Category: Menu


Ladies Luncheon

farmers-market-nancy-pahlNo but really, how long has it been? Too long. The days stretch into weeks and while Summer zips by I find myself enjoying it often enough away from the kitchen X) It’s no surprise (or excuse for not posting, that’s my fault entirely:( ) but it does leave more time for strolling, shopping, and exploring. Grocery shopping is among the best parts of Summer. I still can’t seem to understand how everyone ends up hating grocery shopping so much. I mean, it’s still shopping…right? And while it may be crowded, bright, and dirty at least there’s fresh food to be found there…better than hunting and foraging for our food I like to think ๐Ÿ˜€ So, why do I like grocery shopping so much? Well, I don’t have a good reason, just that it is a reason. I don’t mind navigating the tight & narrow aisles for unique and tasty treasures. I rather enjoy the process of finding, comparing, and deciding on things to buy and eventually, devour ๐Ÿ˜‰ Most of the time (and probably to the annoyed dismay of others) I end up taking my time, getting lost, and often standing in the way of the bustling shoppers as I try to decide what “light” coconut milk means in the Asian aisle. Sure it’s depressing because you can’t buy everything in front of you ๐Ÿ˜‰ (and because, oh yeah you have to carry it all home on your back), but that’s not the point. I used to like shopping a whole of a lot less simply because (a) it had become a chore; and (b) it required strict budgeting. But ah, such is life.

I always have a list (“the list”) when I go grocery shopping because it keeps me on track, what I’ve discovered is that it’s important to plan (and yes, budget) some spontaneity into the task of shopping. What do I mean? I allot my spontaneity a certain amount on my weekly grocery list so that while I still get all those things needed for making meals, there’s also room for something random, or daring, or sugar-coated – whatever I may or may not stumble across. Believe me, it has a tendency to be surprising ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sometimes it’s dried fruit or other snacks for my toddler (my first thought “oh thank god, something new. Let’s see if he likes this“), other times it’s a block on cheese that was on sale, or caramelized almonds, or a basket of cherries . Whatever “tickles your fancy” while your out & about on the drudgery of adult life and modern food-gathering is worth your notice and consideration – just be aware that: 1. you do and will always have to shop for food, right? Because 2. you have to eat and eat healthy, and 3. that it’s hugely important and necessary. It is okay to try and enjoy the uncertainty and variety that comes with the modern and the everyday. Sometimes it’s focusing on how little you have to go out and get that makes you overlook the facSnyders_Frans_Fish_Markett that it requires so little to feed and please your family and yourself ๐Ÿ™‚ That being said, it’s nice to give voice to my secret delight at the present food-gathering process, hope I don’t upset the haters. I try to appreciate and believe me, that doesn’t always come easy but there are the finer things in life and shopping for food I consider to be one of them.

To pick up at my point, an example would be this luncheon that I prepared for a friend, which necessitated me visiting 3 different stores to properly acquire all the “necessary” ingredients, and even then there were some substitutions. The original recipe was from a “Fresh & Quick” edition of Fine Cooking. Some things just feel special when you go out and get them – fresh seafood (i.e. scallops) included. I remember when I first saw the slippery suckers ๐Ÿ˜‰ I thought: …what even are those? Delicious is what they are. I liked the simplicity of this recipe and was only slightly daunted by the sheer amount of steps in completing the “quick & easy” -ness of it all. Note to self for next time: double the amount of scallops you make because seriously, it won’t be enough…

Before I jump into this recipe, I want to say that the star ingredient would be truly, simply – butter. Where would seared scallops be without Butter-Meltingbutter? I’ll tell you: a little dry and not nearly salty enough. Butter plays a key role in this recipe and is essential for plenty of other amazingly delicious things that only exist because of it (like biscuits, and frosting!) I’ll give credit where credit’s due – butter is the best, and I thank it for existing. I’ve come across a recipe for using aย Lemon-Dill beurre blanc sauce to spoon over steamed clams with crusty bread. Mmm…more butter may be needed ๐Ÿ˜€

 

Seared Sea Scallops with White-Wine Pea Puree, Peppered Bacon, and Lemony Gremolata

Ingredientsscallops

(for the scallops)

6 – 8 fresh or defrosted jumbo scallops

1 package of bacon, coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. butter

(for the puree)

1 package of frozen peas, defrosted

6 shallots, peeled & coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

3 Tbs. butterFood52

5 Tbs. white wine

5 Tbs. chicken broth

4 Tbs. milk or cream

(for the gremolata))

1 lemon

1 bunch of fresh parsley, stemmed & chopped

1 shallot, peeled & minced

sea salt & cracked peppergremolata

(1) Rinse the scallops under cold water and pat dry, season with salt & pepper and chill until it’s time to cook. (2) To make the puree, melt 3 Tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and let cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, chicken broth, and white wine and let cook uncovered until the mixture is soft & fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool briefly, 5 minutes. (3) Transfer the pea mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, adding the milk or cream and seasoning to taste with salt & pepper. Once pureed, return to the saucepan, cover, and keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve. (4) Heat a a medium skillet or frying pan on medium high-heat. When hot, add bacon pieces and cook, stirring occasionally until bacon is brown and crunchy, 5 – 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper-towels, season with cracked pepper, and cover until ready to serve. (5) Wipe the skillet clean before returning to medium-high heat. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter. When piping hot, add the scallops and do not stir. Let sear 3 minutes per side, turning carefully to brown the bottom & top sides of scallops until they are firm to the touch. Transfer cooked scallops to a plate and cover with foil. (6) In a small bowl, combine the minced shallot and fresh parsley. Zest the lemon and then juice it, adding it to the mixture and stir until combined. Season generously with salt & pepper, adding more lemon juice, if needed. (7) When ready to serve, scoop a spoonful of puree onto each plate, season with peppered bacon, and set seared scallops in the puree. Garnish with spoonfuls of the lemony gremolata. Goes great when paired with either/or garlic bread and champagne ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 2 – wish it made more, double it if you plan on being really hungry

Phew! That was a lot of steps but trust me, it’s worth it. These days as the rain (and wind…and hail…) begins to pop up during the week, I find the salty, fresh air contributing to my recent craving for seafood. My next seafood cooking extravaganza is going to be mussels in Riesling lemon broth with – yes – more garlic bread. I’ll have to make a “luncheon” out of that because what is a good dish without good company? Hope the rest of July provscallop-shellses to be as thrilling as scallops for lunch ๐Ÿ˜›

My question: What was served with the last plate of scallops you ate?

