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Dear Reader, 

It never rains, but it pours. I was reminded of this expression many times this week. 

It has been a bit mad. The kids are winding down for the end of the school year, First Born is turning 16, so primping and pampering was organized, had a few housing showings, and the pool turned bright green with the high temperatures.

Then the heavens opened, the rains came, and the ceiling came down.  Again.

We need a new roof.  

Still, with the rains, the temperature has dropped to a lovely 86 degrees, I had to put a cardigan on to ward off the chill. 

When my lovely neighbor asked if I would like to come with her to the Public Market in Downtown Phoenix, I welcomed the chance to forget my troubles for a few hours.  

It was great fun, with lots of fresh produce from local farms, beautiful food products from local producers, as well as  flowers and local crafts.  

So, here are a few things that I picked up today.

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Some fresh flowers. 

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Some fresh herbs and pickles.

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Some olives stuffed with smoked almonds, Dilly beans,

and Bread and Butter pickles with chillies. 

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Some fresh salad onions and golden beets. 

 

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Some fresh, colourful eggs from carefree hens.

And more.  Much more. 

It’s a great market, with lots of variety, and something for everyone.  

I highly recommend a visit. 

Myrtle. 

 

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P.S. Here is a great magazine that details farm fresh, local food in the Phoenix area, season by season, http://www.ediblephoenix.com 

Public Market, Saturdays 8am – noon, Wednesdays 4pm -8pm, at Central Ave. & McKinley, Phoenix. 

PhoenixPublicMarket.com

 

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Amusing

 

Amusing

Amusing

Watercress Soup

My children call this Green Soup.  

They will eat a bit of it, but are not great fans. However, I love it.  It is quick, simple, satisfying and very good for you.  It is also possible to make it without any dairy, just in case you have some non dairy eating, vegetarian friends coming over for dinner. 

One bunch of fresh watercress, one large potato (or a couple of medium ones), some water, a dollop of olive oil, seasoning, and about 20 minutes is all that you need.

This makes enough for 1 or 2 people.  Multiply the amounts for more. 

You can make it richer, with a bit of butter, milk, creme fraiche, or cream.  

I have also used parsley, arugula, sorrel, and baby spinach with/or in place of the watercress.

 

Watercress

Watercress

It is so very, very easy. 

Simply peel the potatos, cut into chunks, cover with cold water, and cook until tender.  

Add the Watercress or other greens. Cover and  turn off the heat.  The heat from the potatoes and their water will steam the watercress very quickly. Once the watercress has wilted, drain off any excess water, saving it to add back, if necessary. 

Then, blend the potatoes and watercress with a hand blender into a smooth puree. Add back any cooking liquid as necessary, or, milk if you prefer.  Blend until you have the desired consistency. In order for the soup to have a smoother consistency, add a little fat, either a pat of butter, or a dollop of olive oil. I’ve used both, and both work well. 

Season with salt, pepper, and/or chilli flakes.  Chopped chives, or green onion is also very nice. So is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if you are doing the non dairy version. 

I got this recipe from a dear friend in Falmouth, with whom I once went skydiving.  

But, that’s another story for another time. 

Great memories and good, green soup.  

Myrtle.

Cave Creek

I love to relax on Sunday.  

I love to read the paper, drink tea, cook a big breakfast, and an even bigger supper. But, not today.  Today, we did other things.  We decided to go back to a Mexican restaurant that we had been to, once before, with my brother and his family.  It’s not that far, but, then, distance is often relative.  Desert roads all look the same to me.  

On the road

Desert road

First Born was navigator and photographer today. I want her to learn to read a map. She did her best, but, unfortunately Cave Creek was slightly off the map we had in the car. Our life is full of adventure.

Desert mountain

Desert mountain

The scenery was nice.

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Don't shoot the animals

 We enjoyed the signs.

Our first wrong turn

Our first wrong turn

Except for this one.  We returned to Pima Road. 

Finally

Finally

Eventually, we found the restaurant.  It had been very busy last time we were here, but today it was much quieter. We had a nice selection of salsas with tortilla chips and guacamole to start. It was good, but the girls prefer their own, homemade guacamole. So do I.  

Guacamole

Guacamole

Little One had an unremarkable Quesadilla and First Born had Chicken Fajitas, which was nice, but very dry, in my opinion. I had the Camarones de Tequila con Limon, which sounded great; shrimp marinated in garlic, cilantro, citrus, and Tequila, but, it was an oily disappointment.  Very bland.  The grilled vegetables were mostly peppers, which were also unremarkable.  Still, the service was good, and the atmosphere is very nice. There is a duck pond, with lots of ducks, quite a novelty here in the desert. 

Duck pond

Duck pond

Not my perfect Sunday, but not a bad one.  Not bad at all. 

See you again soon, 

Myrtle. 

The Lemon

 

A Lemon, by Manet

The Lemon, by Manet, 1880

Lemons in Art. 

Lovely. 

M.

It may not be summer just yet, but already it’s very hot here Arizona. Over 100 degrees everyday hot.  We are much better at coping with the heat now than we were when we first arrived. Air conditioning, dips in the pool, ice lollies in the freezer, and cool salads in the fridge, all help.  

I have been eating mayo free potato salad all my life, (being a self confessed mayo phobe), but, I really fell in love with it in Turkey. Made with lashings of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, fresh parsley, and celery root (although I prefer celery stalks), this potato salad has become something that I have made so often, I could make it in my sleep. It keeps well in the fridge, not that it hangs around for long. 

There is a lot of information available about the types of potatoes which are best for salad.  Try not to get too hung up on this, as it will taste good with any potato. It’s just that some potatoes will lose their shape faster than others. I like this salad made with smaller potatoes; red, golden, or new potatoes.  See what you can find at your market. Scrub and remove all eyes.  I often remove some skin, but not always. Skins slip off easier after the potatoes have been cooked, but it really is up to you. 

