Sunday, June 28, 2009

Puffy Strawberry Popovers

I keep on buying things that look good without any sort of plan. The strawberries that looked amazing on Tuesday didn't look quite as good today. The were still good, but they weren't "dip in sugar & eat 'em raw" good. I was thinking of doing something like a turn-over but that requires too much work. It requires cutting & folding & parchment paper. I spent the day doing chores, I'm not making an effort to save the strawberries. I'm using puff pastry & muffin tins.

Puffy Strawberry Popovers
1 package puff pastry
500 g strawberries, washed, hulled & cut into quarters
1/3 c orange juice
1/4 c sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 200° C (Something like 400° F). In a saucepan over medium heat, cook orange juice & sugar. Add starch, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add strawberries, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Cut pastry into 6 equal sqaures. Place squares in lined muffin tins, allowing pastry to fall over the sides. Fill pastry shells with strawberry mixture. Fold pastry over the top & pinch to seal, if possible. Bake at 200°/400° for 10 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.

I was thinking that I'd take these into work tomorrow. Now, I'm not so sure. They weren't expecting anything in the office, and frankly, I'm not too sure if these are going to survive the night. Maybe next week when I salvage something else from my fridge and can share that. Maybe not. It doesn't sound too appetizing when I phrase it like that. All the more treats for me, I guess.

Weekend Breakfast - Breaking Diet

Normally, on the weekends, I revel in my fritattas. I wasn't a fan of eggs until I discovered the fritatta (read about it here). Just last week, I bought the cookbook I've been wanting to buy since it came out, the 75th anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking. For me, there's something nostalgic about North American food, and furthermore, there's something nostalgic about old recipes. My mom has an ancient cookbook with ancient pictures - glazed hams in super saturated colour, garnished with pineapple rings & maraschino cherries. I love that book as a historical artifact but I need revised recipes to get me going. The 75th anniversary edition: perfect mix.

I saw the recipe for Jonnycakes, and though I really don't know how they got their name, I do recall them being rather tasty. Corn pancakes that are crispy on the outside. So here I went, Johnnycakes, bacon and eggs for breakfast. I tried to make up for the bacon (& bacon fat) by adding spinach and tomatoes to the scrambled eggs.

Johnny Cakes, Bacon & Scrambled Eggs
(adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Make batter.
3/4 cup corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 chopped chili
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 c hot water
1/4 c grated cheese

Mix dry ingredients, add water & allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Add cheese.

In frying pan over med-low heat, start cooking bacon. When bacon is nearly crispy, transfer to a small pan & over low heat, continue cooking. Keep bacon fat in pan. Cook cakes in bacon fat, 1 at a time. Keep finished cakes warm in oven over low heat.

Bacon should continue to provide fat. Use this fat in frying pan to cook eggs.

Beat 4 eggs with 1/4 cup cooked spinach, 1 diced tomato, 1/4 tsp dried oregano. Scramble eggs. When the eggs are done, so is the bacon (it was already cooked, it was just drying a little). Try not to think of the health disaster that this dish is, and moreover, try not to have it every weekend. But it was good!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shots of Summer Borscht

It's summer. Because I say so. No, it's rainy and ridiculously humid today, so I imagine it must be Monsoon season in Germany. It happens. There are hot humid days when everyone and everything is sticky, and then it rains and stays gray for a while. It's a summer thing.

I was just at the market and I saw beets. Normally, I think of beets in winter but to be honest, what really grows in winter? Frost? Yes. Root vegtables? I'm not so sure.

In winter, I make a seriously mean borscht. It takes over 16 hours and involves me being the weirdo in the butcher shop asking for bones (based on the facial expression of the woman working there, I think this is not a frequent request). It's sticky outside, there is no way I'm leaving the stove on for 16 hours, I'm making a summer borscht.

