Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays! - Eggnog

There are certain things that belong to every family's holiday traditions. My mother's inexplicable purchasing of eggnog belongs to this category. While I didn't really mind it, I was never really a fan of the stuff. Nonetheless, I would get a glass handed to me at random intervals. A few years back, I hosted a holiday party, and a friend who had access to eggnog brought over a carton. The other people at the party loved it. I make no effort to recreate the gelatinous viscosity of ready-made eggnog. I instead prefer something that is rich, creamy and a taste of holiday indulgence.

4 eggs, separated
1/2 c sugar
1/2 rum
1 1/2 c whiskey
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c cream
nutmeg to garnish

Beat egg whites with 1/4 c sugar until soft peaks form. Beat egg yolks separately with remaining sugar until the sugar is disolved. Fold the whites into the yolks.
Slowly add milk and liquor. Whip cream until soft peaks form and fold into the eggnog.
Garnish with nutmeg.

I experiment with the liquors. This year, I didn't want to use the good rum, so I used some honey-flavoured rum from the Canary Islands. I also used a little bit of Spanish brandy. The 1.5L of drink are now gone, and although it was great, I'll have to wait until next year to do it again. For now, it's back to work to finish off things for 2009 & you can bet I'll be dreaming of a glass of eggnog in the office.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bask in Chicken

A few weeks ago, I visited my first cooking class and promised to try out a recipe and blog about it. Because Santa is just a few hours away, I have to make good on my promises now. Otherwise, I'm afraid of getting a shot glass like I did last year. Granted, I did get some liquor to put into the shot glass, but still.

The first time I had Poulet Basquaise was in Nice. My wonderful host made it with olives. The recipe I kinda followed did not have olives, and frankly, in the cooking class, it wasn't all that much to write home about. I think the olives are a good touch. As well as bay leaves. Lots of bay leaves. I used 3 for 2 chicken thighs, but this could easily be doubled. I used dark meat, but breast meat is also possible, which reduces cooking time.

Poulet Basquaise (Basque-style Chicken)
2 chicken legs, cut into drumsticks & legs
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large bell pepper, seeded & diced
1 can tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 c black olives
salt, pepper
thyme, bay leaves

In 1 Tbsp olive oil, sautee onion, garlic, pepper until soft. Remove from heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and brown chicken.
Return onions, garlic & pepper to the pot, add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve with rice or quinoa.

My result was certainly better that the original recipe I got in my cooking class, but not as good as the one in Nice. Another reason to go back, I guess. Now that I've officially been a good girl, maybe Santa will even take me to the Atlantic coast of France.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blood is Thicker Than Stock

This is not a vegetarian soup. The reason is pretty easy: I needed a thickener for the soup but was out of cream. I remember going to dinner a while back & one companion ordering warm blood sausage and liverwurst. At the time, I didn't find the combination of sausage & warm very appealing. I still don't, to be honest, but it reminded me that blood sausage falls apart when warm. I thought it might be the last touch that I needed in an otherwise bland pumpkin soup. I didn't have any cream, so why not?

Result: very tasty, not meaty, subtle depth and no leftovers.

1 pumpkin, cooked in 1 L broth, spices to taste. Cook until tender, add 1 Tbsp blood sausage & puree.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dark Latkes for the Festival of Lights

From a theological standpoint, Hanukkah is not a significant holiday. From a cultural standpoint, Hanukkah is great! The date varies but it usually takes place some time in December, that is, some time when we could all use as many lights and social gatherings as we can get, and Hanukkah offers 8 days of festivities. 8 days is enough for me to catch up. The first day of Hanukkah was last Friday. I made my latkes - traditional potato pancakes - last night

I miss a lot of things about Canada and multiculturalism tops the list. Needless to say, there is not a huge Jewish community here in Heidelberg, although there is a synagogue and a Jewish University. While they are very open at both institutes (I visited the one and took a class at the other), I never found the same sort of integration that I felt is so natural in Canada. I felt really sad when someone at the synagogue said, "we haven't had any troubles, but on the high holy days, it's still nice to have a police car patrolling the area". I know there is a huge amount of baggage that I am not willing to discuss, nor am I willing to judge one side or the other. I'm selfish & I just want a good latke.

Potato pancakes exist in Germany. They are called "Kartoffelpuffer", "Reibekuchen" or an assortment of other names. They are common for the area that was once the Holy German Empire (Germany, Bohemia, Poland, parts of Austria). These foods that were so common for the area seem to be the dishes that Jews from Eastern Europe (Ashkenazic Jews) took with them to North America. These "Kartoffelpuffer" are present at every Christmas market, indicating that the dish is of local significance, not religious significance. What I don't like around here is that they are only available with applesauce, not sour cream. In Düsseldorf, I had some with herbed Quark (a kind of cream cheese). I was all over it. To top my latkes (or Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancakes), I used skim quark with a pinch of herbes de provence (my secret ingredient) as well as chives and parsley.

The potatoes are Vitelotte, a dark potato that retains its colour when cooked. They were, honestly, this dark. I added beets and carrots to make me feel less guilty about eating fried food. But let's be honest, the festival of lights is only possible because there was enough oil to light the lamps for 8 days. Oil is an essential part of the holiday. If I only celebrate one of the 8 days, my arteries aren't doing too badly.

Happy Hanukkah to everyone! Enjoy the lights and the fried food!

Midnight Latkes
300g Vitelotte potatoes (or another purple variety)
200g beets
1 carrot
2 eggs
oil to fry

Grate potatoes. Place in bowl of water to allow starch & liquid to escape. Squeeze all liquid out of potatoes and, if possible, retain starch. Add to a large bowl. Grate beets and carrots, squeezing out liquid. Add egg and salt and mix.
Heat oil in a skillet and when hot (a toothpick should bubble) place 2Tbsp lumps of latke batter into oil. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
Cook until solid, turn & continue cooking. Place on a plate with lots of paper towels, and keep warm in the oven.
Serve with apple sauce and skim cream.

