I have no self-control and am unable to prevent myself from cutting a piping hot piece and tossing it back and forth in my hand as I take my first of many bites.

Last weekend I clumsily whipped up my stepmom’s famous banana bread in a matter of minutes and popped it into the oven an hour before having to leave the house.  An hour later, when we were getting ready to go, I stuck a fork into the middle of my bread and was strangely greeted by goo.  I stalled for as long as I could but finally took the bread out of the oven so that we would not be late and it proceeded to collapse on itself. I sadly accepted the fact that this banana bread was a dud but there were too many confounders to identify where I went wrong.

This week I was determined to get back on that horse and bake a successful banana bread.  I decided to try a different recipe and chose Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked Up Banana Bread.  I meticulously measured every ingredient and followed every direction to the T, which is not my MO, but I figured I needed a guarenteed win after last weeks failure.  The batter looked and tasted amazing (check), the smells coming from the oven were salivating (check), the bread was rising, browning, and cracking down the middle (check), and lastly my fork came back clean (check).

Foolproof Banana Bread 

Ingredients

  • 3 over-ripe mashed bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. preheat the oven to 350F (176C)
  2. melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds and mash the bananas
  3. mix together the butter, mashed bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
  4. slowly add the flour and mix thoroughly
  5. stir in the chopped walnuts
  6. pour the batter into a buttered bread pan and bake for about 1 hour or until your fork comes out clean
  7. if you have self-control and are able to wait for the bread to cool, it will easily slide out of the pan