Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday's experiments

Tonight I made a couple of dishes I haven't done before that I picked out to use up some of the contents of the fridge. I started with a batch of kapusniak (sauerkraut, apple, and winter vegetable stew) using the recipe from BittmanWorld. This was quite different, but very good. It would have been even better if we had had the called-for quantity of dried porcinis.

I followed the kapusniak with a lentil and beet dish from the Le Menu archives: Start by softening a minced onion (should be a shallot) in butter. Add 2 small beets (250-300g), peeled and diced small (.5 cm) and a couple pinches of salt and continue to cook until the beets start to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add two cloves of minced garlic, mix well and then 400ml stock; cover, and simmer another 5 minutes. Add 250g pre-soaked lentils and enough water to cover them. Cover the pot and simmer until the lentils are soft (15-20 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in a sauce made from 180g yogurt, a Tbs of freshly grated horseradish, and 1/2 bunch finely chopped chives. Adjust seasonings and serve topped with a bit of smoked trout.

Here the earthiness of the lentils played very nicely with that of the beets and it was all offset well by the sharpness of the horseradish and the richness of the yogurt and smoked fish. It's excellent to find another good beet recipe.

Don't know why I've never done this calculation before.

I made stock this afternoon and, as usual, removed the breast from the chicken before tossing the rest in the stock pot. Today, on a whim, I weighed the breast and then looked up the price of boneless chicken breast on Coop's website. I was amused to see that the chicken breast by itself costs as much as the whole bird. So if you're willing to do 5 minutes of work to remove the breasts from the carcass, you get the rest for free. :-)

Nanorestaurant Review: Bon Vivant (Basel)

We did this for my birthday dinner. It gets two quite smiley faces. There's something I really like about the whole no menu thing. There are even bonus points for being reasonably priced (though deductions for the high cost of the accompanying wine pairings, which I'd be ticked about if they hadn't been so good).

  • Food: Excellent; straightforward and very well prepared
  • Service: Quite good; there are only about 20 seats, so the two servers were in no way overwhelmed. :-)
  • Atmosphere: very good; the decor is great and the overall feeling is open and comfortable

[Update]: Andrea suggested that I list the food. We had:
  • Amuse bouche: chickpea soup with fresh marjoram and a drizzle of olive oil (with our apperitif prosecco)
  • Starter (greg): Goose liver terrine with sweet and sour pumpkin and brioche (paired with a sweet wine from the Dolomites)
  • Starter (andrea): Lime-curry risotto topped with a grilled jumbo shrimp (paired with a sauvignon blanc from Genf)
  • Main course: Roasted lamb shoulder with rosemary potatoes and bean ragout (paired with an Austrian(!) merlot)
  • Cheese plate (paired with an Austrian riesling)
  • Dessert: chocolate tart with mandarin ice cream (paired with a late-bottled-vintage port)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Dinner: Baked pasta

This was an improv put together when we got home yesterday.

Brown 300g ground beef well; season the beef a bit as it's cooking. Remove the beef to a bowl and add some olive oil to the pan. Toss in a minced garlic clove and 4-5 piri-piri chilis. Cook until the garlic starts to brown. Add a diced onion and cook for another minute or so. Add a can of whole tomatoes (including the juice), a splash of red wine, a bay leaf, a good couple of pinches each of marjoram and herbes de provence, and a good grind of black pepper. Break up the tomato pieces and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in a small container of sour cream (sauerer halbrahm). Add the beef. Check seasoning.
Put some mostly cooked pasta (we used 200g of whole wheat "pipe rigate" cooked for 8 of the 10 minutes it wants) in a gratin dish and pour the sauce over it. Top with some grated sbrinz and bake at 180c for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned.

mmm, comfort food

My gazillion dollar cooking show idea

Two components of the show:

  1. The featured cook/chef prepares a standard household dish using ingredients that would be available in an ordinary kitchen.
  2. The featured cook prepares a "restaurant dish" in a standard household kitchen (dull knives, low-quality cookware, etc.). They can use whatever ingredients they want for this, but they must do all the prep work themselves.
This was inspired by the experience of selecting things to make based on how much trouble they were going to be to make in Andrea's parents' kitchen. I think it would be a complete blast to see some high-end chef cursing as he does prep work with a dull knife.