Skim Cream
150g quark
1 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped parsley
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cheer - Market

I was at the Christmas market earlier this week, which is always good fun. Hot mulled wine (Glühwein) a warm bratwurst, potato pancakes with applesauce and browsing by the stands selling handmade wares. Local pottery, handmade leather goods, scarves and candles and crystal fill the old town for 4 weeks. I'm not there for the presents, I'm there to socialize with people and drink some Glühwein to keep warm. Frankly, I prefer warm fruit punch with a shot of rum, but the Glühwein isn't bad either.

The are a lot of tourists here on a normal day, and even more come for the Christmas markets, especially on the weekend. They don't have a tiny BBQ to grill bratwursts, they have a more industrial setup, ready to feed many mouths.

I'm north of 49°, which means that it gets dark at around 4:30pm. The lights of the Christmas markets might be a little bit kitschy but 1) Germans invented kitsch & 2) it's less depressing than in January.

The pyramid actually spins around, like the tiny ones my parents would put out when I was younger. It has "famous" figures of Heidelberg, none of whom I can recall. The main thing is, it is on top of a stand that has a lot of tables to meet people and have a hot drink.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Kitchen December - Something in a Croute

I've been ridiculously busy in the last little while. When the Workaholic gives me a hard time for not synching my calendar, I simply reply, "I haven't even had time to blog!" He then understands the gravity of the situation. If it weren't for the Daring Kitchen Challenge (and my constant threat of being kicked out for non-participation) I wouldn't even be blogging today. The challenge didn't really appeal to me right away, but I figured I could do some tweaking to make it more for me.

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

I'm allergic to fish. And I didn't really want to have beef. And then there's the problem with chicken that I prefer thighs and they don't really fit into crusts. And then the Workaholic isn't a big fan of mushrooms. What does this leave me with? Spinach. Feta. Sundried tomatoes and a bit of black olives. All of this in a crust of puff pastry. As mentioned before, I've been crazy-busy the last little while, so I'm not about to make my own pastry if I don't have to. I bought the only pastry in the store, which I think was the wrong kind. Oh well. It's what's for dinner. And it wasn't that bad. Actually, it was pretty decent.

Epinards en Croute (Spinach pockets)
1 c cooked spinach, drained of liquid
3 Tbsp cumbled feta
1 tsp tapenade (black olive paste)
3 Tbsp sundried tomates, marinated in oil, chopped
pinch cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 package puff pastry

Mix all ingredients except for pastry in a bowl. Roll out pastry, slice into 8ths. Divide spinach mix evenly over 4 slices of pastry. Top the pastry with remaining slices. Bake at 200° for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden brown.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Cold

Since my last post, I've come down with a cold. This cold lasted 3 weeks. Regular over-the-counter drugs aren't working (granted, I only really gave children's cough syrup a fair chance). I decided it was time for the home remedies of chili, garlic, ginger and chicken noodle soup. Chili frees up the sinuses, garlic is supposed to ward off the common cold, ginger provides energy and chicken noodle soup - well, it's chicken noodle soup. I tried to combine these ingredients and I wound up with the a soup that will keep me free of vampires for the next 2 months.

Anti-Cold Soup
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2" ginger, minced
1 chili, sliced thinly
1 L chicken stock
150 g chicken, cut into thin slices
100g rice noodles, soaked according to package directions
chopped cilantro
green onions, sliced, white parts only
1 kefir lime

In a large saucepan, gently brown garlic and ginger over low heat. Add chicken broth and chili, and bring to a boil. Add chicken and allow to simmer for 2-4 minutes. Add noodles. Spoon into bowls, serve with sliced onions, cilantro and lime.

I remained sick for a few days, and I'm not sure what effect, if any, the soup had on my well-being. I think, more than anything else, it kept me at home where I belonged. I didn't want to take my garlic stench outside to scare anyone. And the rest certainly did me some good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tour de France - in the Kitchen

Yesterday, I attended my first cooking class. It wasn't so much a cooking class as a cooking club. 14 people met in the local community college to cook 6 dishes from various regions of France. On the menu:

Onion Soup - Paris
Endive Salad - Picardy (North East)
Quiche Lorraine - Lorraine (Mid-East)
Basque Chicken - Basque country (South West)
Gratin Dauphinoise - Dauphiné (South East)
Norman Apple Tart - Normandy (North West)

My "team" was responsible for the Endive Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts, as well as the Apple Tart for dessert. While I can't really say I learnt all that much about the secrets of French Cuisine, I certainly had an entertaining Sunday morning. And I got to eat 6 dishes from 6 different regions.

While I'm not a dessert person, and I wasn't blown away by the Gratin (it's scalloped potatoes without the cheese), there were some dishes that I enjoyed. I may have discovered a way to eat endives (I normally hate them). In the next few weeks, I have a feeling I will be making the Onion Soup, and maybe the Basque Chicken. I'll post recipes as well, so everyone can have their own culinary Tour de France.

This event was co-hosted by the Volkshochschule Heidelberg, and the 4th annual Französiche Woche (French Week).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé!

Every year on the third Thursday of November, people gather to drink the first wine of the season. This year, I joined a few friends, stood outside in the cold and drank Beaujolais out of tiny glasses.

Beaujolais Nouveau is not for everyone. Some people say it's fantastic and goes well with turkey. (This works well if celebrate Thanksgiving in the USA, as you have 1 week to get the stuff.) Some people, myself included, think it's terrible. One friend tried his first Beaujolais Nouveau last night & made the same face that people make when they bite into a lemon. The wine is not sour, but, it's not that refined. It's young. Very young. A few weeks old. It is also usually made from lesser-quality grapes, while the good grapes age for many more months.

So, why go stand in the cold with a bottle of bad wine? Because it's fun. The wines arrival is scheduled, so you can schedule an event out of it. You and your friends can block your calendars, the importer can arrange a party. All you need is a few cases of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Last night, a group of us met at the market square, drank a few glasses and enjoyed an otherwise drab November day. We stayed until they closed the stand, and were offered the sandwiches which hadn't been sold. Afterwards, we all went our separate ways for dinner. I completed the evening with a leg of goose from the French restaurant around the corner, and then a Kir Royale in the French bar a few streets down - it was an evening in Petit France. Hopefully next year will be just as special - I'll try to ensure it is by not touching Beaujolais until then.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Daring Cooks November - Quest for Sushi

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge is from Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge. The sushi challenge this month was harder than I thought. It involved letting other people into my kitchen. Allow me to explain.

