Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saturday Cocktails : Margaritas

Inspired by this week's Minimalist column, I had to make cocktails. To go along with the planned grilling it didn't take much thinking for me to settle on margaritas as the drink of choice. I did a bit of small-scale playing around to get proportions I liked and ended up with the following (for two drinks):

4 oz good tequila (I used Herradura anejo)
2 oz lime juice (freshly squeezed, of course)
1-1.5 oz triple sec (actually curacao triple sec, which is nice stuff, too sweet to drink pure of course, but it has a nice flavor)

Shake with ice cubes and then serve over an ice cube, garnished with a bit of lemon zest.

Very nice stuff to sit in the sun and sip.

Update, 27 July:
After some more experimenting, the final proportions we settled on for this drink were 4 : 2 : 2. The triple sec brings a nice roundness and some bitter notes, so we increased the proportions a bit.

Saturday at the Grill

Last night we had friends over for cocktails and a night at the grill. I'll do the cocktails in the separate post. The food is here.

As starters I did : almonds sauteed in olive oil and then tossed with toasted cumin and salt; olives (bought "natural", i.e. without adornment, and then stored for a couple of weeks in olive oil with a crushed garlic clove, some lemon zest, and a chili. This was inspired by a Bittman post and has become a regular snack for me); and piquillos stuffed with leftover verbena-ricotta and then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chives.

I made a batch of quick pickles by tossing relatively thickly sliced cucumber with salt and dill fronds and then putting them in the pickle press for a couple of hours. After rinsing and wringing them out by hand I added a bit of lemon zest, a splash of cider vinegar, and some black pepper.

Of course we did a green salad.

For a second salad I shredded some white cabbage, salted it, let it stand for a few hours under pressure, rinsed it and wrung it out, and then tossed it with lemon juice, neutral oil, and some caraway seeds.

On the grill I did "leave it all out" hamburgers: good ground beef mixed with salt and then grilled. We ate these on toasted buns with grilled red onion slices and chipotle mayo.

Our dessert plan was grilled fruit with ice cream. Unfortunately by the time we came up with a plan, the only reasonable fruit left at the Coop were peaches; and they were rock hard. So instead of grilling them, I cut them in half and then poached them in sugar syrup. We ate these, drizzled with the syrup and a splash of armagnac over vanilla ice cream.

It was all very nice food, except for the cabbage salad which we forgot to take out the fridge and serve. Ah well, extra leftovers for tonight!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday's miscellany

Last night's meal was driven by my desire to make with the lemon verbena we've got growing on the balcony. The solution to that "problem" was to finely chop some verbena, mix it with good ricotta cheese, a bit of salt, and some black pepper, and then use this to stuff tomatoes. In a way it's inspired by the dish that inspired one of the things from my first post on this blog.

These were quite good. There's loads of the filling left over, so I get to come up with some other good use for it... not an unhappy challenge to have.

To go along with the tomatoes I pan-roasted a duck breast and did bratkartoffeln with new potatoes and rosemary (cooked in clarified butter instead of oil because that's a gooood combination).

We also had a big green salad.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday Salad

After enjoying the pre-game (Germany vs Turkey, Eur02008 semifinal) chaos around town last night we didn't have time to make it to the store, so dinner was a garbage salad made from stuff in the fridge and pantry: lettuce, carrots, olives, kidney beans, shredded ham, basil leaves, sbrinz chunks, and piquillo pepper shreds, all dressed with a basil vinaigrette. With that we had a baguette.

No supplemental green salad was required. ;-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday "Spanish"

A couple of random things tossed together based on what was in the fridge/pantry:

Chickpeas with toasted cumin seeds, garlic, piquillo pepper strips, a mixture of sweet and hot paprika, olive oil, and a splash of sherry.

Chunks of pork tenderloin browned in olive oil. I deglazed the pan with some sherry and then added some spinach. Once the spinach was cooked I added some minced garlic and tossed the pork back in the pan to warm up.

We also had some baguette and a big green salad.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday's salads

hmm, I see this isn't my first use of this title.

Our main dish was a salad of potatoes, pork tenderloin, and peas (mange-tout) taken from this month's Le Menu. It's pretty simple: make a dressing from neutral oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and put it in a big bowl; quarter some new potatoes and brown them in clarified butter then put them in the bowl; brown some bite-sized pieces of pork tenderloin in the same pan and put them in the bowl; cook the peas in the same pan until just about tender, then place them in the bowl. Toss everything together, adjust seasoning, and then let stand, tossing occasionally, for an hour or so.

