Las Vegas Country Club Salad

The Las Vegas Strip in Clark County, Nevada USA is famous for its hotels and casinos, many of which have amazing architecture and lights.

But there’s more to Vegas than the Strip. Normal people live normal lives in the rest of the town. They go to work or school and rarely go to the touristy area. We recently visited two cousins who live in Las Vegas proper, where they both work as lawyers. It was great to catch up and to cross the nearby Grand Canyon off our bucket list. We splurged and went by helicopter and it was indeed an amazing experience.

Tom and Bob both live in houses located in the grounds of the Las Vegas Country Club and we stayed with Bob. Invited to the Club house for lunch on the day we arrived,  I chose this delicious, healthy salad which was so good I decided to try and replicate it on my return.

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Mesclun or small lettuce leaves
12 large slices of tomato
12 spears asparagus
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1-2 pita breads
Olive oil and grated Parmesan
Paprika
Chicken and Walnut Salad
2 cups cooked roast chicken, diced
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste
Tuna and Celery Salad
2 cups canned tuna, drained
½ cup very finely diced celery
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
1 Tbs finely chopped red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg and Chive Salad

2 cups diced hard boiled eggs (about 5 or 6), diced
¼ cup snipped chives
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste

Make mayonnaise then make the three different salads by mixing all ingredients together. Use enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. Refrigerate till serving time.

Split pita breads in half horizontally, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some finely grated Parmesan. Cut into long pointy pieces then bake at 180°C for 10-15 mins or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Wash and trim asparagus and cook in boiling salted water for about 4 mins. Drain and cool. All of this can be done ahead. To serve, arrange salad leaves on four serving dishes – rectangular ones look good. Then place three tomato slices on each plate.

Find a small rounded bowl, ramekin or measuring cup which holds about half a cup. The diameter needs to be about the size of the tomato slices.

Spray with oil, fill with about a quarter of the mixture and pack down well. Tip out onto a tomato slice. Rinse, dry and re-oil then repeat with the other salads, so each serving has a mound of each. If preferred just dollop it on with a tablespoon.

Garnish plates with asparagus, hard boiled egg slices, a shake of paprika and a couple of pita toasts.

Serves 4

Bruschetta at Nico Osteria in Chicago

Cindy is a flight attendant with United Airlines and we met through mutual friends when we were all living in Paris, some 15 years ago. After a few years working out of Paris she moved back to Chicago and has been asking us to visit ever since.

At last we made it. On a balmy evening in September we walked out of the arrivals hall at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and there was Cindy, waving furiously from her open-top vintage BMW. With our luggage squashed into the boot and half of the back seat we set off on a Chicago-by-night city tour, on our way to Cindy’s centrally-located apartment.

Cindy has been just about everywhere and I don’t only just mean United Airlines destinations. I mean from Anchorage to Timbuktu. When she visits a city she leaves no stone unturned. Tuesdays the museums are free, she said, so the morning after we arrived we crossed the Museum of Contemporary Art off the long list of things we had to fit into our six days in Chicago.

What a fabulous city. Wonderful architecture, a great public transport system and lots of free concerts and shows. Cultural highlights included a free two and a half hour concert of operatic arias in Millennium Park, with a full orchestra and choir. And a free lunchtime piano and violin concert at the Chicago Cultural Centre, an amazing Art Deco building which we toured afterwards. Cindy had acquired free passes for me to join her pilates classes at the exclusive East Bank Club, which enjoyed the patronage of Obama and Oprah when they lived in Chicago. And if one of the bars was serving free cocktails you can be sure that Cindy knew about it.

Cindy

Culinary highlights included a lobster sandwich at the French Markets – simple but so good – a delicious lunch from one of the many restaurants at Eataly, dinner at Nico Osteria and the $25 three course lunch at one of Nico Osteria’s sister restaurant Blackbird.

At Nico Osteria we sat on bar stools looking into the kitchen and, by asking a few culinary questions, soon built up a rapport with the sous chef. The head chef, meticulously checking each dish before it left the kitchen, Gordon Ramsey-style, decided we were foodies and sent out some extra dishes for us to try. Baskets of colourful tomatoes, large and small adorned the bustling kitchen. They were at the tail end of a tomato-inspired menu, the chef explained, and in three days everything would change.

We decided to share some bruschetta and they were all delicious. Today’s recipe is inspired by Nico Osteria’s Bruschetta with Chicken Liver Mousse, Marinated Onion and Lemon Honey. Instead of the Lemon Honey I used Tomato Baharat Jam, which goes so well with all kinds of pâté. Their chicken liver mousse had a bit of a kick, but I decided not to add chilli to mine.

