Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friday: Broiled steaks, roasted green onions

For the steaks: I made an herb paste from chopped Bärlauch (wild garlic leaves), chives, parsley, black pepper, and olive oil. After salting the steaks (ribeye), I applied a good coating of the herb paste to one side, then broiled them herb side down in a pre-heated, oiled, cast iron skillet until they were medium rare. After letting the steaks rest, I topped them with the remaining herb paste and served.

I managed to find some nice fat green onions and roasted those with olive oil and coarse salt.

As a second vegetable, I thickly sliced a bulb of fennel and baked that with chicken stock until the slices were tender.

To tie everything together I made rice (parboiled rice + wild rice).

Wine: 2004 Lagrein Grieser Südtirol (Collection Baron C. Eyrl)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Random Idea: baby potato sambar

Make some South Indian (sambar, poriyal, whatever) using whole baby potatoes.

Wednesday "Indian"

More like "Indian influenced" since I did this without recipes.

The main dish was a cut up baked chicken that I marinated in raita (yogurt, mint, toasted cumin, salt, pepper, dried chilis) overnight then baked at 160C in a covered pan. On the side I served more raita (no chilis, less salt).

I also roasted some baby potatoes after coating them with peanut oil, salt, garam masala, and BvG spice rub.

The veg was broccoli stewed with South Indian spices: Toast mustard seeds, curry leaves, urad dal, chilis, and asafoetida in oil until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add chopped onion, broccoli pieces, tamarind water, tomato paste, and a bit of stock (veggie stock would be "right", chicken is what I had). Cover and simmer until the broccoli is about done, then cook uncovered a few more minutes to reduce the sauce.

'twas all good food.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Saturday Night: Lamb stew in a clay pot

Yesterday it was clear that I needed to make some kind of stew or braise or roast or something; we're running out of time for such things and the weather was suitably bad. Then at some point in the morning the idea of using a Römertopf (clay pot) got wedged in my head. From there on out things kind of took on their own momentum.

I started with a recipe for lamb shoulder with eggplant, saffron, and raisins from How to Cook Meat and then adopted things to the prep method.

700 g lamb shoulder, cut into 2cm pieces
2 Tbs chopped garlic
1 good pinch saffron
10 allspice berries, ground
freshly ground coriander (1 tsp?)
salt and black pepper
3 smallish onions, small dice
1/2 cup dark raisins
2 med. eggplants, cut into 1 cm slices
1 can diced tomatoes
~1/2 cup stock

Toss the lamb in a bowl with the garlic, saffron, spices, onion and raisins until everything is well integrated.
Put a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the soaked Römertopf, then add a layer of eggplant.
Alternate lamb and eggplant layers until there's only some eggplant remaining.
Spread on the tomatoes in a layer.
Add the last eggplant.
Put the top on the pot and put it in a cold oven. Set the oven to 190-200c.
Bake for 2.5 hours.

I had some mint to top the stew with when serving, but I managed to forget to do that. Maybe I'll give that a try tonight.

This ended up being a really spectactular dish. I'm going to have to quickly find more occasions to deploy the Römertopf before it gets too warm.

As a side, I made "Persian Rice", also from HowToCookMeat. This is pretty much identical to one of Bittman's Stuck Pot Rice recipes, except with onions on the bottom instead of potatoes. It's great.

We also had a green salad.

Wine: McLaren Vale 2001 Linchpin Shiraz, plushy fruity shiraz and lamb... enough said about that pairing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thursday Night: Beans and Greens

Yesterday I was craving comfort food and after runnning through the options, beans and greens seemed to be the obvious choice.

I used cannellini beans (canned), escarole, the remaining zuckerhut, the remaining smoked pork neck, leeks, white wine, thyme, rosemary, sage, and some fresh garlic added at the last minute. I served the delicious soup drizzled with good olive oil and topped with chopped parsley.

We also had a green salad.

