Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday: Pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes

We got back from Geneva and Lausanne around 7:30, so dinner needed to be pretty quick. This was Andrea's idea, and it was a good one.

I made a quick batch of pesto with toasted almonds and then mixed that with pasta and halved cherry tomatoes, and topped it with diced mozarella. Simple, quick, and quite nice.

We also had a green salad, of course.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday curry

Last night's curry was a standard red curry with coconut milk, eggplant, and pork.

I also did a green mango salad by mixing grated green mango with lime juice, fish sauce, chopped dried shrimp, cilantro, and a pinch of sugar.

Note to self: the small yellow eggplants that we got because the asian market was out of the small green ones are not a good substitute. They were so bitter that we had to fish them out while eating.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday : sauteed vegetables with almonds

To accompany the leftover mushroom ragout, I did a batch of sauteed vegetables. The mix was: onions, garlic, zucchini, and long peppers. They were cooked together with olive oil, herbs de provence, salt and pepper. Just before serving I stirred in some chopped fresh basil and then served the vegetables sprinkled with almonds I had cut in half then toasted in olive oil.

very nice!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday: Mushroom ragout

I picked up some nice looking local chantarelles at the market on Saturday. Last night I converted them into a fantastic ragout based on a recipe from Le Menu.

Clean 500g of chantarelles. Cook them over medium-high heat in butter in batches until they brown a bit and start to soften. Remove from the pan and add some more butter, a thinly sliced leek, and a minced shallot. Cook until they leek softens. Remove from the pan. Add 1 dl each of white wine and vegetable bouillon and reduce to 1/2. Add 1.5 dl bouillon and 1.8 dl light cream (saucen halbrahm), bring to a simmer. Add 1Tbs fresh marjoram leaves and the mushrooms and leeks. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasonings and either add more water or thicken as necessary. Serve over pappardelle topped with a bit more fresh marjoram.

Every time I have to clean wild mushrooms, particularly chantarelles, I think to myself: "this is too much trouble, I'm not doing it again." Then I eat them and that silly thought is blown from my head.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Saturday : Beef stew

For this meal with Andrea's parents I followed a recipe from Kaltenbach for Rindsvoressen (beef stew). The stew is pretty simple: beef, carrots, onion, leek, potato, marjoram, but quite good. Rather than make rice or another starch, we served the stew with some nice bread.

I also did another batch of beans with tomatoes and onions, this time using a mixture of yellow and green beans.

Of course there was also a green salad.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday : Pork chops with Spalensauce

Andrea's parents were over last night, so I was (self) driven to do something with a nice sauce. This is what I came up with.

Cook some diced bacon in a bit of olive oil until it's nicely rendered and browned. Add finely diced celery, carrot, and onion and a pinch of salt and let the vegetables lightly brown. Add some veal essence, a bit of water, a small pinch of cayenne, and a small sprig of thyme and let things cook for about five minutes. Add some light cream (I used Halbrahm) and simmer a couple minutes more. Thicken with potato starch if needed and adjust seasonings.

We served the sauce with thinly sliced pork loin chops (nierstuck plaetzli) that I seasoned and cooked in the grill pan.

To accompany the pork and sauce we had pasta (whole wheat pipe rigate) and some fennel that I sliced and then cooked in olive oil with some fresh basil. Of course there was also a green salad.

* Yes, I just made that up. In fact, google tells me that this word does not exist on the interweb, so I have truly invented something new. Fame and fortune will soon be mine!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Restaurant Zum Isaak, revisited

Last time we tried Zum Isaak the summary was: "The Kornhaus does this better". Now that we've tried it again and our experience of Basel restaurants is broader, I'd expand this to: "The Kornhaus and the Goldenes Fass do this better."

  • Food : over conceived and under executed
  • Service : good
  • Atmosphere : good

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday: Chicken, tomatoes, and lentils

The idea for this particularly improv came to me in the tram on the way to work the other day.

Cook a medium diced onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic in some olive oil over medium heat. After the onion softens add some chopped celery stalk and long green chilis (pepperoncini here) and cook until they soften a bit. Add some whole cumin and a mixture of sweet and hot paprika and let toast a couple of minutes. Add some crushed tomatoes, a splash of white wine, fresh thyme and rosemary, a bay leaf, and some salt and let simmer a while, uncovered.

