In the last week, I have achieved a lot, traveling many miles in doing so. I flew to Melbourne, then to Sydney, and then back home to NYC, in a matter of 8 days. Not bad, hey? Along the way, I did some pretty cool stuff….
In Melbourne, I was greeted by glorious, crisp late Winter days, stunning food and sublime coffee. I also got to meet some of the very special booksellers who have been at the helm of making my first book Community the runaway success that it was. Thanks to Happy Valley Shop in Collingwood where I kicked off events with a book signing – this store is such a cool neighbourhood joint, full of the best books, niche magazines and perfect gifts. The other highlight was meeting my Readings family – what a fantastic bunch of people. When I visited, they made me feel welcome by asking me to me sign 500 books, followed by an epic Neighbourhood Salad Cookoff. The competition was pretty fierce and there was no love lost between the bookish salad-makers – read all about the cookoff here.
And then there was Pope Joan! Oh Pope Joan – you, Mr Matt Wilkinson and your entire team are just magical. Your hospitality, kindness, generosity and beautiful neighbourhood vibe really BLEW ME AWAY. Being the ‘guest of honour’ is not easy for me - I don’t always feel comfortable with attention but your humble spirit and good humour, combined with all the lovely, lovely guests in attendance, really put me to ease. Even in a room with over 100 people, I felt an overwhelming sense of intimacy and community (yay!!). The evening was beyond special and when I think about it now, a week or so later, I still feel a little lost for words. Thank you to Fran and Morgan for your brilliant organisation, Alice Zaslavsky (aka Alice in Frames) for MC-ing the evening with aplomb and all the Pope Joan staff for your hard work.
Lizzie Halloran took these beautiful photos of our memorable evening:
It’s been almost 15 years since my last visit to Melbourne – and the food and coffee really impressed me. Now, it takes a lot for this Sydney girl to give such high regard to Melbourne as a food and coffee capital, but damn, the food was so damn GOOD! Some highlights were the seasonal mushroom dish at Kettle Black, the deep-fried broccoli at Mr Miyagi, the bubble & squeak at Pope Joan for breakfast, the coconut gelato at Pidapipo, the bombolone at Baker D. Chirico and the coffee everywhere! Thank you to my publicist-slash-sweetmaker Charlotte Ree for showing me the best bites of Melbourne!
In Sydney, it was work, work, work! But isn’t it great when work feels like play? I got to hang with the stunning Alex Elliot-Howery at Cornersmith Picklery where we had a good old chinwag about vegetables, community and the trials of feeding our family nutritiously! Alex is one of those people you meet and fall in love with. She is charming, personable, talented and she just understood me on every level. Thank you to everyone at Cornersmith for putting on such a lovely, low-key community gathering. I loved every minute.
While Sydney side, I also cooked in the sublime kitchen of Williams Sonoma in Bondi Junction. Seriously, I wanted to move RIGHT ON IN! Complete with the exquisite flower-with-veggies creations from Holly at The Flower Drum, I had the immense pleasure of cooking for some of Sydney’s best and brightest foodie types. It was genuinely my pleasure to feed them! Thank you Lexi Kentmann for having me!
And then it was onto my old faithful Kinokuniya, where I chatted with my pal Lee Tran Lam. With a whole bunch of friends in attendance, family and various Neighbourhood contributors in the house, it was truly a fun event. It felt like we were just gathering around for a cuppa in my lounge room.
I wanted to thank all the salad lovers who came out to my talks, signings and events while I was in Melbourne and Sydney. I enjoyed meeting each and every one of you. I enjoyed our micro-chats and hearing about what salads you love. I enjoyed your stories about sharing food. And it was also heartening to hear that many of you read this blog! That was really uplifting news to me as the blogosphere can sometimes feel like a solitary place. Make sure you comment or like so I know you’ve visited. Or we can just chat here. I’d love that too :))
If you are still with me, apologies for this mega, rambling post. I’m usually quite succinct but I felt it was important to share these moments with you. When I launched Community two and a half years ago, never in bazillion years did I think I would be here today, with my second cookbook, joined by a legion of loyal salad lovers, with a best-selling cookbook under my belt and a very full heart. None of this was really meant to happen, but it did, and don’t think I’m not overwhelmed by all of it. Of course, thank you to my AMAZING publishers Plum Books/Pan Macmillan and my publicist Charlotte Ree for taking my salads and community ethos to the whole of Australia…And thank you to my team, Luisa Brimble and Erika Raxworthy (and this time around Sappho Hatzsis and Daniel New) who create such beautiful images with seemingly no effort at all!
And onto food. And my favourite dish, salad of course. Sometimes with an internationally-read blog, it is hard to create a recipe which suits both hemispheres. But I think this one could almost satisfy the seasonality of both North and South. This raw salad of zucchini, radish and cucumber is simply dressed with lemon and a generous scattering of salty ricotta salata and earthy seeds. It is also quite flexible as you can use other veg like sliced beets, cabbage, sugar snap peas, asparagus, fennel or whatever other vegetables you enjoy eating raw. I love the veggies to be nice and crisp for this one so I even keep them on ice or in the fridge until ready to use!
Raw Salad of Zucchini, Radish, Cucumber and Lemon
To prep, I used a mandoline, but you could also slice the slicing attachment on your food processor to make the job much quicker! If you like it hot, keep the seeds of your jalapeno in!
- 2 yellow or green zucchini squash
- 5 radishes
- 1 long telegraph / English hothouse cucumber, some peel removed in alternating strips
- ½ - 1 jalapeno chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced
- 5 Chinese shallots/scallions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup mint leaves
- ½ cup basil leaves
- ½ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- 150g / 5oz ricotta salata (or good quality parmesan)
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tbsp nigella seeds
- 1 lemon, zest removed in long strips with a zester or peeler
- sea salt and black pepper
Using a mandoline or slicing attachment on your food processor, slice your zucchini, radish and cucumber finely. Place in the fridge to keep cold until you are ready to assemble. This salad is best assembled just before serving!
When ready to eat, toss together the sliced vegetables and add the herbs and chilli. Dress the salad, to your taste, with the olive oil, a few big squeezes of lemon juice, the vinegar and toss through half the quantity each of sesame, poppy and nigella seeds. Save the rest to finish off. Season with sea salt and black together and toss it all together.
Spoon the salad onto a large serving platter. Break up the ricotta salata (or if you’re using parmesan, shave it) and sprinkle over the salad. To finish, toss over the lemon strips, scatter over the rest of the seeds and top it all off with a little more olive oil.