Catching up from the holidays

We're just back from christmas vacation at Andrea's parents, so I'm back-dating some posts.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cooking at Andrea's parents: cabbage, leek, green bean, and pork stew

This was following the recipe for "Schtunggis" from Kaltenbach. The stew is made from white cabbage, pork, leeks, carrots, green beans, and potatoes and is a wonderful winter dish. We used frozen green beans (because that's what there was), but I have no doubt that this would be very good with dried green beans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

New Cookbook

One of my Christmas presents from Andrea was Aus Schweizer Küchen by Marianne Kaltenbach. I had borrowed this from the library and really enjoyed it: the recipes look nice and I very much like the organization by month.

Recipes from this book will definitely be making regular appearances.

Cooking at Andrea's parents: potato-leek soup

The original plan for Christmas dinner was to make a squash soup, but then we couldn't find winter squash at the supermarket in Wegberg, so we decided to do a potato-leek soup instead.

Start by rendering and crisping some diced smoked bacon (300g). Remove the bacon pieces and cook sliced leeks (1kg) in the bacon fat with some salt until the leeks start to caramelize. In the meantime boil 2kg of peeled and quartered potatoes in sufficient water to cover them nicely. When the potatoes are tender, add the leeks, a grind of pepper, and some chicken boullion. Mash the potatoes a bit with a potato masher and then puree the whole thing with a stick blender. Add the reserved bacon and let the whole thing simmer for another 10-15 minutes to meld flavors. Just before serving, refine with a bit of cream.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cooking with Andreas: Pork chops in orange sauce

Another dish made at Andreas and Elke's. This is an improv.

Fillet some oranges. Collect the OJ and some minced zest in a bowl, add some toasted cumin seeds (I actually used ground cumin, because that's what we had, but whole cumin would have been better) and save for later. Season some pork chops (bone-in!) and brown well on both sides. Remove them from the pan and let them sit in the marinade. Add thinly sliced onion to the pan and cook gently until it caramelizes (maybe 20-30 minutes). Add the pork chops, marinade, a bit of water, black pepper, and the orange fillets and cook until the oranges have melted and the chops are done cooking, about 10 minutes. Remove the chops and thicken the sauce with corn starch.

We ate these with oven-roasted potatoes (with paprika and rosemary) and a big green salad and were quite happy with life.

Then we made Feuerzangenbowle and things crossed over into the sublime. :-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cooking with Andreas: Thai soup

This wasn't quite tom kha gai, but it was definitely influenced by standard soup that Andreas and I always end up making.

Marinate some sliced chicken breast in soy sauce, fish sauce, lime, chopped thai chili, ginger, lemon grass, and galangal. Add it to some coconut milk along with the marinade and some quartered thai eggplants. Bring to a boil and simmer until the chicken is close to done. Add some sliced mushrooms. Finish off the chicken, add an additional slug of lime juice and ginger, adjust seasoning with soy sauce, and serve over rice.

Good stuff!

Thursday night: bread and apple gratin

One of the things I've noticed about Swiss food is the frequent addition of fruit (normally apples or pears) to savory dishes. Combining this with the idea taken from Aus Schweizer Küchen of doing a savory bread pudding to use up old bread and we ended up having a nice gratin made from leftover bread from the fondue, apples, and bacon, topped with the remaining fondue cheese.

I started by cooking some diced bacon with minced onion in a bit of butter. I added a diced apple and a good pinch of marjoram and cooked for another minute or so. In the meantime I beat an egg together with some milk and mixed that into the cubed (2cm cubes) bread. I stirred in the onion-bacon-apple mixture, black pepper, and some chicken stock (bouillon) and folded it all gently together. This got packed into a buttered gratin dish and topped with the grated fondue cheese. I baked the whole thing at 180c for about 30 minutes, until the cheese was bubbly and brown.