The following day we had lunch at Blackbird and told the Maitre d’ that their set price menu had been highly recommended by the chef at Nico Osteria. Say no more – we were treated like family, with complimentary champagne and an amazing Lyonnaise-type salad, served in a crispy potato basket with a soft-poached egg on top arriving before our three course meal.

If you’ve never been to Chicago I suggest you put it on your list.

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Bruschetta with Chicken Liver Pâté, Marinated Onion and Tomato Baharat Jam

Chicken liver pâté (see recipe)
Tomato Baharat Jam (see recipe)
1 onion, halved then very thinly sliced
2 Tbs white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs hot water
2 tsp honey
Pinch of salt
1 baguette (French loaf)
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
A few halved cocktail tomatoes
A few rocket leaves

Make the pâté and tomato jam – the day before serving if you like. Mix onion with vinegar, honey, hot water and salt and leave to marinate.

To serve, cut baguette in half horizontally, then cut into serving sizes about 10-12cm long. You should get 6 or 8 from a loaf. Discard the very ends of the loaf. Mix olive oil with garlic, brush over both sides of the bread then toast till golden on a griddle pan.

Arrange toasted baguette on serving plates. Spread each one liberally with chicken liver pâté then garnish with marinated onion (drained and dried with paper towels) and Tomato Baharat Jam. Finish with some lightly dressed baby tomato halves and rocket leaves.

Makes 6-8 bruschetta

Modern Greek Food at Petros

While travelling in the USA last month we had some fabulous meals. Unfortunately large portions, fries with everything and Tex Mex “liquid cholesterol” are still very much in evidence, but we did our best to avoid these establishments and seek out the healthier options.

On our way home we spent three days at Manhattan Beach, just outside Los Angeles, where there are lots of good restaurants. Petros Restaurant serves an interesting selection of modern Greek dishes and was one of the highlights.

For a light lunch we ordered Fried Calamari, Feta Saganaki (sesame-crusted feta with raisins and honey) and Karpouzi Salad (watermelon, tomatoes, mint, feta, honey and extra virgin olive oil).

I decided to recreate two of these dishes at home. Petros uses Greek olive oil, honey, feta and raisins, but use whatever you have. If you don’t like things too sweet cut back on the honey.

Modern Greek Food at Petros

Feta Saganaki
About 150g feta cheese
1-2 Tbs plain flour
1 egg, beaten
About ½ cup sesame seeds
1 Tbs olive oil
1-2 Tbs honey
1-2 Tbs raisins

Cut feta cheese into two rectangles about 1cm thick. Coat lightly in flour, then dip in beaten egg and coat with sesame seeds. Heat olive oil in a small non-stick frying pan and fry the feta on both sides until golden. Arrange in serving dish. Place the honey and raisins in a small dish and microwave for about 30 seconds, then pour over the feta. If liked squeeze over some fresh lemon  juice.

Serves 2

Karpouzi Salad

Karpouzi Salad
About 800g seedless watermelon, cut into cubes
10 cocktail tomatoes, halved
1 Tbs finely chopped mint
Dressing:

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs lemon juice
pinch of salt

Arrange watermelon and tomatoes in serving dish. Place ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Drizzle over the salad and sprinkle with mint.

Serves 2

Variation: crumble some feta cheese over the top

Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

Regular Café Cat readers will know that I’m a great fan of roast vegetables and love trying new combinations. This dish using sweet potatoes and pears, combined with chick peas and topped with crispy prosciutto is a real winner.

Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

1 large or two smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large thick wedges
3 large pears, unpeeled and cut into six or eight, lengthwise then cored
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
About ¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
100g thinly sliced prosciutto (I used Aldi Black Forest Ham)

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Place all ingredients except prosciutto in a large bowl and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper then spread the vegetables over the tray in one layer. The paper is to make washing up easier but is optional. Bake vegetables for about half an hour or until cooked and starting to brown around the edges. Re-arrange them halfway through cooking time, so they cook more evenly.

In a non-stick frying pan put a tiny bit of oil then cook the prosciutto until crispy. Serve on top of the vegetables.

Serves 3-4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato, apples instead of pears, thinly sliced bacon instead of Prosciutto. To make the dish more substantial serve it on a bed of lightly dressed rocket and scatter some crumbled feta or goat’s cheese over the top. Vegetarians can just leave out the prosciutto.

Mushroom Tarte Tatin

The French are famous for an upside down apple tart called Tarte Tatin. Apples are cooked with sugar and butter in an oven proof frying pan, topped with puff pastry, baked in a hot oven, then inverted onto a serving plate, so the apples are on top and the pastry is underneath.

