Thursday, November 12, 2009

Summer, there's no going back now...

It was an odd beginning to Spring this year. Torrential rainfall, alien-like dust storms and boiling hot days turning into winter cold the next, but I think finally Summer has settled down upon us as november slowly creeps up to december. It was a long winter.

Summer to me is the gorgeous lilac of jacaranda trees, buzzing cicadas, burning feet on searing concrete roads, sticky polyester school uniforms, no responsibility, dribbling icy-poles, excessiveness and induglence, party dresses, parties, mangoes+nectarines+watermelon, no homework/study/assessments, golden skin and even brighter smiles, accidental thong tan lines, frozen cokes from seven 11, late night visits to whole streets of local houses adorned with elaborate christmas light decorations, camping in stuffy tents and waking up at the crack of dawn, bacardi+coke+fresh lime, staying in the pool until your fingers get old-women wrinkly, dinners eaten outside, christmas carols, long nights and even longer days spent lying in a hammock, trying somehow to keep cool, going to the beach every second day, crispy skin, family and friends... but above summer to me is christmas. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love christmas, but thats for another post another day!
I don't like heavy foods at the best of times, even in the dark depths of winter I'm more inclined to sip on warm pumpkin soup than tuck into a creamy pasta or meat-ridden casserole. So I'm definitely more happy in the realms of summer-time cuisine. If you feel the same as me, then you'll surely enjoy these delicious, summer inspired salads that I made for a lunch I had with my 3 best friends as we planned our up-coming trip to Thailand... 3 weeks of pure bliss!

Eat these salads while imaginging yourself lying on the white sands of an exotic far off destination, as me and my girls did!

Soba Noodles with Peanut Citrus Sauce
(taken from molly at one of my favourite food blogs, Orangette.)

1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove crushed garlic
juice from 1/2 a fresh lime
1 tsp water
400g packet japanese soba noodles
3 red radishes, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into ribbons
the green ends of 3 spring onions, rougly chopped
handful of parsley and coriander

Whisk together dressing ingredients to create a smooth consistency.
Cook noodles in rapidly boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain under cold water, and pull apart the noodles to separate (they will become quite claggy and can stick together in clumps if this isn't done)
Place noodles in serving bowl and pour over the dressing. Be sure to coat all the noodles by using tongs to separate and mix.
Add in chopped vegies and sprinkle on the herbs
These noodles are highly, highly addictive

Spinach Salad with Sesame Roasted Pumpkin
(inspiration stolen from my brothers girlfriend, Kate)

400g butternut pumpkin
olive oil and salt
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 tsp honey
1 tsp verjuice (or rice vinegar, but use less)
1/2 tsp soy sauce
Big bunch of washed and dried baby spinach
1/4 spanish onion, sliced thinly
1/2 lebanese cucumber, halved and sliced

Cut pumpkin into bite sized pieces, cover in salt and oil and roast in a moderate oven until golden and soft. Set aside to cool once cooked.
Mix together sesame oil, seeds, honey, verjuice and soy sauce. Drizzle 3/4 of the dressing over the pumpkin pieces.
Prepare salad by placing spinach, cucumber and onion in a bowl. Add the pumpkin, toss to combine and then add the rest of the dressing and a small teaspoon of extra toasted sesame seeds

Star Anise Braised Chicken
(this is from Belinda Jeffreys - 100 Favourite Recipes. One of my all time favourite dishes)

500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed of excess fat (I like thigh because it's more juicy, but you definitely could use any part of the chicken -drumsticks work well, or even a whole chook)
3 star anise
4 cloves of garlic, lightly squashed
1 cup kecap manis (a thick, sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
1 cup water
1 cup normal soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sherry (I used Chinese rice wine)
2 pieces of ginger

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil over a high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the chicken and as soon as the liquid returns to the boil, transfer to a casserole dish, cover and put in the oven. (I like to keep a cup of the liquid leftover to later boil and simmer into a delicious gooey sauce to pour over the top when serving the chicken)
Bake the chicken for about 15 mins or until cooked through.
Serve with fresh lime wedges and the extra syrupy sauce. I used the chicken as an accompaniment to the salads but when I cook it for dinner we serve with jasmine rice and steamed bok choy...perfect!

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