Very nice concept, very nice food.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Biokiste 33

between the beets, the red cabbage, and the radicchio, this is a very red box. :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


  1. Hey, all you "cook with the seasons"/"eat locally" types: I'm kind of tired of cookbooks that are 3/4 recipes involving ingredients that either only grow in the Mediterranean basin (or California) or which are only available fresh for one month a year.
  2. Home cooks who are reasonably well organized and good with a knife do not need to do a mise en place. It's nice to prep everything in advance, and it makes doing the cooking easier if you have distractions, but it also makes everything take longer... sometimes a lot longer. Maybe I spend too much time thinking about process optimization, but if you're cooking during the week it's worth putting some thought into logistics so as to avoid having to waste a bunch of time doing prep. This was one of the (many) reasons I enjoyed the Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way show so much: he didn't make a big deal of it, but he did most of the prep as he was cooking.

Wednesday: braised chicken and various sundries

This was very much a meal guided by what was in the 'fridge (determined by what was in last week's biokiste).

As a main course I did braised chicken in a leek/radicchio sauce. For this I cooked some sliced leek and diced carrot in olive oil until the leek softened, then added a good quantity of white wine, some radicchio (stemmed and cut into eighths), a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of thyme, a pinch of ground marjoram, and a bit of ground coriander. This I let boil for a few minutes until it reduced by about half, then added chicken leg quarters that I had already browned in olive oil. I nestled the chicken down in the sauce, reduced the heat to low, covered it, and simmered until the chicken was coming off the bone (45-60 minutes).

For the first side I roasted some squash which I mashed with a some salt, a bit of molasses, "raclette spices". The second side was celery root which I cut into cubes and then boiled until tender. The cubes I mashed with butter, white pepper, and salt.

The meal was very a nice combination of colors and flavors.

We also had a big green salad.

Tuesday Fondue

Cheese fondue has been on the todo list for a little bit. Having fondue bourguignonne this weekend in Paris moved the cheese fondue to the head of the list. :-)

I went to a cheese place (the one on Spalenberg downtown) and got a pre-made mixture (gruyere, neunburger vacherin, tete de moin). The woman in the shop suggested 400g for two people, which seemed a bit high, but I didn't remember the quantities from last time, so I went along with her. Of course we did 200g/person last time and that was too much, so I just used 300g of the mixture (the rest will get used... no risk there). The recipe I took from Aus Schweizer Küchen (300g cheese, 150ml white wine, 1 shot kirsch, 1Tbs potato starch). For bread I used a loaf of "St Gallen" brot from Coop.

300g of cheese was, for us at least, the right amount: the fondue itself was very good and we didn't end up feeling completely bloated at the end of the meal.

To test the "standard" approach, we drank peppermint tea with the fondue instead of having wine. This is a good combination.

We also had leftover brussels sprouts and a green salad.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday: sauteed potatoes and leeks, brussels sprouts

Last night's meal was driven by the contents of the fridge (i.e. "use up vegetables!").

Our main course was a layered invention with potatoes slices and garlic on the bottom, then a layer of leeks and napa cabbage, and then a layer of sharp cheese. To make it I cooked the mixture of sliced leeks and cabbage in olive oil until the leeks started to caramelize, then set them aside. I added some chopped garlic and fresh olive oil to the pan, then built a layer of boiled potato slices. I let this cook for a few minutes, then topped it with the leek mixture. When the potatoes started to form a crust and the garlic no longer smelled raw, I added the grated cheese and covered the pan until the cheese melted nicely. A minute or two more with the pan open to drive off moisture and it was ready to serve.

The brussels sprouts were very simple: I cut them in half and then cooked them in a pan with some rendered lardons, a bit of marjoram, and a pinch of salt. After the sprouts picked up some color I covered the pan, reduced the heat, and let the sprouts cook until soft.

I also baked a small hard squash (no idea of variety) that I had cut in half and deseeded. This we ate with a bit of butter, salt, and some "raclette spice mix" (various warm spices) from Coop.

Quite a nice meal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Biokiste 32

This week's box has the first brussel sprouts of the season (and hopefully not the last!):

Thursday: a noteworthy side

We had some butternut squash from the biokiste in the fridge that needed to be used up. Last night I used that as a side to go with the leftover lentils and greens from Wednesday.