In Turkey, I had a friend who would make this salad with celery flavoured celeriac.  Celeriac is a lovely tasting vegetable, with rather a scary appearance. If you want to try it, peel it then cut the pieces slightly smaller than your pieces of potato. Personally, I prefer the crunch of celery stalks for this salad.  As I have said before, always remove those pesky strings with a vegetable peeler, then chop finely.

Destringed Celery

Destringed Celery

Potato Salad with Lemons and Parsley

10 Medium Potatoes, I am using red skins today. 

2 – 3 Large serving spoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

2 -3 Fresh Lemons, juiced. A mild vinegar could also be used, but we prefer lemon juice. 

4 Stalks of celery, destringed and finely chopped.  Use the leaves as well, if available and in good condition. 

Half a small onion, or 1 bunch of Green Onions, finely chopped.

1 bunch of Flat Leaf Parsley, washed, dried, and finely chopped. You can use less if you prefer.  We like a lot of parsley. 

Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes to taste.

After washing and de eyeing your spuds, cut them into uniform pieces. I prefer to keep them slightly on the larger side, as smaller pieces are easier to overcook. Cover with cold water and add some salt.  Boil gently, until just done.  Try not to overcook them, but don’t despair if it happens.  I have overcooked potatoes many times. Mushy potato salad doesn’t win any beauty awards, but it still tastes good.

Red potatoes

Red potatoes

Once the potatoes slip off a fork easily, drain them, and put them in a bowl.  Remove any bits of loose skin, if desired.  I don’t care for loose potato skins floating around in my salad. It is important to dress the potatoes whilst they are still hot, as they will soak up the liquid like little sponges, along with lots of good flavour. 

Poor over 2-3 large serving spoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the juice of at least 2 lemons, then mix well, but carefully.  Try not to break up the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and chilli pepper (if you are using it). 

Allow the potatoes to cool down to room temperature. All the liquid should be gone.  I always taste it at this point, and make any adjustments.

Potatoes, onions, celery, and parsley

Potatoes, onions, celery, and parsley

The next step is to add and carefully fold in the rest of your ingredients; onions, celery, and parsley.  

It is now ready to eat. We like it at room temperature, but, it is very good cooled down in the fridge. 

I like this salad with salted capers, but the kids don’t.  So, if I am in the mood, I will put them on my own plate as a garnish.

Ready to go down the hatch

Ready to go down the hatch

Hope that you like this as much as we do.

Must dash, I have children waiting to be delivered to parties, windows to clean, as well as the ever present, ever growing mountain of laundry.  

Plus, I want a dip in the pool.

Stay cool,   

Myrtle x

Lunch Boxes

 

Nuisance

Nuisance

Lunch boxes are a nuisance.  What my children want for lunch varies from day to day, week to week, month to, you get the idea.  It is difficult to come up with new ideas that are reasonably healthy. Things are complicated by the heat, here in the desert; cheese goes limp and oily, etc, etc. Plus, the heat makes them very picky. First Born will only carry a discreet, brown paper bag for her lunch.  Insulated lunch bags are unacceptably unfashionable for the modern day teenager.  Little One still carries a traditional, metal lunch box, covered in monkeys, precious as she has been using it for years. 

So, what to pack? I used to send salads, in small containers, but the girls prefer to eat their salads at home, straight from the fridge.  I can’t say I blame them. I usually manage to get them to eat a small sandwich of either chicken or ham, as well as, fruit, cucumber, carrots, and a few chips (crisps in the UK).  Sometimes I’ll throw in a cookie, if we have any in the house. Not very interesting, but adequate. 

I am always interested in what other people are eating, so when I see a lunch box coming out, I cannot help sneaking a little peak. 

Once, I was sitting in the waiting lounge of Newquay Airport, in Cornwall, when I saw a tall, handsome man eating a packed lunch. I couldn’t help myself, Dear Reader. The man was Sam Neil, one of my favourite actors. Cornwall is a popular location for making films so, it is not unusual to bump into certain well known people, who work, visit, or live there. Celebrity spotting is a popular hobby for some locals, and I used to think, that I was above that sort of thing.

Wrong.

I had to know what Mr Neil was eating. I found myself wondering, whose fair hand had packed lunch for him that day.  I can report that that his lunch box was a modest, tupperware like container, that he ate a sandwich with brown bread, filling unknown, and then, some green grapes.  You’re on the edge of your seat, I can tell. 

Our flight was called. We boarded the plane. Dear Reader, I couldn’t believe that I was given the seat next to Mr Neil.  I was so flustered and embarrassed, desperately hoping that he hadn’t noticed me watching him eat, only a few minutes before, that I banged my head on the overhead baggage compartment as I tried to sit down.  The planes that fly between Newquay and London are very small.  

Well, I thought that I couldn’t have been more embarrassed.  Mr. Neil was very polite, asking if I was okay, to which I managed to grunt some sort of reply.  I shudder to think what he must have been thinking.  The plane took off, and I was flying to London, in more ways than one, sitting next to Sam Neil.  He promptly fell asleep (or, at least, pretended to), and didn’t wake up until we landed, about an hour later.

Well, surely you can guess what happened next.  I was still so nervous, that, as I stood up, I banged my head, again, on the overhead baggage compartment. Did I mention that these are exceedingly small planes?  A rather concerned Mr. Neil looked at me, giving me the most disarmingly gorgeous and sympathetic smile, asking again, if  I was okay.

I was incapable of speech at that moment.

Then, he walked away.

I had a head ache for the rest of the day, but, somehow, I didn’t really mind. 

What’s in your lunchbox? 

Myrtle.