A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend. I then said that I had to go home but on my way, I had to stop by the Asian Supermarket. Because the Asian Supermarket stocks Tiger beer, my friend decided to bring his shopping bag to accompany me. The workaholic had been informed that I was on my way and was waiting.

On the 1km journey to the Asian supermarket, my friend saw approximately 20 stores that had interesting things in the windows. I concentrated my efforts on pulling the friend out of stores and towards the supermarket. Again, the workaholic is waiting.

30 minutes later, in the supermarket, my friend asks me what I need. I explain that I have to make sushi this month for The Daring Kitchen. The friend then informs me that, together with a mutal friend, he attended a sushi course a few weeks ago at the community college. Surely the mutal friend had the ingriedients I needed. One not-so-quick phone call later (reception problems) and I can pick up the vinegars & everything else I need. I grab my chickpea flour & explain to the waiting workaholic what happened.

To take ingriedients and not to offer a dinner invitation is out of the question, so my once humble sushi challenge has evolved into a sushi evening at my place. This is the time to remind you, my dear reader, that there is very little fresh fish in southern Germany. I buy an avocado a few days ahead of time (they too are of poor quality here), and I plan to buy fish.

The only fish I am not allergic to is tuna. The mutal friend, who brought over the ingriedients, said that the sushi instructor claims that there is good fresh fish to be had in Metro - the members-only-mega-size store. As it happens, this friend happens to have a membership. We make a date to go buy sashimi-grade tuna. I do my regular grocery shopping, trying to avoid buying pasta in 2.5 kg packages.

In Metro, we buy all the things I never knew I needed. My friend buys 2 kg of breakfast cereal ("it's my favourite!"). We save the fish counter for the end, so it stays cold. After having filled a cart with wine, Kaffir limes, Twix, gummi bears and who know what else, we hit the fish counter. "We'd like some sashimi-grade tuna", we say. "OK," says the lady behind the counter, "I have a 2.5 kg piece". We look at each other and ask, "do you have anything smaller?". "2.2" is the answer.

We leave the store with hundreds of things that we didn't come in for, and nothing that we actually wanted. It's Saturday night, 7pm, there is no chance of getting any more fresh fish before tomorrow's sushi night.

Invitations to roll and eat are for 6pm. Out of desperation, I open a can of tuna at 5pm, adding a bit of rice wine vinegar and chopped chives. It marinates & wasn't that bad for nigiri. Not comprable to the 2.5 kg loin of sashimi-grade tuna, but not bad. I cook the rice in the rice cooker & let the guys take over.

Preparing the cooked rice
(apparently, a sugar-vinegar solution is poured over the rice & blended in. Apparently this is what sushi is all about - not about the fish. Apparently.)

Making the omelette
(I think the key is to make a sausage out of an omelette & to roll the cooked layers, pouring more egg on as you go. I think)

Pressing the omelette into shape
(note the masculine hands that clearly do not belong to me)

The Nigiri Sushi
(a bit of immitation crab, some avocado, omelette, and the canned tuna topping)

I know that this month's challenge was to make a dragon roll, a decorative maki and some nigiri. I know I didn't make the decorative maki nor did I make the dragon roll - and strictly speaking, I didn't really make the nigiri either. Nonetheless, this month was still a challenge. One of the most important lessons I learned this month is: there's a sushi restaurant around the corner from my place. They have the conveyor belt and they're open Sundays until 10pm.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stuffed Turkey for 2

The local supermarket had turkey steaks on sale. They were ridiculously thick, like 1 1/2 - 2 " (4-5 cm). I originally wanted to slice them into little strips for stir-frys or for chili, or something that doesn't involve eating a huge slice of turkey. But when I asked the work-a-holic how he wanted his turkey & he said "stuffed", I figured, why not.

Step 1: prepare Chestnut Stuffing, reduced by 1/10th
Step 2: butterfly turkey steak
Step 3: open turkey steaks, place stuffing on top
Step 4: Wrap turkey steaks with kitchen twine, or use skewers
Step 5: place stuffed turkey in an oven dish with 1/4 cup white wine, cover with foil & allow to roast at 180° Celcius (350°F) for 30 minutes.
Step 6: serve with roasted pumpkin.

Granted, there is no gravy, there are no mashed potatoes but I could have made all of those things. Maybe I will if we spend American Thanksgiving here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Potstickers with Sage Butter

Last night was Halloween, and I took some short cuts so I could wait for the Great Pumpkin.

They say there's a way for lazy people to make ravioli: use wonton wrappers instead of making your own pasta. I think that this is some sort of punishment for being lazy because wonton wrappers are for making wontons. Maybe other Asian dumplings. Not ravioli. Every time I have tried using this little short cut, I have ended up with some sort of failure. I believe the reason they recommend wonton wrappers to lazy people is to prove that if you want a good product, you have to put in the effort, so make your own pasta!

Luckily, I realized before my fragile packets exploded in a pot of boiling water that this was not going to amount to much. I reshaped my ravioli & decided to go more of a potsticker route. I kept the same seasonings (they were already in the mix) and I stuck to my plan of sage butter. I'm actually quite content with the results. They may have been a little greasy, but I think that's the problem with a butter sauce.

Pumpkin Potstickers with Sage Butter
300 g pumpkin, steamed until it falls apart
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
salt & pepper
20 - 24 wonton wrappers
1/2 c water
3-6 leaves of sage, sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 c white wine

Combine pumpkin, nutmeg, garlic, thyme & oregano until well mixed.
Place 1 heaping teaspoon of pumpkin mix onto a wonton wrapper, pulling together the sides & sealing with water as needed. They should form a little pouch.
When all potstickers are done, heat oil a pan over med-high heat. Add pot stickers for 2-3 minutes, covered, until brown. Add water, replace cover & allow to steam for a further 2-3 minutes. Add sage, and butter until butter melts, pan covered. Add white wine & allow the wine to evaporate.

I had these for dinner, sat back & waited to The Great Pumpkin to come. He didn't make it this year. Perhaps because I killed one of his kind. I'll know for next year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stomp The Savoy

When you tell a child that they can't have something, they inevitably want it even more. Years ago, as my mom tried the cabbage soup diet, I was told that I was not allowed to have any. Since then, I have loved cabbage. My cabbage of choice is savoy - there must be something about those wrinkles that I love. Today, I made my own cabbage soup, with savoy cabbage and potatoes.