Summer Borscht

500g beets, peeled & cubed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 L chicken stock
3 Tbsp lemon juice

In a big pot, sautee garlic & onions in olive oil. Add beets. Stir around for a few minutes, coating beets. Add stock. Cover pot, bring to boil. Turn down heat & allow to simmer for 30 minutes, or until beets are cooked through. Puree soup & chill. Garnish with yogurt & dill.

For a clear soup, cut beets into thin slices & do not puree.

Normally, I could drink liters of soup. Shot glasses keep me in check so I don't eat so much soup that I'm sick. It's also a fun way to serve appetizers. I mean, who doesn't like doing shots?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Peas, Please!

Today, June 25th, is a significant day in Germany. It's the day I finally have to give up asparagus for the next 10 months. Fine. I'll deal. I have peas.

I've been a fan of fresh peas since I was a child, and since I was a child, I've always looked forward to the onset of fresh peas. Because I either get my peas from the farm or my mom's garden, I hardly ever get the chance to cook the peas. I either eat them in the garden, or in the car on the way home from the farm. A few years ago, for the first time ever, I managed to make a mint-pea soup. This year, I bought 1 kilo of peas in the supermarket, and after eating maybe 300g raw, I decided it was time to make another dish of fresh peas.

I pretty much made a pea-mint soup without the liquid and without pureeing anything. 3 leaves of lettuce, 1 spring onion (chopped), sauteed with butter in a saucepan. Allowing the liquid to come out of the lettuce, I then added the peas, some salt, 4 leaves of fresh mint (sliced) and allowed the peas to steam until they looked done.

Not bad, but I still prefer them fresh from the farm, raw, sneaking them out of the bag on the car ride home. Makes me feel like a kid.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food and Sex

I must confess that while I find a man who can cook attractive (and I have been wooed by mediocre dishes simply because they were prepared by men), I find a man who knows how to wash stockings more attractive.

I heard the term Gastrosexual a few weeks ago while watching Franco-German cultural news. I thought it was somewhat insulting, targeting the young males as predators who cook in order to attract women. A Gastrosexual is apparently a male, aged 25-44, who cooks exotic dishes in order to gain praise. I dealt with the term "Metrosexual", and although I find groomed men attractive, I vowed never to date a man who described himself as such. I think my aversion to a Gastrosexual is even greater. Yesterday, I read an eloquent post at Bacon Concentrate on the subject & I feel that I have to elaborate on my comments.

According to the study of food historian Dr. Paul Levy (the man who coined the term "foodie"), a Gastrosexual differs from a Foodie in the hunt for praise. A Foodie is interested in all aspects of food while a Gastrosexual is interesed in the acknowledgement that he (for the Gastrosexual is nearly always male) receives. The more far-flung the origin of the dish, the more impressive it is, and Asia, being the most far-flung from Britain, is the most impressive. This belief is apparently linked to the perceived complexity of Asian cuisine. This results in the fact that Gastrosexuals cook Asian food and go on Asian cooking tours, presumably to impress the most people. Bear in mind, the study was commissioned by PurAsia, the makers of pre-made Asian food.

For clarification: Asian food is no more difficult to cook than the cuisine of any other continent. (Yes, an entire continent appears to be one generic mass of cuisine. Try that in classification in Europe.) All you need is the right ingredients, which, thanks to the wonders of airplanes and immigration, are not that hard to find. Even in Germany, a country that expressed for decades, it is not a nation for immigrants, I can find all the exotic spices I need to make a decent meal from a multitude of various Asian nations.

Not only does the self-absorbed Gastrosexual seems like an ass, so does the company PurAsia in its attempt to sell itself by claiming that you can impress women with PurAsia products. I doubt I will ever buy PurAsia products, and I hope to never date a Gastrosexual. I found a guy who does laundry. I'm sticking with him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Green Tea Brebis Frozen Yogurt

I need space in my freezer. I bought a whole bunch of meat by accident, and I need to move things out of the freezer that don't need to be there. Cool packs? Gone. Ice cream maker? Get you out of the freezer & make some ice cream.

