Saturday, January 10, 2015

first expat post: Kale Salad with "Pumpkin" and Pomegranate

Sydney the koala on the move (yes, I was just this close to her) at Taronga Zoo
because how can your first post from Australia not include a koala?


Time to jump back in to the blogosphere.  Greg and I landed in Australia one month ago today.  Let's start with how very strange it feels to fly almost as far as you can go on a one-way ticket.  How different it is to live in the city (for now).  How hard it is for me to be very dependent on Greg, even after or especially after, 30 years of marriage.  He drives, he has the smart phone not dependent on wifi and then of course he is one of the handful of people on this whole continent who can call me by name.  Think about that, twenty two million people and I'm on a first name basis with about six of them and two were our neighbors across the street in Carmel (that is also a very crazy thing).  

We are in a corporate apartment in the CBD (Central Business District) facing the south west corner of Hyde Park.  (Quick fact, it's super tricky having the Pacific Ocean on the EAST side of the country).  Great place to start, but it's time to move out into a rental house out in the northern beach towns.  Time to be reunited with our stuff that's finally cleared customs from the air shipment. Almost time to place the few pieces of American furniture we shipped overseas in a new home.  Time to dig in somewhere and expand the circle.  Unfortunately,  there's basically no where to go.  The one dream house we found was not yet listed and was so dreamy someone offered the owners a crazy amount of money to buy it instead of rent it and they took it.  The few homes actually on the market get snatched up quickly or there is a reason they are still available.  So we're (or more correctly I'm) about to move to another corporate housing situation (Greg will be in China for the next two weeks so it's me and a van-sized taxi), but this one will be close to the area we'd like to live so I can start to connect with yoga, tennis and maybe even a little work.  We'll wait out the rental shortage and hope the dream home pops up soon.  All for downsizing, but a one or two-bedroom high-rise apartment was never really the plan.

I'd hoped to start posting from some gorgeous kitchen with an ocean breeze and a good view, but that could be a while .  This furnished apartment up above the trees where the giant bats like to fly (giant, but there are no bugs so that's okay with me-plus Stellaluna was one of my favorite children's books and I think bats have cute little fuzzy heads and little cat-like ears so I'm not afraid) is where we'll start.

Most likely this blog will branch off into two blogs.  One about cooking and a new one about travel and expat life.  There are words I need to write, things I need to remember and places I'd like to share so that might mean two blogs or you'll have to wade through a lot of stories before a recipe is written.

Australians love good fresh food and with the exception of ridiculously good chips (fries) and schnitzel, they're pretty strong in healthy choices.  Okay, the wood-fired pizzas and gelato are pretty outstanding too.  All in moderation.  Most serving sizes are smaller than the states which is brilliant. And if you do have leftovers or order take-away they package it in plastic containers with tight lids you can reuse (plus a little charge which is completely reasonable).  Some of the best food is served in what we'd call gastropubs, but here all pubs are called hotels (no lodging).  Most are on a corner. Most corners have one.  Greg will probably never like the service.  You walk up to the bar, order your drinks and food and then take a number to your table.  Generally they then deliver the food to you (you carry your own drinks).  Sometimes you get a little light up thing and you then go retrieve your food and to me this is ridiculous.  We were a few drinks in by the time we had to carry our food back on trays down stairs.  That has to result in the occasional schnitzel drop.  But when you are done, no one comes around and asks if you want dessert or another drink and you've already paid (no tipping, servers make $26AUS an hour) so you are free to just get up and go.  Kind of nice.   Bookings (reservations) are essential at table service restaurants and we have so many booking stories that's a whole post on it's own.