Creamy Savoy Cabbage Soup
1 small onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp bacon fat
1 carrot, sliced
150 g potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 small head of savoy cabbage, chopped
1 L chicken stock
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 c milk
bacon bits

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sautee garlic and onions in bacon fat. When the onions are translucent, add potatoes and carrots. After potatoes are shiny with bacon fat, add cabbage. Stir and wait until cabbage shrinks. Add chicken stock. Cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, carefully puree the soup. In a small jar, mix the flour and milk so there are no lumps. Slowly add the milk to the soup. Allow to simmer for 5 further minutes. Garnish with bacon bits.

Frankly, I think I could have done without the bacon bits. But then it would have been too much like the forbidden soup of the past. And although I'm daring, I'm not about to break the rule my mom has set.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Plantain Pancakes

Living so far away from home, I sometimes forget and idealize certain things. Recently, I found some plantains in the store & excitedly called my mom to ask what I should do with them. "Why on earth did you buy plantains?" was the reply. Apparently my mom was not the link to plantain pleasure. I think it was a friend's mom or grandmother. Someone from either western Africa or India. Maybe even South East Asia. The benefit of growing up in a multicultural city was going to friend's houses for food.

Recently, I bought some more plantains, convinced I'd find a use for them. I ran into a friend on the way home from grocery shopping and we compared. I had riper plantains than she did but she had something I didn't: a plan. Pisang Goreng - fried plantain in Indonesia and Singapore. She just slices her ripe plantains, dips them in batter & fries them and has them as a snack with tea. I'm not a big fan of dipping things into batter, so I just made pancakes with a coconut sauce.

Plantain Pancakes
(Pisang Goreng)
2 ripe plantains (skins should be black)
1/4 cup flour
pinch salt
oil to fry

Peel plantains, mash with a potato masher. Add flour to create a batter-like consistency.
Drop tablespoons into hot oil. Fry until there is a slight caramel-crust. Turn once. Drain on paper towels.

Coconut Sauce
1/4 c grated cocnut
3 Tbsp coconut milk
1 small red chili, chopped
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds

In a small bowl, add coconut, coconut milk and chili. Allow the coconut to absorb the liquid. Roast seeds over medium heat until the mustard seeds pop. Add seeds to coconut. Serve with plantain pancakes.

I was happy with the result and will be making this again. This time, when I find more plantains in the supermarket, I'll be calling my friend over for a snack. Then I'll tell my mom what to do the next time she sees plantains.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tete De Moine - More Monk's Head Cheese

The local Brunch place has an amazing buffet - including Tete De Moine cheese. Because I had recently posted about this cheese variety, I thought it proper to post a photo of what this cheese looks like before it is shaved into little florets.

Because I am not an expert, my floret is a little thick. Still - it was some pretty good cheese.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Kitchen - Pho Ga

This month, the Daring Kitchen finally paid off for me. After the dishes I didn't have time for & the dishes that I thought were dumb, I finally hit the jackpot with the dish-that-I-never-thought-I-could-make-at-home. The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. The dish of the month was Pho Ga -Vietnamese chicken soup.

The first time I had Pho was when I was still in high school and the first Vietnamese restaurant opened in my hometown. Whenever I went in, it seemed as though I was the only person who was not Vietnamese and did not know what to order. A key lesson I've learned through these times is: if everyone around you is ordering the same dish, follow them. This lead me to Pho Bo. Since then, many Pho restaurants opened (and closed) in my hometown, sadly including the Happy Cow restaurant - the soup place with the picture of a laughing cow on the sign.

Since my school days, Pho has become somewhat vogue. I can understand this. In fact, I can even understand Anthony Bourdain savouring the moment of expectation:

Here in Europe, a good bowl of Pho is hard to find. Maybe I'd have better luck in Paris, but until now - no go. All the more reason to scream with delight as Jaden gave her Pho recipe, from her new book. I pretty much followed this recipe (as well as I can follow any recipe) but added the bones from a leftover roasted chicken to the stock.

Jaden has 2 versions of this recipe. 1 is long and involves making your own stock. The other is shorter & can be found in her new cookbook. I followed the long one, mainly because I had some chicken bones in my freezer that I was saving for a soup anyway.

Complete with the garnishes, the workaholic & I slurped up our soup & only wished that the chilis in Germany were hotter. I forgot the lime until my bowl was almost empty but it didn't bother me too much - I was salivating like Anthony Bourdain and looking forward to leftovers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Savouring Sentimentality

Last night, while waiting for the last bit of liquid to cook off of my wild rice, I was informed that Condé Nast will be closing Gourmet magazine. An interesting solution to a financial problem. Of course, on a superficial level, ceasing to publish a magazine that has a high budget and a low readership seems like a sensible move. However, Gourmet has a circulation of 980,000. Granted that this economy is difficult, it is a phase that will eventually pass. Gourmet magazine has been in circulation since 1941, and like many Condé Nast publications (think Vogue, GQ), does not sell the practical but the ideal and aspirations.

By closing Gourmet, Condé Nast is sending the signal that there are no more culinary aspirations. There are no more smart, educated analyses on food. The nationwide voice of food politics is reduced at a time when more people are looking to the White House for direction on what to put on their plates. The Michelin stars are figuratively burning out of the media sky and no longer giving home cooks something to strive for. A meal in 30 minutes is not an art. A meal to savour for 3 hours, that is an art.

Condé Nast has decided to keep Bon Appetit magazine, another fine culinary periodical that is more focused on the practical hands-on approach. The pages of Bon Appetit are more down to earth, presumably the reason why an external consulting company decided to keep the brand. Furthermore, Bon Appetit has a higher readership, most likely because it is less intimidating. Recipes like "Around the World in 80 Hot Dogs" are not daunting. Reviews of the Maine lobster festival from author David Foster Wallace are.

I thought of all the reasons why my throat had a lump in it last night and why I let the rice burn. I am not directly involved in Gourmet magazine - I can not afford an overseas subscription. Nonetheless, I was greatly saddened, not only by the magazine but also by the burnt dinner. But why?

