On a late-summer evening many years ago, I followed my Lonely Planet guidebook down a tiny street in Nice, France to find somewhere to eat socca, a traditional chickpea pizza served on the shores of the Mediterranean. The street was lit by the warm light of a restaurant that vibrated with the happy noises of people enjoying excellent food. I joined them, and was promptly served a chilled glass of rosé and a large plate holding a pancake-like base topped with glossy tomatoes and olives.
It was my first taste of the earthy, peppery socca, and it was not my last. I returned to that restaurant the next night and on other trips and have since started making socca at home. I can’t replicate the soft mediterranean sun or the atmosphere of the old town, but this recipe is almost fool-proof and definitely brings a little bit of Nice into my kitchen. Continue reading →
I aspire to country-style hospitality, where there’s always a cake cooling on the table and a pot of tea on the boil for visitors who “pop in”.
But modern, city life doesn’t seem conducive to the well-catered pop-in. It’s more likely that I’ll have rubbery carrots lingering in the crisper and a half-eaten bag of corn chips on-hand for visitors instead of a freshly-baked cake. And who’s stopping by unexpectedly anyway? Life is so busy in this city I have to schedule time with friends two weeks in advance. So even if I did make a cake, I’d be waiting hopefully for the door to buzz as I picked at the edges of the crust, finally giving in to a generous slice, or three, because no friends “happened to be in the neighbourhood”.
In an effort to hold on to my romantic notion of warm cakes and fresh tea, I baked for an unexpected afternoon treat. Last weekend I had family in town and they spent their days crossing the sights of NYC off their to-see list, which can be exhausting work. I thought a little afternoon tea would soothe their weary tourist bodies.
A cold bottle of Riesling, a sunny afternoon and a few friends should be the three ingredients required for this tart, because that’s how I prefer to eat it. But before you open the wine, you’ll just need to pick up some asparagus, puff pastry and cheese. For this is the most accommodating of tarts. It requires very little to turn simple ingredients into a dish that looks like you trained in a French patisserie to make.
As an Australian living in New York City I delight in celebrating feast days in the season in which they were first imagined.
A juicy roast turkey in the dark days of Christmas and a tender pink roast lamb at the dawn of a new season at Easter suddenly makes so much sense.
It was a treat to serve up a big hunk of roast beef and foods and drink laden with warm spices on Christmas Day without sweating buckets and worrying whether there was enough ice in the bathtub to keep the beer cold.
And so it was with Easter too. I’ve survived my first NYC Winter and am unnaturally excited about the prospect of cooking with the first bright green shoots of the season. I’m rapturous over the thought of asparagus and am plotting meals based entirely around peas to celebrate the change of weather and the abundance of “new” ingredients it brings.
I took full advantage of the return of green produce at the Union Square Market and served up Spring fare for a few close friends and family to celebrate Easter. We lamented the lack of hot cross buns in the city, whinged about not getting any public holidays and then made a toast to Spring and enjoyed a feast made up of: