Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Truffle-Scented Roasted Cauliflower

I've been bad at blogging recently. I've been bad at just about everything recently. Work has been very busy, which is normally a good thing, but it leaves me very little free time. I'm uninspired to really cook anything extrodinary, and I'm even less inspired to blog about it.

Sadly, my blogoversary came & went & all I could do was tweet about it. I didn't even use the full 140 characters Twitter allows me. I didn't even think I had anything to blog about until I ran into a commuter buddy on the way home after a long day in the office. She asked me about winter vegetables & what I do with them. I told her how I roast cauliflower and sprinkle it with truffle oil. She seemed interested. So, here I am, 2 train rides later, inspiried and posting about the roasted cauliflower I had last night.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets.
1 Tbsp sunflower oil.
1-2 Tbsp truffle-infused oil*
sea salt

Heat oven to 220°. Put cauliflower in a baking dish. Toss with sunflower oil so it doesn't stick. After about 20-25 minutes, take baking dish out of the oven. Toss cauliflower with truffle oil in the same baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt.

*I found some truffle oil in an Italian supermarket. I'm sure that a nutty sunflower oil or a good olive oil would work. This is the best use of truffle oil that I have found to date, though.

I made a risotto in the meantime. It came from a package & I had high expectations of it. The risotto was a disappointment but the cauliflower was good.

Update: My commuter buddy has a commuter blog. Visit here for her insights on the daily ride.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beets a Cafeteria Lunch

Like any job, mine has it's pros & cons. One of the advantages is that my boss sometimes allows me to work from home. I like to use days like that to make myself a light lunch, knowing that it's better than what my coworkers are eating in the cafeteria. Recently, I was working from home and made a roasted beet, avocado salad with horseradish dressing. I got the recipe from Serious Eats and made a minor change. This was a summer salad for people who don't want to turn their stoves on. It's currently winter & we can all use the extra warmth.

Beet, Avocado Horseradish Salad
(original recipe available here)
2 medium beets, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Avocado
lemon juice
salt & pepper

Sautee beets in vegetable oil until soft.
Mix horseradish, vinegar & olive oil in a jar. Set aside.
Slice avocado. Place in bowl, cover with lemon juice & water to prevent from getting brown.
Arrange soft beets on 2 plates, place 1/2 avocado on each serving. Shake jar of dressing again, pour over top, add salt & pepper to taste.

Quick lunch with lots of room for a proper dinner. And the horseradish & warm beets make me almost forget how cold it is outside.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eating In - Coa

Outside Coa

It's been quite a week with Carnival, Chinese New Year's and Valentine's Day all within a few weeks. We went out for a Carnival party but were stuck for ideas on how to combine Valentine's with Chinese New Year. We decided on having an indoor picnic with Chinese food. There was only one fault with my plan. Chinese food is really hard to find in Germany. It's normally too formal for take-out (which doesn't mean it's good) or is just a buffet (which also does not mean it is good). Enter Coa, the Asian "Feel Good Food". There are shops in Berlin, Frankfurt and in Mannheim. We went to the one in Mannheim for takeout.

I know it is unfair to judge a place based on takeout. The texture, temperature and consistency are bound to be off (unless we are talking about delivery pizza - then these are legitimate criteria). Bearing that in mind, I will judge only flavour & spices. With Coa, I was a little disappointed. We ordered: vegetarian dim sum, shui mai, chicken satay skewers, gyoza, pho bo & udon noodles with duck. The vegetarian dim sum was a dumpling with a chopped vegetable filling. The shui mai, pork & shrimp filled pockets, were very small. I was hard pressed to tell the difference between these two appetizers and the ones in the freezer section of my Asian supermarket. The chicken satay skewers came with a nice peanut sauce but the spice mix of the skewers themselves was lacking. The gyoza was good, but nearly anything deep-fried is good (it was not pan-fried as I was expecting).

I found the pho bo to be a placid beef soup with beef chunks, not slices, that were lacking the wakening spices that I love so much about pho. What surprised me is that this is from their take-out menu. When I used to beg for take-out pho from my local place at home (they didn't really do take-out), they would give me a container of rice noodles, a container of soup & a plastic bag full of sprouts & extras. Here, it all came in one container, leaving the noodles to steep until they are ready to fall apart. The udon was spicy & the duck was nice. But it's Valentine's day - it's not about the food, and I'm happy to report that the picnic was a fun success.

I think the appeal of Coa must lie in it's sleek interior. Dark wood, white walls, green accents and a few orchids; it's a nice place to come in for a quick bite. But don't expect too much flavour in that bite.

Coa - inside

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks - February - Mezze

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

A few weeks ago, the fondest memories of last January came back: Mezze in Kuwait. For whatever reason, last year I found myself in the middle of the desert with a scarf in my hair, looking to explore. Exploring isn't easy for a woman alone in the Middle East. I was miserable. Our hotel was in the middle of nowhere and the internet connection was ridiculously slow. There was one thing that had me excited: having dinner in one of these private tents.