This is a mushroom version. As you can see in the photo, I only had ordinary button mushrooms in the fridge. It would be even nicer with a few exotic ones thrown into the mix, but it was still scrumptious.

Use bought puff pastry or Nigella’s quick food processor version as I did. Serve with a lightly dressed rocket salad.

40g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
500g sliced mushrooms (preferably a few different kinds)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (or Nigella’s quick version)
To serve:
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Rocket salad

FullSizeRender (1)Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Thaw pastry if frozen or make Nigella’s..

Heat butter and oil in a 20-25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan. Make sure the handle is ovenproof too.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic, thyme and seasoning and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden and liquid has been absorbed.

Roll out pastry thinly if you are not using a ready-rolled version. Cut out a circle a bit bigger than the circumference of the frying pan. Place pastry on top and tuck the edges in all the way around. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes then invert onto serving plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with fresh herbs, a dollop of crème fraîche and a rocket salad.

Serves 6

Curried Eggs

I like eggs cooked any way at all – boiled, scrambled, poached, coddled or in an omelette or frittata.

Many years ago when we were living in Malaysia we were served some delicious curried eggs. The memory has stuck in my mind, so I decided to recreate this quick, easy and delicious dish. If there are just two of you the quantities are easy to halve.

Curried Eggs

8 hardboiled eggs, cut in half
3 Tbs oil
2 onions,finely sliced or chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs of your favourite curry paste (more if you like things spicy)
2-3 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1 can coconut milk
1 can water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Steamed rice
Fruit chutney
Indian bread such as chapatis, roti or papadums

You want the eggs to be hardboiled, but don’t overcook them or they won’t be nice and creamy. About 12 minutes should be perfect.

In a large frying pan cook onion and garlic in the oil until soft, without browning. Add curry paste, sugar and turmeric and cook, stirring for a minute or so. Add coconut milk and water and simmer until liquid has reduced and sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the hardboiled egg halves, cut side up and let them warm through. Garnish with coriander or parsley and serve with rice, Indian bread and chutney.

Serves 4

Fried Egg in a Bagel

This recipe from a website called Food52 is so simple you hardly need a recipe. But it’s such a novel idea and so delicious I had to tell you about it.

You simply fry an egg in the hole in half a bagel.  Serve for breakfast or lunch, accompanied by bacon, ham, smoked salmon or on its own. The recipe makes two servings, but you may decide to eat them both! They go very well with leftover ham from Christmas.

Fried Egg in a Bagel

1 bagel split in two horizontally
1 Tbs butter
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the holes in the two halves a bit bigger using a serrated knife or a small scone cutter. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan and swirl around. Place bagel  halves in the pan, cut side down, break an egg into each and season with salt and pepper. It doesn’t matter if it spills out a bit.

Cover and cook until the eggs are just set. Serve alone or with crispy bacon, ham or smoked salmon. If serving with bacon cook it in the pan first, then remove and cook the bagel so it gets a nice bacon flavour.

Serves 2

Wild Mushroom Salad with Parmesan and Prosciutto

We recently spent a week in Slovenia – two days in the capital Ljubljana and 4 days in Bled. If you haven’t been to this part of the world I recommend you put it on your list. Amazing scenery with dominating mountains, crystal clear turquoise blue rivers and majestic forests. The neat little houses each had a neat little woodpile and a well kept veggie garden. Everything was spotlessly clean and well-maintained. A good way to see some of this beautiful scenery is to arrive in Ljubljana by train from Vienna, which takes between 5 and 6 hours.

In late summer and early autumn farmer’s markets in continental Europe sell a variety of wild mushrooms – porcini and ceps to name two that I am familiar with. One of the culinary highlights of our stay in Slovenia was a salad made with wild porcini and garnished with shaved parmesan and crispy bits of prosciutto. In Australia you can’t find wild porcini (well that’s what I thought, see below) so I used a mixture of shitake and enoki mushrooms to recreate it back home. It was not the same but still delicious.

After doing some research on the internet I discovered that wild porcini mushrooms have recently been found growing in parts of South Australia and Victoria. Their location is a well kept secret and any that are sold are snapped up by top chefs for between $60 and $120 a kilo. They apparently like similar growing conditions to truffles and can be found under pine and oak trees.  I have thought about blitzing some dried porcini in the food processor and sprinkling the powder under a large oak tree in our garden. Might work?