While the sauce is simmering, start a batch of small-green lentils cooking.

Once the lentils are started, brown some chopped chicken (I used a mixture of legs/thighs and breast) in olive oil and add the browned pieces to the sauce. Hold the breast pieces out for a while if you want so that they don't overcook.

Serve the thickened tomato sauce and chicken next to the lentils, top both with a drizzle of olive oil.

As a vegetable side I steamed some corn on the cob.

Of course we had a green salad as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday : Rösti

Last night I put together a Rösti for no good reason other than we had potatoes and I could.

I did my usual: grate the potatoes, then wring them out really well in a towel before mixing with the other ingredients. In this case the other ingredients were a couple of apples, salt, and pepper. I cooked the Rösti in peanut oil and then added a topping of grated cheese (a half-hard raw-milk Alp cheese) just before serving. We ate this lovely thing with some thinly sliced coppa (leftover from the weekend) and some zucchini that I sliced and then cooked in olive oil with a tomato and some peperonicini from the balcony.

Nice eatings.

oh yes, green salad.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday: daiquiris revisited

Yesterday in the interest of science I made another batch of daiquiris with the Havana Club 7. This time I used proportions 4:1:1 rum:lime:triple sec and the results were definitely more pleasing: you could taste the rum a lot more clearly. It's getting there.

Next time I'll try completely replacing the triple sec with a bit of simple syrup to see what that yields.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday dessert

Yesterday we had a quantity of dark cherries in the fridge that I had pitted and sugared earlier in the week; we just needed to figure out what to do with them. At the Coop on Saturday we found some small pre-made pie crusts that looked acceptable, so we took those as a base.

I put a layer of sour cream (actually "dessert extrafin") in the bottom of a crust, sprinkled it with a bit of brown sugar, then topped it with the cherries. Voila: instant cold cherry pie. :-)

The degree of effort was about nil and the payoff was pretty high. Going to have to keep those crusts in mind in the future.

Saturday Cocktails : Daiquiris

After some batches of margaritas our bottle of tequila was empty, and one needs something on long sunny weekend afternoons when one is at home instead of in the mountains because the weather forecast has been questionable, so we picked up a bottle of rum yesterday and I made a round of daiquiris.

Since our old bottle of rum wasn't up to the job, we wanted to get something good this time. Unfortunately the guy we normally talk to wasn't at Ullrich's yesterday and the guy we asked for advice wasn't particularly helpful ("This is great for sitting outside with a cigar."; Andrea's response later : "What was that? Do we look like cigar smokers?"), so we went with something recommended by friends: Havana Club 7 year.

I used the same recipe as for the margaritas: 4:2:2 rum:lime:triple sec. The results were quite good, but not sublime like the margaritas; the rum doesn't come through as cleanly as the tequila did. I think next time I'll try reducing the lime and triple sec and see what that produces.

Saturday: slow baked pork loin

There's a cooking technique that is used pretty often here that I don't exactly know how to translate: niedergaren. The idea is to cook meat in a very low oven (typically 80C) until the internal temperature is correct, it's a method that would make Harold McGee happy. For want of a better term, let's call it slow baking. I've been wanting to try this for a while, so yesterday when I saw some nice pork loin roasts on sale at Coop I knew what had to be done.

My preparation of the pork was utter simplicity: brown it all around in clarified butter, season well, put in a meat thermometer, then put it in a preheated dish with some zucchini planks and toss in a preheated 80C oven. Let it sit there, undisturbed until the internal temperature is 62C. Yesterday's roast took a bit more than 3 hours. The result is incredibly tender, juicy, and, since it was good pork, flavorful. We will be using this method more often, particularly since yesterday I bought a cookbook devoted to it.

As a sauce for the pork, I made a vinaigrette by mixing thinly sliced celery, diced artichoke hearts, crushed garlic, minced red onion, and finely chopped parsley with a pre-emulsified mixture of seedy mustard, cider vinegar, molasses, and rapeseed oil. This was then allowed to stand for a couple of hours before serving (we had nothing but time yesterday!).

