Breakfast Couscous

September 8, 2007 at 6:04 pm | Posted in breakfast things, cereals, out of town | 18 Comments

breakfast couscous

Sounds weird, right?  Maybe even a little gross?  No, bear with me…it’s good.  Honest.

R and I were in Shanghai in August.  It’s a crazy city– crowded, and with tons of new construction going up all over the place.  In the middle of it all, I ran into someone I used to work with in New York years ago in my past life as an investment banker.  But that’s a different story.

As a break from stuffing ourselves with crab xiao long bao , we headed over to a “western” cafe in Pudong called Slice for breakfast one morning.  I wanted to go there because I had read that a Shanghai-based baker from New Zealand named Dean Brettschneider makes the breads.  I am a big fan of his book Taste (and am searching secondhand bookstores for his previous and now out-of-print book Baker…if anyone has it, are you taking bids?), so I naturally wanted to try his stuff.  I happily munched away on the best bagel and rye bread I’ve had since leaving NYC, while Rich ordered this couscous stuff off the menu.  It had dried fruit and nuts, yogurt on top and just a touch of sweetness. 

I was poking through the pantry the other day, and noticed that I had just enough couscous left for one person.  Why not make breakfast couscous with it the next morning?  I completely eyeballed everything, so I won’t give a hard and fast recipe, just a basic guideline. 

breakfast couscous

Breakfast Couscous
this would also be good with some sweet spices, like a pinch of cinnamon or cardamom, mixed in

-Make as much couscous as you like (for one serving, I used 1/2 cup of dried couscous), according to package instructions, but add a touch of honey to the hot water so it can be absorbed into the couscous along with the liquid.

-Put as much dried fruit as you want to use (I used a handful of dried apricots, chopped, and some dried cherries) into a small bowl and cover with boiling water to plump while the couscous sits.

-When your couscous has absorbed the water and softened, fluff it up with a fork. Drain the dried fruit and mix into the couscous.

-Portion into serving bowls.

-Sprinkle with nuts (I used chopped almonds, but pistachios would be great, too) and top with a couple of spoonfuls of plain yogurt.

-Drizzle honey on top.

Honey Nut Tart

July 24, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Posted in out of town, pies & tarts, sweet things | 9 Comments

honey nut tart

I don’t think I mentioned this, but R and I made a weekend trip to Auckland, NZ back in early June.  I was my first time in the country, and since it’s probably the closest “foreign land” (anywhere else seems to be at least a nine hour plane ride away), I’m sure we’ll be back.  I’m dying to go to the South Island, home of the world’s best Sauvignon blanc…but I digress!  We had great time in Auckland.  It’s a nice small city with big city food.  We had a beautiful dinner and way too much wine at The French Café.  During a leisurely lunch at The Grove, we even got to chit-chat with one of the owners, an American who fell in love with the country while traveling years ago. 

On Sunday afternoon, we took a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland over to Waiheke Island, where, thanks to the advice of a friend of a friend, we had made a lunch reservation at a vineyard called Te Whau.  I very much enjoyed their signature house-smoked salmon, and then had john dory (my favorite fish–lucky for me it was a special that day).  I’ve gotta draw the line somewhere, so I don’t normally go for dessert with lunch, but this was vacation.  I wouldn’t beat myself up too much if we just shared one.  Exercising my wifely right to make decisions for “the team,” I decided that we should try the honey pine nut tart with vanilla ice cream.  It was delicious…lots of toasty pine nuts held together in a honey goo.  Not that pecan pie can be improved upon in any way, IMO, but this was sort of like its fancy cousin.

After over a month of thinking about it and wanting to make it at home, I finally did a bit of research and found this recipe on Recipezaar.  I apparently didn’t do a very thorough read-thru of it before I went grocery shopping, though, and wound up not buying  nearly enough pine nuts.  I had some walnuts in the fridge, so I used roughly a 50/50 combo instead.  Oh well–just as tasty and cheaper, too, I imagine.  The honey I have is one that I bought at a farmers’ market; it is quite floral and went nicely with the lemon in the recipe.  I know that in the northern hemisphere right now everyone is enjoying peaches and berries, but in the cooler weather down here, when there isn’t a lot of good looking fruit around, a tasty nut tart is just the ticket.

honey nut tart

Warning:  If you open the recipe link, your eyes may want to wander over to a box on the right side of the webpage containing nutrition (or lack thereof) information.  Don’t let your eyes do this, or you may never make the recipe.

Happy Fourth of July!

July 4, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Posted in other stuff, out of town | 1 Comment


Happy Independence Day to my fellow American friends!  I wish you all a very fun, safe holiday.  So no M-80s in the front yard!  This is the first year in a very long time that I will not be watching the fireworks either in New York from the Brooklyn Heights promenade while enjoying a Mister Softee chocolate-dipped chocolate soft-serve, or from a spot on the Mall in Washington, DC, while listening to the National Symphony Orchestra.  (I’ve gotta say that DC’s display really beats all others.)  I’ll be missing the excitement, but don’t worry…I’m not boo-hooing too much about it, as R and I are going for a nice dinner at Rockpool to celebrate.

On a different matter, we are moving to a new apartment in Sydney at the end of the week.  We have been told by our internet provider that we will have a lengthy lapse in service because of the move.  I will make a post tomorrow for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge, but then won’t be back on-line for ten days.  With all that free-time, I’ll be sure to make something tasty in my new kitchen to report back on!