I started by cooking some butter until it just started to turn brown, for the last minute or so I added some sage leaves. Once the butter was ready I added the squash (1cm dice) and a pinch of salt. This I let cook for another minute or two, then reduced the heat, added a small splash (maybe 1Tbs) of water, covered it, and let it simmer until the squash was cooked through (stirring every so often). For the last couple of minutes I ground in some white pepper.

This is a very nice combination of flavors.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday: lentils and greens

I was going to do beans and greens to use up some of the massive quantity of escarole we have. Then I decided to replace the beans with lentils. Not a half bad idea if I do say so myself.

Start by cooking some diced smoked bacon in olive oil until it browns a bit. Add a mixture of diced onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, and minced garlic along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables start to soften. Add a good quantity of chopped escarole and mix well. Add lentils, a bouillon cube, a couple bay leaves, a sprig or two of thymes, and a bit of hot water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are done. Serve drizzled with good olive oil and topped with some chopped chives.

Boy was this happy, happy food.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday: Risotto and Schnitzel

One of the ways I came up with to use some of the escarole we have from the biokiste was to make risotto with it. That's what I did last night.

I started the risotto by cooking a very fine dice of yellow carrot, onion, garlic, and celery with a good pinch of salt in olive oil until the vegetables softened. Then I added the rice and toasted it, then the chopped escarole. After the escarole shrank some I added a slug of white wine and then started the "add stock, stir, add stock, stir" process using turkey stock that I kept warm on the stove with couple bay leaves and sprigs of thyme swimming around in it. For the last liquid addition I used another slug of white wine. We ate this topped with parmesan and some good olive oil. It was quite nice, though I think I'll enrich the leftovers a bit with butter instead of olive oil -- the slight sweetness of the butter should play well against the bitter of the greens.

We also had schnitzel: pork loin chops pounded out, smeared with mustard and allowed to marinate for an hour, breaded (flour, then egg, then bread crumbs), sauteed in clarified butter, and served with a bit of lemon. Wonderful!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday: Chabisbünteli

We decided to use up some of the cabbage from this week's biokiste by making Kohlrouladen. The question remained what kind to make. This seemed like a good time to put a Swiss cookbook I had taken out of the library last week (Aus Schweizer Küchen by Marianne Kaltenbach) to the test. The Kohlrouladen (Chabisbünteli) were vegetarian -- filled with a bread, cabbage, onion, and parsley mixture seasoned with pepper and marjoram -- and were braised in a bit of sauce made from tomato paste, vegetable bouillon, and rosemary. And they were very tasty indeed.

As a side I tried a recipe for carrot-ginger puree from JPT. This was much less successful. I don't know if the ginger was particularly potent or if the recipe has a typo or what, but this puree was much, much too gingery to be enjoyable. Ah well.

We also had steamed potatoes that I sprinkled with salt and drizzled with good olive oil before serving. Simple and good.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Biokiste 31

that's only some of the carrots that were in this week's box. Combined with all the ones we still have from previous boxes, we have a serious need for carrot soup.

Thursday Sauerkraut

Last night's meal needed to use the sauerkraut we picked up at the market on Saturday and also be pretty simple. Luckily this was no problem at all.

Rinse your sauerkraut and let it drain. Meanwhile put a thinly sliced onion in a pan with some dry white wine (I used Alsatian gewurztraminer), and some diced smoked bacon. Set the heat to medium. Add the drained 'kraut, some juniper berries, some caraway, and a bay leaf and mix well. Make an indentation in the 'kraut and set a saucisson beaujolais (could also use saucisson vaudoise) that has been pricked several times with a fork in the indentation. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes or so until everything is cooked. Serve the 'kraut topped with the sliced sausage.

Fresh sauerkraut is a great thing and the stuff we get from the market is just amazing.

I also did some mashed butternut squash [biokiste] by cooking diced squash in a covered pot over medium-low heat with butter, white pepper, salt, and a splash of water. After about 30 minutes I mashed the squash with a fork.

And we had a green salad.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tuesday : Potato Leek soup

This was a straightforward potato leek soup that I made to use the leeks that came in last week's biokiste.

