Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cocktails in teacups

No recipe, but last weekend we had cocktails at Hemingway's on Manly Beach. Awesome café during the day that serves perfect coffees and iced water in old Hendrick's gin bottles in a Hemingway-esqe atmosphere: author quote on one wall, vintage, tome-lined bookshelves on the other, rustic wooden tables and chairs, metal stools... waves crashing out the front door.

iced water in Hendrick's gin bottles and perfect coffee at Heminway's, Manly Beach, Sydney @ SouthernSpoon blog

At night, they serve a small menu and a long list of cocktails, which come served in Hendrick's china teacups. Amazing. The cucumber-infused, apple tea and rose gin cocktail was a lot less girly than it sounds. A refreshing sip (though probably not strong enough for old E. Hem. himself). Highly recommended if you're ever on Sydney's North Shore.

cocktails in Hendrick's gin china teacups at Hemingway's on Manly Beach, Sydney @ SouthernSpoon blog

(This is not a sponsored post, just sharing what we like around here).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Green Bean & Avocado Salad with Poppyseed Lime Vinaigrette (and how to roast bell peppers)

There's a take-away restaurant around the corner from us that has the most tantalizing spread of hearty salads, marinated and roasted chickens, and freshly-prepared meals. It's difficult to resist going there on a busy weeknight or lazy weekend to grab a pre-made meal. Our favorite salad they serve-- green beans and avocados with a tangy poppyseed dressing-- comes with tomatoes, which we have to remove due to allergies. There are probably other hidden ingredients (like preservatives) lurking in their dressings that we should be more attentive to, even in what looks like a fresh, homestyle meal. Preservatives in this country crop up in everything, so unless we've made it ourselves it's likely that it will contain something we shouldn't be eating due to allergies.
healthy and delicious green bean avocado salad with poppyseed lime vinaigrette @ SouthernSpoon blog
crisp green beans, creamy avocado and tangy poppyseed lime dressing
On Friday I experimented making a copycat recipe of that favorite salad of ours, and quickly nailed the dressing with a bit of tweaking. This recipe is a game-changer: it's amazing how such simple ingredients can be so perfect together. Instead of tomatoes, I threw in some roasted red bell peppers for a little color. The resulting salad tasted even better than the restaurant version, and it was a delicious side dish with our roasted chicken.
incredible, easy-to-make green bean avocado salad
A good extra virgin olive oil is key to making a flavorful vinaigrette, and feel free to adjust the acidity by adding more or less lime juice or apple cider vinegar.  Toasted, slivered or chopped almonds would be a great addition, as would any fresh herbs you have on hand like basil or parsley. For dinner or lunch, picnic or potluck, this is an incredibly easy, tasty, and different salad to have in your repertoire. Hope you love it as much as we do.

Green Bean & Avocado Salad with Poppyseed Lime Vinaigrette
serves 4


2 cups green beans, washed, ends removed
1 avocado
1/4 cup coursely chopped roasted red bell peppers (capsicum) (see roasting tip below)
2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced

Poppyseed Lime Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lime
1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (to taste)
1 teaspoon poppyseeds
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)

Steam the green beans for just 3-4 minutes so that they are still on the crisp side of crisp-tender. Immediately remove beans from the pot and quickly run under cold water, then place the beans in a bowl of cold water.

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl. Start with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and add up to a teaspoon more to adjust the acidity to your liking. If you prefer a slightly spicy dressing, add the pinch of dried chili flakes.

Drain the cooled green beans and place the beans in a large salad bowl.  Add the chopped roasted red bell peppers and green onions.  Pour half of the vinaigrette over the salad and stir to combine. Slice the avocado into long slices that are about 1/4 inch thick, and add the avocado slices to the salad bowl. Pour the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and combine very gently so as not to break up the avocado slices. Serve immediately, or chill for up to 12 hours.

* Roasting bell peppers:

Wash and de-seed a bell pepper (capsicum).  Slice it in half, and place the two halves on a baking tray or cookie sheet with the skin side up.  Place the baking tray approximately 4 inches from the heat source in an oven set to broil (grill) on high. Broil (grill) the peppers, with the oven door propped open a couple of inches, for 4-6 minutes, until the peppers soften and the skin begins to bubble and blacken.

