Saturday, May 31, 2008

Post 1000.

Who'd have thought it?

Friday: Buttermilk soup with smoked trout

Andrea proposed salad and abendbrot, I countered with cold soup, salad, and abendbrot, we agreed.

The idea of buttermilk soup came to me and wouldn't let go, so I picked a recipe out of the Le Menu archive and did that. There were some changes to the recipe: The recipe called for the use of tarragon, which unfortunately we couldn't find at the Coop last night, so I replaced that with fronds from some fennel. I forgot to get sour cream, so we used yogurt. I also replaced the finely diced cucumber with finely diced fennel and added some lemon balm, just because we had it.

Mix 400ml buttermilk with a couple Tbs yogurt and 1Tbs each minced fennel fronds and minced lemon balm. Add 100ml of strong vegetable bouillon, 3-4Tbs of finely diced fennel bulb, salt to taste, a grind of pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Mix this all well and let it stand in the fridge for half an hour or so. Then serve topped with sliced smoked trout.

My variation was quite good, I'm now looking forward to doing the original version. :-)

We also did a charcuterie/cheese plate and had a green salad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wednesday Wurstsalat

It was another hot evening, so we did a wurstsalat for dinner.

Nothing fancy: cervelas, Appenzeller, yogurt, mayo, mustard, green garlic, minced red onion, lemon zest. Very nice.

We had bread and a big green salad with this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday : high-end tuna sandwiches

Yesterday's warm weather and my fish craving gave rise to this improvisation.

Cut a thick tuna steak into fairly large (4-5cm) pieces. Coat them with seasoned semolina and then shallow fry in neutral oil. Toss the hot tuna pieces with a dressing made from olive oil, grainy mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper and let them marinate, tossing occasionally, for at least half an hour.

I made an herb mayonnaise for the sandwiches by mixing finely chopped lemon balm into the mayo. The lemon balm (it was actually supposed to be lemon verbena, but I managed to get the German vocabulary scrambled) didn't really add much to the mayo other than color. Ah well.

The sandwiches were made from the marinated tuna chunks, mayo, and red onions ("killed" first with salt and vinegar). Despite the disappointing mayo, these were still really good.

We also had a salad of thinly sliced fennel marinated with salt and OJ.

Oh, and a green salad.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunday Dessert : Goetterspeise

Local strawberries have started!

On Saturday we picked some up at the market along with some rhubarb. I thought about doing macerated strawberries with rhubarb like last weekend, but was tempted by a recipe from this month's Le Menu for Strawberry-Rhubarb Götterspeise. This isn't the German Götterspeise (i.e. jello) but the Swiss variant, which is more like trifle: layered zwieback, rhubarb compote, strawberries, and vanilla pudding.

For the pudding:
Combine 3dl milk, 1 egg, 2.5Tbs sugar, 1Tbs cornstarch, a pinch of salt, and half a vanilla bean in a pot. Heat over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the pudding thickens. Strain into a bowl and let cool.

For the rhubarb:
Combine 500g diced rhubarb in a pot with 100g sugar and the juice and zest from a lemon. Cook until the rhubarb is tender. Let cool a bit. I only used about 300g of this for the dessert.

For the strawberries:
Thickly slice 500g of berries. I ended up using about 300g.

I started the pudding in the morning to give it time to cool, then made the compote and assembled the dessert, using about 75g of zwieback, in the afternoon. After letting it steep for 4 hours in the fridge it was ready to eat.

This is nice stuff. The flavors all play well together and it's not hyper sweet. And! We have some strawberries and rhubarb left for other applications.

Sunday : not really shepherd's pie

Yesterday we needed to figure out a good use for the pieces of veal leftover from making essence. I figured something with mashed potatoes and cheese would be good, but somehow the idea wasn't coming together. Andrea piped up and suggested that I do it like shepherd's pie. That clicked!

Start with some pre-cooked veal pieces. Cut them into small pieces, add some veal stock, minced green garlic, a bit of veal essence, and a splash of white wine. Reduce the liquid by about half, add a bit of tomato paste, some finely chopped rehydrated porcinis (along with some of their soaking liquid) and reduce a bit more. Thicken with potato starch. Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer to a buttered gratin dish, add a layer of mashed potatoes, top with grated gruyere, and bake at 210C until the cheese starts to brown.

This was a very successful little improvisation. The veal filling was basically concentrated umami (essence! tomato! porcini!) and was well balanced by the potatoes and cheese.

We also had cooked spinach tossed with a bit of cider vinegar and a big green salad.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Another batch of veal essence

Veal breast was on sale at Coop and my supply of veal essence is running low, so I made another batch of it yesterday and today. I once again followed the technique from Kamman. This time I ended up reducing the primary stock a bit more (probably 4l->1l), but I'm figuring that's only going to make things better.

Tonight the essence sits in the fridge; tomorrow I defat it and toss it in the freezer.

Saturday: Pan-roasted veal

For last night's main course I did a Hazan recipe for pan-roasted veal. I filled a rolled neck roast with crushed green garlic and rosemary, browned it well, and then pan roasted it with white wine until fork tender. I enriched the sauce with some veal essence and thickened it a bit with potato starch.

