Light Pasta Lunch

Once when I was home from college for winter holidays, my mother served the most delicious green beans I’d ever tasted.  I asked her what the sauce was.  She laughed and said “butter.”  Growing up in Los Angeles, I wasn’t raised eating butter.  It’s not that we never had it in the house, but if we did it was for cooking.  It was because a recipe called for it, not because anyone in our family ate buttered toast with jam.  The other thing we never ate was bacon, proper pork bacon.  I specify as I, like many children in Southern California, was raised on turkey bacon.  Not until moving to London five years ago did bacon become part of my diet.  I confess.  I went a little pork crazy.  That said, I still love the wholesome flavors of home.  I genuinely enjoy the slight nuttiness of whole wheat and I love a light lunch especially as summer approaches.  Below is a pasta recipe from my California days.  I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

whole wheat pasta

1/2 kilo plum or cherry tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 avocado

a handful of ripped basil leaves

olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Method:

Make your pasta according to the packet instructions.

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a roasting dish.  Rub them with olive oil and some salt.  Place them under the broiler/grill until they start to blacken a bit.

Add the chopped garlic to the tomatoes and put back under the heat for no more than a minute.

Remove them from the broiler/grill and set aside.

Cut the avocado into chunks.

Smash the tomatoes with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the tomatoes to the pasta.  Mix thoroughly then add the avocado and basil.

 

avocado tomato basil pasta

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Guacamole

The Aztecs invented it.  Frat boys love it.  Avocado sales are never higher than the weekend of Super Bowl Sunday because of it.  Basically, guacamole makes the New World go round.  As an American, no, as a Californian, I am powered by it.  It is to me what tea is to the British–fortifying and appropriate at all times of the day.

My mama always told me when a relationship ends try to take away one thing, one lesson learned no matter how small.  i.e. From my biological father she gained some wicked foosball skills.  Well making the below guacamole is one thing I’ve learned throughout my 32 years.  It’s my pleasure to share it with you now.

Ingredients:

4 avocados, cut into chunks (keep one of the pits)

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1/2 mango, diced

1/4-1/2 a small red onion, finely chopped

1 chili pepper, minced

the juice of 1 lime

1-2 tablespoons of Cholula

cilantro, roughly chopped

salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a fork to combine.  Be sure not to mash the avocados too much.  The little chunks are nice.  A good guacamole is not supposed to be smooth.  It’s supposed to have texture.  Place an avocado pit in the center of the guacamole.  For magical reasons unbeknownst to me, an avocado pit helps prevent your guacamole from discoloring.  It’s science, innit?

Now cover your guacamole and set it in the fridge for about an hour.  Serve with whatever you like after this time.  Today, for me, that was a few Coronas and some salty tortilla chips pre-roast-pork-belly.  Muy divina.

before

after

Orange and Purple Summer Salad

Summer happened overnight.  Which is really rude when you consider how unready I am for summer clothes.  All I’m saying is perhaps a milder spring could have cajoled me into running around Greenwich Park a few more times before it became so hot you just want to walk around with as little on as possible without getting arrested for indecent exposure.  No matter.  All this heat and humidity will make me sweat my way to my target weight in no time.

That said, Sunday lunch needed adjusting.  A traditional roast just ceased to be weather appropriate.  So after I finished my first run of the season, my family and I headed to our local Farmers’ Market and bought the makings of a proper summer lunch.  A dressed crab (we named him Jeff on the walk home), avocados, a German seeded loaf, and the ingredients for my favorite salad–red cabbage, carrots, ginger, and sesame seeds.  While I fixed the salad, Helena enjoyed a homemade blueberry banana popsicle and played with a bucket of water on our balcony, as children with no pool do.  Henry read with his feet up in the shade.

playing in water popsicle smile

Below is my salad recipe.  It’s so simple and incredibly fresh.  I especially like the palate cleansing ginger.  Really nice with something like crab.  It’s also a really pretty salad, provided you like purple and orange.

 

Ingredients:

3 carrots

1/2 head of a small red cabbage

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

3 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

Method:

In a large bowl, grate the carrots and cabbage together.  Next, toast your sesame seeds over a low flame just until their oils release.  Add those to your vegetables.  Finally, mix the last 4 ingredients together in a small bowl.  Flavor to your taste.  Pour over the salad, toss, and serve.

salad lunch

laughing jeff the crab horned snakey

Summer Salade for Two

There are many dishes the French do  well.  One of my favorites is their salads.  Every ingredient is in season and beautifully displayed.  It’s like edible art.

Before grocery shopping: I shave my legs with a favorite scented oil, line my eyes in liquid black (smudging up the corners for extra kittenish charm), apply two coats of mascara and comb through lashes for added length.  I rouge my cheeks, stain my lips and don something that shows my shape.  If there are flowers in my garden, I pick the brightest and sweetest smelling for my hair.  Now my feminine wiles and I are ready to visit the fishmonger and get the best of what he’s got.  Or at least this is what I used to do until he realized I was married.

Shopping list:

Enough chilled white wine to keep you cool and your cooking moist (roughly 3 bottles)

2 lobster tails, about 1 lb.

1 lb. peeled deveined shrimp

1 large ginger root

Sweet greens for a salad (I like mâche, also known as lamb’s lettuce, because it cannot be harvested by machines.  It must be handpicked.)

1 hothouse cucumber

1 bulb of garlic

1 shallot

1 mango

1 peach

1 avocado

2 lemons

Grainy Dijon mustard

Orange juice

Olive oil

For starters, open the wine and enjoy.  Toss in an ice cube if it pleases you.  Once you are sufficiently hydrated, move on to the lobster.

The man behind the seafood counter tells me the water should be approximately 170°F and that the tails should be boiled until bright red.  6 minutes is perfect.   Melt 3 tbsp of salted butter over low heat.  Set aside to be used for dipping later.  Divine.  Just like the blooms in your hair.

Next, concern yourself with the shrimp.  Sautee 1/3 c. of freshly grated ginger and 6 large diced garlic cloves in 2 tbsp of salted butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Add 1 tbsp of red pepper flakes.  Pour whatever is left of the Viognier or whichever wine you got into the fry.  Hopefully there is at least 1/3 c.  If not, open another bottle and pour some of it into the pan.  Add shrimp and cook until bright pink and the tails curl.  Add a few twists of a pepper grinder and call it done.

Divide your mâche or other greens between two large plates.  Peel a mango and cut the widest side of it.  Slice this side into slivers so they can be fanned out like a pinwheel on top of the lettuce.  Do the same with the peach and avocado.  Dice half of the cucumber and distribute to both plates.

Store bought dressings are for suckers.  So instead of buying something pre-packaged and full of preservatives, you are going to make your own.  In a Cuisinart combine 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger, 1 quartered shallot (cutting it into smaller pieces makes it easier to blend), the juice of 2 lemons, 1 tbsp of mustard, a splash of orange juice, 3 twists of a pepper grinder, and 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.

Before serving, spoon the shrimp on top of the salad.  Serve the lobster tail on small side plates just like a French bistro.  Pour the drawn butter into a ramekin.  Top off your wine glasses et c’est ça.  Maxim’s will have nothing on you.