We ate the pork and zucchini with rice and a big green salad and there were no complaints at the table. Well, none except: "I ate too much", but that came later. :-)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday: Sausage and beans

On the way home from work I stopped at the Italian butcher and picked up some sausage (hot, with fennel; not exactly my plan for the evening, but when you get there at 5:30 on a nice Friday night you are happy to get anything. I consoled myself by also getting some of the fantastic mortadella he imports). The rest went according to plan: I cooked the sausage in the grill pan, made some bratkartoffeln, and did a batch of green beans cooked with tomato and onion more or less based on Melissa Clark's column this week.

Excellent food.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday followup

The leftovers from Wednesday's stir frying included rice and the stir-fried corn, but that wasn't going to make a full meal. In order to fill it out a bit I did fried rice (with egg) with the rice and stir fried some lettuce (chili-bean paste, ginger, soy sauce).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday's stir fries

Born of necessity and coincidence: we had sweet corn left on the night before we get the next veggie box, so it's got to be used. Then there's a very interesting corn post on Bitten. The asian flavors planned for the corn shaped how the broccoli was used.

The dishes:
Stir fried corn pieces with a Southeast Asian touch: Cut corn on the cob crosswise into 1cm thick pieces. Stir fry them until they're almost done, then remove from the wok. Stir fry some chopped garlic and chilis until they're aromatic. Add a some sugar and stir fry until it starts to caramelize. Add fish sauce and cook a bit. Add some lime juice and adjust the other ingredients. Stir back in the corn pieces and let sit a couple minutes. Just before serving, splash on a bit more lime juice. Great stuff.

Broccoli stir fried with black beans and chili-bean paste: Stir fry some broccoli until it's almost done. Remove from the pan. Stir fry some rinsed fermented black beans and chili-bean paste until aromatic. Add thinly sliced ginger and cook a bit longer. Add some Xiao Xing wine and water and let the alcohol cook off for a bit. Taste and add an appropriate amount of black Chinese vinegar. Thicken with a bit of potato starch and then stir back in the broccoli. Let sit for a couple minutes and then serve.

We had these two delights with rice and, amazingly enough, no green salad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday : Chard and beef

Another improv to use the big bag of chard greens in the fridge:
Brown some seasoned ground beef, then remove it from the pan. Add some olive oil if needed, then cook a diced onion and some finely chopped garlic until they start to soften. Add chard greens (torn into pieces) and a pinch of salt and cook until they start to wilt. Add a bit of savory and marjoram and cook a bit longer. A couple of minutes before serving, add back the ground beef.

To go along with the greens and meat we had some pan browned cauliflower and a big green salad.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday: Pesto and filled tomatoes

As a "use up the basel from the balcony!" measure I made a batch of pesto. We ate that with spaghetti last night. As an accompaniment, I mixed some soft cheese (Tessiner robbiola) with finely chopped lemon verbena and black pepper and then stuffed that in some hollowed out tomatoes. Delicious.

Yes, and then there was the green salad.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday : Something like barbecue

We haven't done barbecue in a long time; that just changed. When I saw big pieces of pork shoulder for half price at the Coop, I knew it was time to give it a try. It was clear that the stars had really aligned when Bittman did a barbecue post, referencing the Thrill of the Grill no less, on the day I was trying to decide what to do for a spice rub. The final problem - where to find appropriate wood - was solved by our dinner guests, who brought over a basket of mixed hardwood in the early afternoon. The rest was easy : set up the fire (hardwood charcoal for heat, a piece of fruitwood for smoke), put a container of beer in the bottom of the grill, cover the pork with the rub and put it on the grill, cover, and wait. After two hours I started basting with beer to keep the crust from drying out too much. After about four hours we had something amazing.

I did a sauce, just in case, from thinly sliced onions, vinegar, whiskey, water, salt, pepper, a dash of tobasco, and a small amount of ketchup. The onions were a nice complement, but the sauce itself was pretty superfluous.

We also did a potato salad with basil and tarragon (also long and low cooking for the potatoes) and a big green salad.

