Yesterday was 36 celsius. Today's forecast top is 39. Less than a week ago some parts of Melbourne failed to top ten degrees, meaning there has been a variation in daily peak temperature of thirty degrees celsius within the same week. Are other places like this? I like variety but this is ridiculous. I pegged out a load of washing this morning and it was dry by the time I got all the way around the rotary hoist, like the guys painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Last night I made up a pasta dish from things we had in the fridge. Kind of a mixture, but let's call it pasta nicoise.
I slowly fried some red capsicum strips, right down low so they didn't burn; boiled some diagonally cut crisp green beans; sliced some previously boiled new potatoes (they were in the fridge, excess from a weekend potato salad) into quarter inch discs and boiled some penne until it was done.
To complete the dish, I drained the pasta leaving just a tablespoon or so of the cooking water in the pan, lay the capsicum strips, the beans and the potato discs on top and then added a can of good tuna in olive oil, some black olives, a few shards of red onion and a scattering of capers. Forget the egg, it's too much with the pasta. Then I put the lid back on the pan and let the whole thing sweat, just for a couple of minutes until the latter ingredients warmed up.
A nice dish for a summer night and an interesting variation on an old theme.
The original - salad nicoise - is one of my favourites. I make it when people come over for a barbecue or a lunch or a dinner. I even have a special dish for it. You wouldn't call it small, it's about the size of this one. The potatoes go round the edge and everything else sits in the middle, piled up, with the tuna on top, freshly seared. Eyes pop out of people's heads when I present it at the table. If I can find room.
However, the salad 'nicoise' I remember best was at an expensive restaurant in South Yarra during our early courting days; a time when swanky eating places go with the territory along with arthouse movies, wasting entire mornings or afternoons drinking caffe lattes and eating carrot cake in cafes and staying at B&Bs with frilly curtains, gingham tablecloths and hosts who just about sit in your lap at breakfast. Thank goodness we got married.
The particular salad nicoise at the restaurant in South Yarra (whose name escapes me but it was in the Como centre) sat on solid foundations of halved new potatoes and rose up from there, triumphant, like a tower of Pisa except it didn't lean. All the way up, segments of tomato and egg formed the brickwork while green beans served as crossmembers - pull one out and the whole thing would collapse. The interior was filled with olives and red onion and shreds of lettuce and at the top, five capers sat on a disc of seared tuna like sparrows on a roof. I remember trying to eat it from the top down, like dismantling a derelict building. That's difficult when you're courting.