I love ice cream but I'm trying to be good. My waistline never really recovered from my trip to Kuwait this year so I'm not too keen on eating custard with whipped cream. Instead, I bought some Greek style sheep yogurt, and some thin, drinkable goat yogurt. The goat yogurt & sheep yogurt are mild, but they give an extra tangy freshness.

Green Tea Brebis Frozen Yogurt
1 Tbsp match green tea
3 Tbsp hot water
5 Tbsp sugar
125 ml Greek-style yogurt (from sheep milk)
250 ml thin goat milk yogurt

In a small bowl, mix tea, water and sugar. Add to the 2 yogurts. Blend everything well. Place in ice cream maker, and follow the directions of the machine.

I might add a little less tea next time, but my goal has been met. I have more freezer space. I just need to figure out what to do with that spinach...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Burger Bonanza

In other parts of the world, it is the beginning of summer. In Germany, it is not. This week, my colleague told me with an earnest face that she honestly believed it would snow (and "why on earth are you wearing that summer dress?"). Maybe I'm in denial, maybe it's because I grill year round, but the last couple of weeks, I've been doing burgers.

Sometime a while back, I found good avocadoes & had to make some guacamole. Underneath, beef patties that had a little bit of red miso mixed in.

Recently, I went out to dinner at the Bootshaus in Heidelberg. I ordered the turkey burger from the menu. What surprised me was the turkey. It wasn't ground, it was 2 (or 3?) slices of marinated turkey in a bun with toppings. Juicy, tasty, a fun new idea.

Later, I found ground turkey in the supermarket. Quite the score here in Germany. I was thinking of grinding my own turkey, that's how seldom the stuff is in the stores. I took 300g of ground turkey, 3 tbsp mango chutney (a friend made it last year & gave me 3 jars), 1/2 a sauteed onion, zest of 1 lemon, a handful of chopped parsley, Old Bay spice, tobasco & chili powder. Topped off with 1/2 a grilled fig. Unfortunately my grill ran out of gas half-way through, but these are a definate remake, if I ever find the ground turkey again.

Cathy, at Accountants can cook? made some meatballs recently which seemed like the good start of a burger (the irony being that she herself grew tired of burgers). I adapted them & made patties:
300g ground beef
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp Oyster sauce
3 Tbsp chopped green onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 egg
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
soy sauce
coconut milk (they looked like they needed liquid)
chili powder

To satisfy carb-o-phobic tendencies (I should actually be going for a run right now), I made a Baji-like pancake
2/3 c chickpea flour
1/3 c regular flour
1 chopped chili
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp oil
salt to taste
water to mix.

I made a pancake like batter out of everything, then I made pancakes. Then I topped my pancakes with my burger, then with bean sprouts, then with Kecup Manis (my new Indonesian score) & then I ate it. Pretty simple stuff. I have a funny feeling this would go best with pork, though.There you go, burgers. Now all I need is some good weather to go along with them...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tapas - Now with Extra Mojo!

Last weekend was the first fireworks of the season in Heidelberg. Every year, they "light" the castle 3 times symbolizing the 3 times the French tried to burn it down. I've been out in the crowds to watch the fireworks a few times - a highly social event for people who live here; an excuse to meet friends, go outside & enjoy the weather.

This year, I thought it would be great to have people over, feed them, watch the fireworks & drink wine. Good idea, but what do I feed them? My failsafe crowd-pleaser - Tapas! Everyone loves fingerfood, it's not more work that a sit-down meal, it goes on for hours & can be interrupted to go outside.

It just so happens that there is a tapas contest going on this month. It is hosted by Tony Tahhan at Olive Juice. Every month, he picks a Mediterranean country to focus on & has a contest based on a dish from that nation. This month happens to be Tapas month. I took my cue from Núria at Spanish Recipes & made a few treats. Here's what I could prepare before guests came:
Clockwise from the top left: Tortilla Espanola, Aioli, Oeufs de Caille avec Tapenade & Câpre, Mojo Verde.

