Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Night Spanish

I was out of town Wednesday and didn't get back until late Thursday, so there's been no cooking.

Tonight I did a Spanish theme. Well, quasi-Spanish at least.

The plan for the meal started with the zucchini fritter from CPV. I intended to make these with the zucchini in last week's biokiste, but other dishes intervened. This week I wasn't going to let anything get between me and my fritters! :-) I'm really glad I took that position because the fritters are great.

To come up with a main course to accompany the fritters, I consulted La Cocina de Mama again and decided on a recipe for fish with tomatoes and capers. I deviated pretty substantially from the recipe: monkfish instead of fillets of trout (boring when farmed) or sardines (unavailable), tomatoes cut in 8ths instead of cherry tomatoes, fresh thyme instead of dried oregano, sbrinz instead of manchego or parmesan. The result was still quite nice.

I also cut some potatoes into small (1/4cm) dice, boiled them for a few minutes until they just started to get tender, then finished them in a saute pan with olive oil and salt until they were nicely crispy. Beside the potatoes I served a "pesto" I made with fresh basil, almonds (toasted in olive oil with salt and a bit of cumin added at the last minute), garlic, and a bit of olive oil. The result is fairly coarse (I didn't process it particularly long) and dry (just enough oil added to start to hold things together). This pesto is a real star and needs to be made again.

Biokiste 11

Andrea did this photo, so it's more nicely organized than my usual "dump the vegetables on the work island" story:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tuesday Spanish

We needed to use the green beans and potatoes from the biokiste, so last night I started to plan an improv meal involving those and some chicken. Then I remembered all those new cookbooks that are begging to be used. A couple of minutes looking in La Cocina de Mama yielded two recipes that provided the core of last night's dinner.

The green beans were prepared in "Caceres style" by boiling them until tender, then sauteeing them with some smoked bacon, paprika (smoked and sweet), and red wine vinegar.

For the chicken I made "Pollo al Jerez" by browning a chicken (cut-up into serving-sized pieces, breasts halved) in garlic-flavored oil then finishing it in a mixture of stock, sherry, garlic, and saffron. My only deviation from the recipe was to pour off the fat before adding the liquid to the chicken (not at all clear to me why Casas doesn't call for this, it seems automatic). I also thickened the sauce a bit before serving.

We did the potatoes by peeling them, cutting them into chunks, then boiling them. Once cooked and drained, I added salt, butter, and parsley.

With the required green salad, this was quite a nice meal.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Asian

My cold is still in effect, so I made something with very strong flavors to break through.

I cooked ground beef and pork with some peanut oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, minced lemon grass, keffir lime leaves, finely chopped Thai chili, minced ginger, and enough water to provide a bit of liquid (no idea how I forgot garlic... I definitely should have added garlic). When this was about done, I added some tamarind paste, the juice from half a lemon (we had no limes), and adjusted the acidity with some sugar. Just before serving I mixed in some more minced ginger.

We ate the meat by wrapping it in lettuce leaves with sticky rice and sriracha. yum!

As a vegetable side I crisped some thinly sliced garlic in peanut oil, then added pieces of broccoli. After a couple of minutes sauteeing, I added a bit of water and some dark soy sauce and then covered it with an undersized lid (to allow evaporation).

Also on the plates were sliced tomato and cucumber strips (cut with the ceramic slicer) that I salted and tossed with rice vinegar.

All of the vegetables except the lemon, tamarind (duh), and garlic were from the biokiste.

The cold is powerful, but I actually did taste something from this.

Saturday Geschnetzeltes

Andrea's parents are in town this weekend, so last night I made Geschnetzeltes Zuricher Art ("Veal Stew with Cream and Mushrooms" from FStoS) as a certain crowd pleaser. I served the veal over mini farfalle.

I made caramelized fennel and zucchini roasted with green onions (all from the biokiste) as sides.

