Archive for July 2011

Tour de France, Aussie Style

July 24, 2011

Three years ago I posted this celebration dinner, Aussie style, almost randomly chosen, in honor of Cadel Evan’s stage victory.  Today he took the Tour de France, and if you want to celebrate his victory, here are some outstanding Aussie recipes to make your party authentic.

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The mighty Tour de France sweeps across the country once a year, and the excitement is palpable.  Not to mention the traffic jams, which are monumental, and the TV coverage, which is virtually uninterrupted.

Certain of us have been dreaming about the Tour de France for lo these many months.  To have it pass close to home is a cyclist’s dream.

For that reason TV watching has been at an all-time high around here, although I have to admit that some of us get more out of it than others.

When not glued to the tube, Shel was plotting a way to get to the Tour without getting stuck in traffic for hours.  This in fact did require some rather extensive advance planning

since his idea was to avoid parking woes by riding on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, which necessitated the purchase of some protective gear in a hard-to-find size on account of his, er, large brain.

Now, for those of you that have been complaining that this blog contains too many pictures of Shel and none of me, let me just say this about that:

Voila!  But me, I was plotting something completely different, since you’d never actually catch me on the back of a motorcycle no matter how cute I look in a helmet.

What I was cooking up was a dîner Maillot Jaune, a yellow jersey dinner, by which I mean that I invited some friends to come to dinner on Friday for a meal of the national cuisine of whoever was wearing the yellow jersey on Friday morning.  And guess what?  It was Cadel Evans, an Australian.

A quick look at Google revealed that a sizeable portion of Australian cuisine involves cooking either kangaroo, wallaby, emu, ostrich, crocodile, or wichity grubs, none of which are widely available in France.  For which, in the case of wichity grubs, I am deeply thankful.  Fortunately, they also eat a lot of lamb.  So, meat being the order of the day, we started with

Australian meat pie, which was surprisingly delicious, with an Aussie rosé.

For the main course there were Lamb Burgers with Goat Cheese and Beetroot Salsa,

a salad made with just watermelon, sweet onion, and shredded mint that was one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever tasted,

and a nice potato salad with mint and bacon.  There was an Aussie Shiraz-Cab to go with this that was, let’s just say, much appreciated by the guys.  If you’ve ever described a wine as macho, you probably know what I mean.  I must have been wussified by French reds, because this one was way too hot and heavy for me.

And for dessert, Sticky Date Pudding that was apparently ecstasy-inducing, judging by the sounds emanating from our guests.

If you want to try this at home, the lamb burger recipe is here, the meat pie is based on this one, although I added some Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and Viandox to the meat filling, and the date pudding is here.  I did add a spoonful of molasses to the pudding, because the French brown sugar is quite pale.

Let me also say that someone’s large brain forgot to take the camera along to the Tour’s departure from Nîmes, which is why you’re looking at pictures of meat pie instead of biker beefcake, but hey, we have to think about food sometimes.  There’s more to life than incredibly strong and buff guys on bikes, although you’d never know it these days.

Stormy Weather

July 19, 2011

“Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky.” Oh yeah, it’s because we’re in Portland, which I’m starting to think may have the worst weather I’ve ever encountered.  And I say that having lived in Saskatchewan, which has very difficult winter weather about eight months of the year.

Here we are, in Portland in mid-July and it “keeps raining all the time.” Rain is good, sure, it’s why everything’s so green here, it makes things grow, yeah, yeah, but actually, it really sucks when you’re trying to do something other than grow algae on the trim of your car. We happen to be visiting Portland to see whether we might want to live here, and I’m finding the weather to be a huge deterrent, not to mention a disincentive and a depressant. I’ll admit, there have been rare moments of sunshine and I’ll think “oh yeah, man, Portland’s groovy” but those moments are so fleeting that I scarcely remember them an hour later.

“I walk around, heavy-hearted and sad, night comes around and I’m still feeling bad, rain’s pouring down.” Well, not all the time, I shouldn’t exaggerate.  But when it’s not actively raining it’s busy threatening to rain, and it’s hard to say whether that’s better or worse. It’s not making living here an appealing prospect, even though Portland’s a hip town, full of cool little shops and restaurants and friendly people, most of whom are apparently half my age. Or possibly even younger than that.

We’re not giving up yet, but we’re getting very discouraged. So if you know of a town where you can walk to everything you need, by which I do not mean to get a latte and a bagel, but really everything, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker, where there’s a lot to do, where people care about community, and where it it doesn’t “keep raining all the time,” please post about it here, because we’ve pretty much run out of ideas. On a day like this, moving back to France seems like our only option, and that’s kind of sad. We’d really hoped to find a new home in America. “Stormy weather, just can’t get my poor self together.” So come on folks, help us out here, please.  If such a place exists, a European-style town in America, we’re all ears. Unless, of course, the algae has already started growing in them too.

Summer Surprised Me

July 9, 2011

I went out on the deck this morning and it was suddenly summer.

All during chilly June I’d planted.

The solstice came and went and the days started getting shorter

without summer ever showing its face.

We complained about the endless grey weather every day,

remembering days of swimming and sunburns in May,

which was fantastically warm in the south of France.

I watered, I muttered, I weeded, and I stopped paying attention to the sky.

Until this morning when, still wearing my fleece slippers, summer slapped me in the face,

my flowers asking me, insisting, “silly girl, don’t you even see?”

Sighing, I slip off my slippers and surrender to summer, although it may only last a single day, like this blossom.

Fruit Fireworks

July 4, 2011

Here’s the most patriotic tart possible, blue blueberries, red strawberries, and almost-white lemon cheesecake. You can make it in a flash and serve it on the 4th just before you whip out the sky rockets and sparklers, or you can make it in a flash and serve it on any summer evening. It’s also very good for breakfast, but I won’t try to lead you too far astray. Happy 4th of July to you, may your day be sweet and your evening sky full of fireworks.

Blueberry Strawberry Lemon Cheesecake Tart

The crust is the same as the crust for this Strawberry Marzipan Tart, and this is an adaptation of the same recipe series in, I believe, Sunset Magazine, oh so long ago. Sometimes the oldest stuff is the best.

For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
2 T powdered sugar

Whirl these together in the food processor to a fine powder. That’s right, there’s no liquid at all in this crust. Press the powder firmly into a tart pan and chill for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425° and bake the chilled crust for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden.

For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
blueberries, strawberries, and jelly to glaze

While the crust is baking, whirl all of the filling ingredients except the fruit and the jelly together in the food processor. When the tart shell is done baking, turn the oven down to 350° Pour the cream cheese mixture into the hot shell and place it immediately in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until filling is set but not browned. Let cool completely.

Arrange the fruit to your liking. Melt a small amount of jelly (guava is good) and brush it carefully over the fruit to make it shiny. And there you have it.