These are undoubtedly hard times for all economies, particularly for print media. Therefore, it is understandable that Condé Nast needs to reduce its costs. However, without the tradition and lore of Gourmet, Condé Nast is losing its art and keeping its commerce. And that, in any economy, is the saddest aspect of all.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chevre Pancakes

In the last few years, dairy farmers in Germany have been complaining about the low price of milk. When milk costs €0.29 / L, it is very hard to make a profit, or even make ends meet (note: discount bottled water costs €0.35). A consumer who is aware of this problem can respond in a variety of ways. You can ignore the problem & continue to hope that your daily staple will not cost you more. You can choose to pay more for milk and milk products but the question remains: how much of that money really goes to the farmer & how much is absorbed by the milk company. You can buy local milk and ensure the farmers in your area see the money that you are willing to pay. I have gone a different route - I have stopped buying milk and milk products. I'm not sure that this is the answer, certainly it isn't for many German households, but I switched to goat milk for a few reasons.

Goat and sheep milk can normally be consumed by people who are lactose intolerant. Goat and sheep milk are not as commercial as cow milk, and I believe are thus less prone to the industrialized farming that results in high hormone and antibiotic use in cows. I could be wrong here, but because goats produce a fraction of the milk that cows do, they can not be used on such a large scale, and therefore, should not be as prone to disease as animals that are living in cramped quarters. For me, the most important reason to switch to goat milk was quite simply, the workaholic likes it better. I found some goat milk in the supermarket, imported from France, and had some goat yogurt in the fridge. Together, they are the perfect consistency for buttermilk - all without the bad conscience.

Goatmilk Pancakes
1 c flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
125 g goat yogurt
goat milk (about a 1/2 c)
1 egg
2 Tbsp oil

Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda & baking powder in a medium sized bowl.
Place yogurt in a measuring cup. Add enough milk so you have 3/4 c liquid. Mix the thick mass until it is free of lumps.
In a small bowl, add the egg, oil and goat milk. Stir until smooth.
Slowly add the egg/milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir a few times, the batter should still be lumpy.
Cook pancakes on a grill at medium heat until bubbles form. Then flip the pancakes. Keep them warm in a cool oven (50°), covered in foil until all pancakes are done. Serve with warm maple syrup.

I'm not sure if I'm really doing my part to help the farmers. Maybe it's time for government support, like in France. All I really know is that the pancakes were really sweet and went well with bacon. But what doesn't go well with bacon?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monk's Head Cheese

As a fan of any food that requires its own accessory to serve it properly, I must report on Tete de Moine - the cheese that literaly translates to "Monk's Head". It is a Swiss cheese that is purchased in cylindrical blocks that apparently remind the more creative cheese conniseurs of the shaved head of a monk. Or maybe it's the way that the cheese is shaved off of the block, reminding the less creative of shaving the head of a monk.

In order to properly serve the Tete de Moine, it must be shaved into airy thin strips on a device known as a Girolle. The cylinder is placed in the middle of the girolle & the scraper along the axle of the device enables you to shave off thin pieces. Ideally, in the hands of a gifted girolle user (which means "in the hands of someone other than myself"), the tool can be used to create flowers of cheese.

Bearing a striking resemblance to carnations, the edible flowers are a delight, if not an effort. Thankfully, the woman behind the cheese counter knew what to do, created these lovely "fleurs" and packed them in a plastic container for me. Certainly a more agreeable snack than monastery lunchmeat.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feed Me Meat, Please!

This vegan thing is getting out of hand. Even when I'm making lunch for just myself with an assortment of easy forms of nourishment such as pate and cheese and baguette at hand, I opt for cold soba noodles with kale and tofu. I said No to Manchego. I said No to Gouda with cumin. I said No to Terrine de Campagne. I think I'm coming down with something, and I seriously hope it's not a case of veganism.

I made these earlier this week when I was working from home. I then proceeded to MSN my colleague to tell him that my lunch was better than what he just had in the cafeteria. Yes, I'm popular at work. Somehow I was thinking of this, my workday lunch, on a Sunday afternoon. I won't analyse it too much, but I will share the recipe with you.

Soba with Kale and Tofu for 1
90 g soba noodles
50 g tofu, cut into small cubes
1/3 c blanched kale (frozen)
1/2 Tbsp peanut of sunflower oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 small red chili, chopped
chili flakes (optional)
fish sauce (optional)
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 very small red onion, sliced finely or 1 green onion, chopped

Bring a small saucepan with water to a boil. While water is boiling, warm oil in a pan to saute tofu.
In a small bowl, add all ingredients except cilantro and onion. Mix. Kale will sill be frozen.
After noodles have cooked al dente, drain them and toss in the bowl with sauce. The warm noodles and the frozen kale will counteract one another, stopping the cooking of the soba and thawing the kale.
When tofu has an adequate crust, remove from heat & drain. Add to noodles & toss.
Garnish with onions and cilantro.

As I type this, I'm watching a Wallonian family cook eel on TV. Maybe this will inspire me to eat an animal again. This vegan thing is scaring me. Even if it is tasty.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Take a Sandwich Home

Last month, I was in Arlington, Virginia to meet a friend for brunch. Good brunch makes me happy, seeing a friend who I haven't seen in years makes me happier. I was lucky enough to be able to combine the 2.

We went to a nearby restaurant, Harry's Tap Room. My friend has a deep interest in food and she is very concentrated on the aspects of sustainability, local produce, subsidies and the economy of farming. She took me to a restaurant that has not only delicious food, but the food is also local and hormone free, if not organic. These are all ideas that I think are worth supporting, but I still have the notion that these foods are pricey and full of extra-fiber. Not the case at Harry's. The prices are good and neither the food nor interior of the restaurant suggest that anything is green about the place.

Aware of the fact that I am not a professional cook & do not live anywhere near Maryland, I was delighted when I recently saw frozen Chesapeake Bay crabcakes in the supermarket. I got some English Muffins, made a Hollandaise sauce & poached some eggs. All in all, a really good start for breakfast. Had I made some hashbrowns & a fruit salad, it would have been a really good brunch.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Dosas

I went to the Indian place around the corner this weekend for the masala dosa. Every Saturday, they have dosas, ildy, vada, and sambar. In short, they have a South Indian breakfast.