I have a head cold (stupid summer cold!), so I'm not a good one to comment on overall quality of the food, but it received good reviews. As I said last time: I need to make more recipes from FStoS.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday: Pork steaks with herb sauce

This was an improv'ed main course to go along with the rest of the vegetables "al a grecque" from earlier in the week.

I started by seasoning a couple of schweinestotzen plaetzli (I believe these are cut from the hams, but I'm not sure) with salt, pepper, and coriander and browning them in a bit of peanut oil. After setting the meat aside to rest, I deglazed the pan with vermouth and added some stock (cooking stock from the vegetables) and chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, tarragon, thyme, and chives) and some chopped capers (salt-packed, rinsed and drained). I let this reduce some, then thickened with a bit of potato starch and served on top of the steaks. Good stuff.

We also had a big green salad.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Biokiste 10

Wow, these are really starting to get huge...

Thursday: Fish and Vegetables

Wednesday night I made a batch of vegetables inspired by the Fennel a la Greque recipe in CPV. I started by simmering a couple of peeled and quartered onions along with a few mashed garlic and a bay leaf cloves in a mixture of flavorful chicken stock and olive oil. When the onions were tender I removed them and added some thin carrots. After removing the carrots I cooked fennel slices and then potato pieces the same way. I poured the remaining stock over the cooked vegetables and let everything sit overnight in the fridge. We ate it as a cold side dish on Thursday and were very pleased.

As a main course I toasted some walnuts in clarified butter, then sauteed pieces of rotbarsch in the walnut-flavored butter. We ate the fish topped with the walnuts, chopped chives, julienned fresh basil, and a drizzle of walnut oil.

I also cooked a halved head of a bitter lettuce that we had as a second vegetable side.

All vegetables were from the biokiste.

Of course we had a green salad too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday Chinese

Last night I made Sweet and Sour Pork following the recipe in Land of Plenty. I stuck pretty closely to the recipe aside from using pork shoulder steaks instead of loin (for flavor and because they were on sale).

To accompany the pork, I stir fried some sugar snap peas (mange tout) from the biokiste. I started by sauteeing splinters of smoked bacon and garlic, then added the peas and some rehydrated chinese mushrooms (shitake cut into strips and black ear). When the peas were almost cooked through, I added a splash of dark soy sauce and sesame oil. We ate these drizzled with a bit of chili oil.

Of course we ate both dishes with rice. Both were really good. As promised by the author, the sweet and sour pork has pretty much nothing to do with the grisly (and gristly!) crap I associate with the name.

We also had a green salad.

Wine: Bucaneve 2006 Bianco de Merlot. This white merlot from Tessin wasn't half bad.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Paris Restaurant Nanoreviews

We were in Paris for a wedding this weekend. Due to the wedding festivities we really only ended up eating out twice:

Chez Georges
This was a double recommendation that was a let down. Andrea's two dishes (cold tomato soup with chevre, roasted leg of lamb with flageolets) were pretty good, but mine (eggs poached in wine, rib roast) were disappointing. The restaurant itself was nice and the service wasn't bad.

We had brunch at this "contemporary" Lebanese restaurant. The food was very good, as were both the decor and service. Two smiley faces.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Biokiste 9

more zucchini, more cukes, fennel, and... amazingly... tomatoes

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday's random vegetables

Today's biokiste had tomatoes and basil in it leaving me no choice but to make tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Luckily Coop has nice Italian buffalo mozzarella, so this is no problem. I'm surprised by the tomatoes, which actually had some flavor. It seems early in the season for that.

Another biokiste item (from both last week and this one) was smallish thin carrots. I took some of those, scrubbed them, cooked them in stock until just tender, and then mixed them with freshly ground cumin, black pepper, salt, a pinch of cayenne, olive oil, and a splash of sherry vinegar. After letting these marinate for a bit they made a very nice side.

We also had leftover sauteed vegetables and leftover potatoes with cheese sauce.

Wine: Cantino Giordano 2006 Primitivo Rosato. What a lovely "white zinfandel" this was too. :-)

Dessert: frozen raspberries macerated and served on top of quark mixed with sugar and yuzu.