I also steamed some white asparagus and served that at room temperature topped with a basil vinaigrette and some herbed streusel leftover from Saturday.

Of course we had a big green salad to go with these other really nice salads.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday : Fish steamed on lettuce, fennel and tomato salad

We have a mountain of lettuce in the fridge, so last night's main course needed to involved cooked lettuce. I decided something inspired by a Bittman recipe I remember (but can't find) for fish fillets cooked on top of lettuce. The fish I used was Pintado, which I've seen in the Coop before but hadn't gotten around to trying. The fillets were really attractive and promising. At the time I bought them I didn't know that pintado is a type of farmed catfish.

For the dish itself, I started some minced garlic and shallots in a pan with olive oil, added some diced red onion and let it all cook for a bit. Then I added the lettuce, some finely chopped lemon thyme, a splash of white wine, a pinch of salt, and stirred. After topping the lettuce with the fish I covered the pan and let it steam until the fish was done.

The lettuce was nice. The fish was not: it had the usual flabby texture and somewhat muddy flavor of farmed catfish combined with a thick layer of fat underneath the skin that I just found revolting. Ah well, live and learn.

In addition to our obligatory green salad, I made a tomato and fennel salad from a recipe in this month's Le Menu: Arrange very thinly sliced tomato and fennel on a plate. Drizzle with a dressing made from cider vinegar, rapeseed oil, mustard, and fresh basil. Top with a fine streusel made by roasting flour, butter, salt, and minced basil in a pan until light brown. The use of basil was a substitution: the recipe called for peppermint, but we don't have a couple of beautiful peppermint plants on the terrace. :-)

The salad was really good. It's also easy and somewhat elegant looking, so worth keeping in mind for entertaining.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday at the Grill

Last night to take advantage of the fantastic weather I fired up the grill.

The major component was lemongrass patties (from a BittmanWorld recipe): Mix 300g ground pork with a minced stalk of lemon grass, two minced garlic cloves, a finely chopped shallot, some minced chilli, a good splash of fish sauce[1], and a pinch of sugar. Form 3 patties and let them stand for a while so the flavors can meld. Grill over a medium hot fire and serve with a toasted bun, mayo, sriracha, and some lime.

I also grilled a couple of tomatoes as a side.

We have loads of spinach from the biokiste, so I also made a bowl of spinach by lightly browning some finely chopped bacon in a bit of olive oil, adding chopped garlic and red onion, and cooking until the onion softens. To this I added the washed and stemmed spinach and let it cook until the spinach was done. After draining off the extra liquid, I added some soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Really nice food eaten outside on a really nice evening.

I remember having made the patties before, but I can't find it on the blog... weird.

[1] not such a pleasant thought!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nanoreview: Restaurant Leon (Basel)

We tried this relatively new restaurant downtown on Thursday in order to be close to the EM2008 chaos.

One smiley face.

  • Food: A bit mixed. Some things were really good (tuna with spicy noodles, some components of the antipasti appetizer), and some were just ok (pasta with gorgonzola sauce, most of the meats on the antipasti plate)
  • Atmosphere: Very nice both inside and out (where we sat).
  • Service: A bit distracted and slow, but friendly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday dessert: hasty pudding

A spontaneous dessert derived from a recipe in JPFF. I used knopflimehl for the semolina, and substituted milk and yogurt for the half-and-half and sour cream, respectively.

This version is not nearly as rich as the real thing, but it's still quite nice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday Geschnetzeltes

Andrea's parents stopped by for dinner last night and we did geschnetzeltes. I followed the recipe from Kaltenbach without much change other than using pork instead of veal (hahah, minor change that!).

To go with the meat, I made some rice/wildrice mix and some mushrooms that I browned in olive oil and splashed with sherry just before serving.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday: Vegetables with pesto

We've got a large amount of "proto-pesto" in the fridge that needs to be eaten. Last night's meal was a reaction to this and the large quantity of vegetables in the fridge. :-)

I cut up three medium-sized fennel bulbs, two small heads of cauliflower, and four large new potatoes and tossed those in a bowl with some veal essence, thawed basil, olive oil, chopped pine nuts, and black pepper. These went into a buttered baking dish and were topped with grated Gruyere and then baked until the vegetables were done and the cheese was brown and bubbly.

