Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday lunch: problematic farinata

Last time I did farinata I found a problem in the BittmanWorld recipe. This time I avoided that problem by starting with 1:1 chickpea flour:water. The weights were 160g flour, 240g water. This ended up being texturally right, but now there's too much salt in the recipe... ah well. That's easy to fix.

Saturday: lots of stuff

After a while without a real cooking day, yesterday somehow turned into one.

Lunch was sauteed gnocchi with garlic and dried chilis

Dinner was from the grill: grill bread (from Let the Flames Begin. As an experiment I skipped the olive oil in the dough. Probably it's better to leave the olive oil in), grilled long green peppers and spring onions (grilled and then chopped and tossed with olive oil and a tiny bit of cider vinegar), and steak (salted, peppered, and grilled). We also had a big green salad.

Our favorite fruit stand at the market had strawberries, so we needed to eat some of those as well. To go with them I picked up some rhubarb; from there it was just a matter of decided what to do. I was tempted to do a pie, but decided in the end that it was too much work, plus pies are somehow stressful. Andrea suggested shortcakes, but we just had those and I was worried we didn't have enough flour. Another thought was to repeat the gotterspeise recipe from Le Menu that was so good last year, but that would have required another trip to the store for zwieback. Finally I went with a hybrid. I made a modified version of the rhubarb compote from the gotterspeise recipe (500g rhubarb, 100g sugar, juice of one and half limes) and a batch of vanilla sauce from Bittman (2c milk, 4 egg yolks, 1/2c sugar, 1 vanilla bean). To serve I layered sliced strawberries, rhubarb, and the creme anglaise in glasses. Really nice combination of flavors.

Along the way I also did a batch of chicken stock and prepared (though we didn't eat yet) a bunch of white asparagus, probably the last of the season.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday dessert: strawberry shortcake

After Monday night's strawberries I had a powerful craving for strawberry shortcake. The strawberries were local (well, Swiss at least) and macerated with raw sugar (Jacutinga). For the biscuits I took the suggestion from Bittman and made a half recipe of his buttermilk/yogurt biscuits with a Tbs of sugar added. I used 1/2 fat quark instead of yogurt.

The results were very good.

I always forget how easy biscuits are, which is dumb: they provide a lot of reward for minimal effort.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday Curry

Very simple and good: Yellow (Thai) curry with potatoes, onions, and chicken breast accompanied by basmati rice and a quick pickle made from thinly sliced cuke, salt, and rhubarb-ginger jam(!).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday: Frikadellen and salads

To go along with the remaining salad from Monday I did a quick batch of frikadellen. For the mixture: mixed ground meat, minced bacon, minced shallot, egg, breadcrumbs, ground allspice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday dessert: strawberries and quark

Very simple dessert: macerated strawberries served with lightly sweetened whipped quark (1/2 fat).

Monday's Salads

Yesterday was much too hot for real cooking, so I did a couple salads:

  1. Diced beets (steamed, then cooled) tossed with chives, dill, mint, salt, white pepper, rapeseed oil, and sour cherry vinegar.
  2. Wurstsalat : Cervelat, gruyere, yogurt, mayo, mustard, chives, minced shallot, salt, pepper, a dash of hot sauce, a dash of Maggi.
We ate these with lettuce and some good bread.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sunday: Tortellini on herbed tomato sauce

After getting back into town and discovering high heat and humidity, the priorities were quick and minimal cooking. So I made the last of the frozen tortellini and served them on a room-temperature sauce made by combining tomato puree, olive oil, salt, minced shallot, and fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley) in the food processor.

Too bad I forgot to get bread at the store, the sauce would have been quite nice for sopping up. :-)

With this we had a big green salad.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Energy bars take 6 (production)

Take 5 worked quite well, but we both preferred the spicing from take 4. This is a "doubled" batch (so half the original recipe) that we took with us for a trip to Liguria. I made some changes based on ingredient availability:

200g soy flakes, ground to a coarse meal
50g flour
200g almond slivers
60g almonds, ground to coarse meal
100g each dried apricots and prunes, minced
30g each sesame and flax
200g sugar
110g honey
90g zuckerruben sirup
50g butter
4 tsp cocoa
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
black pepper

Update: 25 May 2009: These held up really well on the trip and were definitely a success. The one refinement would be to spice them a bit more heavily, otherwise this recipe is a keeper.

Friday: Kohlrabi soup and hummus

This was quite random. The kohlrabi soup (with cinnamon!) recipe was from Le Menu, the hummus was my own.

The soup smells too strongly of cinnamon, but the flavor is still quite good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wednesday: pork bits in red-wine sauce

Quickie improv to use some pork from the freezer.

Cut some pork shoulder across the grain into bite-sized pieces. Brown the pieces well in olive oil then set aside. Add diced yellow carrot and sliced leek to the pan and cook until the carrots soften. Sprinkle over some flour and let cook another minute or so. Add red wine and let reduce by about half. Add the pork, dried porcinis, some veggie bouillon, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and black pepper and let simmer until the pork is tender.