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet)
Sautee 1 chopped onion, slice 4 small potatoes & parboil them. Mix 4 eggs (use an extra white, if you have one), add onion, potatoes, salt & cook in frying pan, flipping it over when it looks solid-ish.

Aioli (Garlicy-lemony-Mayonaise)
In a boil, beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp dijon mustard. Slowly add 1 c olive oil. Add 2 minced garlic cloves & 2 Tbsp lemon juice.

Oeufs de Caille avec Tapenade & Câpre (Quail eggs with olive paste & capers)
Boil quail eggs (this takes 5 minutes in boiling water). Allow to cool. Shell eggs (easiest if you crack them & then peel them under water). Slice, top with a bit of tapenade (olive paste), and 1 little caper on top. Note: I don't actually speak Spanish, so I have no idea what this would be called in Spanish :-(

Mojo Verde
Take 2 green peppers (seeded & chopped), 1/2 bunch parsley, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, dash of cumin, salt & pepper & mix in a blender. Squeeze out excess water. Also good on grilled meats. Also good for entertaining people who have also seen Austin Powers. We all giggled at the name of this sauce from the Canary Islands.

People started to show up & I had to get out the warm tapas. I already had all of the cold stuff on the table, plus the following:
  • olives
  • Jamon Iberico (my leg)
  • cured pork sausage
  • 3 different kinds of cheese (Manchego, a Spanish ewe milk cheese with rosemary & P'tit Basque)
  • bread
  • cherry tomatoes
  • Plantain fritters a friend had brought over
I made the following warm tapas, (clockwise from top left): Gambas a la Plancha, Patatas Bravas & Albóndiga con Tomate. The whole time, we were all in my kitchen talking, eating & drinking wine.

Gambas a la Plancha (Beach Shrimp)
Do not shell shrimp. Sautee in olive oil. Add garlic near the end. Add parsley. Grind sea salt over top & serve.

Patatas Bravas (Spicy Potatoes)
Parboil 500g of potatoes, cut into cubes. Fry them in olive oil (sautee, if you are afraid of oil excess, like me).
In a saucepan, sautee 1 chopped onion & 1 clove of garlic. Add 1 can of diced tomatoes. Add 1/4 tsp paprika, dash ground chilies, dash cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, turn heat down & allow to simmer until it looks kinda solid-ish (25 minutes). Add 1 Tbsp aoili & serve over fried potatoes

Albóndigas con Tomate (Meatballs with Tomato)
Take 250g of ground beef, add 1/4 c breadcrumbs, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1/2 chopped onion (very fine!), 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp grated cheese (Manchego, or I used pecorino). Form into balls, brown in a frying pan. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, salt, sprig of rosemary & 2 bay leaves (both chopped), 1/4 c red wine & allow to simmer until sauce is thick enough to your liking.

We heard the first fireworks as I was getting the Gambas ready, so we went outside. This is what we saw:
A spectacular view - I was so happy that the weather was nice (it rained all morning). We could see (from left) the castle, the people on the bridge watching, the fireworks in the valley, and, well, I could see my friends! :-)

We went inside & another friend brought a desert: Strawberry flan! A simple biscuit topped with a bit of custard, fresh strawberries, sliced bananas & then a glaze. As the night progressed, one friend got creative. I told him about the blog contest & as he made himself little canapes, he wrote them down, judged them himself & took photos. At the bottom of the picture is Creation #2.

Creation #2 is: bread, manchego, jamon iberico, 1 tomato, salt & pepper, aioli & 1/2 an olive. At 3am, it was pretty good, I have to say. I thought I was making all the good food that night, but I got a lot of help from my friends, keeping me company, helping to inspire me & being just generally fantastic. I guess that's why I keep them around!