Cut 150g smoked bacon into lardons and render them (and the rind from the bacon) in some peanut oil. If you are planning on pureeing the soup, remove the lardons at this point. Add 3 thinly sliced leeks and a pinch of salt and cook until the leeks are soft. Add 1 kg of starchy potatoes that are peeled and cut into pieces, 1l stock (I used turkey stock) and 1l water, a couple bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and a pinch of herbes de provence. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Fish out the bay leaves, thyme, and bacon rind and then either mash with a potato masher or puree (if you took out the lardons earlier). Add 50g (or so) of butter and the lardons (if needed) and adjust seasonings. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

We had this with bread and a nice green salad and were quite happy.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monday pasta

Last night I made a batch of "garbage pasta" to clear some stuff out of the fridge.

I started by sauteing some diced ham, onion, carrots, celery, pepper, minced garlic, and chopped napa cabbage [all vegetables biokiste except the garlic and celery] in olive oil until the vegetables started to soften, then I added the remaining tomato sauce from Sunday, some additional pureed tomatoes, a spring of thyme, a bit of rosemary, a bay leaf, a few piri-piri chilis, and a pinch of herbes de provence. I got this up to a light boil, added some uncooked elbow macaroni, covered and let cook until the macaroni was ready to eat.

We at this topped with parmesan cheese, with a green salad on the side.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday pizza

Tonight was pizza... for the first time in a very long time.

For the crust I used the super-easy wet-dough bread recipe from the Times food section. This worked ok, but I needed to add a bunch of extra flour in order to be able to work with the dough at all.

For the sauce I pureed some good tomato sauce with a crushed garlic clove, a pinch of salt, and some good olive oil.

We made three smallish pizzas:

  1. tomato sauce + fresh mozarella + parmesan
  2. tomato sauce + sliced eggplant + thinly sliced onion + a bit of mozarella + parmesan
  3. pesto (from last summer's basel) + thinly sliced onion + parmesan
Aside from the fact that our oven just doesn't get hot enough to make proper pizza and we don't have a stone to help compensate for that, this turned out very nice. I worked around some of this by using thick baking sheets that I preheated. I assembled the pizzas on parchment and slid them onto the preheated sheets.

We're definitely going to have to do this more often. And maybe find a baking stone so we can do it right. :-)

Sunday: a panforte experiment

Somehow over the past couple of weeks panforte kept coming up. Then this week's Splendid Table Baker's Chronicle came with a panforte recipe. It was clear that I need to make it again.

I used the Splendid Table recipe, but I only made a half recipe. The quantities I ended up using, converted to a form that's easier here to do in "weigh your ingredients" land:
100g orangeat
100g dried apricots (I used sour ones, which I think was a good idea)
80g dried figs
200g almonds
100g hazelnuts
65g flour
175g sugar
230g honey
1 Tbs cinnamon
2tsp cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
a couple of grinds of black pepper
45g butter

I think I didn't bake it quite long enough because the resulting thing, though very, very tasty, is a bit sticky.

very, very tasty.

Saturday Dinner: Grünkohl and steamed vegetables.

This meal was inspired by the smoked beef tongue I found on sale at Coop yesterday. We picked some grünkohl up at the market and I went from there.

Dice a couple of onions and cook them in a bit of peanut oil until they start to soften. Add diced tongue (about half the tongue, 1cm dice) and cook until it browns a bit. Add the finely chopped grünkohl and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until the greens darken. Add a splash of white wine, a bay leaf, a crumbled vegetable boullion cube, and some water, cover and let simmer for an hour or more. When the greens start to get tender, add some boiled potatoes that have been cut into chunks and cook for another 20 minutes for so.

I also made some steamed vegetables (kohlrabi and carrots, cut into matchsticks) that we ate topped with chopped chives and a drizzle of olive oil. For a salad I did a version of cole slaw with napa cabbage and a sauce made from yogurt, horseradish, lemon zest, lemon juice, mayo, cider vinegar, salt, white pepper, and enough peanut oil to give it some body.

This was excellent food.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Saturday lunch: spaetzle

Today's lunch was a little cooking experience. I started by sauteeing some finely diced ham in olive oil, added some chopped napa cabbage, then added some pre-made spaetzle and cooked until they spaetzle started to brown a bit. Just before serving, I topped with some grated emmenthaler and let that melt. We ate the delight topped with chopped chives.