Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recipes: Seafood? Eat It!

I like seafood.

A lot.

Some types, I would go as far as saying I love.

You probably know that I quite like sashimi.

I get excited when I see something like this arrive at my table:

But when I see the $65 price tag, I'm less excited.

Fortunately, I know how to cook, am not afraid of making mistakes, and can usually figure out how to do fancy things using local produce and a few vaguely sharp knives.

Much better! And sooo much cheaper, despite being enough to feed four people! All wild-caught seafood, and organic vegetables - I doubt the same could be said of the 'starter platter' from Kobe Jones I first pictured.

My salmon sashimi platter was the generous starter for one of the multiple dinner parties I've hosted in the past week since holidays began. I've been having a lot of fun with seafood, especially given that the warm Spring weather is finally starting to appear on occasion, and soon it will be BBQ time!

Here are a couple of recipes from the 'I'll be making this again' file amassed over the past week:

Pancetta-Wrapped Scallops

Ingredients (per person):

75g fresh scallops
50g pancetta (as flat and long as possible)
Wooden skewers (soaked)


1. Pre-heat oven or BBQ to moderately hot (around 200 deg C)

2. Wrap one or two scallops in one slice of pancetta, and thread onto a skewer to hold the pancetta in place. If your pancetta is flat and long, you can simply roll it up around the scallop, like this:

If your pancetta is more of an oval shape, you will need to fold in the edges like you were wrapping a gift:

3. If you are using a BBQ, just throw the completed skewers on the hot plate (you could use the grill, but fat will drip and you don't want flare-ups).

If you are roasting them in the oven (like I do), I would encourage you to lie the skewers across the top of a cake pan so that all sides of the pancetta can crisp up. You can reserve the fat that is lost for cooking your veggies in!

4. Bake/BBQ for around 10 - 15 minutes, until pancetta is crisp.

Serve with pancetta-wrapped asparagus!

As an intermission, here's the way I prepare most meals nowadays, including a lot of my seafood:


Meat, in bite-sized chunks (diced beef, lamb, chicken, or whole baby octopus, prawns, scallops)
Vegetables that are amenable to sautéing - onion, cabbage, capsicum, mushrooms, tomato, zucchini, spinach etc.
Coconut oil, butter, or lard/tallow.


1. Heat oil in a large frying pan.
2. Add items that take a while to cook (meat, onion). Stir.
3. Add items that take less time to cook (cabbage, mushrooms). Stir.
4. Add items that take very little time to cook (zucchini, tomato, spinach). Stir.
5. When everything's cooked, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper, and serve in a big ungainly bowl. Scarf it all down, contentedly.

Baby octopus, red cabbage & mushroom sauté.

Chopped chicken thigh, asparagus, button squash, and mushroom sauté.

And that's my typical meal. Admittedly, this has primarily been the norm whilst our grill has been broken and lacking in replacement. Now I have a new grill, but I can't seem to be arsed to go back to seared meat. I don't see the point of cooking the meat separately when I'm sautéing veggies anyway. But this way I can cook fish quickly and easily, and make crispy bacon...

Speaking of cooking fish, the beau won't eat raw salmon, so I had to find a fun new way to cook salmon for him that was dairy-free, and did not require a grill. The idea of dry-baking the fish in the oven turned my stomach, but I found a way to add flavour and maintain the moistness that was practically effortless. It was eaten so quickly, I barely had time to snap a photo.

Baked Salmon with Spinach & Tomato

Ingredients (per person):

1 salmon fillet, skin on or off
1 roma tomato
1 handful of fresh baby spinach
A few fresh basil leaves


1. Preheat oven to moderate (around 175 deg C)

2. In a baking dish, place salmon fillets side by side, leaving no gaps.

3. Sprinkle with basil and spinach leaves, and place whole tomatoes on top.

4. Bake until tomatoes are shriveled and starting to blacken. This took around 20 minutes in my temperamental oven.

Check to make sure salmon fillets are cooked through. If they aren't, return dish to oven for another five minutes and check again.

5. Once salmon fillets are cooked as desired, go to town on those tomatoes - rip them apart and smear their oozy inner goodness across the top of the fillets and leaves.

Look at that - DIY tomato sauce!

6. Scoop out fillets with topping intact, and serve on a bed of tasty veggies.

(Apologies for the dodgy photo - the guests were getting demanding after the aroma of roasted tomatoes filled the air!)

So that's what I've been cooking! This past week has been devoted to socialising, since I see so few members of my social circle other than work colleagues during the teaching term. I was also sick with violent gastroenteritis a week ago, which put a crimp in my plans, but also meant I pulled off an effortless 40 hours fast! I'm tracking my calories at the moment, but being a bit liberal with my carbs from veggies. Fruit & nuts are still my danger zone, so I'm avoiding them entirely, and dairy is confirmed to be the cause of my acne, so it's truly off the menu once more. So I'm on meat, eggs and veg, and couldn't really be happier. My gut is really flat, despite the sag of flab hanging in the front - yum. I'm going to be really careful for a while, since I'd like to be able to wear a proper belly dancing costume if I get asked to perform later in the year, and I'm a long way from that point.