Wine: Quasso 2003 Barolo: this isn't a stunning wine, but the combination of fruit and still-rough tannins was a pleasant change of pace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tuesday night: Chinese

Andrea requested something Chinese, so that's what I did. Instead of the usual random stirfry, I pulled a recipe I haven't made before out of BittmanWorld: pork ribs with blackbean garlic sauce. Since it's a new recipe in a cuisine that I don't feel comfortable in, I followed the recipe pretty closely except for the meat. I didn't find ribs that had been cut in small pieces (and that wasn't going to happen at the Coop meat counter), so I used longer pieces of "pork breast" (includes more meat than the standard US rib cut). This didn't cause any problems. Er, I also used leeks instead of scallions because there were no scallions to be found.

To go with the pork I made broccoli braised in hoisin sauce and xiaoxing wine and white rice.

This really was nice food.

Wine: Les Tisserandes 2005 Chablis

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another asparagus prep attempt

The 2+ hour slow roasting method doesn't work during the week (even for my quite high tolerance for time-consuming dishes), so I tried an alternate approach last night with the last of the asparagus.

This time I put the peeled stalks in a pan with some butter and a bit of salt and cooked covered over medium-low/low heat for an hour. This yielded a quality between the slow-roasted and the sauteed asparagus. The flavor was quite nice except for some residual bitterness, particularly near the bottom of the stalks.

Next time I will try the standard approach of boiling the stalks; it sounds boring, but maybe it helps pull out the bitterness.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sunday: Lentils

Smoked "pork neck" (I'm not really sure how to translate Schweinehals beyond that) was also on sale on Saturday and I can't resist smoked pork on sale. So to "accompany" the asparagus last night I made a pot of lentils with smoked pork.

For the basic prep I sauteed diced onion (2 small), carrot (1), and celery (1 stalk) with chopped green garlic (2 Tbs) in olive oil, then added French green lentils (~1/2 cup), chopped parsley (1Tbs), a couple bay leaves, a pinch of herbs de provence, salt and pepper, and enough water to cover everything by about 1cm. I simmered this for about an hour, keeping an eye on the water level. Then I added a couple of thick (1cm) slices of smoked Schweinehals, which I pushed underneath the lentils, and simmered for another half hour.

The result, drizzled with good olive oil and topped with more parsley, was delicious.

We also had a green salad. Note to self: Zuckerhut looks like romaine lettuce, but it's way too bitter to use in pieces as the body of a salad.

Wine: Kanonkop Kadette 2004. The dark flavors in this wine went very well with the earthiness of the lentils.

Sunday: Asparagus

On Saturday we saw the first European asparagus at the Coop (from Greece), and I just couldn't wait any more so I bought a bundle. I did a couple of test preparations during the day since I hadn't cooked white asparagus before.

For the first attempt I peeled a few stalks, wrapped them in parchment with a bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and then baked them at 85C for 2 hours. This is what I call the "Wolfert method". The result was good, but not as good as the sauteed asparagus we used to make all the time in CA.

For the second test run I cut a few stalks on the bias after peeling them and then sauteed them in butter with a pinch of salt. The result here tasted nicely of brown butter but the only real aspargus notes that came through were bitterness. What's the deal with the bitterness? Is this a white asparagus thing? Is it a "bad Greek asparagus" thing?

So for dinner I used the long-baking method.

To go along with the asparagus and provide a counterpoint to the slight bitterness that's left after slow baking, I made a mayonnaise/sauce by emulsifying an egg yolk with the juice from half a blood orange, a pinch of salt, and some peanut oil. I didn't want to dilute the blood orange flavor too much, so I didn't add enough oil to get a real mayonnaise. The sauce, which I served on the side just in case it didn't work at all, went very well indeed with the asparagus.

So this method works to produce something that's good; it's not as good as the stuff we were getting at the farmers market in CA, but there's a big difference between asparagus from the supermarket and that from the farmer. We'll see how things look after the local asparagus starts appearing. Meanwhile, my asparagus craving has been at least partially slaked.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saturday: Chickpea soup, baked chicken

The soup recipe (chickpea soup with spinach) is something I found in the recipe box from an older Bittman column (now apparently also in BittmanWorld). Deviations: I used frozen spinach because we had a bunch that needed to be used up; I fried a couple of thinly sliced garlic cloves in olive oil and added those (and the oil) to the soup.