To go with the veal we had new potatoes and a room-temperature asparagus salad. The potatoes were super simple: after boiling them I sauteed them briefly with butter, finely diced shallot, and minced parsley.

The asparagus salad: peel the spears and steam them until crisp-tender. Cut into bite size pieces and then toss with salt, lemon juice, good olive oil, and minced parsley. Let marinate a while before serving.

This was all excellent food. We got the asparagus from a different farmer than usual and ended up with something quite nice. It must have been fresher than we're used too, because it was quite crisp and still sweet. mmmmm.

Of course we also had a green salad.

Friday: Chickpeas, spinach, and chorizo

This was a quick dish with a Spanish inspiration.

Sautee some diced onion and minced green garlic in olive oil. Add some cumin seeds and diced chorizo and lightly brown. Deglaze with vermouth. Add additional water, some cooked chickpeas, spinach, a bay leaf, a clove, salt, pepper, and paprika and simmer for a while

To go with it I did a variant on stuck-pot rice : cook a couple thinly sliced red onions in a butter-olive oil mixture until they soften, stir in 2 cups of basmati rice (parboiled for 5 minutes in lightly salted water and then drained), a pinch of saffron threads, salt and pepper. Follow the rest of the stuck-pot rice technique.

Really good food.

Of course we had a green salad.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nanorestaurant Review Revisited: Goldenes Fass (Basel)

We've been there before and liked it, so this is a reinforcement: the place is good.

Another meal of carefully prepared and presented food with a twist of creativity to make it more interesting.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday: Italian-inspired frikadellen

Last night I made up a batch of frikadellen with an Italian slant. To the meat (mixed pork and beef) I added chopped grilled peppers, chopped basil in oil, minced onion, lemon zest, egg, crushed saltines (we were out of bread crumbs), salt and pepper. I formed the patties and let them stand for half an hour before sauteing them in olive oil.

These were really nice.

As a side I made a quick tomato sauce (onion, green garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, marjoram) that we ate over whole wheat noodles.

We also had two (2!) salads: a small green salad and some shredded carrots that I dressed with rhubarb compote, a small splash of red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, cayenne, ground coriander, and salt.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monday: stuffed chicken breasts

Last night I used the chicken breasts leftover from soup making to do stuffed chicken breasts.

Cut a slit into each breast and added some chopped basil and olive oil (from the freezer), a bit of grainy mustard, some flavorful cheese (I used an alp cheese based on goat milk we picked up at the market on Saturday), and a grind of pepper. After closing the slits with toothpicks, bread each breast with flour, egg, and fresh bread crumbs then let them rest for a while. Sautee them at medium-high heat in clarified butter until the coating is crispy and the insides seem done by the poke test.

That's good food.

We started the meal with carrot-lentil soup, and had chard stems cooked in olive oil as a vegetable side. And a green salad.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday: Strawberries and rhubarb

On Saturday we picked up our first batch of strawberries of the year (Swiss, but probably not local). After cutting these in half or quarters, I macerated them with some aromatic honey overnight.

Yesterday I made a rhubarb compote (500g rhubarb, 100g sugar, 100ml water, cooked until tender). To serve I mixed this about one-to-one with the berries.

Excellent stuff.

Sunday: Carrot soup and asparagus

Saturday afternoon I made some aromatic chicken stock (chicken, lots of carrots, onion, garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves, a couple cloves, herbes de provence); yesterday I converted that into soup. I added sliced carrots and leeks, let it cook until the carrots were about tender, pureed it with the stick blender (not a creamy puree, the carrots were still too hard for that), added some green lentils, and cooked until the lentils were done. We ate this with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. The combination of lentils and carrots is a really nice one.

We picked up some local white asparagus at the market on Saturday, the first of the year. After peeling the spears I made a poaching liquid from the peels, the tops of some fennel bulbs, and a pinch of sugar. The asparagus poached in this broth until it was tender and then we ate it with butter. My original plan was to reduce some of the poaching liquid and whisk butter into that in order to get a sauce, but the liquid itself was much too bitter for that. The asparagus itself was fine though, not as nice as good green asparagus, but still quite ok.

oh, and we had a green salad.

Nanorestaurant Review: Brunch at Lowenzorn (Basel)

Last weekend we talked about brunch, when Andrea saw an ad for a local brunch we had to go.

No smiley faces.

The number of choices at the buffet was minimal -- basically a standard Swiss hotel breakfast buffet with the addition of a pork roast and a pasta gratin -- and the food itself was "eh".

Ah well, this wasn't the solution.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saturday: smothered steaks

This main dish was based on a Kaltenbach recipe, here's my variant.

Dice some bacon and start it cooking in clarified butter over medium-high heat. When it has rendered a bit toss in a couple of thinnish steaks (Plätzli) that have been seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown the steaks for a couple of minutes on each side and then remove from the pan. Deglaze with some red wine.
In a separate pan, saute a couple grated carrots (I used Pfälzer because sweet wasn't required and I thought their aromaticity would help) with some finely chopped onion in some more clarified butter until the onions start to go translucent. Add the steaks, the bacon and red wine, a bay leaf, a splash of tomato puree, a couple good pinches of marjoram, a grind of pepper, and enough beef bouillon to make sure the steaks are comfortable. Cover the pan and let it simmer for about an hour, until the meat is tender. Leave the lid off for the last 15 minutes or so to allow some reduction of the sauce.