Dosas are like large crisp crepes, made out of lentils. This one was filled with spicy potatoes & had chopped red chili rubbed on the inside. A vada is a fried lentil mixture. Normally, I like the ones shaped like donuts but these were masal vada. They looked like falafels. Not what I was looking for but they made my brunch buddy happy. Ildy are steamed cakes of rice and lentils, served with a sambar, a lentil like soup/sauce. Both dishes came with coconut chutney.

You might be noticing a large amount of lentils in this meal. I'm still not sure if this vegan thing is working well for me. I see a large piece of beef in my near future.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Out Before I'm Even In

After having only recently joined The Daring Kitchen, I think it's time for me to quit. The rules are simple: you make a prescribed dish once a month, following the recipe given. This should have been my indicator that this club is not for me. Instead, I was intrigued by the idea of belonging to a group of cooks around the world, united by one taste for one month.

I couldn't participate in August due to my vacation plans and furthermore, I didn't find the recipe all that alluring - even if it's from the chef of El Bulli. The month before that, I refused to participate because the key ingredient was skate. After having seen rays on a dive, I refuse to promote the fishing of these beautiful creatures. I'm also opposed to cod, the suggested substitute. So here I am, in September, preparing for the challenge.

Dosas. In theory, fantastic. I consulted with my Indian Friend J (IFJ), and he gave me some ideas. Then I read the recipe. The recipe that I have to follow. It calls for spelt. This is where I bow out & say "No, thank you". I was fine with the vegan meal. I was fine with preparing the 3 components of dosa, filling, & sauce. But somehow, following a recipe for Indian food taken from a trendy restaurant in Toronto seemed wrong. Don't get me wrong - Fresh has good food and some amazing lemonade. Although I think their noodle bowls are great, I just don't know how inspired I am to make them at home.

IFJ says that there's a place down the street that has super-crispy dosas on Saturdays. In the meantime, I made my own. The dosas are out of chickpea flour, the filling is a potato marsala (I cheated & used my Grandmother's favourite curry mix), and the chutney, again, I cheated & used grated coconut. The result: interesting, and certainly a healthy basis for the steaks I had later that night. I won't be repeating the recipe but I certainly have been inspired by it. I will be going to the Indian place down the street tomorrow for good dosas.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Snack in a Skillet

After a mamoth shopping trip, I came home to a bizarre sensation of being famished & feeling that I need to use my fresh goodies right away. A few months ago, I got myself a copy of Gourmet magazine in the Toronto airport & carefully examined every page during the 8 hour flight back to Germany. While I wasn't taken by many of the recipes, the corn and tomato scramble somehow stuck in my mind. I didn't really read the recipe, it was more of the concept of tomatoes and corn that occupied a place in my subconscience. Instead of worrying about the fact that I clearly think about food too much, I got out the magazine, scaled everything down to feed 2 people and made myself a snack.

Corn & Tomato Scramble
(adapted from Gourmet Magazine)
1/2 Tbsp butter
2 green onions
1 ear of corn
1 large tomato (300g)
1/2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper.

Slice both green & white parts of green onions, keep 2 separate. In a skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Cut corn off of ears. Add white parts of onion to butter, saute & add corn, cooking until tender - 6 minutes.
In the meantime, chop and seed tomato. Marinate in vinegar & olive oil and top with the green parts of the onions.
When corn in cook, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Add to tomatoes, salt & pepper to taste & serve.

I was thrilled to have actually followed a recipe that worked. I was happy until I realized that I was still hungry and there was another 2 hours to wait until dinner time. Next time, I'll make the portion for 8 people.

Monday Morning Vitamins

Somehow, I bought too many groceries this weekend. It happens from time to time. Normally, I have no idea when I'm going to cook and eat all of this stuff. This time, I was at a loss as to where to put it all. Most of the stuff was frozen but an unpleasant by-product of work stress last week was the purchase of an obscence amount of ice cream, which resulted in a lack of freezer space. There were things that had to go. The bananas I was saving for banana bread: gone. The bag of berries that I am yet to turn into smoothies: your time has come.

Banana Berry Boost
1 frozen banana
1/3 c mixed frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, currants, strawberries)
1/2 c orange juice
3 Tbsp mint
2" piece of ginger, peeled
1/3 c cooled white or green tea

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend. Pour into glasses, garnish with any extra mint you may have.

I have a funny feeling I'll be drinking these for the next few days, which isn't all that bad. It keeps me away from the ice cream.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Apple Farm

When I was home last month, I had the chance to stop by the apple farm. I had this crazy idea that they might sell non-pasturized apple cider there, and I somehow craved the tangy bite that disappears with high temperatures. Of course, this is evidence that I've been away from home too long. You can't sell non-pasteurized anything anymore it seems. But they still had some fine apples.

The apple farm just outside of town has been family run since 1911. What started out as a small stand at the side of the road has turned into a thriving bakery attracting customers from throughout the region. I remember the apple farm being the only thing in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, the nowhere has disappeared and the parking lot in the front is full.

One of the things I miss most about living in Southern Ontario is the vegetables. It seems like you can get local anything in abundance. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw crate upon crate of fresh, sweet corn. In Germany, corn is still largely regarded as animal fodder, and when it is sold in the stores, it is often without the husk, in packs of 2 or 3, wrapped in plastic.

The apples weren't quite ready yet, but they did have a cooling room with a few 5 lb bags of fruit. What drew me into the store, however, was the smell of freshly baked apple products. Inside, I could see they were making apple cider donuts. I asked for the fresh ones, the ones that weren't allowed to cool for 10 minutes, coated in cinnamon sugar. As soon as I paid, I opened the box, and allowed that warm, tangy goodness to dissolve on my tongue. Part of me wanted more but part of me knew that my body would eventually rebel against being stuffed with sugar and fat.

Part of me wants to be around during the harvest season to have fresh apple pies, and maybe steal some cider before it gets pasturized. I already went snooping around the facilities & made a few friends there. Until I spend another fall back home, I'll have to make do with the preservative free cider, sparkling cider and cider donuts. I can manage with that.