Wild Mushroom Salad with Parmesan and Prosciutto6 handfuls rocket and/or baby salad leaves
Olive oil and lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
400g wild porcini (I used enoki and shitake)
olive oil and 1 clove garlic, crushed
200g shaved Prosciutto
100g shaved Parmesan cheese
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Lightly dress salad leaves with a simple dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, a little honey and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on four serving plates. Slice or cut  up the mushrooms and mix them with a little olive oil and crushed garlic. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Pan fry the mushrooms in a non-stick pan over high heat, stirring, for 3-5 mins or until lightly browned. Divide mushrooms between the four serving plates. Cut Prosciutto into small bits (I used scissors) and add to the pan. Cook over high heat, stirring, until crispy. Divide amongst serving plates, top with Parmesan and pine nuts if using – I didn’t in the photo but they would make a nice addition. Drizzle some olive oil around the salad and sprinkle with some coarsely cracked black pepper.

Serves 4

Millefoglie di Melanzane

We recently spent a week in Sicily where we hired a car and drove from Palermo to Patti, Taormina, Syracuse and back to Palermo. We spent a couple of days in each of these cities, soaking up the history and visiting some amazing churches and ancient monuments in the area. I won’t go into details of where to stay and what to do – there’s plenty of information on Trip Advisor and we found most of our accommodation on Airbnb.

Lots of windy roads and a few crazy drivers made the driving something of a challenge. The weather was considerably hotter than we had expected for mid-September, so we avoided sight-seeing in the middle of the day. Nonetheless we had a great time and would definitely recommend a trip to this part of Italy.

On the whole, the food in Sicily is good, especially if you’re a fan of pizzas and pasta. Finding good places to eat other dishes was more of a challenge. Everything we ordered which involved eggplants (aubergines) was delicious – stuffed eggplant, capponata (an Italian version of ratatouille with eggplant as the main ingredient) and eggplant fritters to name a few.

Our favourite city was Syracuse, especially the old city located on the island of Ortigia. Our favourite restaurant in Syracuse was Notre Dame where we ate outside enjoying the balmy evening weather. This bistro is run by an enthusiastic young couple and serves an interesting menu including this delectable Millefoglie di Melanzane – a layered Eggplant Terrine. It was so good we went back twice and on the second occasion the chef gave me the recipe.

Millefoglie di Melanzane

Canola or a mild-flavoured olive oil
2 large eggplants or 3 smaller ones
400g red capsicum (peppers)
2 eggs
2 sheets gelatine, soaked in water or 3 tsp powdered gelatine
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut capsicum into quarters and remove stalks and seeds. Cook in boiling, salted water for 15-20 mins or until soft. While still hot place them in a food processor with the eggs, gelatine, salt and pepper and process until smooth.

Meanwhile slice eggplants thinly lengthwise, discarding the first cut which is just skin. Heat some oil in a large frying pan and fry the eggplant slices, about 3 at a time, until golden brown and cooked on both sides. Add more oil as required. Drain on paper towels.

Choose a silicone loaf pan which doesn’t need to be lined, or line a metal one with non-stick baking paper. Starting and ending with a layer of eggplant slices, layer the eggplant and red capsicum puree in the loaf pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Using a serrated knife, cut terrine into 4-6 thick slices and serve with some lightly dressed rocket leaves.

Serves 4-6

No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake

We were staying with Catherine in Newcastle for a few days when she said “Oh by the way, we’re invited to a BBQ lunch tomorrow and we’re taking a dessert. What shall we make?”

We found cream cheese, cream and 2 punnets of raspberries in the fridge and a few other ingredients in the pantry. The result was this delicious no-bake cheesecake which was popular with the adults and kids alike.

Make this the day before serving.

IMG_0695300g white chocolate
500g Philadelphia-style cream cheese (at room temp)
300ml thick cream
3 Tbs caster sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
½ cup red jam (preferably raspberry)
About 12 sweet biscuits or sponge fingers
To serve:
1-2 cups fresh raspberries
Honey to drizzle

Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. In another bowl, with electric beaters, beat cream cheese, cream and sugar until smooth. Add melted chocolate and mix well.

Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang. With a fork, mash 1 cup raspberries with the jam on a plate. Spread half the cream cheese mixture in the loaf tin. Spread the berry mixture over the top. Then spread the rest of the cream cheese mixture over the jam mixture. Arrange a single layer of biscuits or sponge fingers over the surface, pushing them in slightly – this will be the base. Rectangular or square ones are easier than round ones. Bring excess plastic wrap over the top to cover, then refrigerate overnight.

No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake

To serve, tip cheesecake onto serving plate and remove plastic. Arrange raspberries over the top and drizzle with honey.

Serves 12

Variation: use strawberries instead of raspberries