I ask this because the combinations of pairings with scallops kind of blows my minds sometimes and you never know what will be the perfect side – like a chickpea puree or roasted hazelnuts, or even brown “nori butter” like I read in a Bon Appetit from earlier this year. I will make more scallops this month just to satisfy my new fondness of searing things grill-style in our kitchen’s new skillet. Scallops are a somewhat of a blank canvas and I’d like to make a different version before I get tired of seeing them on the dinner menu ๐Ÿ˜‰

7.13.2014

Advertisements

corn_poster_ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving! Wait, did I miss it?! It’s been a little while since my last post so I thought I’d do something fantastical, something fresh and flavorful in this frigid month of November. Entrer: the roasted chicken.

Chicken, you say — what about Turkey? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, miss, dream about turkey, but a cook should not underestimate the goodness & divine simplicity of a roasted chicken. My reasons? First of all, it’s cheap, ahem–cheaper. Secondly, it’s smaller. I WISH I had the time, a big enough oven, and actual guests to make a 20 pound turkey, but I don’t ๐Ÿ˜€ Third, a chicken cooks much faster because yeah, it’s smaller, and I can’t even begin to point out the delicious possibilities that emerge with all that the leftover chicken. Roasted/rotisserie chicken makes the best sandwiches…assuming there are leftovers. After mulling over my Thanksgiving plans I decided yes, a roasted chicken is just what was needed for our little celebration.

My secret ingredient? The dry rub. Okay, so this is like 6 ingredients, but it’s pure magic. I saw this particular dry rub recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit (see the photo below, that’s what caught my attention FIRST). It’s probably one of the more colorful rubs I’ve ever seen (thank you pink peppercorns) — and emphasis on easy! One of my favorite spices in the world is coriander so any recipe that uses coriander seeds tends to seize One-Hour-Roasted-Chickenme by the taste buds ๐Ÿ˜› It takes only 7 hours to cure a chicken covered in dry rub (vs. 2-3 days to brine one), so I was sold from the start. The apartment still smells like roasting peppercorns and oranges..

Since posting just one Thanksgiving recipe seems absurd, I posted the menu that I ended up making on our rainy, foggy evening. It includes a tomato-basil risotto that has corn, white wine, and lots of garlic & onions. Mmm, so glad I found another excuse to make risotto! This risotto recipe is from Fine Cooking; coming across it, I initially thought “wow, all my favorite ingredients in one risotto recipe..” I took it as a sign ๐Ÿ™‚

Peppered Citrus Dry Rub

IngredientsPink_Peppercorns

1 whole chicken (or turkey, or duck..)

2 Tbs. black peppercorns

2 Tbs. pink peppercorns

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

1 tsp. white peppercorns

6 bay leaves

3 lemons, zested

1 orange, zesteddry-brine

1 dl (or 1/4 cup) coarse sea salt

2 Tbs. brown sugar

cooking twine

foil

(1) In a small saucepan, combine all of the peppercorns, coriander, and bay leaves. Toast on medium heat until fragrant, less than 5 minutes. Remove from heat & let cool. Put these spices in a spice grinder or blender (…or a plastic bag that you seal & beat with a rolling pin:-)) and grind until the peppercorns & seeds are coarsely broken up. Add the salt, lemon & orange zest, and brown sugar; mix. Tada! Dry rub. (2) Wash the bird and dry with paper towels. Place with the breast facing up on a large plate or dish. Cross & tie the legs together with kitchen twine. When the bird is dry, massage the dry rub into the skin and everywhere else it sticks until you’ve used all of the dry rub. Chill the chicken, uncovered in the fridge to brine, approx. 6 hours. (3) Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove the chicken from fridge and drain any liquid. Rinse off the dry rub and pat dry. Transfer to an oven pan lined with foil and put on the top rack in oven. Let the skin crisp 10-15 minutes. (4) Turn the heat down to 180 degrees Celsius (360 degrees Fahrenheit) and cook the bird about 20 minutes per pound of poultry (or 1/2 kg). (5) Remove bird from oven and loosely cover with foil. Check temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, should register at least 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit). Let sit 10 minutes before carving. Serve sliced or in pieces with warm buttered rolls.

Serves 4

Tomato-Basil Risotto with White Wine, Sweet Corn, & Garlic

Ingredientsbasil

2 cups arborio rice

2 onions, peeled & chopped

7 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

5-6 cups broth or reconstituted bullion

4 tomatoes, chopped

1 cup white wine (like chardonnay)

1 bunch of fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 cup (just over 1 dl) of shredded cheese, pref. Parmesan

3 Tbs. butterrisotto cooking

olive oil

sea salt

cracked pepper

(1) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When hot, add onions & garlic; let cook, stirring, until translucent, about 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together tomatoes, basil, and 2 Tbs. olive oil. Set aside. (2) Add the rice to the pot and, stirring often, let it crisp slightly. Next add the wine and corn and cook until liquid has absorbed. (3) Continue cooking the risotto over medium heat, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring often to prevent sticking, until liquid absorbs. This means you should be adding more wine/broth to the pot every 5-7 minutes or so. (4) Taste test the risotto after you’ve used up all the broth; cooked risotto rice should have slight texture to bite, but not be crunchy. (5) Add the tomato basil mixture and turn off heat. Let the risotto stand covered 3-4 minutes. Fold in the shredded cheese, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 4

chicken_horrorI know risotto is not the traditional dish to serve during this delicious holiday, but it beats trying to concoct stuffing without breadcrumbs, pecans, or cranberries ๐Ÿ˜ฆ My next post will be on the lighter side of things as I travel to Indonesia and get to try Bali cuisine. I have a feeling it’s going to blow my mind.. ๐Ÿ˜€

My question: What is one (non traditional) dish you’ve made for Thanksgiving and really loved?

11.29.13

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven ๐Ÿ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead ๐Ÿ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.ย  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)ย  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)ย  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these ๐Ÿ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… ๐Ÿ™‚

9.4.13

Herbivorous Hรธstfest

In Danish, hรธstfest literally means “harvest party” which is the perfect word for this season with Fall having made an entrance and the air already a bit chillier. As a species that was probably once accustomed to hibernation :D, like most mammals, I suppose an increased appetite can be expected. As for me, the sooner it gets colder I’m craving more filling meals. I’ve always loved eating meat, probably because I am a carnivore by nature ๐Ÿ™‚ but after some reflection, I’ve noticed that most of my posts have meat in them. Having noticed this perhaps natural popularity of meat dishes, it’s true that vegetarian food is just as good and often healthier, so I decided to devote this post to vegetarian food everywhere. Here are three of my latest recipes that happen to be completely meat-free.