If you're ever in the area:

Bennet's Apple Farm
944 Garner Road East, Ancaster, Ontario.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Vegans Don't Drink Wine

The not-so-secret life of the workaholic is: he works. We had agreed to go grocery shopping today to buy meat and fish but something came up. I made it to the market on my own this Saturday, and while I am mobile on my own, shopping's way more fun with him. So I'm at home with frozen shrimp and ground beef and a whole lot of fresh veggies. I made a vegan dinner for the second night running, and part of me believes that this is somehow a good thing. Healthy. Environmentaly responsible. Promoting my reclusive nature. All bonuses.

Tonight was just soba noodles with broccoli & tofu in a miso glaze. Soba noodles were cooked, rinsed, drained & sprinkled with sesame oil. Broccoli was cut, steamed covered in a sauce of soy, ginger, garlic, chilli & a bit of starch to solidify. Tofu was sliced & coated in a mixture of miso, wine, sugar, chilli. Then it was broiled. This vegan thing is easy. And it doesn't taste that bad. The problem is: wine is made from yeast & is therefore not vegan. The workaholic vetoed this vegan thing immediately. But being a yeasto-vegetarian - that's just fine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Eggplant for the Eggplant Hater

The worst part of dating has to be the moment when you realize that your new beau is not as perfect as you thought he was. He is, in fact, human. He has wonderful characteristics, certainly, but he also has flaws. For a lover of eggplant, it is hard to believe - to honestly internalize - that my partner won't touch the stuff.

This is the premise of a long, long quest to have Workaholic enjoy an aubergine. Grilled: no. Caponata: no. Anything baked: no. Fried: no, thanks. Curries: it's a great sauce. The two dishes he will eat are: baba ganoush & my mom's eggplant choka. He claims that the consistency is the problem. Both baba ganoush & eggplant choka are kinda squishy. There's got to be something else. It dawned on me: eggplants are bitter. In spite of salting & draining my eggplant, they are bitter - unless I draw out the bitterness after roasting by squeezing out the water. My local farm has sicilian eggplants - rounder, brighter, cuter than the ubiquitous Black Beauty variety. Salting these is the key.

Eggplant for the Eggplant Hater

2 sicilian eggplant
panko (ca. 3/4 cup)
cooking spray, or olive oil to brush on
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp sodium reduced soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 c water
1 tsp sesame oil
chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)

Slice eggplant into rounds, sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for ca. 20 minutes, then turn & repeat the process. Afterwards, rinse to remove salt & extracted liquid.

Spray rounds with cooking oil, or brush on olive oil. Coat generously in panko. Broil in oven for 10 minutes, or until brown, turning once.

In the meantime, in a small saucepan, warm garlic & ginger. Add soy, oyster sauce & water. Allow to reduce until it is a thick syrup. Add sesame oil.

Remove eggplant from oven. Serve with sauce & chopped cilantro as garnish.

As a huge fan of eggplant, I always thought it would be perfect to share this - like everything else in life - with my partner. Then I turned back to the stove to finish off the rest of dinner & found my eggplant gone. I thought it was safe with the eggplant hater. I guess there's benefits to keeping things to yourself, after all.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Little Garbanzo Bean That Could

Saturday evening, I had a few people over for some snacks and, yes, I confess, to clear out the liquor cabinet. Discovering the opulence of 19th century country clubs, we finished off the bottle of Pimms that mysteriously appeared eons ago.

Instead of my regular opulent buffets, I made minimal snacks. I thought my crowning achievement of the evening was the tzatziki. Made from regular yogurt, strained to achieve the right consistency with hand grated cucumber, this was a sauce that made me proud. This would have been a sauce that would have received more attention had I remembered to buy bread. Dipped in meatballs, tzatziki is not much to write home about. The secret star was the chickpea salad. This salad was more of an apology to the vegetarians but the omnivores were asking me about the recipe afterwards. Sadly, it's not much of a recipe, but, as an added bonus, there's a free recipe for Tzatziki available today.

Chickpea Salad
1 can of chick peas, drained & rinsed
1 red onion, chopped
100g cherry tomatoes, quartered
juice of 1 lemon
3 drops of white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
pinch chili powder
salt to taste

Mix chick peas, onions and tomatoes.
Add all other ingredients to a small jam jar. Close lid & shake jam jar. Pour contents of jar over chick peas & allow to sit in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

2 containers of plain yogurt (150g each)
1/2 cucumber
1/4 tsp chopped garlic
salt to taste

Line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels. Fill with yogurt and allow to drip until the yogurt has achieved a cream cheese-like consistency (at least 2 hours). In the meantime, grate the cucumber finely & allow place the shreds in another sieve, allowing the water to drip out.

When the cucumber is moist but not dripping and when the yogurt is thick, add the two together, along with garlic & salt. Allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Ensure you have bread to serve with it.

I was really proud of myself for making a tzatziki. Now I'm proud of the little Garbanzo beans that won over so many fans.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eating Out - Qube

Last Saturday, I happened to be passing by the Qube hotel, which opened 5 weeks ago in Heidelberg. Someone I know who works there said they were trying to create a restaurant that is not a "hotel" restaurant. That is, they are trying to create a restaurant where locals would eat. I qualify as a local, and I would eat there.

When we walked in, we were invited to have a tour of the hotel. On the grounds that once held a little cottage in the middle of the town now stands a 6 story hotel, with a focus on sustainability. As was explained to me by our tour guide, this is not because they want to be an eco-hotel, but simply because this is a long-term business model. This is a long-term business model that I agree with.

After having enjoyed the view from the rooftop patio, we went back downstairs for dinner. I ordered the "Kleine Apperetif" - the small snack - as an appetizer to share. I quickly realized that I had to grab my cell phone to blog about this place. The photos could use some improvement but the snack couldn't have been better. Grissini, presented with a trio of tapenade, aioli & foie gras. My only complaint is that there was not enough grissini. We were, however, given a basket of bread from a baker who has been recognized as one of the best in Germany.

As a part of the effort to encourage locals to eat there, the chef has been imported from Schumann's in Munich, apparently a legendary hotel. I'm not a fan of titles, I'm not blown away by a resume. I am blown away by a snow-white aioli.