In our states life we almost never ate out.  When we are in our rental home, we'll certainly eat out less but it's been a bit of a sabbatical for both of us this first month.  Greg's work schedule is interesting with his plant in China starting work 3 hours behind Australia and his plant in India 5 1/2 hours behind (fun facts:  China has one time zone and India's time zones are on the half hour).  Generally he does his US work in the morning or very late at night and his Asia people are mid-day.  Travel starts tomorrow again so the working sabbatical is about to be over for him.  Sara arrived one week after we did and stayed for most of the three weeks of her winter break.  Kelly arrived one week after Sara and had ten days here.  Perfect timing for the transition.  So much easier with them here even if it was the warmest and least Christmas-y Christmas.  The rare times we are all together are the best.  That's another post too.  So we ate out a lot while we were all on holiday.  And we've been out and about this week too because I'll be all on my own for the next two weeks and well, it's fun trying it all.

Let's get to some food.  Australians call all what we call winter squash varieties "pumpkin".  You might see "butternut pumpkin", but generally it's just "pumpkin".  Sara and I were a little perplexed at first, but we figured it out and started roasted our butternut pumpkin and ordering wood-fired pizzas and salads and pastas with pumpkin without trepidation.  A lovely ferry ride away (except on a holiday Sunday when it was like Bangladesh at the ferry wharf) is Watsons Bay which feels just like a Caribbean island is home to Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel Beach Club (right, a restaurant/pub but it actually does have lodging).  All the beautiful people settle in for drinks, food and Dj music in the sun and under umbrellas off just off the beach.  And then Greg and I show up and slightly raise the mean age which is generally 26 (sometimes it feels like a city made up entirely of trust-fund kids). Anyway, you'll keep seeing Facebook and Instagram posts from Watsons Bay.  We watched this salad cruise by as people who ordered it picked it up and brought it to their tables (so weird, that). Then we went home and made it ourselves.  And forgot to take pictures.  So I'll show you a few pictures of Watsons Bay and one of our favorite places to grab a drink.

Watsons Bay back in August (spring) during our first visit to Sydney

Greg at the club

the beautiful people and me

the beach club on a quiet day in August

A few thoughts on kale.  It's super trendy, but my body and maybe yours can only handle kale in moderation.  Generally the curly varieties are easier to digest than the lacinto/dinosaur/flat varieties which to me have the look of something easier to break down.  If you can buy kale from a grower at a market, ask them which varieties are easier to digest.  They'll know.  You can have too much of a good thing.  Always remove the leaves from the tough stem.  Dress your kale with lemon juice and work it through with your hands before you toss it with other ingredients.  Lemon juice breaks down the kale (just like lemon or lime juice "cooks" seafood in ceviche) and makes it more digestible.

If you've never dealt with a fresh pomegranate this video from Jamie Oliver's cooking skills series will show you how.  You can always just substitute in dried cranberries too.

If you want to make it even more filling, cook some quinoa in chicken or vegetable broth, fluff and cool to whatever temperature you'd like.  You can toss the kale with warm quinoa and warm squash and it will further soften your kale.


Kale Salad with Pumpkin and Pomegranate

one bunch kale, washed, dried, tough stems removed
one lemon
one butternut "pumpkin" squash, peeled, and cut into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
one or two pomegranates, seeded (or buy the refrigerated tubs of pomegranate ariels)
2 T balsamic vinegar (pomegranate balsamic would be nice)
1 T honey
pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or pine nuts, toasted
crumbled feta or goat cheese or shaved Parmesan

Toss the juice of one lemon with the washed and torn kale working the lemon juice into the leaves. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.  It's fine on the counter for longer.

Toss your butternut squash with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, 1/2 to 1 tsp kosher salt and generous grinds of pepper.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking pan.  Roast your squash in a very hot oven (400-450 degrees) for about 20 minutes, turning a couple of times until brown and a bit caramelized.  Let cool at least a bit.

While the oven is still warm put your desired seeds on a tray and toast lightly in the warm oven for maybe 10 minutes.  Do not burn.

Toss the kale, squash, and pomegranate with the balsamic and honey.  Add a little more olive oil if needed.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Toss in the toasted nuts and your desired seeds just before serving.