Serve with mashed potatoes so that you have something for the sauce. This is great stuff.

I also steamed a kohlrabi we got in the biokiste but that tasted "old", so we didn't end up eating it. Between the steak, the potatoes, and the obligatory green salad we had plenty of food.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thursday tacos

This was a simple meal inspired by the corn tortillas that had been sitting in our fridge for a while.

I had soaked some black beans overnight; those got cooked with a couple bay leaves and the rind from a piece of smoked bacon. These I served topped with a sprinkling of toasted cumin and crushed coriander seeds and some sour cream

I quick-pickled ("killed") some onions by thinly slicing them and mixing them with salt, lime juice, and a bit of cider vinegar.

The protein for the tacos was small pork cubes (shoulder and smoked bacon) that I cooked at medium-high heat until they were nicely browned and crisp.

A salad and some salsa completed a very enjoyable meal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday : Porkchops with herb butter

On our hike last weekend we gathered some more Bärlauch. Andrea suggested using it in a compound butter, so that's what we did last night.

I made the butter by finely chopping some Bärlauch and parsley and mixing them into the butter, rolling it into plastic wrap, and putting it back in the fridge to firm up.

The porkchops were really simple: I seasoned them and then seared them in. While the chops were resting I deglazed the pan with a bit of vermouth, which I then reduced to almost nothing. Just before serving I poured the liquid from around the chops into the pan with the vermouth and reduced that down to a syrup (there was maybe 2tsp total left). I served by spreading the pan sauce on the plate, topping with the chop, then topping that with a pat of the compound butter.

As vegetable sides we had: chard leaves that I chopped and cooked in olive oil with diced dried apricots and pine nuts; sliced fennel cooked in olive oil until slightly caramelized and then splashed with a bit of ponzu (we had neither lemon juice nor orange juice in the house).

We also had some rice and a green salad. And it was an excellent meal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Monday night salad

We got back from a long weekend hiking and didn't feel like doing much in the way of cooking. Since the supermarkets at the train station were impossibly full yesterday, I just grabbed a roasted chicken and we made a big salad with lettuce, carrots, chicken, elbow macaroni mixed with ricotta and parsley, pickles, thinly sliced onion, and a creamy dressing.

It was just the thing

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thursday: pasta and meatballs

Another quickie. I made meatballs from mixed pork and beef, minced onion, minced garlic, salt, marjoram, and oregano. After browning them in olive oil, I tossed them into a sauce made from onions cooked in butter and olive oil, vermouth, tomato puree, piri piri chili, orange zest, and parsley. This cooked a bit longer and then I served it over gnocchi (the noodle, not the dough balls).

Oh, we had a green salad too.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday: Beans and Bacon

I made this to satisfy a craving I had for beans. Of course with beans one "must" add bacon, so the dish got some bacon too.

Cook presoaked beans, a chopped onion, some cumin seeds, and a bay leaf in enough water to cover by 2cm for about an hour. Brown some diced bacon in a separate pan and add it to the beans along with some minced garlic. Continue to cook until the beans are tender. Serve with hot sauce.

We also had rice (parboiled/wild rice mixture toasted in olive oil and then cooked in chicken bouillon) and some chard stems (diced and cooked in the rendered bacon fat) as a side vegetable.

Oh, and a green salad.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Monday leftovers

We had some steamed beets (dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and white pepper) with the leftover pink chicken and ended up with very colorful plates.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sunday: Pink chicken and rice

This was a bit of an improvisation to use up the beets that have been sitting in our fridge for a few weeks.

Dice (1/2 cm) a few beets. Cook them with some butter at medium heat until they start to caramelize. In a separate pan shallow-fry diced chicken breast (300g) in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Pour off most of the cooking oil, then add a diced onion and cook until the onion softens. Add some (cheap) balsamic vinegar and let it reduce a bit. Add some vegetable bouillon along with minced fresh thyme and rosemary. Return the chicken to the pot and add the beets. Let everything heat through and thicken the sauce with potato starch if necessary. Serve topped with chives beside a big pile of rice.

This was a great deep pink color and dyed the rice quite nicely. It was also very tasty, though it would have been better with chicken thighs instead of breasts and it probably wouldn't have hurt to lightly flour the chicken pieces before frying them.

We also had some Moroccan carrot salad based on the recipe in CPV but using standard carrots that I cut into chunks and then steamed until they were somewhat softened, but still had some crunch.

Oh, and a green salad.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Lunch: Quick pasta and vegetables

After getting back from a hiking trip we were both in the mood for some pasta. Lunch was our first opportunity to satisfy this craving.

Soften a finely diced carrot and shallot in some olive oil with a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat and add some halved cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley and chives, and a splash or two of marsala. Let this stand until the pasta is done. Add a bit of pasta cooking water then drain the pasta and stir in the vegetables along with some ricotta cheese.