The melon-cucumber salad is a recipe idea of mine, including the honey mustard vinaigrette, which turned out to be the best part ๐Ÿ™‚ The roasted tomato and pepper soup recipe is from the legendary Soup Bible (which can be found on Amazon) and is full of brilliant, if not slightly time-consuming, soup ideas ๐Ÿ˜‰ The bulgur recipe is also a creation of mine and makes use of pretty much exactly what was left in our fridge and cupboards after a week or so of kitchen chaos. The fruity/peppery and honey/salty combinations of flavors seemed to get better after every bite, or maybe that was just me ๐Ÿ™‚

The star ingredient in all of these recipes is the miso, which I was finally able to procure at the Chinese grocer. Miso is basically fermented soybeans and as unappetizing as that may sound, it comes in a few different colors and has a pleasant salty taste. It’s a Japanese staple that is full of protein and high in vitamins and minerals. I was able to do some experimentation with the saltish stuff, which helps when you have a chunk since they only sell it in bulk ๐Ÿ˜€ I think it adds a rich and almost roasted flavor to all sorts of things, including dressings. If you can’t find miso, no worries there, just season as wisely as you wish with salt.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup with Tortellini

Ingredients

8 – 10 tomatoes, on the vine

3 bell peppers, any color

3 sweet peppers, any color

1 Thai chili

3 yellow onions

4 cups vegetable broth

1 box of dried tortellini (with cheese and/or veggie filling)

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. red or yellow miso (optional)

sea salt & cracked pepper

sunflower oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (or 450 Fahrenheit). Line a large oven pan with baking paper. Half the onions, tomatoes, and all of the peppers, removing the seeds from the peppers (but not the tomatoes!) (2) Add 2 Tbs. of oil to the pan and then all of the halved veggies, stirring to coat. (3) When the oven is preheated, put the pan on the top rack and let roast until the skins of the peppers have browned and are beginning to peel, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (4) In a large pot, stir together the sugar, miso, garlic powder, and broth, warming over medium heat. (5) Remove the peels from the onions and the browned skins from the peppers (it’s okay to leave the tomato skins on). Using a blender, puree the roasted vegetables before adding to the soup pot. (6) Bring the soup to a boil and add tortellini, cooking until pasta is al dente, 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, dried herbs, or scrambled eggs ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 6

Spiced Bulgur with Mango, Miso & Pickledย  Ginger

Ingredients

(for bulgur)

2 cups bulgur wheat (coarse or finely ground)

4 cups onion (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 cucumber, peeled & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried green mango, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

(for dressing)

3 Tbs. yellow miso

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. apricot jam (or other jam)

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 – 3 dried chilies (like Pequin or African Bird’s Eye), crushed

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook bulgur uncovered in salted broth according to package instructions; this usually involves 1 part bulgur to 2 parts broth, for 10-14 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with fork. (2) In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, miso through garlic powder and stir well; set aside. (3) Next add all of the peppers, green onions, mango, cucumber, and ginger to the bulgur and mix. (4) When ready to serve, add the dressing and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Serves 4

Melon-Cucumber Saladย  with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 small honeydew melon, skinned, seeded & cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

6 cups mixed greens (like baby spinach, arugula, & red-leaf)

4 sweet peppers, seeded & thinly sliced

1 red onion, peeled & thinly sliced

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. yellow miso

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. milk (or cream)

1/2 Tbs. mustard seeds

1/2 Tbs. onion powder

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced

(1) Make sure all the greens are washed and dried before tossing with the peppers, onion, melon, and cucumber. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) To make the honey mustard, combine all of the ingredients – white wine through lemon juice- in a sealable jar or tupperwareย and shake until blended. Can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 months ๐Ÿ™‚ (3) When ready to eat, toss the salad again with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4

So those are my offerings to the harvest gods and vegetarians everywhere ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s amazing how the earth just grows all sorts of differently delicious plants and countless other things for us to eat. I think being human has never been better ๐Ÿ˜›

My question:

What is your favorite vegetarian dish to eat?

10.8.12

The Best of the Season

Now that we’re in the full swing of Summer, there’s plenty of tasty things in season – apples, apricots, avocados, basil, bell peppers, berries, melon, carrots, cherries, chilies, cilantro, eggplant, fennel, figs, grapes, garlic, green beans, green onions, lettuce, limes – veggies that are relatively inexpensive and arriving at the local markets in abundance. The last two weeks I’ve had my best friend here from the U.S. I cooked up a storm, really couldn’t help myself and we probably ate 90% of what’s on that in-season list. Granted we drank a lot of Sangria too, so I think it’s all a balance ๐Ÿ™‚

In this post I’ve sketched out a complete day’s menu. I tried to make it a colorful, tasty spread with a good mix of both rich and fresh, spicy and sweet flavors. The menu is divided into the day’s meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. If I had to categorize it, I’d call the breakfast Danish, the lunch Hawaiian, and the dinner just plain European…I’d be lying if I said the dessert wasn’t Italian ๐Ÿ˜€

Probably one of this menu’s more bombastic contributions, the breakfast pรขtรฉ I found in last month’sย Bon Appรฉtit. I just happened to have frozen pรขtรฉ in my freezer, made in the last month of my pregnancy. A container of frozen pรขtรฉ is one of the best things I’ve ‘lost’ and found again in my freezer. The steak, carrot, and chicken salad recipes I read in Cooking Light a couple years ago (and pineapple dressing for salad – genius!) The dessert is from Cucina La Italiana, still one of my favorite cooking magazines ๐Ÿ˜€ (nope..no endorsement yet, but a girl can dream).

On a random side note, I have switched from using olive oil to sunflower oil in all of my recipes that involve cooking at high temperatures. I recently read in an email sent from a very helpful friend of mine that when you cook certain oils (most oils, actually) to a certain high temperature, they burn and consequently go rancid. Rancid oils are carcinogenic, which are bad no matter what form they come in. So – as delicious as olive oil is – I guess it’s best to be served with dishes that aren’t cooked. Perhaps I should have known this but hey, I thought olive oil was delicious in any form I used it.

