Archive for November, 2011


Thanksgiving in a Danish Kitchen

So, I’m thinking ‘Danish’ can be closely compared to ‘European’ but I’d rather not generalize in this case, the fact of the matter is that I am most definitely in Europe, where stuffing mix is hard to come by and nobody tends to remember this food-loving American holiday. I did, however, in the interest of socializing with good people and cooking good food, make it a point to celebrate Thanksgiving and wouldn’t allow my location (or my very cramped kitchen) to affect the occurrence of that. My challenge: to make Thanksgiving dinner–the turkey, the stuffing, the gravy, the veggies–all of it without an oven (ha!) and using only the 2 burners on my very little hotplate. Impossible? I think not!

I have included here the entire menu I served to our company; we were five in all (oh yes, technically six:-) and I wanted to stay pretty traditional with the recipes. To just state the hardest thing about all this right off, ’twas the stuffing. Couldn’t find any sort of stuffing mix, breadcrumbs, or even croutons (I don’t think they have a Danish word for that) so I had to get 2 loaves of bread, toast them on the stove (yeah, ’cause who needs a toaster?), cut them up into little cubes, and hope for the best when I threw them all together with broth and veggies. Luckily for me, all the effort was worth it as the stuffing turned out splendidly. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the results of my toiling in the kitchen this last Thanksgiving, I know the meal was memorable and above all things, delicious!

Just on a side note, the veggie recipe I got from Cooking Light but the rest of it, including the stuffing, turkey “medallions” as I like to call them, and the gravy was basically improvised. I got to say that while having an oven would have made this all go a lot quicker (not to mention easier), not having one and being forced to innovation and creativity was an enjoyable experience with equally satisfying results. Don’t have an oven? No fear, anything is possible as long as you have some crockery and access to heat }:-)

Before I go on to the details, I have to say that the star ingredient in all this (because every menu has one), would be fresh Thyme which, thanks to my friend and ‘sous chef’ for the evening, we had plenty of since she spent an hour at least painstakingly pulling Thyme leaves from their stems; yes, SO happy I had help with that! It was an awesome, if not time-consuming task, although it ended up turning her fingers black :p, hopefully that washed off, eventually…

Peppered Sage Turkey Medallions with Red Wine Gravy

Ingredients

(for the turkey)

2 lbs. fresh turkey breast, trimmed

3 Tbs. dried sage

salt & cracked pepper

butter, for frying

(for the gravy)

1/2 cup red wine

3 Tbs. butter

3 cups chicken broth

2 Tbs. fresh Thyme leaves

1 Tbs. dried Sage

1/2 cup milk

2 Tbs. flour

1 cup low-fat cream

salt & cracked pepper

(1) For turkey medallions, take each breast and cut in half; put a piece at a time in a plastic bag and, over a thick cutting board, beat with a can (or meat mallet) until turkey is thin and tender. Repeat with all breast pieces. Season both sides of all turkey pieces generously with salt, cracked pepper, and dried sage. (2) Next, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat in a frying pan until melted, then add the first turkey piece. Fry for about 5 minutes, browning both sides and checking that the meat is cooked through before transferring to a separate plate and covering with foil. Repeat the frying process for all turkey pieces, adding more butter when necessary to prevent sticking. When done, cover and set cooked turkey aside until ready to serve. (3) For the gravy, use the same pan with turkey drippings and deglaze with a little red wine then add 2 Tablespoons of flour, stirring with a whisk until flour begins to brown slightly. Add the chicken broth, butter, and remaining red wine; let the entire mixture simmer over medium heat until thickened, 8-10 minutes. (4) Stir in the dried sage, fresh thyme, and milk, whisking often for another 5 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cream and season gravy with salt & pepper. Ladle over the turkey pieces (and anything else in dire need of gravy goodness πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Traditional Sourdough Bread Stuffing with Garlic, Celery, and Onions

Ingredients

2 loaves of sourdough (or wholewheat) bread, sliced

olive oil

1 head of celery, coarsely chopped

4 medium onions, coarsely chopped

5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Thyme leaves

4 cups chicken broth (or 2 bullion cubes with water)

3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

butter

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Toast all bread by brushing each side of the pieces lightly with olive oil and placing in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat until nicely browned, turning once to toast both sides, about 3-4 minutes total per slice (if you have the luxury of owning a toaster, just use that to toast all the pieces until well-browned). (2) Cut/tear all the toasted bread slices into small cubes or chunks and let sit uncovered for a couple hours until crumbs have hardened slightly. (3) In a large pot, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat and add all of the celery, garlic, and onions, stirring occasionally and cooking until tender, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When close to serving, add all of the breadcrumbs and fresh Thyme to the pot and stir, before pouring in chicken broth and apple cider vinegar. Mix the stuffing together until well-blended, adding more broth if too dry; season to taste with salt & cracked pepper. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cover the pot, keeping warm until ready to dish up onto plates.

