Green Lip Mussels in a Blue Cheese- Sauvignon Blanc Bath
Planet Earth flexes her biceps in New Zealand’s South Island – oh those salaciously shifting teutonic plates!
The above photo is one of a trillion I’ve been taking on our Oceania voyage, the trip I’ve always dreamed of taking; the landscape more salubrious than the Green Lip Mussels I purchased in a Kiwi run-of-the mill grocery store, pictured to the right bathing in locally produced blue cheese and Sauvignon Blanc.
I planned our itinerary in early Spring of last year; we’re in summer on the South Island and the best, most reasonable, accommodations are snapped up fast. My plan was concocted after reading dozens of travel forums, Trip Advisor reviews, and studying a well-reviewed hiking book. Certainly there are countless ways to approach this landscape based on what one prefers on a vacation – ours is suited to our love of hiking, wildlife and my desire to have a small kitchen at most of our stops. As well, aside from Queenstown, we wanted to avoid the the cities and large organized tour groups.
After a brief respite on Kauai, we began our journey on the Otaga Peninsula then onto the Catlins; both areas dripping wildlife, eye-candy allure. Environments of fur seals basking on rocks; sea lions fighting on the beach; Royal Albatross swooping above; hector and bottle-nose dolphins dancing in the Pacific waters…all yours to be had, if quiet, down under. Then, traveling counter-clockwise, we headed to the Fiordlands, our base for hiking various “legs” of the Kepler and Routeburn tracks. Here are a few pics, to date, from some of our hikes (my highlights from the Catlins in the penguin slide-show below). Sadly, we lost our “good” camera the second day of our trip, as mentioned.
Flew into Christchurch; connecting flight into Dunedin;and followed the coastline, clockwise. (Blue ink is flight; yellow highlight is driving in rental car.)
Kauai, Hawaii was our half-way to NZ, jet-lag combatant stop. Stayed at VRBO "tree-house" in the jungle.
The wave after this lashed at us, unexpectedly, inhaling Richard, destroying his camera, and giving both of us a good scare.
At last in New Zealand, blue, so blue, waters on the road to Milford Sound, intriguing shades of blue.
Greens dripping green, pictured here on the Kepler Track.
Around the next switch-back, tumbling down the mountains, there seems yet another waterfall to admire.
The Milford Road entrance to Routeburn Track (one of the "Great Walks".)
Key Summit; the view worth the long, strenuous climb up the mountain (off-shoot of Routeburn Track).
No worries of poisonous snakes or vines as we tramp across the island.
The Homer Tunnel carved into a mountain; the official gateway to the Milford Sound.
The clever Kea parrots - Homer Tunnel mascot – charm and annoy; this one posed for me as if wanting me to catch its best angle.
The Milford Sound; one of the most photographed landscapes in New Zealand.
In Fiordland, we stayed in a cottage in Manapouri (the gateway onto the "Great Walks" and the Doubtful Sound) on an alpaca farm.
Clear waters of Lake Manapouri; the heart of Fiordland.
One of the winding fiords cutting into the south of the South Island.
The trip through Doubtful Sound had an eerie magnificence.
Onto Queensland, where adrenaline-junkies peppered the landscape.
We can think of better ways of spending hundreds of dollars to hang from a rope in a bungee jump...
…like sampling the amazingly complex Pinot Noirs in Gibbston Valley; a bike ride away from the bungee jumpers, outside of Queenstown.
Then al fresco at a Waitira Creek "church". Warming into the New Zealand landscape, so far.
At the top of the Queenstown Hill Walk. What they call a "walk" here never ceases to amaze. Note this is not photoshopped enhanced; the lake is really that shade of blue.
The endangered yellow-eyed penguin mama.
But for me, most enchanting of all (if enchantment can be quantified) was sitting on a stump in a petrified forest in Curio Bay, watching the rare yellow-eyed penguins in there native habitat of water, bush and nests.
Far better than prime-time, we watched a family drama unfold – well over an hour: a mother returning from sea, a belly full of fish to feed her fledglings. What could be more thrilling than sitting in an ancient, petrified forest in the South Pacific ocean, with penguins chattering several feet from your feet?
As they say on the South Island: Sweet ass!
Here’s a “Penguin Prime Time” slide-show imagined after reviewing my pics, accompanied by a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s far better suited to a pre-schooler personality, so please forgive me this indulgence keeping in mind that it’s the wine channeling Penguinese!
Best freebie dip in town? Zingerman’s samples of bread with truffle-infused olive oil tops my list. This year, however, I’m wary of samples, quite sure I contracted last year’s hideous virus from a different, yet similar, dunk. Fearful of flu-infested double-dippers contaminating the culinary landscape, I chunked down the change to purchase the truffle-infused salt, a bargain compared to to the cost of truffles, uninterrupted.
Plump beautiful scallops and wild-mushroom risotto would surely appreciate a dab of world-acclaimed fungi perfuming their star-status appeal. Valentine’s Day falls on Friday, and seems a fine a day as any to indulge in all of this magnificence.