Blog Award

I received this award from Cathy at Accountants can cook? a while back but I haven't gotten around to posting it for 1 simple reason: it involves me to do stuff. With this kind of attitude, if I were an actress, I'd never get an Oscar in my hands because it would involve me to pick a dress, go to the hairdresser, get my makeup done, find shoes & jewerly - even typing this hypothetical list tires me. I think I've been working at a software company too long - I'm used to people presenting themselves in decade-old T-shirts.

Anyway, the "work" in this award is simple. You write down 7 personality traits & you pass it on to 7 other bloggers. So here goes:

  1. I'm a workaholic with a skewed sense of priorities. Right now, I should be working on an editing certification. Instead, I edit more texts.
  2. I'm cynical. I believe things when I see them, and until then, I make stupid jokes.
  3. I'm egocentric. This does not mean that I do not care about other people. It means that I try to relate to other people through my own experiences, or, try to extrapolate & figure out what I can learn from the situations of others.
  4. I have apathetic tendencies. Maybe that's why I haven't gotten the cert yet.
  5. I'm quick witted. Sometimes I'm even funny, I've been told.
  6. I'm a bit of a slob but yet germ-o-phobic at the same time. I know what can grow on my desk - I do not know what grows on the desks of others.
  7. I like to make other people smile. This makes me happy.
So, that's it. 7 personality traits & pass this along to 7 other blogs.

  1. A Foodie's Thought's
  2. Shizuoka Gourmet
  3. Yum-o-Rama
  4. Samurai Viking Cuisine
  5. Spanish Recipes
  6. Tangled Noodle
  7. The Lunch Box Project
These are all blogs I love to read for their picutres, ideas & excellent writing style (or, in the case of The Lunch Box Project, the original art).

Thanks to Cathy for the award & thanks to these 7 bloggers for their work!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Asparagus - Tip from PML

A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner at the Print Media Lounge in Heidelberg & had asparagus. I know, I've been into asparagus a lot recently, and my eagerness is starting to wane - a good thing, I suppose, as there are only 19 more days of fresh local asparagus for this year. Am I counting? Maybe....

What really amazed me about the asparagus at PML was the fantastic flavours in a simple traditional dish. Standard asparagus around here is: asparagus, boiled new potatoes, hollandaise sauce & cooked ham. At PML, I had olive oil & parmesan, and the potatoes were sauted & wrapped in what appeared to be wild garlic. I think. The asapargus itself had a mild citrus flavour, which I thought came from plunging the asparagus in lemon-ice water to stop the cooking.

This weekend, I was lucky enough to talk with one of the most knowledgeble people on staff about the food. He admits that he doesn't know what exactly they do, but that there is a fair bit of science involved. Sugar, salt, everything possible in the water, plunged in no idea in order to stop the cooking.

Armed with my rudimentary knowledge & skills, I opted to steam to asparagus in a salted/sugared water & do the lemon-ice plunge after. The results were very satisfactory.

Served with crepes, olive oil, jamon iberico and a bit of manchego cheese the asparagus was pretty good. 19 more days...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Horse, of Course!

After my trip to Amsterdam, I was seriously let down. The classes weren't what I was expecting, the ladies of the Red Light District looked just like Go-Go girls & the food kinda sucked. Sure there was Indonesian food around, and I will report on that later, I promise. But what I really wanted from the Netherlands was horse.

When I was in university, one of my good friends was of Dutch parentage and we exchanged stories of our childhood. He was forced to eat horsemeat sandwiches, a tribute to his Friesan heritage. He hated this aspect of his heritage. Horses are beautiful animals, why on earth would you pack them in WonderBread & give them to a kid was a mystery to the young adults we were. Well, with this story in mind, I set off to find some horsemeat. Only on my way to class on the very last day, battling traffic, did I see a butcher shop which looked like it sold horsemeat. After trying to get out of the city for 45 minutes, ther was no way we were going to stop the car, look for a spot, buy some meat & let it wait in the car for 6 hours while we were in class, then a further 4 - 8 hours until we were back in Germany. So, no horse for me.