Serves 6

Buttered Green Beans and Mushrooms with Fresh Thyme

Ingredients

1 lb. green beans, trimmed

1 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 Tbs. butter

3 Tbs. fresh Thyme leaves

salt & cracked pepper

(1) In a large wok, fill the bottom 2 inches deep with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. When bubbling, throw in the green beans and steam until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately rinse green beans in cold water to stop the cooking process, pat dry, and set aside. (2) Next, drain salted water from the wok and melt 2 Tablespoons of butter, lowering the heat to medium. Add sliced mushrooms and Thyme leaves, stirring well and cooking, uncovered, until all the moisture evaporates from the bottom of the wok and the mushrooms are tender, about 10-12 minutes. (3) When ready to serve, throw in the steamed green beans and remaining 1 Tbs. of butter, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook another 3 minutes, until vegetables are warmed through and steaming. Serve immediately beside turkey and stuffing πŸ™‚

Serves 6

So there you have it: Thanksgiving dinner for six, traditionally tasty, pleasantly affordable, and immensely satisfying. The hardest part was actually making it all (in a timely fashion, of course) but if you have as wonderful company/accomplices as I did, then that turns out to be funnest part too :] Must I really wait another YEAR to have Thanksgiving again?!

My question: what is your favorite twist on the traditional gravy recipe?

I used red wine, but I bet there are some amazingly interesting things you can do to spice up this delicious thickened sauce…

11.26.11

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Cajun-Style Burgers, minus the Grill

In my never-ending quest for meal variation, I decided this week to make good ol’ burgers for dinner alongside a different version of chilled pasta salad. Not only am I (and baby:-) craving red meat, but I was also finally able to lay my hands on some ground beef and jumped at the chance to cook something that would at least give me the illusion of summertime, cheesy grilled burgers, without the grill :/ And how does one accomplish that? I got two words for you: high heat. That’s basically what a grill does, cooking food over conditions of high heat but the flames are direct so when using a (slightly lamer) frying pan, one has to try a little harder to ‘recreate’ grill conditions. Trust me, it’s possible.

Cajun seasoning does wonders for any plain hunk of meat so I highly recommend it for making burgers; the paprika made the patties taste a little sweet while the cayenne gave it spiciness, a very interesting flavor combination if I may add. Frying thick slices of tomatoes adds a bit of excitement to the burger presentation (not to mention taste) but just make sure to brown both sides of the tomato slices and then promptly remove them from the frying pan before they get uselessly mushy, because nobody likes that.

This colorful version of pasta salad is based on a recipe from Cooking Light and involves roasted red peppers, fresh mint, and Brazil nuts. With access to copious amounts of fresh mint, it seemed like a no-brainer to me but if you aren’t a huge fan of mint then I’d recommend some other fresh herbs, or just more basil :] I decided to include the burger and pasta salad recipes separately for the sake of simplicity. As for the star ingredient, I’d have to say it’s the fried tomatoes because they’re just wonderful–easy to make, greater to taste–it seems flavor only increases in vegetables you take the time to roast (or fry!!)

Baby Bowtie Pasta Salad with Fresh Mint, Roasted Red Peppers, and Brazil Nuts

Ingredients

(for the salad)

1 lb. baby bowtie pasta

1 jar roasted red peppers, seeded & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup Brazil nuts, chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins, softened

(for the vinaigrette)

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

1 bunch fresh basil, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. milk

2 Tbs. lime juice

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente, drain, and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. (2) Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette (minced mint through lime juice) in a small bowl, whisking well with a fork; season to taste with salt & pepper. (3) To assemble the salad, mix the cooked pasta in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients, including the vinaigrette. Stir everything together very well, adding more lime juice for moisture if needed. Refrigerate salad until ready to serve.

Serves 4

Cajun-Spiced Burgers with Fried Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Swiss Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb. ground beef

3 eggs, beaten

8 slices of Swiss cheese

4 large burger buns

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, thickly sliced

2 Tbs. soy sauce

salt & cracked pepper

1 packet Cajun spice blend (or make blend: 3 Tbs. ground cumin, 3 Tbs. dried oregano, 2 Tbs. garlic powder, 3 Tbs. sweet paprika, 2 tsp. salt, 1 Tbs. cracked pepper, 2 Tbs. chili powder, 1 Tbs. onion powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper)

(1) In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, Cajun seasoning, and beaten eggs; refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (2) Heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the tomato slices, browning both sides before putting on a separate plate; keep covered until ready to serve burgers (3) Form the meat mixture into 4 thick burger patties and reheat the pan with another tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add burger patties and cook 8-10 minutes total, flipping when the sides have browned before adding two slices of Swiss cheese on each patty; burgers will be medium to medium-well when done and cheese should be melted. Let sit covered with foil for at least 3 minutes before serving. (4) To assemble burgers, toast the buns beforehand and add a patty to each, topping with warm slices of fried tomatoes, red onion, and ketchup, if desired.