As starters, I did: quick pickles with cornichon cucumbers, salt, and thinly sliced young ginger; a couple different kinds of olives; and cashews toasted in the pan and then tossed with raclette spices.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday : Rice with lettuce, pork steaks

Due to some logistics problems a couple of weeks ago, we got a double vegetable box yesterday. Holy crap is there a lot of stuff in a double vegetable box in August! To make matters worse, there were still two heads of lettuce left from last week's box... ai yai yai!

For the protein component I tossed some pork steaks ("Stotzen", so from the hams) in the grill pan, seasoned them, and served them on top of basil vinaigrette leftover from Wednesday.

The lettuce surplus drove the improvisation of a new (for us at least) dish: rice and lettuce. Toast a cup of parboiled rice (I used a rice/wildrice mix) in olive oil. Add a head of chopped lettuce (in stages, stirring after each stage and giving it some time to shrink). Add a chicken bouillon cube and a bit less than a cup of water (the lettuce brings a lot of water with it). Cover and simmer until the rice is done; add more water if necessary. This actually turned out quite nicely. It would also be good to add some garlic and perhaps some tomato pieces at the last minute.

We also had zucchini that I cut into thick slices, quartered, then cooked slowly with butter and salt. Simple and wonderful.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I guess I forgot to post about it, but the weekend before last we found pickling cucmbers at the market. So we got a couple kilos and started a batch of fermented pickles starting from the recipe in Quick Pickles. Last week we tried a couple and were quite happy with the results. Last night I opened up the pickle pot to get pickles to accompany our dinner and discovered that they were moldy.


My beautiful pickles!

I don't know what kind of super mold was able to grow in that brine, but if we manage to find the cucumbers again (unlikely?) this year, I'll be sure to use a higher concentration of salt.

Wednesday at the Grill

Last night's grilling was nothing fancy: some sausage, a variety of vegetables (squash, zucchini, peppers, red onions), and a cheater's hobo pack of potatoes.

I made a vinaigrette (basil, grainy mustard, grapeseed oil, red wine vinegar, molasses, salt, pepper) for the vegetables.

Of course we had a green salad.

Noteworthy: our first tomatoes

Yesterday I pulled the first ripe tomatoes off the plants we have on the balcony. We ate them plain, sprinkled with a bit of sea salt. mmmmmmmm

Next year I might have to do more than two tomato plants.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tueday: Stuffed chicken breasts

The idea for this came from a Bittman column, but the recipe was an improv.

Mince some onion and garlic and start them cooking in olive oil. Add some chopped chard leaves and a pinch of salt and let cook until they are tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in some chopped lemon verbena and rosemary. Lay a whole, skin on, chicken breast skin-side down on three pieces of string. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with a layer of the greens mixture. Fold up into a roll and tie shut with the string. Brown this well on all sides and then let it cook long enough until the inside of the chicken breast is done.

This was a bit of work but it was quite an attractive preparation and tasted fantastic.

To go along with this, I coarsely diced the chard stems and cooked them in olive oil with pine nuts. Just before serving I added some diced dried apricot.

As a starch we had spaghetti tossed with salt and olive oil.

Oh, and a green salad.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Monday: Vegetables with pasta

After a few days eating in huts in the mountains, I was craving vegetables in a major way, but I also didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I did a very simple vegetables and pasta dish: boil some cut green beans in salted water until tender-crisp, refresh in cold water. Cook a chopped head of broccoli in olive oil with garlic and onion until the broccoli is cooked sufficiently. A couple minutes before the broccoli is done, stir in some strips of thinly sliced salt-cured ham (e.g. something like prosciutto di parma). Toss in the green beans, some cooked pasta (less pasta than vegetables, it's "vegetables with pasta", not "pasta with vegetables"!), and some more olive oil. Serve topped with chives and grated Sbrinz.

This, combined with a salad, was a nice return to eating normalcy. :-)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Thursday: Broiled vegetables

This was a convenient way to use the zucchini and eggplant waiting in the fridge as well as some of the great lime-yogurt sauce from Wednesday night. The preparation was simple: I cut an eggplant and a couple zucchini into planks, brushed them with olive oil, and then broiled them until they were the right color. After they came out of the broiler I tossed the planks with a bit of salt and then served them with the yogurt sauce and leftover chicken pieces.