The chicken is a Gary Danko recipe (by way of Bittman) that I also made back in November. This time I did bake the chicken at a lower temperature for longer, but it could have been even nicer... maybe 150C for an hour? I'll have to play some more. Other variations: I brushed the mustard on the chicken a couple of hours before baking. I also forgot the herbs in the crust (I was cooking between game summaries on the Sportschau), but that wasn't a tragedy. The garlicky breadcrumbs were quite lovely on their own.

We also had a big green salad.

Nice food.

Wine: we've been drinking a bottle of Domaine Alfred: 2003 Califa Pinot Noir that we picked up before moving from CA. It had been a while since we drank a big fat CA wine, and this is a good one.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nanorestaurant review: Au Violon (Basel)

We'd been here before, but not when I was keeping track of restaurants.

Two smiley faces.

  • Food: Very good, French-influenced, not complex and very well done.
  • Service: No complaints.
  • Atmosphere: Inside is nice and comfy; the tables outside in the summer are really nice.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Thursday: Baked Fish with Dates

Yesterday morning I got the bee in my bonnet to prepare a whole fish. While paging through BittmanWorld I came across a North African dish for whole baked fish stuffed with dates. That was clearly what needed to be made.

For the fish I used a Dorade (sea bream, or orata). The preparation was dead simple. The cleaned fish is seasoned and stuffed with chopped dates and butter, then baked on a bed of sliced onions seasoned with white wine, cinnamon, and ginger.

To go with the fish I made a pilaf from Ebly (durum wheat berries), brown mushrooms, onions and garlic. I also did some sauteed zucchini.

What a happy making meal. I'm going to have to do more whole fish. Next time I think I will try either broiling the Dorade (they're small enough) or baking it in salt.

Wine: Mont sur Rolle 2005 "Le Charmeur": a cheap, but not displeasing, Swiss white.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tuesday Night: Chicken and Beans

This was a weeknight pressure-cooker soup/stew.

1 cup dried beans (I used Riesenbohnen), soaked all day
2 chicken leg/thigh quarters
2 onions, diced large
2 Tbs coarsely chopped green garlic
2 carrots, 1 cm dice
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp freshly ground coriander
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs tomato paste
To serve: good olive oil, lemon juice, croutons

Heat some olive oil in a the pressure cooker and brown the chicken well.
Remove the chicken and add the onion and garlic. Cook over high heat until the onion starts to brown.
Add the carrots, cumin, and coriander. Cook another couple minutes.
Add the paprikas and cook one more minute.
Add the chicken, bay leaves, tomato paste, a good grind of black pepper, and enough stock (I used boullion) to cover everything with room to spare (don't forget the beans swell when they cook).
Close the pressure cooker, bring to pressure, and cook until you think the beans are done (~25 minutes for Riesenbohnen).
Open the pressure cooker and reduce over high heat, stirring frequently, until you're happy with the consistency. During this stage, the chicken will probably fall off the bone, just fish out the bones.

Serve topped with a drizzle of good oil, some croutons, and a tsp of lemon juice.

This is very good food.

We also had a green salad.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday Night: Piccata and Spaghetti

Last night we were both looking for something relatively simple. I ended up making piccata using a recipe in Le Menu and spaghetti with tomato and butter sauce (from Hazan).

The Coop at the train station didn't have any reasonably priced veal, so for the piccata I used thinly sliced pork loin chops (pounded out even thinner) instead.

The results were good: the tomato sauce wasn't as nice as when I was making it using self-canned tomatoes (of course); Andrea thought the piccata was too eggy, so when I do the second batch tonight I'll add a bit more cheese to the egg.

We also had a big green salad.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Barcelona Restaurant Notes

Cafe Viena: it's a damn good sandwich, but it's not the best I've ever had.

Taverna Basca Irati: Suggestion from friends, Lonely Planet, and the Michelin. We referred to this as the "toothpick place" and went back several times. Good tapas, good atmosphere, nice place.

Nou Candanchu: this was a suggestion from the Lonely Planet. We had a very pleasant (and cheap) lunch sitting outside on a nice square.

Txapela: Suggestion from multiple guidebooks. The atmosphere is incredibly hectic, but the tapas is good. We went back a second time.