We ate this wonderful mess with a big green salad.

Sunday: Macaroni and Cheese

After getting back from our glacier course, there wasn't a lot of energy left to do a particularly elaborate dinner, so I made macaroni and cheese. I did the sauce with milk, Gruyere, Appenzeller, some thin strips of bacon, and "raclette spice". For pasta we had whole-wheat spirals.

Simple, and very good.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday : Chicken cooked in foil

We're getting tomatoes in the biokiste now (it's hard to believe we've made it to tomato season again); this somehow inspired Friday's dinner, where I more or less followed a recipe for chicken breasts cooked in foil from FStoS. I used the tomatoes, thyme, olives, and cheese variation (sbrinz instead of parmesan) and we ended up with a really nice meal.

To go along with this, I stewed some eggplant with olive oil, garlic, and a few dried chilis.

We need to remember how nice it is to have bread with dinner.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday: Meatballs wrapped in lettuce

For want of a better word, we'll call this improvisation : Meatballs wrapped in lettuce.

Brown about 100g bacon (diced small) and drain off the fat. In a big bowl mix together 300g ground beef, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 of a minced red onion, an egg, salt, pepper, and marjoram. Mix in the bacon and then form into 3-4 cm balls. Wrap the meatballs with lettuce leaves and put them in an oiled baking dish. Pour in some white wine and a bit of beef bouillon. Grate some Sbrinz over the top. Bake at 180c for about 30 minutes.

We ate these lovely things with some basmati rice and a big green salad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday's Salads

Last night I did a variety of salads to use up some veggies and keep the kitchen at least somewhat cool.

  1. Ebly cooked in vegetable bouillon, tossed with finely diced red onion, and dressed with salt, lime juice, crushed ginger, cayenne, and grape seed oil.
  2. Cauliflower boiled until tender in the vegetable bouillon, then tossed with finely diced red onion, lemon zest, rosemary, lemon thyme, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt.
  3. Potato salad with pickles, chives, mayo, and mustard
  4. Mini mozzarella balls with basil, olive oil, and balsamico
  5. Soisson beans with rosemary, orange zest, pepper, olive oil.
  6. Lettuce tossed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and sherry vinegar.
We ate this variety of goodness accompanied by a baguette.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tuesday : Trout and Fennel

This improv came about because I happened to find some nice looking rainbow trout fillets (farmed, organic) at the Coop.

The fish I did really simply: seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne, and crushed fennel and then breaded with the usual flour-egg-bread crumbs process. Shallow fried in neutral oil, served with lime wedges.

As accompaniments I braised some fennel with olive oil and beef bouillon and sauteed some new potatoes in clarified butter.

The food was all good, but the big winner was the potatoes. These were from our biokiste and were just fantastically flavorful. The fish had decent texture and some flavor, which is more than I normally expect from farmed trout.

We also had a green salad.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Monday: Chicken and cherries

First the context:
On Sunday I read a section in Kamman where she has a bit of a rant about the use of the term saute. The rant was amusing and was connected with a description of a technique that she refers to as true sauteeing. The technique, somewhere between pan roasting and braising, sounded interesting.
We still have a couple jars of cherries from last year in the house. Since cherry season will be upon us in not too long, it's time to start using those up.
Then there was my chicken craving.

All of these bits of context combined to give rise to last night's improvisation: Chicken sauteed with cherries.

Brown some chicken leg quarters well in neutral oil. Drain off the oil and add some sour cherries along with their liquid, a splash of wine, and a good pinch of salt. Simmer almost completely covered until the chicken is mostly done. Add some sliced red onion and freshly-squeezed lime juice and finish cooking. Remove the chicken from the pot and add a bit of essence to the sauce along with a pinch of cayenne and some white pepper. Reduce a bit and then adjust seasonings. Thicken with some potato starch if needed, then add the chicken back and let it heat through. Serve topped with a couple of "raw" cherries.

We ate this with jasmine rice and some cauliflower browned in butter (yay! it's cauliflower time again!).

and a big green salad.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Saturday Pho

It's been quite a while since I last made pho, but the pot of secondary stock (from last weekend's essence making) that we had sitting in the fridge was just screaming for it.

I used the BittmanWorld recipe as a guide but had some variations. Obviously I started with secondary veal stock instead of water and bones. For the beef for the stock I used siedfleisch. Instead of cilantro, I garnished with "europagras". As noodles I used thick rice sticks.

This was a great meal.