Wednesday: course corrections midstream

The plan for last night was sauteed salt cod with braised lettuce and bratkartoffeln. Unfortunately, after poaching the salt cod I realized that what little flavor it had wasn't particularly pleasant; so I tossed it out.

We still had some mild gruyere in the fridge, so I decided to make a cheese sauce to top the boiled sliced potatoes [biokiste].

I started the sauce by toasting some walnuts in butter. I had the heat a bit to high, so by the time the nuts were nicely toasted, the butter was well on its way to beurre noisette. Nothing wrong with that... I fished the walnuts out and reserved them, whisked some flour into the butter and cooked for about 5 minutes. I added some coarsely chopped tarragon, a pinch of cayenne, and some black pepper and then whisked in the stock. Once the sauce was thickened and heated through, I whisked in the grated cheese.

I served the potatoes by topping them with chopped chives and the cheese sauce. The walnuts were on the side.

We ate the potatoes with the braised lettuce [biokiste] and a salad (lettuce and lettuce!). 'twas good food, even if it was all a bit random. :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

mmmmm, bacon

I corrected Monday night's sauteed vegetables by adding some diced smoked bacon. That's just what it needed. mmmmmm

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monday's Sauteed Vegetables

We had some veggies in last week's biokiste that were screaming to be made into a batch of sauteed vegetables, so that's what I did last night.

The vegetables I used were: large diced eggplant, large diced zucchini, halved small onions, large diced fennel, small diced carrot, all from the biokiste. I also added coarsely chopped garlic, some country ham that we brought back from North Carolina, a few grinds of coriander, a pinch of herbs de provence, and some stock (from Saturday). 10 minutes before serving I added a can of tomatoes (diced just before adding them).

I served the veggies on a bed of Ebli and topped each portion with chopped parsley and some chive oil. The veggies were quite nice, but I was disappointed by the contribution of the ham; it would have been better with smoked bacon.

We also had a big green salad and the last of the cheese soup from Sunday. The soup remains fantastic.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday's mixed bag

Yesterday I made a batch of chicken stock (well, mostly chicken, I also threw in some beef scraps that I had in the freezer). Tonight I used that stock in an attempt to make a cheese soup (inspired by Friday night).

I hadn't made cheese soup before and couldn't find a reasonable looking recipe in a few cookbooks, so I just winged it. I started by whisking a Tbs of flour into a Tbs (or so) of melted butter and cooking it for a few minutes. I then whisked a ladle of stock and cooked it until it started to simmer and thicken. After adding a few more ladles of stock, I let the soup base come to a simmer, then slowly whisked 100g of grated mild Gruyere. Once everything was hot it was ready to serve.

I accented the soup with drops of two herb oils I made by blending chives or basil into walnut oil using the stick blender. This probably would have been nicer if made with a mortar and pestle, but I don't have a suitable one; maybe I'll change that soon.

I added the oils to the soup after I had it in (warmed) bowls by dripping them in from a spoon. This was really quite nice -- particularly the chive oil. There was something very complementary about the chives, walnut oil, and cheese. The basil oil was good but probably would have benefited from being made with olive oil instead.

Andrea pointed out that the soup wasn't as smooth as the one we had at the Kornhaus. This is probably because it was a bit thinner. I should probably use a bit more flour for this quantity of soup (about 4 starter servings).

Still, this was a really, really good soup and I will definitely make it again. It tastes great, looks nice (with the spots of brightly colored oil), and is fun to eat.

To make an actual meal, I browned the boned chicken breast (skin on) in some olive oil, poured out the oil and then made a sauce with sherry vinegar, stock, a pinch of sugar, more black pepper, a bit of white pepper, and some cayenne. After reducing the sauce, I cheated and thickened it with some potato starch. We ate the chicken with some caramelized fennel [biokiste] made using a recipe in CPV. Quite good.