Suquet de l'Amirall: suggestion from multiple guidebooks. We had a *very* nice mixed seafood dinner (the "menu pica-pica marinero"). About the only thing I would change is to include more fish in the menu.

Meson Cinco Jotas: We somehow had the impression that this was going to be a tapas place and it ended up being more of a white-tablecloth restaurant. It was pretty overpriced and with the exception of the ham, which was sublime, the couple of things we tried were not particularly interesting.

Restaurante Petra: We picked this based on a gut feeling and were not disappointed. The food was very good and the atmosphere was nice.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monday Night Gratin

There was a motley assortment of stuff in the fridge that needed to be used up before I leave for Barcelona on Wednesday, so I made a "Garbage Gratin" to clean out the fridge.

In the gratin was: leek, fennel, and cauliflower. I added a couple of chopped boiled eggs and made a sauce from creme fraiche, veggie boullion, parsley, and herbs de provence. After baking covered for about half an hour, I topped with sliced cheese (mariage de trois laits) and some buttered bread crumbs then finished baking uncovered.

good stuff and the fridge is now empty!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday's snack: spiced almonds

I had some almonds leftover from the monkfish last night, so I tossed them in a pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper, coarsely ground cumin, paprika, and cayenne and cooked them over medium heat until they were golden brown.

After they cooled I ate way, way, way too many.

The box begins again...

We signed up yesterday for the local CSA equivalent: a Biokiste/Gemüseabo from the Birsmattehof, a local farm. We get the first delivery in April; I can hardly wait!

Saturday: Monkfish with almond sauce

The Coop had Seeteufel (monkfish) on sale yesterday, so that drove our dinner plans. I pulled a Spanish recipe out of BittmanWorld for monkfish in almond sauce and complemented it with braised radicchio and a rice/wild rice mixture.

The fish was excellent - very flavorful and nicely textured. It had no problems standing up to the strongly flavored sauce (bread, almonds, onion, garlic, parsley, white wine, veggie stock). The radicchio was a bit too bitter; I have a high tolerance for bitterness, but this was over the top. It would have been better to save this head of radicchio for risotto or soup or something.

Wine: CVNE Monopole 2005 white rioja. This was in the sauce as well as in our glasses. :-)
Next time monkfish goes on sale, I am definitely going to use it for the miso-broiled fish thing; I think the texture would be perfect.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Friday: leftover Geschnetzeltes with Schwarzwurzeln

To go along with the leftover Geschnetzeltes last night I made some Schwarzwurzeln (salsify).

Last time I prepared these things I ended up with sticky sap all over the place. This time I followed a tip I read somewhere (can't remember now, couldn't find it last night) and boiled the scrubbed, but unpeeled, roots until they were tender in acidulated water. Then we peeled them. This avoided the problem with sap completely.

To serve the Schwarzwurzeln, I cut them into bite sized pieces and then sauteed them in butter and olive oil with some sliced shallots, salt, and pepper until the shallots were nicely browned.

This was good, but it worsened my already bad craving for asparagus by a couple of orders of magnitude. It's made even worse by the presence of Mexican asparagus in the Coop (I won't buy it! I won't buy it!) and the knowledge that there is plenty of asparagus to be had at the farmer's markets in CA at this time of year... oh well.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday: Veal Stew

At least they call it a stew in FStoS; here it's just called "Geschnetzeltes".
I threw the last of the leftovers in the freezer because I had to do some cooking. I think I'm going to make a conscious effort to do more FStoS recipes; I flipped through it again this weekend and found loads of fantastic sounding stuff that I haven't touched. There's a whole section on rabbit that would have been tricky in CA but that I could do now with no problem...

Anyway, tonight I made the version of Geschnetzeltes Zuricher Art that's in FStoS. My only deviation from the recipe (simple as it is) was to add chives instead of parsley when serving; they didn't have any flat parsley left at Coop and I'm not gonna put curly parsley on food.

I served the veal on broad noodles and made some fresh sauerkraut with white wine, juniper berries, and a bit of freshly ground coriander as a side.

We also had a green salad.

Wine: Baron de Hoën Beblenheim 2005 Gewürztraminer. Not a bad pairing, though a somewhat more austere wine wouldn't have been bad.