The star ingredient in this menu is citrus, I used mostly oranges but lemons and limes too. I’ve made the case for this fruit time and time again and I never seem to tire of it. I have a tupperware full of citrus slices sitting in the fridge for my water, juice, wine, etc. and I throw orange peels into stir-fries, zest copious amounts of lemons for batches of strawberry lemonade, and am making lime simple syrup for what I think might be the perfect mohito. This family of fruits can sit in the fruit bowl on the counter long after all other fruits there have molded and bruised, all the while giving off verbena aromas in the kitchen. I put unripe fruit in a bag with oranges or other citrus for a day to make them soft and ready to eat. Since I get a lot of my citrus from Spain, I’ve now gotten into the habit of scrubbing the outer rinds with soap and warm water before I zest or peel for cooking. At first what I thought was a pregnancy craving, turns out to be a lifelong addiction to Vitamin C, perhaps? Or maybe I’m just wanting some extra energy ๐Ÿ˜‰ Either way, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about these sweet and sour fruits. If I had to pick a favorite – and it would be hard – I would have to say lemons. When life gives you lemons, you can make just about a million things to eat..

Breakfast

Liver Pรขtรฉ Crostini with Savory Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chilled liver pรขtรฉ (can be chicken, duck, or beef)

1 baguette, sliced

(for the salad)

1 container of fresh blackberries

1 container of fresh blueberries

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. fresh chives, minced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

1 lemon, juiced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the salad, combine all ingredients – blackberries through lemon juice – in a sealable container. Season with salt & pepper and chill until ready to serve. Turn the oven on to a low broil. (2) In a large metal or glass oven pan, lay out the baguette slices and season both sides lightly with olive oil and pepper. (3) Put pan into the oven about 10 cm from the top and broil, turning once, until both sides are browned, 3-4 minutes total. (4) Serve each of the toasted bread slices with a layer of chilledย pรขtรฉ and a spoonful of the berry salad on individual plates, or set it all in the center of the table and let everyone make their own.

Serves 4

Lunch

Blackened Chicken Spinach Salad with Spicy Pineapple Dressing

Ingredients

(for the chicken)

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) chicken breasts

1 Tbs. ground coriander

1 tsp. chili flakes

1 Tbs. garam masala

1/2 Tbs. curry powder

1 /2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. cajun seasoning

1 Tbs. paprika

sunflower oil

(for the salad)

1 bag of baby spinach, washed & stemmed

1 package of baby bean sprouts, washed

1 red bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

2 red onions, peeled & thinly sliced

3 carrots, peeled & cut into matchsticks

1/2 of a ripe pineapple, peeled & cubed

(for the vinaigrette)

1/4 cup beer

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup cubed pineapple

2 Thai chilies, coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed & chopped

1/2 bunch of fresh chives, chopped

2 oranges, juiced

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. yogurt

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 garlic cloves, chopped

(1) First, make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients (beer through garlic) in a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with honey and cracked pepper, cover, and chill in the fridge. (2) Second, for the salad, make sure all veggies are washed and the greens are dry. In a large bowl, toss all veggies for the salad together, spinach through pineapple pieces. Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to eat. (3) Third, make the chicken: combine all spices for the chicken- coriander through paprika – in a small bowl. Wash and trim chicken breasts, dry, and then rub with 1 Tbs. sunflower oil. Rub the spice mix on both sides of chicken. (4) Heat 2 Tbs. of sunflower oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, add the chicken and cook, turning once until both sides are browned and the meat is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil; let rest 5 minutes. (5) When ready to serve, lightly toss salad with the chilled vinaigrette. Slice blackened chicken lengthwise and top each salad bowl with 4-5 pieces. To make the salad as a weekly snack, keep vinaigrette on the side and separate salad into sealable containers, covering with damp paper towels; close and seal the containers and refrigerate until needed, adding the vinaigrette just before eating. Salad goes well with garlic bread or toasted pita triangles ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4

Dinner

Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Pomegranate-Pinot Noir Sauce

Ingredients

4 beef tenderloin steaks

1 1/2 cups Pinot Noir (or Cabernet-Merlot blend)

4 shallots, peeled & minced

2 oranges, juiced

2 pomegranates, seeded

1 cup of beef broth

2 Tbs. butter

sunflower oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Let meat stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. (2) Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and cook 3 minutes per side, untilย  seared on the outside and medium-rare when cut into. Remove steaks from the skillet and cover with foil. (3) Pour 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet, add shallots and cook about 3 minutes until slightly golden. Add all of the red wine, beef broth, and orange juice next, bringing the sauce to a boil. (4) Stirring occasionally, cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. Lower heat and stir in the butter; season to taste with salt & pepper. (5) Serve the steaks with a generous spoonful of red wine sauce and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds per plate, cracking black pepper across the top.

Serves 4

Steamed Carrots with Garlic-Ginger Butter

Ingredients

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) carrots, peeled & quartered

4 cloves of garlic

5 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

3 Tbs. butter

5 limes, zested & juiced

sunflower oil

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Mince all of the garlic and mix with the fresh ginger and lime zest; set aside. Fill the bottom of a large pot with 3 cm of salted water; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) Put the carrots in a colander and then into the pot; cover and steam veggies until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes. (3) In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. sunflower oil and add the garlic-ginger mixture, cooking 1 minute or until fragrant. (4) Lower the heat to medium and add carrots and lime juice, mixing well. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring often, until carrots have absorbed liquid, about 4-5 minutes. (5) Stir in the butter until melted and serve immediately with cracked pepper.
Serves 4

and Dessert..

Honey-Citrus Gelatin with Cream & Cracked Pepper

Ingredients

1 packet unflavored gelatin

3 oranges

1 lemon

4 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 cup cream

cracked pepper

(1) Zest and juice all 3 oranges. In a medium saucepan, add orange juice, zest, honey, and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until thickened and reduced by half. (2) Juice the lemon and add to saucepan, add the gelatin powder and cook for 1 minute more. (3) Remove from heat and cover, letting stand a minimum of 30 minutes. Once cool, put in the fridge (keeps 3 weeks chilled). (4) When ready to serve, put spoonfuls of the warm (or chilled) gelatin into small bowls and pour cream over the top, garnishing with 1/2 tsp. cracked pepper.

Serves 4

So, my Summer menu has turned out to be both long and filling. Det er bรฅde lang og godt fyldende ๐Ÿ™‚

My question: What is the best sauce to serve with a steak?