The food was fantastic. I have no idea what it was but it was great. Warm weather (for someone who lives in Germany), bright sun, a couple of camels & mezze. The only thing that made me really want to leave was a glass of wine and a slice of Spanish ham (neither of which are allowed in Kuwait).

When Michelle posted her challenge, I knew this would be a chance to taste those middle eastern memories. I planned to make the hummus with a roasted red pepper. I started to knead the dough for pita bread. Something came up, I had to put the dough in the fridge overnight. I took it out the next day, rolled it out & placed it in a hot oven. At this point, I should note that I've never been able to make bread. Bread never really rises in the oven when I make it. One of my pitas puffed up, but not really. I left them in a little longer, hoping they just needed more time. The result: pita chips. Oh well, not bad.

The hummus was divine, the olives I had just bought from the market were great, and I have this supermarket around the corner that sells fresh pita bread. As wonderful as the smell of freshly baked bread is, as long as I live close to good bakeries, I'm going to outsource the task of baking.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Turkey Burgers - or Dumpling Filling

It's true, I'm a sucker for ground turkey. I'm not really sure why, perhaps because it's relatively rare compared to ubiquitous German pork. It's slightly healthier, it tastes simmilar to pork, but really, I think I just like turkey. And ground turkey is easier to prepare than roasting a whole bird.

Normally, I favour turkey burgers with grilled figs but the local green grocer didn't have figs. I scoured online & found an idea (it's far too forgiving to be an actual recipe) for turkey potstickers. I didn't feel like making the dumpling skins myself, and it was a cold day outside so I wasn't about to buy them. I made burgers.

Asian Turkey Burgers
(adapted from The Fortune Cookie Chronicles)

1/2 head napa cabbage, chopped
300g ground turkey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 chopped scallions
1tsp minced garlic
1tsp minced ginger
1 shredded carrot
1 1/2 tsp light miso
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 rolls with sesame seeds on top

Sautee cabbage to get rid of moisture.
Mix cabbage, turkey, soy, sesame oil, vinegar, scallions, garlic & ginger in a bowl. Form into 2 patties. Grill. Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise and miso. Slice open rolls, spread a bit of miso mayo on each half. Remove burgers from grill, place on roll. Top with Kimchi & carrot.

I was not only enamored with the burgers, I was also enamored by the blog from Ms. Lee.

After clicking through a few pages, I realized I needed to order the book. While I don't normally plug anything except local farmers, I can only recommend this book. I, like many people, love Chinese food. Ms. Lee does not talk about Chinese food, she talks about the Americanization of Chinese food - a concept which can be applied to other countries as well, to varying degrees. The life of an immigrant is hard, one often is confronted with a lack of acceptance. Degrees and qualifications are not recognized; locals think that you are a threat to the local economy and will take away jobs from citizens (this is something that I have not only been subject to, it is something that I see going on around me). Ms. Lee explains how the Chinese have become more American that apple pie (When was the last time you ate apple pie? she asks. When was the last time you ate Chinese food?) and shows the evolution of restaurant workers; from illegal immigrants, to restaurant owners, to parents of children who are not to own restaurants.

At least I got to think about something while eating my turkey burgers. And by the way, even though it is a popular substitute for pork in Chinese recipes, turkey isn't Asian.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kohlrabi Greens - People Food

Kohlrabi gets its name from the German language. Roughly translated as "cabbage turnip", a descriptor which sums up the taste and shape of the vegetable. If a turnip were to sprout cabbage greens, kohlrabi would be the result.

The vegetable is very popular in Germany. One of my friends claimed it was the only vegetable he would eat as a child. In the cold days of winter, kohlrabi is one of the easiest fresh vegetables to find - my supermarket can always be counted on for crates of the alien-looking vegetable. But in the crates, there is always a pile of leaves. People pull the leaves off, and take the mini-sputniks with them.

For a while, I didn't think this was edible, but I thought of baby beet greens, which are a part of a good mesclun salad. The bigger greens can be cooked. I put a bit of research into kohlrabi greens and discovered that you can eat them. They are not just rabbit food.

The first step was going to the supermarket and filling a bag of greens. These are normally given away for free, a fact which made me feel, well, a little illicit, knowing that I would be eating these myself. Oh well, it's the supermarkets loss.

Having gotten the greens home, I washed them, pulled out any huge chunks of stem, roughly chopped them and steamed them. In the meantime, I sauteed some garlic. When the greens were cooked, I drained any extra liquid, cooked them quickly with the garlic, added sesame oil & Chinese black vinegar, and topped it with sesame seeds. The result: like spinach but with a slight cabbage taste. The vinegar was maybe a bit strong. Nest time, I want to use olive oil & lemon juice. Assuming, of course that I can swallow my pride & eat rabbit food again.
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