2 days later, I went to Strasbourg & exlpoited my credit card - the poor thing - I think I heard it cry. In the supermarket, I saw horsemeat. South American steaks. In my whirlwind effort to buy groceries in 30 minutes, I threw 2 horse steaks in the cart. When I got home, I tried nearly every excuse to avoid eating them. I saw dancing horses in the Dutch countryside - I didn't want to eat one of their kin! Well, I had already bought the meat, and I know that the stuff is eaten in the Veneto in Italy, as well as other parts of the world (South America, Quebec, Mongolia, even German Sauerbraten was originally made from horse). OK, fine, I'll do it.

I marinated the steaks for about an hour in olive oil, garlic, herbs de provence & a bit of tapenade (my failsafe "safe" marinade) and threw them on the grill. The result - not bad. Leaner than beef, better flavour than ostrich. In short - a decent meal. Am I happy I can check this off of my things to do list? Yes. Do I need to do this again? No.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dining In/Out - Horn of Africa Take Out

I have a project deadline coming up, normally it shouldn't be anything major, normally it should be routine. What makes every project individual is the unanticipated problems. This time, the unanticipated problems are killing me. Oh well, it's a job, it pays the bills & it enables me to eat good food.

I wasn't able to cook good food because I knew that I would have to work, so I paid someone to cook for me. I went to the only African restaurant in the area, which happens to be just by my house. I really like it there - they are really friendly, the food is good & I strongly believe in supporting your neighbours. Unless they are driving down the property value... that isn't the case with these people, in fact, I feel they enrich the area.

In an effort to maximize time, I scanned the menu from The Horn of Africa online, & selected the Tibs.They're strips of beef, sauteed with onions & served in a sauce & my choice of sides. I chose the West African Maffee (peanut) sauce, and Mataha (mashed potatoes with corn & peas).

My fellow work-aholic went for one of the daily specials. They had whole grilled seabream, ostrich steaks & Argentinian beef. He opted for the 250g of Argentinian beef with coconut sauce on the side and fries. I love the fact that they know us & they know that I need extra hot sauce (beware, it is actually hot).

We sat at the bar, talked about how to make things better & drank a glass of wine while we waited. We got our food, I stole fries & then we got back to work. I don't remember actually working, but when I checked my mails the next morning, it became apparent that I actually got the stuff done that I planned on doing. A relatively painless night, all things considered. Maybe it was the Tibs.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wild Rice Pancakes & Leftover Asparagus

Ah, the joy of working in Germany! Today is a holiday (Pentecost) and I have the day off of work. Even though I have to vacuum the apartment, do laundry, repot some herbs & build Ikea furniture, it's still a day off of work. Although I might log in later & do work, nullifying the concept of "holiday" as such, but we'll see...

For lunch, I'm getting rid of some leftovers. Last night, I tried to follow a recipe for stir-fried beef & asparagus, which was OK, but moreover, I have leftover wild rice. It's actually a brown rice - wild rice mix, but that's only a technicality. I'm making pancakes out of them & will be using the scant amounts of stir-fry I have leftover as a filling.

Rice Pancakes with Leftover Asparagus Stir-Fry
1 cup cooked wild/brown rice
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
pinch ground ginger
pinch cinamon
1/2 clove mined garlic
pinch chili pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp lime juice
water as needed
1/2 cup leftover asparaus beef stir-fry (see recipe)

In a blender, puree all ingredients. It won't turn out smooth, but that's OK. Add water, if necessary, to maintain a "batter-like" consistency.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, spread 1/2 the mixture. Allow to get crispy & wait until it can slide on it's own. At this point, flip the pancake.
Repeat for 2nd pancake.
Top with warmed leftovers & garnish with green onions.

I wasn't thrilled with the stir-fry last night, but I was much happier with the leftovers.
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