Red wine sauce is still one of my reigning favorites…

8.1.12

Menu for A Cool Summer Day

Hello and happy summer ๐Ÿ™‚ The sun has proven worth waiting all these months and as I’m getting to enjoy the cool summer breezes I’ve also been making lots of different dishes too numerous to post. I have however, combined three of my latest edibles into a summertime menu with plenty of homemade flair and the sublime simplicity of fresh summer produce.

The crunchy, briny pickles are from a recipe I found in last month’s Cooking Network magazine and are a genius idea because first, it’s so easy to make, second, the veggies stay crispy and fresh without sitting in boiling water for forty minutes, and third, they last 3 months in the fridge and only become more marinated with time. Pickles are a pretty versatile ingredient too, I recommend having them with cheese & crackers for breakfast, with garlic bread for Lunch, or coarsely chopped and served as a salad alongside grilled meat ๐Ÿ˜€ The peppercorns and other seeds soften significantly enough to be chewable, granted you love the robust flavors involved in the pickling brine.

The Quinoa Recipe is from an old Cooking Light and well worth the 15 minutes it takes to cook the grain to fluffy completion. There are different types of quinoa and while we ordinarily eat the white, quinoa also can be black and red; I used the red version here which was a much warmer color among the sticky peach pieces. The sandwiches are very Danish (at least that’s what I’m going to claim;)) with a savory spread, and both crunchy and smooth veggies. This particular recipe I saw in Gourmet, adding some of my own embellishments in the form of full flavors. Everything in this menu can be served chilled (and only gets better with the cold). I think the sandwiches make for a perfect picnic dish, if the weather is sunny enough ๐Ÿ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is black pepper. Now I may be an overzealous fan of this spicy staple, but it’s cheap, potent, and in every kitchen ๐Ÿ™‚ Pepper goes with sweet and salty tastes alike and is apparently full of anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals. At one point in time I’d assumed pepper was a seed like coriander or cumin, but it’s actually the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, which is far more interesting. Cracked pepper will remain the unsung hero in most of my dishes, partly due to the fact that I often double (or okay, triple..) my pepper seasoning – which seems to bestow the right degree of tasteful spiciness every time.

Carrot-Cucumber-Cauliflower Pickles with Fennel, Mustard Seeds, & Coriander

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled & thickly sliced

3 red onions, thickly sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, divided into florets

10 green beans, trimmed

5 small cucumbers, quartered

1 bunch fresh Dill

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

2 Tbs. fennel seeds

1 Tbs. mustard seeds

1 Tbs. black peppercorns

1/2 Tbs. salt

2 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5-6 glass jars with seal-able lids

(1) Put 2-3 dill sprigs in each jar and pack (as tightly as possible) a mixture among all the jars. Stir together the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and mustard seeds and divide evenly among the jars, spooning atop the veggies. (2) Put the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, garlic, and salt; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. (3) Carefully pour the hot brine into each of the jars, filling to the top. Seal the jars tightly with lids and let cool before refrigerating. Keeps chilled 3 months, ready to eat 3 hours after refrigerating.

Serves 6-8

Red Quinoa with Peaches, Black Pepper, & Honey

Ingredients

1 bag of red quinoa, rinsed

8 peaches, thickly sliced

4 lemons, juiced

6 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. cracked pepper

(1) Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (usually 1 part water to 3 parts quinoa), until the grain has absorbed all water and can be fluffed with a fork. Uncover and set aside, letting cool 10 minutes. (2) Stir in the honey, cracked pepper, and lemon juice. Serve at room temperature or chilled, as dessert or side dish.

Serves 4

Bacon, Avocado, & Sprout Sandwiches with Dill-Chive Spread

Ingredients

(for sandwiches)

3 ripe avocados, thinly sliced

1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced

8 bacon strips

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

3-5 slices of Havarti cheese

(for spread)

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

4 Tbs. yogurt

1 orange, juiced

4 Tbs. fresh Dill, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Chives, minced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the spread, combine all ingredients from the mayonnaise through fresh chives in a small tupperware. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Can be chilled up to a week ahead. (2) Sprinkle cracked pepper over the bacon before cooking in a skillet at medium-high heat. Remove when crispy but not burnt, 6-8 minutes and let cool. (3) Layer both sides of bread thickly with the herb spread. On one piece put the bacon and then sliced avocado. On the other, layer sprouts and cheese, putting atop the bottom layer. Cut in half before serving. Best with light beer or chilled white wine ๐Ÿ˜€

Serves 4

So as the weather continues to warm up a bit I’ll probably keep thinking of cold food in all its refreshing versions. Salsa, salad, sandwiches, sangria – it sure seems like I have a lot of options – if only Summer was forever ๐Ÿ˜‰

My question: What spice do you think is underrated in the kitchen?

6.30.12

Fish Tacos Night :)

There comes a time (right around now..) when you’re so anxious for Spring you feel like making equally zestyย dishes to remind you it’s the season of sunshine, freshness, and bloom. Maybe I’ve just been cramped up in winter for too long that the sight of all these flowers makes me feel more energetic and adventurous ๐Ÿ™‚

Last weekend we had some company over for dinner, both of whom are talented foodies in their own right. My friend cooks authentic Mexican food and she was wonderful enough to bring roasted tomato and pepper salsa — Salsa Roja — which sounds just as awesome as it actually is, as well as fresh homemade tortillas that went wonderfully with the blackened fish.

The actual recipe I used for the fish tacos ended up being a culmination of a few different recipes I found that served my purposes. For the blackened part, I used a recipe from Cooking Light (March 2011) and substituted the spices I had at home for the ones I wasn’t going to go out and buy, namely I used ground coriander, chili powder, and lots of cumin. The idea for the tacos came from allrecipes.com where they paired slaw with fish and chipotle mayo in tacos (but who needs mayo when you have fresh salsa!) For the slaw, I found a recipe made by the brilliant ‘Southwest’ chef Bobby Flay for cumin-lime cabbage coleslaw. I modified it by adding honey because it just sounds like something slaw is missing ๐Ÿ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu was fresh limes (I know I’m loving/craving citrus these days so I may be a little bias, but still). Limes have this wonderfully sour and acidic flavor that compliments spicy and sweet dishes alike, not to mention it just looks colorful and fresh sitting on a plate. I even served our coca-cola with little lime wedges to stick with the theme :v There is something nice about the flavor combination of blackened fish, spicy salsa, sliced avocado, creme fraiche, and warmed tortillas all cut with a squeeze of lime that makes you appreciate the messy act of devouring tacos all over again!