Other than friends and fatness considerations, I've scaled back my hygiene routines given that it's the holidays. I'm trying out a no 'poo regime, and I have baking powder on standby if a just-water approach doesn't cut it. I'm using coconut oil as my facial moisturiser, though I use a basic astringent wipe to remove my make-up first. My make-up is organic and uses few harsh agents, though if my dairy-acne clears up I may be able to go without anything. Right now I just use tinted moisturiser and a powder to conceal spots and dark shadows under my eyes. I'm also getting as much sun as I can, now that the days are starting to break past the 20 deg C ceiling. I'm about to head to the farm for a few days, so I'll be doing lots of walking in the serene bushlands near my parents' property, though I want to wear my Vibrams so will stay out of the scrub - snake country. Walking along the gravel road is peaceful enough - traffic is very rare. I usually walk along singing my head off to any wildlife that might care to listen. A perfect way to unwind the tensions of this year - fingers crossed it doesn't rain!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Keeping Up To Date

If, perchance, there are any Australian teachers/students reading my blog, they will understand when I say that the year is getting to its very pointy end and it's not surprising that updating the blog is slipping further and further down my priority list. School holidays begin in 68 hours (who's counting?) although I will also be involved in work things during our break, since my seniors will be finishing up their scheduled classes shortly thereafter. Apart from those small obligations, I will be resting free and easy for the break, with a trip to the farm, lots of cultural activities (such as finally going to the Titanic Exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, woohoo!), and hopefully some gorgeous spring weather to lap up. With some more playtime available, I hope to also have some fun in the kitchen, getting some fresh and zingy spring recipes ready for party season!

In the meantime, here's a quick run-down of my latest shenanigans:

I'm currently trying to crack down on my weight issues by sticking to a meat-based diet once more, adding some veggies with dinner if I want them. Today I had beef sausages for breakfast and lunch, some salmon sashimi when I arrived home from work, and then a BAS of silverbeet, onion, garlic and mushrooms, sautéed in butter. Since a more relaxed approach to carb intake and calorie consumption is clearly not working out for me, despite going dairy- and nut-free on top of everything else, I'm getting stricter. No fruit, carbs under 50g (including fibre), and calories under 2000kcal except on more active days. I'm trying to keep my fat intake around 150g per day, which translates to me trying to keep my protein intake at a reasonable level. Time to defrost some lamb chops...

On Mondays, I have my belly dancing class. I'm still really loving it, and am transitioning into learning extended choreography with the girls who have been training for 6+ years! It's a little full-on since they don't teach me the dances step by step; I'm expected to just follow along and do as much as I can. It'll be different when they're not preparing to perform in a festival, and are learning a new dance from scratch. I've bought a few DVDs so that I can learn choreographed sequences from those, for my own enjoyment. IF only I had a more dance-friendly space in my house - the TV is in a room with a low-hanging lampshade - not terribly conducive to arm flourishes!

I'll be skipping meals when I'm not hungry, and I plan to occasionally fat fast through a meal (i.e. take a hit of coconut oil instead of cooking up a full meal). Hopefully these revised efforts, on top of what I hope to be a healed and balanced metabolic/hormonal system, will help kick-start my fat loss once again. I'm sick of being so fat! I want to be able to wear a sexy belly dancing costume, for one thing! A sparkly, embellished bra, with a low-slung hip scarf to match... Yum! At least now I have a bit more of a goal than just to look good naked - if I want to perform on stage, I want to wear the real gear and look hot! I want my shimmies to look controlled and sexy, not like jiggly fat wobbles! I want my 'fish'/'camel' stomach/spine waves to look smooth and gorgeous, not like I'm sticking my gut and my butt out in counterpoint!

I've been running (but not leading) a yoga session each week at my school, and this being the last week of term means this Wednesday is also our last yoga session. I don't think we'll be continuing next term, since attendance has been varied thanks to it being the pointy end of the year, so I'll be going back to my yoga vodcasts and leading myself through sessions at home. If I join the gym where my belly dancing sessions are held (the classes are past of their group fitness offerings despite the teacher being a proper belly dance teacher - I don't feel like I'm paying enough for her expertise! - and cost about the same amount per session as I would pay for a weekly membership there), then I could go to their evening yoga sessions, and maybe even some Pilates, which I used to love. They have a pool, too...

Simon Says...

Stephan Guyenet says... Dogen Zenji says... The world is complex, as our are bodies and our environments, so keep your nutritionism and reductionism in context.

Pål Jåbekk & Matt Stone say... Think positive! It's good for you!

Ned Kock from Health Correlator says... When we consider the China Study data, we see wheat is associated with some pretty evil stuff, and rice isn't great either, but it's hard to define why...

Mark Sisson says... You don't have to live with joint pain!

JP from Primal Journal says... Carbohydrates in large quantities and from bad sources are to be avoided.

& Girl Gone Primal says... Ciao!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Recipe: Pizza Cake (it's a piece of cake to make!)

I was going to make a cauliflower pizza, but I'm not doing dairy and I suddenly could not be bothered cooking the crust and then loading up toppings... Too complicated for my tired frame of mind! Solution? I've created something existing in the gray area between a cauliflower pizza and a frittata - it's a Pizza Cake!


1/2 head cauliflower, riced
4 eggs
2 cups pizza toppings: ham or bacon, capsicum, tomato, basil, onion, pepperoni, salt & peppers, etc.


1. Preheat oven to moderate-high. Line and lightly grease a baking tray or pan - preferably one with a lip.

2. If you can be bothered (it's worth it), lightly fry all suitable pizza toppings in a small amount of bacon grease or coconut oil to develop the flavours.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine cauliflower, eggs, and pizza toppings.

4. Pour mixture into prepared pan, and spread into desired shape. The thickness of mine was about 3cm.

5. Bake in oven until edges have browned and cake is cooked through. My oven took about half an hour to completely cook it through. Spongy goodness!

Serve with whatever you like - it can be the veggie portion of a meat meal, or the meat with a salad. One quarter of a cake is a good serving size if it's part of a meal, but the beau and I easily demolished half each without anything else to eat. I look forward to experimenting with other variations: curried chicken pizza cake, ground beef and tomato pizza cake... Yum!