Easter in the Blue Mountains

April 24, 2007 at 2:33 pm | Posted in out of town | Leave a comment

It seems long ago now, but R and I did drive out to the Blue Mountains for some crisp air and wide open spaces over the Easter long weekend.  A lot of other Sydneysiders apparently had this idea, too, and parts of the drive up there moved at about the same pace as traffic through a certain part of Long Island on a Friday in July.

Once there however, the scenery was spectacular…

the Blue Mountains

And the food was not bad either.  We had lovely, long dinners at Darley’s Restaurant at the Lilianfels Hotel in Katoomba and Solitary in Leura Falls.  But my favorite meal was lunch at Vulcan’s in Blackheath.  The restaurant specializes in slow cooked food, and with its red walls and and open kitchen with a wood-burning oven, the whole place just feels warm.  After sharing a roasted pumpkin salad, R had pot roast, which he said melted in his mouth.  I had a vegetarian “lasagna”, with layers of goat cheese, spinach, lentils and polenta in a fresh tomato sauce.  I will certainly be trying this one out at home as the weather in Sydney gets cooler.  

I also took home some edible souvenirs, all of which are gone now.  A box of Granny Smith apples from Logan-Brae Orchard in Shipley made two crisps and a pie, with a few left over for eating straight-up.  Cafe Josophan’s in Blackheath (also in Leura) makes the best chocolates I’ve had here so far.  My favorite was the earthy, fresh mint.

Cafe Josophan's in the Blue Mountains

And Hominy Bakery in Katoomba has wonderful pastries and breads.  Since I was missing the Good Living Growers’ Market in Pyrmont that weekend (where I usually stock up on breads), I brought back three loaves. 

Hominy Bakery in the Blue Mountains

Weekend on the Gold Coast

March 28, 2007 at 2:02 pm | Posted in out of town | Leave a comment

Gold Coast skyline

Just got back from four days of sun on the Gold Coast (actually three days of sun and one of rain).  The ocean waves were kind of scary, but the hotel pool was nice and calm.  Even the weird “dinosaur bird” enjoyed things poolside. 

Of course no trip with me is complete without checking out the local food scene.  We had a couple of great dinners, and I can recommend:

*Vanitas at the Palazzo Versace Hotel
*Absynthe (also try nearby Absynthe Bakery for breakfast or pastries…you can pick up a loaf of deliciously unusual curry, honey and hazelnut bread)

We also went to Sea World and Warner Bros. Movie World

fun at Sea World and WB Movie World

I heart dolphins and rollercoasters!

Weekend in Adelaide

March 7, 2007 at 2:07 pm | Posted in out of town | Leave a comment

I recently spent a long weekend in Adelaide, South Australia.  This was mainly a home base for wine-filled sidetrips to the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, but I did do a fair amount of inner city food exploration as well.

We landed on Friday on afternoon.  Before checking in at the hotel in downtown Adelaide, we stopped for lunch at the food business  in the suburb of Hazelwood Park.  First things first, of course.  Our waiter initially seemed put off by the fact that we did not have a booking, but since the restaurant was clearly not full, he allowed us to sit.  With seats came a friendlier attitude, thankfully.  Hiding underneath my smoked salmon there was a potato cake, which reminded me of a Jewish kugel–tasty!  R was very pleased with his pumpkin and goat feta salad. I’ve noticed a lot of pumpkin on menus here…in the US, this is mainly a cold weather thing.

smoked salmon at the food businesspumpkin & fetta salad at the food business

Then it was a quick trip over to a fancy little neighborhood called Hyde Park, for a sugar/caffeine hit at Mulots Patisserie.  The millefeuille, one of my favorite traditional French pastries, was super-crispy (soggy ones are so disappointing).  I didn’t know what a nègresse was, but it turned out to be a big meringue-ball with some buttercream.  R had a difficult time figuring out how to eat it!

sweets at Mulots Patisserie

On Friday night,  we had a four-course dinner at Auge in the center of the city.  My starter (called “Uovo Affogato” on the menu) was the most interesting thing I’ve had in a while.  It was a poached egg atop sauteed spinach and buckwheat polenta.  That’s truffle parmesan caging in the egg and a drizzle of chestnut butter around the plate.

uovo affogato at Auge

I’ll definitely try to replicate this at home at some point, and I’ve alrady found buckwheat polenta at Macro Wholefoods in Bondi Junction!

Since I’d already spent my daily dessert allowance on the vanilla slice, I opted for the cheese plate at the end.  But R had the affogato, and it looked pretty good.

affogato at Auge

After returning from the Barossa on Saturday, we cleaned ourselves up and took a taxi ride out to Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant. The modern dining room has glass walls overlooking a vineyard (and a spectacular sunset just after we arrived). We are pigs and after looking at the menu opted for the seven-course degustation with “super-premium” wines (mmm). The table is set…

table setting at Magill Estate

We spent the better part of Sunday afternoon trying and buying wine in McLaren Vale.  We had dinner at a Belgian beer place back in Adelaide afterwards, but thumbs down on that one.

On Monday, I checked out North Adelaide, stopping for a quick breakfast at The Store on Melbourne Street.

brekkie at The Store in North Adelaide

After a bit more poking around, I headed back into the main part of town to hit the museums. I meet up with R for lunch in The Art Gallery Restaurant, a pretty little glass-enclosed number with very nice food.

starters at The Art Gallery Restaurant (SA)

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