Spicy Blackened Fish Tacos served with Creme Fraiche, Lime, Fresh Salsa, & Avocado

Ingredients

1/2 kg (or 1 lb) boneless fresh white fish, like Tilapia or Halibut

(for blackened seasoning)

1 1/2 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 Tbs. dried oregano

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 Tbs. ground Cumin

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

(for the tacos)

3 ripe avocados

3 limes

1 package small flour (or corn) tortillas

2 cups fresh salsa

1 cup creme fraiche

(1) Mix all of the spices together for the blackened seasoning (coriander through salt) in a small bowl. Spread evenly over both sides of the fish until all the seasoning has been used. (2) Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (or 300 Fahrenheit). Wrap the tortillas in foil and put in the oven to warm. (3) In a large frying pan or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fish and cook 3-4 minutes per side, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Keep the fish centered in the pan so it cooks evenly and just until it begins to fall apart. Remove from the pan and cover with foil. (4) Slice the limes into wedges. Put the salsa, shredded cheese, and creme fraiche into separate bowls and set out for serving. Halve and thinly slice the avocado; squeeze a lime wedge over it to prevent browning. (5) To assemble the tacos, take a warmed tortilla and first put some of the blackened fish, then salsa, cheese, and a spoonful of creme fraiche, top with sliced avocado. Serve plates with a couple of lime wedges on the side ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4

Honey-Cumin Cabbage Slaw with Red Onion, Carrots, & Bell Peppers

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. ground Cumin

(for the slaw)

1 head of red cabbage, stemmed & cut into ribbons

2 carrots, peeled & grated

2 bell peppers (red & yellow) seeded & thinly sliced

2 medium red onions, thinly sliced

(1) Make the vinaigrette first, whisking together the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and cumin in a small bowl until blended. (2) In a large bowl put all of the chopped vegetable ingredients (cabbage through red onions). Add the vinaigrette and mix well. (3) Refrigerate the slaw until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Sadly, taco night is over but that craving for fresh food has not gone away yet so, much like Spring I suppose, my meal plans will hopefully blossom into more colorfully fresh and vibrant dishes ๐Ÿ™‚

My question:

What is the best-tasting fresh fish to use for tacos?

3.24.12

Menu for a Spring Celebration

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of throwing a baby shower at our little apartment. This post comprises the menu. Everyone brought plenty of soda and juice, and one of my friends even made some delicious Spanish food, which disappeared mighty quick. It was a beautiful day, with wonderful company, good food (if I might say so myself), and turned out to be one lively celebration. I thought it only best to share some of the delectable deliciousness that accompanied everything ๐Ÿ™‚

The menu is organized in basically the order in which it was served, with the first course or starter being homemade jam (I mean, marmalade), then the main course, ending with a very simple dessert. I first read this jam recipe in Bon Appetit but after glancing at the picture (bleh..) I decided to make my own version and ended up winging it with the rest of the recipe. My other friend, a very talented individual in ways of baking, was nice enough to make fresh rolls with raisins for the shower and her boyfriend brought along a tasty loaf of bread so the jam ended up being a good way to start off everything. I served both the bread and the jam alongside a soft cheese (something crรจme), but butter would work just as well..

The antipasti dish I also found in Bon Appetit, accompanied by much better picture this time so I added a couple of things I thought it needed to make the main course dish. Namely, I served the salad with a strip of peppered ham, more slices of mozzarella, baby tomatoes (because it’s a baby shower:-) and plenty of garlic in the raw form, because the store-bought pesto just wasn’t cutting it. Olives I marinated in a spicy-salty brine from the week before I added to the plates as a finishing touch, which turned out to be some of the more flavorful aspects of the meal. It is by request(s) that I include the olive recipe below because frankly, it’s easy to make and the olives turn out so much tastier than they’d normally be just sitting in your fridge. I really hope someone makes their own version of these marinated olives and let me know how it tastes!

The dessert proved to be the simplest dish to prepare out of this menu, which is always good at the end of any event and it included the essentials — fruit, nuts, cheese (yes, again) and honey. I got the idea from last April’s Cooking Network magazine but the nuts were a welcome inspiration on my part. I think the key thing here is to get quality fresh fruit, because pears can be pretty disappointing if unripe. Blue cheese may be a reluctant choice to some but say just yes to the moldy dairy because everything is delicious when sprinkled with honey ๐Ÿ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is: cheese! I included cheese in every course (because I can, and so I will) and all different kinds of it too, mild and fluffy with the main course (god bless the mozzarella), light and creamy with the starter, and mottled with flavor for the dessert. Remember, cheese is pure protein (okay, and a little fat) but I maintain the believe it more flavor than calories, so no restraint should be necessary ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Danes love cheese just as much as I do so I didn’t really need an excuse. By the end of the day, we were all so full I feel I may have overdone it just a little. Oh well!

Fig-Thyme Jam

Ingredients

1/2 kilo ( or just over 1 lb.) dried figs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 lemon

3 Tbs. honey

(1) Boil a kettle of water. In a bowl, place the dried figs and cover with the boiling hot water. Let soften 10 minutes, then drain, stem, and coarsely chop all of the figs. (2) In a medium saucepan, put the figs and sugar, adding enough water to just cover all contents in the pot. Make sure the thyme is washed thoroughly and secured in a bunch with string then put into the saucepan as everything heats up. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. (3) Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemon and set aside. When the jam mixture is bubbling, lower the heat to medium. (4) Stirring often, cook until all of the liquid evaporates and jam starts to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, 20-30 minutes. (5) Mix in the lemon zest and juice and cook everything a minute more. Remove from heat, discard the thyme bunch, and let the jam cool. (6) Stir in the honey and remove any visible thyme stems (but not the little leaves:-) Chill jam in the fridge 1 hour before serving (keeps chilled up to 3 weeks). Serve with bread or toast and butter or a mild cheese.