Serves 4

So at last I satisfy my burger cravings and only managed to destroy half the kitchen in the process (okay, so I destroyed all of it }:-) My next endeavor will have to be something just as simple, another old-school meal reminiscent of the American food I’m missing out on over here, something with melted cheese too…

My question(s): what are your favorite burger toppings? And what’s the best cheese to melt on burgers?

I’m thinking anything classically delicious πŸ™‚

11.16.11

Simply Lamb

Well, having access to the large and bustling foreign supermarket (it’s called the bazaar, now that’s cool…) has inspired me to make this meal and includes the one ingredient I’ve been craving for weeks–lamb!! This post comprises the menu I served for dinner, two very simple recipes of a salad and meat entrΓ©e. The tabbouleh is a pretty standard dish in Middle Eastern cuisine and is often served in or alongside pita bread (it works real good for lunch, too). I had to do a little bit of research on how to cook lamb properly on the stove but I must emphasize that this turned out to be a very simple, incredibly easy, and amazingly delicious operation. I would recommend searing lamb to anyone, it’s far faster than having to watch it roast for hours on end and it still fills the house (ahem, apartment) with the mouth-watering aroma of this preciously delectable meat πŸ™‚

The tabbouleh recipe is very green with plenty of fresh parsley and mint to call it “herbed”. I supplemented the salad with chickpeas, another one of my favorites, and petit peas (you know, because it wasn’t green enough) to ante up on the protein. My version includes using tomato juice to moisten the salad, but more olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice would work just as well. For the grain, I used coarse bulgur which is just another form of wheat and the cheapest I found at the market; this dish is very versatile and grains are simple enough that you can easily substitute bulgur with quinoa, couscous, or brown rice. Tabbouleh salad is so popular for a reason, it lasts long, it’s healthy, and can come in various forms so I encourage anyone replicating this to have fun and substitute where you like at will, it’s hard to mess up with simple herbs, vegetables, and grains!

As for the lamb, I procured two fillets at the butchers, not your usual cut but thick and lean enough to satisfy me in all respects. Fillets also prove to be very juicy when cooked, which is where the whole process of “searing” really comes in handy because it seals in all the moisture, allowing for maximum flavor (heh, don’t I sound like a chef…) The star ingredient, simply speaking, is none other than the lamb. I was impressed with just how well this turned out and how easy! Lamb has this amazing effect of turning any dish into something special and it’s simple to prepare, especially when your using only four ingredients to cook it, two of them being salt and pepper :] As far as searing goes, my recommendations would be to use plenty of butter to avoid sticking and don’t be surprised at how quickly the meat cooks, the stove top gets dinner done.

Seared Lamb Fillet and Chilled Tabbouleh with Mint, Cucumber, and Chickpeas

Ingredients

(for the lamb)

1 lb. lamb fillet

1 Tbs. dried oregano

sea salt & cracked pepper

1 Tbs. butter

(for the salad)

1 lb. coarse bulgur (sub quinoa, couscous)

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

1 bunch fresh Parsley, minced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 large can chickpeas, drained

2 cups petit peas

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbs. olive oil

3 Tbs. lemon juice

3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. tomato juice

2 chicken bouillon cubes

butter

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot over medium-high heat. When melted, add the bulgur and stir for about 3 minutes until grains are lightly toasted. Next, add the required amount of water, usually about 1 1/2 liters (if using chicken broth, it’s probably about 6 cups) along with the two chicken bouillon cubes. Let everything come to a boil and then immediately lower the heat, cover, and let simmer until the bulgur is soft, about 20 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary along the way. *Bulgur should cool on the side for twenty minutes and then chill in the fridge for an hour before assembling the salad. (2) In a large bowl, combine all the chopped vegetables and herbs, everything from cucumber through garlic along with the cooked bulgur. Moisten the salad with olive oil, vinegar, lemon and tomato juice, stirring well. Let the salad chill in the fridge until ready to eat. (3) Allow the lamb to come to room temperature before searing, halving the fillets for easier cooking. Sprinkle all sides generously with sea salt, cracked pepper, and dried oregano. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat until hot and add the lamb pieces. Sear both sides of the fillets for 3 minutes until browned and medium-rare. Let the lamb rest, covered, for another 3 minutes before slicing. (4) Serve each plate with one heaping spoonful of the tabbouleh and a warm lamb piece, garnishing with mint sprigs or dollops of mango chutney if desired.

Serves 4

As I often reflect after cooking lamb, the effort’s always worth it and there is something supremely satisfying about the way lamb tastes πŸ™‚ Don’t get me wrong, the salad’s tasty too, and it definitely lasts longer! As the cold, foggy weather sets in here I’ll have to come up with other hot food recipes to bolster my spirit πŸ˜‰ Not that I’m complaining though, I know it’s not getting any better outside and I’m starting to like being fixed to this new kitchen of mine…

My question: What is your favorite cut of lamb?

I’m looking for ideas (shoulder chops? maybe shanks?) and even some simple recipes too…

10.5.11