We ate this over brown rice with a big salad on the side. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday: pork chops with peppers

This was driven by a desire to have something with a sauce we could soak up with bread. Then I saw peppers on sale in the Coop. The rest was easy.

Cook some chopped garlic in olive oil until aromatic. Add some thinly sliced bell peppers (a mixture of red, orange, yellow, and green). Cook until the pepper starts to soften. Add a Tbs or so of flour and cook a couple minutes longer. Add white wine, some veggie bouillon, chopped thyme, rosemary, and sage. Cook a few minutes, then transfer to an olive-oiled baking dish. In the meantime, heat a bit more oil in a heavy pan and brown some seasoned, thick, bone-in pork chops well on both sides. Transfer to the dish with the peppers. Deglaze the pan with a bit more white wine, transfer to the dish, toss in the oven at 180C until the pork is done, 20-30 minutes. Serve topped with chives and with crusty bread on the side.

We also did a fennel salad with shaved fennel tossed with salt, wrung out, and then mixed with a dressing made from reduced OJ, olive oil, mustard, and black pepper.

Really nice food.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday: Flounder meuniere, salzkartoffeln

I had a craving for fish this weekend and flounder filets were the only thing Coop had that looked halfway reasonable. I kept it very simple: season the fish with a bit of salt, season some semolina with cayenne, dredge the fish through the semolina, saute in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Serve topped with a bit of sauce made from butter and lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley.

As a side, salt potatoes: cook some peeled potatoes in well salted water. Serve topped with chives, salt, lemon, and olive oil.

The fish itself was not terribly exciting, but the preparation wasn't half bad (if I do say so myself), and the potatoes were excellent.

Of course we had a big green salad to accompany.

Another quark timbale

We like it so much I keep making new versions.

This time: 250g quark (half fat), 1 jigger kirsch, 2 Tbsp brown sugar; well whipped; mixed with 2 leaves of gelatin; dispensed into ramekins; a blop of rhubarb-ginger jam dropped in the middle.

The whipping is good, the kirsch is good (but this quantity is a bit too much), and the rhubarb jam is excellent. 

Energy bars take 5

The last batch turned out really well, so this experiment was tuning and trying to increase the nutritional value a bit.

100g soy flakes, ground to a coarse meal
100g almond slivers
30g walnut pieces
50g each dried apricots and prunes, minced
15g each sesame and flax
85g sugar
115g honey
30g butter
2 tsp cocoa
2 tsp garam masala tea spice
black pepper

First tastes seem pretty good.

Another batch of rhubarb-ginger jam

The last batch was quite successful, so we picked up some more rhubarb at the market on Saturday. This morning I converted that into jam. The quantities were 1100g rhubarb, 800g gelierzucker, 60g minced ginger, and the juice and zest from one lemon.

Saturday: asparagus and farinata

There have been a couple Bittman things about savory flatbreads, or farinata. These have been kicking around in the back brain for a bit but couldn't be realized until we had some chickpea flour in the house. This finally happened yesterday.

I started simple: chickpea flour, water, salt, olive oil. Unfortunately I started from the recipe in BittmanWorld, which contains a typo: it calls for 1 3/4 cup water for the 1 cup chickpea flour. This can't possibly be right, it needs to be closer to 1:1, perhaps even more flour than water. Luckily the error was clear before I started cooking so I was able to recover with more flour. Next time I'll weigh stuff out and get better proportions. NOTE: in the farinata link above the proportions are 1:1. The problem is in BittmanWorld.

The other component on the plate was asparagus, cooked like last week and then wrapped with a bit of cooked ham and served with salt and butter. Very nice.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Nanorestaurant Review: Charon (Basel)

Charon is supposed to have excellent food, so we decided to give it a try last night. We spent about two minutes in the restaurant before deciding that it was too smoky to be able to enjoy a meal.

Too bad.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wednesday Chinese

Last night I did a weekday version of twice-cooked pork. Instead of going all out and using pork belly (which is very good) I used a piece of a roast. After boiling for 10-12 minutes I let this cool a bit, thinly sliced it, and then did the rest according to the Dunlop recipe (though we still don't have any sweet bean paste). The result was quite good.

As a side I stir fried some broccoli with chopped garlic and then added a splash each of black vinegar and xiao xing wine and a small spoon of hoisin.

Excellent food.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tuesday: rhubarb-ginger jam

Basic recipe from Le Menu, but I used fresh ginger instead of candied.

Cut 500g rhubarb into pieces. Combine with 375g sugar, 40g finely chopped ginger, and the juice and zest of half a lemon, place over medium heat and let simmer until the rhubarb disintegrates, 15-20 minutes. Pour into clean jars and close them.

The results are really, really tasty but could use a bit of help on the pectin front. Maybe use some gelierzucker next time to get a more jammy texture.

Monday: kohlrabi gratin

Straightforward gratin to use up a bunch of kohlrabi sitting in the fridge. The idea for the kohlrabi/cinnamon combination is from Le Menu, the rest is basically improv.