Serves 6

Citrus, Coriander, and Chili Marinated Olives

Ingredients

2 cups mixed olives (like green, black, or kalamata)

1 lemon, seeded & sliced

1/2 cup of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chiles, halved (or 4 dried)

1 Tbs. crushed Coriander seeds

1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns

1 Tbs. sherry vinegar

3 bay leaves

sea salt

(1) In a medium tight-sealing container, mix the olives and lemon pieces. (2) In a saucepan, bring the olive oil, sliced garlic, chilies, and all of the spices slowly up to a simmer over low heat. Let bubble until fragrant and the garlic begins to brown, 20-30 minutes. (3) Remove the pan from heat and add vinegar. Cover and let the brine steep for 1 hour. (4) When cool, pour the oil mixture over the olives and mix well, letting everything marinate at room temperature for up to 2 hours (can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks). Serve the olives at room temperature.

Serves 6

Pesto Antipasti with blanched Beans, Baby Tomatoes, and fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients

1/4 kilo fresh green beans (0r 1/2 lb)

1/4 kilo fresh flat beans (or wax beans)

1 bunch baby tomatoes, stemmed & halved

1 can white beans, drained

1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup store-bought (or homemade) basil pesto

300 g fresh buffalo mozzarella (or just over 10 oz), thickly sliced

1 cup mixed olives (from the marinated olive recipe above)

1 packet thinly sliced meat, for serving (like ham or prosciutto)

2 Tbs. olive oil

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Top and tail all of the fresh beans, cutting into 2-cm pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once at a rolling boil, throw in all of the fresh beans and blanch for about 1 minute until bright green. Drain the beans and immediately rinse with ice cold water. (2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the white beans, baby tomatoes, green onions, minced garlic, and all of freshly blanched beans. Add pesto, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and lemon juice, mixing well. Season the salad to taste with salt & pepper (or more minced garlic:-) (3) When ready to serve, arrange 3 slices of the fresh mozzarella, 1 piece of meat, and a generous cup of the salad on each small plate. Add 3 or 4 marinated olives on the side.

Serves 6

Pear Slices with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, & Honey

Ingredients

3 ripe yellow pears, cored & sliced

1 wedge of soft blue cheese

1/2 cup of walnuts, shelled

3-5 Tbs. honey

On small dessert plates, arrange 3-4 pear slices alongside 3 walnuts. Spread a thin (but not too thin:P) layer of blue cheese over the pear slices and drizzle the plates with honey. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Well, that was my baby shower menu. I’m so happy everyone came, had a good time, and left with full bellies. I enjoyed everything about that day and have so many baby things now, I dare say the little guy is taking over my closet ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hopefully one day he’ll like cheese as much as I do!

My question: What is the best cheese to serve as or with dessert? I’d love some new ideas..

3.3.2012

Spicy Asian Flavors

The new semester is in full swing and amid all the ruckus of studying, reading, and working – I find myself with basically one evening a week free to cook, and that is Sunday. Well, it seemed like a great excuse for a little sophistication last weekend so I chose a supper menu that was Asian-inspired and had plenty of spice, salt, greens, and all that other good stuff. Also since I am feeling just a little sick, (I know, it’s just unfair..) I thought it would be best to cook something with strong flavors that would clear the sinuses and settle heavily in my ever-expanding belly ๐Ÿ˜‰ The wilted greens though, turned out to be the best idea and had lots of vitamin C to increase those white cells and boost what’s left of my immune system, with plenty of Calcium for baby who will take it from my bones if he doesn’t get enough – ahhh!

The recipes I reference here originally came from two different sources, with the meat recipe (which originally called for pork) from the September edition of Bon Appetit and the cooked greens recipe from last December’s Food & Wine. Of course I had to implement some changes here and there in both recipes since the bazaar I shop at doesn’t stock pork (anywhere I guess, bummer..) and the veggies took quite the search just to find an acceptable substitute for collard greens. While the task of shopping, chopping, and preparing it all seemed a bit daunting at first, I’m glad I made the effort because in the end — while consuming it at a rapid rate — I had to admit how tastefully worth it the meal turned out to be ๐Ÿ˜€

The star ingredient in this spicy Asian menu is garlic. Typical, right? …And I’m sure I’ve used this ingredient somewhere before ๐Ÿ˜‰ The fact of the matter is I used garlic in various forms throughout the preparation of this meal, with minced garlic in the greens, garlic sriracha sauce in the marinade, and some of the same savory spiciness reserved for serving with the seared meat (now that’s alliteration:-) Garlic has its own host of immune-benefiting properties by boosting antibody production, but I’ve elaborated on this topic before so I’ll stop there.. Either way, it is an incredibly flavorful ingredient/medicine/vegetable which ranks it among the best of (cheap) kitchen staples. I find myself with plenty of fresh garlic these days and was happy to use some of it (okay, a lot of it) in our evening meal.

Spicy Marinated Beef Shoulder with Curried White Rice

Ingredients

1 lb (or 1/2 kg) beef shoulder

olive oil, for cooking

(for the marinade/sauce)

1/2 cup sake or white wine

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 Tbs. olive oil

6 Tbs. garlic sriracha sauce (or regular sriracha, plus 5 cloves of minced garlic)

(for the rice)

2 packets (or 2 cups) white rice

1 Tbs. curry powder

1 Tbs. ground Coriander

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

salt & pepper

(1) Combine all ingredients for the marinade (white wine/sake through sriracha) in a medium bowl and whisk until blended. Reserve 1/2 cup of this sauce for serving. (2) Wash the beef shoulder and pat dry, trim excess fat, and cut the shoulder into 1/2 inch (or 1/3 cm) thick slices. Put all the beef pieces in the marinade, turn to coat, and let marinate at room temperature 35-45 minutes. (3) Meanwhile, heat salted water in a saucepan over medium-high heat (according to package instructions) and add rice when boiling; lower the heat and simmer until soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, 15-20 minutes typically. When cooked, drain the rice and rinse with warm water. Stir in curry, coriander, and vinegar, mixing well. Cover the rice and set aside until ready to serve. (4) After the meat has marinated, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the beef pieces, shaking off excess marinade. Sear each side, turning once, until meat is cooked to medium, and browned on the outside, 4-5 minutes. If the beef gives off too much liquid while searing, stir excess into the rice. (5) Let the meat sit covered for 5 minutes before serving over rice with a side of the reserved sauce.