Weekend quark games

Last night and today I followed up on one of the ideas inspired by Friday's dinner and did a couple of different quark variations to go with some macerated strawberries.

Saturday night I whipped the quark with a bit of sugar and a splash of kirsch and then threw in the freezer to set up a bit. This was quite good, but I could have added a bit more sugar.

This afternoon I whipped the quark with more sugar and a splash of yuzu (Andrea's idea, based on her memory of the quark and grapes we did back in October). This was tasty enough to eat on its own... with the strawberries it was excellent.

It's a real testament to what violence Californian growers have done to the fruit that the strawberries we buy here in the supermarket are better than the ones we could get at farmers markets in the SF Bay area. We had some decent berries from our CSA box in CA, but they were the exception to the rule.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Reminder: Preserved Lemons started today

I started a batch of preserved lemons following the Paula Wolfert technique today. They should be done in 30 days.

Ideas from last night

Last night's meal at the Kornhaus was a two smiley face experience (just like last time). My feeling that we were in good hands was only reinforced when our waiter plucked a handful of basil leaves off the plant next to our table just after I ordered the "white tomato soup with basil pesto".

That soup itself is the first idea to remember: a light cheese soup with halved cherry tomatoes added just before serving, drizzled with basil oil. Using the cheese soup as a vehicle for other flavors in discrete packets (e.g. a tomato half or a drop of oil) is nice. One could even do multiple flavored oils in different colors (basil, chive, tomato, etc.)...

Next idea was from dessert: thinly sliced strawberries macerated in limoncello topped with a limoncello-mascarpone mousse. I'm guessing that quark whipped with some form of alcohol would make a very nice dessert topping.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday Salad

We're getting loads of lettuce in the biokiste, so we need to step up our salad consumption... not a problem. Last night I made a big salad with lettuce, cucumber, and carrots. Inspired by a recipe in Lettuce in Your Kitchen, I made a dressing from mayo, tarragon, capers, pickles, quark, and yuzu (the quark and yuzu are the reason say "inspired by" and not "using"). Next to the dressed salad we had a chunk of good canned tuna (Spanish) drizzled with some olive oil and yuzu, and some breakfast radishes.
All the veggies were from the biokiste.

Wine: Chateau Musar 2003 Cuvee Rouge

Biokiste 8

now with even more lettuce!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tuesday Indian

Last night I made a straightforward "Indian-inspired" meal with a chicken curry and mixed greens (cooked and frozen last month) prepared in a South Indian style.

For the chicken I cubed a couple chicken breasts then marinated them with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and some amchoor powder for about 30 minutes. I browned them well in peanut oil, then removed them from the pan, cooked some onion chunks until they started to soften, then removed them from the pan and cleaned it. After melting some butter into the pan, I added halved cherry tomatoes, curry powder, a dash of cayenne, and some chicken stock and mixed well, then added back the chicken and onion.

The idea of using the greens in an Indian dish was from both Andrea (last night) and brianS's comment on my post whining about having too much quark. I started with the usual step of cooking dark mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves, and dried chilis in oil until the mustard seeds started to jump. Then I added the greens, covered the whole thing, and let it simmer. Couldn't have been simpler.

We ate this with basmati rice, and it was all quite good. The chicken isn't the most interesting preparation in the world (it would have been way better with a self-made curry mix, but that wasn't going to happen last night), but it certainly was not hard to eat.

Wine: A 2005 Gamay de Peissy Rosé. This organic Swiss rosé wasn't particularly interesting.

Monday Night: Salad

I got back from Ireland Monday morning, no food comments from that trip ("If you can't say something nice...").
Monday night we had a simple vegetable salad made from diced potatoes, kohlrabi, and carrots (all from the biokiste), minced onion, and a dressing made with quark, mayo, mustard, crushed garlic, and savory. I boiled all the veggies first until they were just tender.

We ate this over lettuce [biokiste] with some nice bread.

Andrea had bought some local strawberries over the weekend and macerated them, so we ate those served over quark for dessert. mmmm, strawberries and quark!