Brown some ground meat with a bit of salt. Add sliced leeks and let cook until the leeks soften. Add some flour and cook another couple minutes. Add red wine and reduce by half. Add some beef bouillon, cinnamon, nutmeg, sweet paprika, hot paprika, black pepper, and lemon zest. Let simmer for a bit. Layer the meat with thinly sliced kohlrabi in a gratin dish, finishing with meat. Sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon and nutmeg and let bake, covered, at 180C for 30 minutes. Top with Gruyere and bake, covered, another 10 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

This turned out quite nicely.

Tuesday dessert: Quark-cherry-rhubarb timbales

Not overly different from the last timbale dessert. This time I skipped the cherry juice in the quark and topped the whole thing with a bit of rhubarb-ginger jam. This way was even better than the pure-cherry version. One might even be able to leave the cherries out.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Energy bars take 4

After careful analysis and much thought while eating some Cliff Bars we brought with us from our last visit to the US, I had an inspiration for improving my attempts at energy bars, which were to this point acceptable, but not really appealing. The idea is to start from a panforte recipe and use sugar/honey that's been taken to the firm ball stage.

I started from the ratios I used last time I made panforte, but changed the mixture fairly dramatically, used the higher sugar temperature from my first panforte, and did a quarter recipe since we'd have to eat the experiment no matter how it turned out.

  • 100g dried fruit (apricots and prunes), chopped fine
  • 150g nuts (slivered almonds, chopped pecans)
  • 80g whole-grain flakes (oats, millet, spelt, etc.)
  • 15g flax seeds
  • 15g sesame seeds
  • 85g sugar
  • 115g honey
  • 30g butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • good pinch salt
  • good grind black pepper
Mix the dry ingredients (except sugar) together well. Combine the sugar, honey, and butter and cook to the firm-ball stage (118C). Combine the sugar mixture with the dry ingredients, spread on parchment, and bake at 160C for about 15 minutes.

First tasting results are quite positive. We'll give it a bit more to see it holds up. :-)

Saturday: Asparagus, Pork tenderloin with vegetable vinaigrette

This time with the local asparagus (from Neudorf), I made a conscious effort to do a simple preparation along traditional lines so that I could try to understand the appeal. So I peeled the stalks very well, removed the bottom 4cm, and then cooked them in water with salt, sugar, and butter. Of course I didn't stand the stalks up in the pot, which is undoubtedly a major foul. Once the asparagus was tender, I removed it to a plate covered with a folded napkin and served it with a dish of melted butter and the pork with vinaigrette. I think I get it now... this was nice stuff; it's not going to replace green asparagus in my affections, but I at least can appreciate the white variety more.

The pork was a bit of an improv. Having a vinaigrette around the asparagus seemed like a good idea, but I wanted a vegetable heavy version. This is what came of that plus the sudden desire to do some brunoise (i.e. kitchen knife play). Cut a carrot, some red pepper, a shallot, and a few sun-dried tomatoes into brunoise. Mix with minced parsley, minced baerlauch, salt, pepper, white balsamico, and rape seed oil. Let stand for an hour or so at room temperature before serving. The pork: season a piece of tenderloin well with salt and pepper and then cook it over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil. When nicely browned and finished, set aside to rest for a few minutes. Slice 1cm thick and serve on the vinaigrette, topped with chives.

Along with the green salad, this was a very happy-making meal.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Friday: Lentil revisions and potato pancakes

First a note: with last night's meal we had some of the lentils and beets leftover from Thursday as a room-temperature salad. To serve them this way I moved closer to the original recipe and made a mustard vinaigrette (grainy mustard, sour-cherry vinegar, olive oil) for the lentils. This added a nice note to the whole flavor combination.

The other component of the meal was a recipe from this month's Le Menu for Kartoffeltätschli (potato pancakes) served on a vegetable-quark sauce. 

For the sauce: cook a minced shallot in butter for a couple minutes, add leek rings and julienned carrot and cook for another few minutes. Add some spinach leaves and a bit of veggie bouillon and let simmer until the spinach is ready. Stir in rahmquark and adjust seasonings.

For the pancakes: combine 700g grated cooked potato with an egg, 50g cheese, 50g flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Drop into a pan with hot clarified butter, flatten out a bit, and let cook until both sides are nicely browned.  Serve on top of the sauce, sprinkled with chives.

Along with a green salad, this was good stuff.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Thursday: Lentils with beets and spinach

Inspired by a recipe that Bittman pointed to, along with the memory that lentils and beets go together quite well.

Peel a couple beets and cut them into large dice. Toss with some olive oil, rosemary, thyme, salt, and white pepper in a baking dish, cover, and bake at 190C until the beets are tender, about an hour.

Meanwhile, start some chopped green garlic, finely diced carrot, and sliced leeks in a pan with olive oil. After a while add green lentils, herbs de provence, bay leaf, white wine, green garlic stems, and some chicken bouillon. Simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender. Mix in some ripped up spinach leaves, cover, and simmer another few minutes. Adjust seasonings.

Serve the lentils topped with some beets, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with some chives.

Good stuff.

With this we had the obligatory green salad.