Immediately remove from the oven and place the peppers in a sealed plastic bag. Allow the peppers to cool for at least 5 minutes.

Remove peppers from the bag and peel off the skin of the peppers using your fingers (this should not be too difficult to do after the peppers have cooled in the plastic bag). Discard the skin, and set aside peppers for desired use.  (In the recipe above, I used one half of a roasted bell pepper, coursely chopped, to make about 1/4 cup).

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sesame Turkey Meatballs with Spinach Chickpea Salad

This is another adaptation from Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which has obviously been a success at our house since a few of the recipes posted here over the past couple of months have their origins there. These turkey meatballs are deliciously-spiced with cumin and paprika, and can be made with either ground turkey or ground chicken (I've tried both: yum). I throw a few handfuls of spinach to the original recipe to make it more of a green salad with chickpeas, and add paprika here and in the meatballs themselves, because smoked paprika is always a good idea.
Sesame turkey meatballs with spinach chickpea salad @ SouthernSpoonBlog
sesame turkey meatballs spiced with cumin, paprika, and a little chili,
served over spinach chickpea salad
A tip to the wise: you'll be tempted to brown as many meatballs as possible in the sauté pan, but trust me on the two-batch method. By browning only half of them at a time, you'll have room to flip the meatballs as they cook without accidentally breaking up others in an over-crowded pan.
Sesame turkey meatballs over spinach chickpea salad @ SouthernSpoonBlog
Sesame turkey meatballs over spinach chickpea salad
I imagine the meatballs would also be great served over a Moroccan-flavored couscous salad, and the spinach chickpea salad could also serve as a base for chicken baked with paprika and a little cumin. The entire meal is fairly simple to bring together in spite of all the combining, rolling, then browning and baking of the meatballs. It's a lean, protein-rich dinner option, and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day (you could even serve it in pitas, as Deb Perelman suggests in the cookbook). Enjoy!

Sesame Turkey Meatballs
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 4

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 pound (455g) ground turkey (or chicken)
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (or 1 cup roughly torn pieces of bread, from 1-2 slices bread: use gluten-free bread if cooking g-f)
1/4 cup water
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika is fine, too)
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes (or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil for pan

Preheat oven to 400F / 204C.

Warm a large sauté pan to medium-low heat on the stove. Add the sesame seeds and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Cook the sesame seeds for about 1-2 minutes, until they are beginning to brown, stirring around the pan to encourage even browning. (Sesame seeds will burn quickly so keep a close eye on them). Remove toasted sesame seeds from pan and pour into a large bowl; remove pan from heat.

To the large bowl, add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil. Mix thoroughly with a potato masher or a fork, until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll the meat mixture by hand into golfball-sized meatballs, setting meatballs on a large cutting board or plate.

Heat a large sauté pan (preferably one that can go into the oven) on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread it evenly around the pan. Carefully place half of the meatballs in the pan, taking care not to overcrowd. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, carefully turning the meatballs as you go so that they brown on multiple sides. Remove browned meatballs and place on a large baking tray or cookie sheet. Repeat browning with the remaining meatballs.

If your sauté pan can go into the oven, return all of the meatballs to the pan and place in the oven. If you don't have an oven-proof sauté pan, simply place all of the meatballs on the large baking tray or cookie sheet, and place the baking tray in the oven.

Bake at 400F / 204C for about 12-18 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of at least 160F / 71C. Serve warm with the spinach chickpea salad (recipe below).

Spinach Chickpea Salad
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 4

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas)
Handful of pitted green olives, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley)
Juice from half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of dried chili flakes (or a dash of cayenne pepper)
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
2 cups washed baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Place the chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl, and mash with the back of the fork for a minute to rough them up a little.  Add remaining ingredients except the spinach leaves and olive oil (through sea salt).  Stir to combine thoroughly, then add the chopped spinach leaves and olive oil.  Toss carefully to evenly distribute the spinach.  Serve with sesame turkey meatballs.

*Serving Tip: Arrange the spinach chickpea salad on a large serving plate, and top with the turkey meatballs.  Place serving plate on the dining table and serve family style.