If you have truffle oil, by all means, substitute it for the salt-infused oil – it may be preferable if you have a top-drawer bottle, especially if sodium is a concern. Feel free to substitute a filet mignon, shrimp, or an eggplant “fillet” for the scallops, if desired. Here are some other recipes from Valentine’s Days gone by:
Chocolate Rum Mousse with Whipped Cream and Strawberries
Classic Chocolate Soufflé
Filet Mignon with Cranberry-Zinfandel Sauce
Filet Mignon with Red Wine-Mushroom Sauce
Duck Breasts with Raspberry Sauce
Ahi Tuna with Avocado-Wasabi Purée
Sherried Scallops over Spaghetti Squash
Mussels with Chorizo and Fennel
I could have made the following recipe increasingly delicious by stirring in an extra tablespoon of butter to the finished risotto and brushing a bit atop the scallops, after they were seared. I encourage you to do so if the added fat is of no concern.
This recipe insists you have all of your ingredients pre-measured and at the ready (your mise-en-place) before diving into the recipe. Advice on searing the perfect scallop is redundant from previous posts, but it bears repeating to protect your investment.
Begin with the fattest, freshest sea scallops you can find, making sure they’re not injected with that sodium solution, and your heaviest skillet. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat for a minute before adding a thin layer of canola or grape seed oil.
When the oil starts to shimmer, add scallops to the pan. Don’t touch the scallops for a full minute. If you think you are burning them, remove from the heat a few seconds, adjust the heat, but leave the scallops alone!
3. After they are golden, turn down the heat to medium and cook an additional minute. Then raise the heat, turn them over with tongs and repeat the process. The scallops will be cooked, but a bit translucent in the center. Divine!
I created the recipe as a romantic meal for two, but it can divided in half to serve the one and only YOU! Be good to yourself. Happy Valentines Day!
BTW: I’m celebrating Valentine’s Day in New Zealand with Richard. We’ve been reading about Oceania for years – friends telling us the beauty is incomparable (a truffle glittering down under) – and it’s our turn to check out this piece of paradise. I’ll be doing most of the cooking as we skirt the coast, the South Island NZ motels and farm stays I’ve booked are equipped with small kitchens. Cooking with local foods is an enjoyable cultural immersion; I look forward to sharing my experience with fellow food and travel lovers.
So I’m reading this article and recipe in the New York Times (by Sam Sifton) who described making Nora Ephron’s Fancy Meatloaf that inspired me to write about and make this recipe – with my changes – which was concerning, as I wondered if the end product would be too meta to eat.
Mr. Sifton wrote the article in 2009, which described his being invited to cook dinner for the late Nora Ephron, humorist screenwriter and journalist. Ms. Ephron, according to the New York Times Diners Journal, used food to define characters. “…A food-lover to the pitch-perfect recipes in ‘Heartburn’ (her autobiographical 1983 ‘novel with recipes’) to the film ‘Julie and Julia’ in 2009, food was real, front and center in her work.”
Let’s not forget the bit she wrote for the movie, “When Harry Met Sally”. You remember the infamous scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal over deli sandwiches – you know the one I’m referring; I don’t need to spell it out. The “I’ll have what’s she’s having” moment when Ms. Ryan was proving a point to Mr. Crystal over pastrami. Ahem. Where were we?
Pancetta, red wine & Parmesan make this “fancy”.
Back to topic. Mr Sifton was making Ms. Ephron’s Fancy Meat Loaf for a pot-luck, the guests charged to bring food “inspired by Ephron’s career or by the woman herself”. Quote Mr Sifton: “She may be to food as Scorsese is to bar fights. Just thinking about cooking for her, I felt sick and wondered if bringing a few bottles of cold Pellegrino or Laurent-Perrier Champagne would do instead.”
The humor of the article centered around the butcher not removing the plastic wrap around the pancetta before slicing, which ended up incorporated into Mr. Sifton’s meatloaf, lending “… a kind of stubble on my finished loaf — plastic pin bones”.
When recreating the recipe, I followed Mr. Sifton’s advise who wrote, “Don’t make a person’s signature recipe for that person, ever. Instead, take it as a starting point.” Sadly, no one will be cooking for Nora Ephron since her death last June, but her wit will keep me chuckling to the finish.
Meatloaf, like life, can be messy in the execution.
My changes to the recipe: I was too lazy to remove the bread crust (no harm done), I diced the pancetta (per original recipe – sans plastic), added fresh basil and garlic, and substituted Chianti for the white wine. The results? Scrumptious. The next time I make it, I may add an additional egg or two since the meatloaf fell a part a bit as I cumbersomely flipped it in the pan, but maybe not. Meatloaf, like life, can be messy in the execution.
The following recipe was adapted from Sam Sifton’s Fancy Meat Loaf recipe, which was adapted from Nora Ephrons’, which was adapted from Gourmet Magazine. No matter what changes you make to whatever recipe you select, to whatever form this meatloaf morphs in your kitchen, this mighty fine meatloaf’s never too meta to eat.
Food writer by trade, curious cook by design.
The past 30 years have witnessed a raucous race from my professional to
home kitchen - persnickety customers, petulant children and piles of dirty dishes
lie in my wake. And the dinnerFeeds - well - they
are my story. More about Peggy and this site...
Taste buds prickle; wanderlust triggered. An Argentine barbecue (asado)
enticed me to Patagonia. A friend gave me a vial of ground sumac berries--4 months later I was
waking at dawn to the "Call To Prayer" in Turkey. Porcini to Tuscany, and so on. Read more about my chronicles of
trips and favorite associated recipes. Browse my travel recipes...
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