Serves 4

Cumin-Braised Kale with Onions & Garlic

Ingredients

6 Tbs. olive oil

1 large yellow onion, halved & thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. ground cumin

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 bunch kale (or collard greens substitute)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 Tbs. butter

salt & pepper

(1) Wash the greens thoroughly and remove stems, cutting off any browned or wilted pieces. Slice into thin ribbons. (2) In a large wok or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and red pepper and fry until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. (3) Next, add all of the chopped greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, another 3-4 minutes. (4) Stir in the chicken broth, cover and let everything cook until greens are tender and the liquid is gone, 5-6 minutes more. Remove from heat, salt generously, and stir in a Tablespoon of butter. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

So more of my meddling in Asian cooking has proven (yet again) worthwhile, producing minimum leftovers which I try to take as a good sign. Valentine’s day came and went and instead of planning another huge meal, I opted for a series of snacks–papaya, feta cheese, cherries, garlic sausage, and dark chocolate–ahh, I’m all about ease during the week. We’ll have to see what cooking madness may develop this weekend when I finally find myself with a little more freetime }:-)

My question: What is your favorite green to eat cooked (that is, slightly wilted)…and why?

Is it because it’s salty, or healthy–or both? I used to hate the stuff, not so much anymore!

2.16.12

Homemade Barbecued Pork Ribs

The last meal I made with my family over the holidays was barbecued pork ribs ๐Ÿ˜€ Personally, I may have missed the spicy-sugary taste of barbecue sauce but I was definitely missing the whole eat-off-the-bone experience. With ribs it seems, the more time you put into them, the more taste you get out of them (I made that up myself..) and can prove to be an all-intensive process. I reduced marinade, let the ribs soak in it overnight, grilled and basted them over slow heat, and made my own barbecue sauce. I’m thinking I may have gone a bit overboard on the whole DIY concept but hey, you don’t get to make ribs from scratch every day! (At least I couldn’t;-)

The rib recipe I refer to here is from December’s Food & Wine and originally involved Root Beer. After perusing through a couple of cooking magazines with my brother, we quickly established that any meat you serve marinated in and covered with sauces made from Coca-Cola will be tasty, at the very least ๐Ÿ™‚ The spiciness in this barbecue comes from ground black peppercorns, a simple combination since there’s so many different and more colorful chilies and spices to choose from out there but black pepper pairs wonderfully with vanilla bean (and just when you thought vanilla couldn’t get any better!) My advice to spice enthusiasts, add 1/2-1 Tablespoon extra ground black pepper to your barbecue sauce if you want it really spicy.

Perhaps needless to say at this point, the star ingredient in the ribs recipe is Coca-Cola. And why not?! I initially thought that the taste might be overshadowed by some of the other flavorful ingredients but that wasn’t the case. Apparently boiling something down over time only contributes to the flavor :] This is making me think that you could probably boil any soda down to its sauce form, like Dr. Pepper steak sauce or chicken cutlets with Fanta reduction. I should start considering soda an ingredient (is it that bad? Doesn’t cooking making it any better? I hope so…)

Slightly inspired by the whole farewell ‘grilling theme’, I made another recipe, this one from last June’s Food & Wine, which is a salad with grilled oyster mushrooms and green grapes, chilled celery and butter lettuce. Salad and barbecue just sound like the perfect combination.. I have included both recipes in this post, let’s call it le grill menu. The two go awfully well together and the ribs were so delicious I was eating them with my fingers a quarter of the way through, probably covered with a little barbecue sauce too. I was not the only one though ๐Ÿ™‚

Grilled Pork Ribs with Coca-Cola Lime Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

(for the marinade)

2 cans of Coca-Cola

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 head of garlic, peeled & crushed

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup cold water

2 racks of pork ribs (about 5 lbs. or 2.3 kilos)

(for barbecue sauce)

3 cans of Coca-Cola

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 ts. salt

2 vanilla beans, split & scraped for seeds (or 2 Tbs. vanilla extract)

cooking/grilling spray

(1) To make the marinade, boil Coca-Cola, fish sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, shallots, and vinegar for 1 minute over high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes; uncover and let cool. Add the olive oil and cold water, stir, and transfer to a ziploc bag or large dish before adding the pork ribs. Cover/seal and marinate meat overnight in the fridge. (2) While cleaning and preheating the grill (on medium), let ribs come to room temperature, uncovered 20-45 minutes. (3) In a medium saucepan, mix the vanilla bean, black pepper, and 3 cans of coke. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 25-35 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt, simmering over low heat for 2 minutes. Strain and discard the vanilla bean and remove pan from heat. (4) When cooled, stir in the garlic and chili powder, seasoning barbecue sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (5) Once grill has preheated, drain the marinade from ribs, reserving about 1 cup for basting. Spray ribs with cooking spray and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, to sear each side, about 10 minutes total. (6) Put heat to low and continue grilling the ribs, turning often, and basting every 5-7 minutes until cooked (edges of the meat will begin to pull away from the bone), about 35-45 minutes. Remove ribs from the grill, slather in barbecue sauce, and cover with foil, letting rest for 10 minutes. (7) Before eating, cut between each rib with a sharp knife. Serve pork ribs with lime wedges and a side of barbecue sauce.

Serves 4

Grilled Grape & Mushroom Butter Leaf Salad with Mustard-Celery Seed Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. walnut oil

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbs. celery seeds

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

3 green onions, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. white wine

salt & cracked pepper

(for the salad)

1 head of butter lettuce, stemmed & torn

1 cup fresh sprouts

1 cup green grapes

1/2 cup fresh celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup celery leaves

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms

1/4 cup roasted & salted whole almonds

(1) To make vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients, walnut oil through white wine above, in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt & pepper (adding more champagne vinegar, if needed:-) Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) Wash and dry salad greens, combining the celery leaves, parsley leaves, butter lettuce, and sprouts in a salad bowl. Refrigerate. (3) Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and clean racks with lemon halves. When hot, grill the oyster mushrooms, turning once, until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Also grill the green grapes on a strip of foil until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove both from grill and let cool about 2 minutes. (4) Next, add sliced celery and roasted almonds to the salad greens. When ready to serve, toss salad with grilled mushrooms and grapes and 5 Tbs. of the salad vinaigrette. Serve immediately ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4

So, at last my desire for grilled food has been satisfied }:-) for now…I will see what new inspirations come with visiting wonderfully flavorful Espania! I already miss cooking with my family, but at least I’ll be coming up with some more meaty meals since my little brother will be here and cooking with me by the end of the week, in my uber tiny European kitchen too ๐Ÿ˜€

My question: What is your favorite style of barbecue sauce?

It seems like every city has one. There’s Memphis (sweet and salty), Kansas City (tomato-based), and St. Lious (tangy) barbecue and the list goes on and on..

1.13.12