After our small snack, the mains arrived. For me, the shrimp and summer vegetable tempura. For my companion, the tuna in sesame crust. The shrimp was drizzled in a mildly spicy chili sauce, and the summer vegetables were reduced to carrots and yellow & green zucchini. There are no local sweet potatoes but there are currently local green beans and eggplant. I would have greatly enjoyed this seasonal addition.

The tuna, on the other hand, was great. Half in a sesame crust, pink in the middle with large strips of daikon on the side. The better choice.

In the past week, I have recommended the place to 2 more people and discovered, while walking past, that they also have a 3 course lunch menu. Maybe I'll try it when I'm working from home one of these days. Or I'll just head out there for drinks with small snacks. It's nice to have a good hotel restaurant so close to home.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Some Meals Fail

Being experimentative is good. Trying new things is good. Gathering ideas from other sources is good. Tonight, I have come to the conclusion that following recipes written by people who must produce new recipes every week might not be so good.

As an avid reader of The New York Times food section, I have appreciated Mark Bittman's writing style, as well as his ideas. They have inspired me to adventure on in the kitchen, making adjustments here and there to suit my palate and my pantry. Today, I decided to make noodles, shrimp & some sort of veggie. It just so happened that I had all the ingredients for the Peanut Noodles with Shrimp from last week's column. I thought that the addition of sugarsnap peas would be good. I am also believe that shrimp with the heads on add more flavour. These were my only 2 variations on the above recipe. The result: less than satisfying. Yes, we ate our dinner but it just wasn't that great. Maybe it's the concept of peanut sauce, maybe it's a lack of right spices, I'm not sure, but it wasn't a repeat for me. I think I'll just wing it next time.

There is no posted picture of tonight's production. Because no matter what you do to them, noodles in peanut sauce just don't look that good. And in this case, they didn't taste that great either.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Captain Pell

Here in Germany, there is a decided lack of seafood. From an ecological standpoint, this is great - the over fishing of species is not promoted and the consumption of local fish is in the foreground. In theory, a great idea. In practice, I miss shrimp, lobster, oysters and crab. During the recent trip to North America, I made a stop in Fairfax Virginia to visit Captain Pell. His crab shack has been on Highway 50 for over 30 years, selling fresh Maryland bluecrab to those slightly inland. They seem to even have a truck to transport the goods, in an emergency, ambulance-like hue.

My companion, the trusted local, has always preferred crab cakes to a plate full of crustaceans but joined me nonetheless in our crab feast. It wasn't so much of a feast - it was a crustacean extravaganza.

We were told to reserve a table on weekends & to ask what's best that day. We arrived on a weeknight and didn't have a reservation. I don't know what the wait is like on weekends, but there is Donkey Kong Junior in the lobby to keep one busy. I imagine, however, that there must be a line to play.

That day, the large crab were the best catch, so we ordered a dozen of those. A dozen crab between 2 people is quite an accomplishment, especially considering neither of these 2 people are particularly gifted in the art of eating a crab.

We took the legs off, smashed open the claws with a wooden mallet & dipped the meat in apple cider vinegar. Then we took to prying open the main shells. After pulling off the gills, we pulled the meat out of every chamber. In the process, we ended up with some pretty mangled hands.

A fun meal, a fun place but I'd be so happy if there was a nail salon next door.

Captian Pell in Fairfax, VA. Click here for more info.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tomatoes Preserved in Spice

I'm not too sure if this is a jam or a chutney. I'm not a big fan of sweets anymore, the result of being a teenage sugar-junkie, but I am a sucker for the subtle fructoses of summer. Tomatoes are a prime example - they are sweet enough to be treated as fruit, but they hold their own at a salad bar. For me, the perfect sweetness.

I've been toying with the idea of a tomato chutney/jam for a few days now, as many of my coworkers will confirm. I've been going through archives, forums, any online resource imaginable. All this not in a quest to distract me from work - no, it was something bigger than that. It was the quest to find the perfect, not too sweet tomato spread.

While I refuse to suggest that this is the Alpha & Omega of tomato preserves, it works our pretty well for me. It has a Carribean temprament, and enough spiciness to make it forgiving. If you want less heat, add less chili.

Tomato Preserve
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, minced
1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced
500 g tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp corriander
pinch cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1 chopped chili pepper

Sautee onions and olive oil in large saucepan until golden, add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & allow to simmer for 75 minutes. Place in cans & preserve if desired.

Makes ca. 1 cup.

I know that my preserves are not lasting more than 2 weeks. In fact, I'll see how much of the jar is left after tonight.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Going Home - Buffalo

I just got back from a trip home. I didn't just visit my home, I also visited the home of Buffalo wings - Buffalo, NY. There's more to Buffalo than just wings, though.

While planning, I was informed that I had to go to Ted's, which has been charbroiling hot dogs for over 70 years. We went for lunch & I was surprised at the amount of people who lined up against the wall to place their order at the grill. I thought the hot dog was somehow passé. Ted's showed me that it was not, and, moreover, it comes with a side of really good fries. One of my dining companions had the onion rings, which are so delicate that they look as though the coating will fall off. Not the kind of fast food that I was expecting.

After lunch, we thought the best way to settle our stomachs would be to head over to Anderson's for some lemon ice. It was just as they promised - soft-serve, lemon-flavoured ice. Not too sweet, but far too cold for the chilly day.

After talking to a few locals, I was told that Anderson's is really the place to go for a Beef on Weck, which of course raises the question, what the heck's a weck? It's a roll, like a kaiser roll, covered in carraway seeds & salt. While I was too stuffed to possibly eat more than a lemon ice at Anderson's, I got the chance later on at the Niagara County Fair to have one. Served with mustard & horseradish, I have to say, a pretty good sandwich!

Of course, what trip to Buffalo is complete without those famous wings? I've been told that the better wings are at Duff's bar, but the Anchor Bar claims to be the home of deep fried chicken wings, coated in spicy sauce. I went to the Anchor bar on the day after Thanksgiving, apparently their busiest day, and was quite pleased with the wings. The Anchor Bar in the Buffalo airport, however, is just an airport outpost. Still, at an airport, 'tis better to have poor wings than no wings at all.

I still have to try more food in the area, particularly visit Duff's for their wings. I'm not sure when I'll be back but the wings aren't about to fly over here to Germany on their own.
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