Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tribute to a neighbour

An old Greek lady lived in the house behind ours. We would often see her outside, hanging out her washing, or calling "Goldie" after her small dog running around the backyard. Although she didn't speak much English, she would always hobble over to say hello if she saw us. Her reasonably large backyard (by inner-suburban standards) was planted with fruit trees, tomatoes and plenty of vegetables. Often we would come home from work to find that she'd thrown a small gift over the back fence: a big bunch of leafy silverbeet, a handful of spring onions, some juicy little tomatoes or a few lemons.

I haven't seen the old woman for months or heard little Goldie barking. Yesterday, when I was hanging out washing, I noticed a young man cleaning up the backyard. He came up and introduced himself and told me that both his grandparents had recently gone into a nursing home. His grandmother died last week and his grandfather died 12 hours later.

I didn't know my neighbour's name but I miss seeing her and Goldie outside and having our brief chats. When I received my first gift of silverbeet from her, I didn't know what to do with it, so went scurrying for the ever-trusty Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander. The silverbeet went into this frittata and this simple lunch dish is a tribute to my neighbour.


400g silverbeet
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
6 eggs, lightly beaten

Separate silverbeet leaves from stems. Trim stems and cut into pieces 1cm square. Wash leaves, then roll up and slice. Saute stems in a film of oil over a moderate heat in a 22-24cm heavy-based frying pan for five minutes. Add leaves and cover pan until leaves wilt down, then saute for four minutes. Tip contents of pan into a colander resting over a bowl and drain well. Wipe out pan with kitchen paper.

Stir pepper, cheese and drained stems and leaves into eggs. Add another good film of oil to the pan and place over a high heat. Wait a few minutes to heat and then tip in the egg mixture. The edges should frill and puff up at once. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the top is just moist. Run a spatula around the sides and under the frittata as it cooks to ensure that it's not sticking. Slide the pan under a pre-heated grill for a minute until the top is set, then loosen with a spatula and invert onto a warmed plate. Scatter with fresh herbs, cut into thick wedges and serve with a tomato salad.


Jason S said...

What a lovely reminder of the way all people around us influence our lives, whether they be in substantial ways or in small yet still significant ways, such as the one you have illustrated. Neighbours are particulalry easily forgotten because we often share little with them but a fence line and many take a defensive approach to those that live physically close. I will make sure to say hello to my neighbours tonight!

Adski said...

That's such a sad story, it's like the grandad couldn't go on without his wife.
It so nice that even though you didn't know her well enough to go to her funeral, that you took time out of your life to make something special in the kitchen dedicated to the lovely old lady next door. Good on you.