Thursday, August 14, 2008

berry berry good

Hello, hello.

Sorry for the summer-long hiatus. Though even fun things like food blogging are postponed when you're traveling and internet cafes cost many euros to use.

First of all, let me talk about arctic raspberries. I had the privilege to visit Northern Sweden. A little girl was poking about the bushes near the beach (yes, there are beaches up there, too), and I asked her if she was eating wild blueberries (which grown in profusion there). She said no, and showed me these tiny red berries that looked slightly like raspberries, but not.

At this point I would usually show you a picture of them, but between no batteries for the digital camera and the swiftness of me bringing the little suckers into my mouth left no opportunity for it. The flavor was amazing -- sweet and complex. The most complex berry taste I've ever eaten. The flavor had an outright melody which sang on my taste buds. They call it the "king of berries." And I though acai was good. Every year at the Nobel dinner they serve an arctic raspberry dessert.

Then, O and I picked several liters of wild blueberries. Let me tell you, earth to kitchen food is absolutely amazing. The story goes as this. We arrived in Northern Sweden at the country house owned by O's father's side of the family. It's all very quaint. Each family owns a little red house with separate kitchens on the property. O came back to me and said, "Did you know that Gudrun (his aunt) and Björn (his uncle) had picked 25 liters of blueberries? I went into their house and their grand daughters (ages 3 and 5) are sitting there naked eating huge bowls of blueberries."

Seriously, that's the way to do it. So with complete blueberry envy, and these nifty wild blueberry contraptions (blueberry scoopers). We headed out into the woods. Some weird has happened to me since my move to Sweden. I can actually identify plants by their leaf shape. No, this is not a conscious analytical skill, it's an immediate recognition, "That's a wild blueberry plant."

I can tell you that we did not pick 25 liters of wild blueberries. More like half a liter, perhaps.

Later on Gudrun imparted her secrets to us, involve hand techniques with scoopers, and "location, location, location." So the next time we went out, there was no more lackadaisical day dreamy blueberry picking. There was only: scoopscoopscoopscoop. And we brought back a hefty amount home for regular eating of blueberry soup (crush wild blueberries with sugar and milk) and wild blueberry pancakes, and muffins, and blueberry everything. Did I mention blueberry is one of my favorite berries?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Whimsical Soy Sauce Delight

Product spotlight!

Lily Bird Soy Sauce Dispenser

The first glimpse I saw of this bird was in the window display of the Alessi boutique here in Stockholm. I was even more enraptured when I realized that it was a soy sauce dispenser. From a collaboration between Alessi designer Stefano Giovannoni, and the National Taiwan Museum arose this collection.

However, I am slightly chagrined at the overly chinoiserie of the line with these Asian figures which are egg timers and pepper mills, but oh well.

My friend was taken by the milk dispenser:

Which I wouldn't turn my nose up at if it magically appeared as a birthday present this year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Several Dreams

There are several dreams in my life which I have yet to achieve. These might be as audacious as winning a prestigious literary prize, or as humble as replicating a delicious pear and dark chocolate cake I ate a year ago. Sometimes my friends will ask me why I haven't just gone out and bought the object of my desire -- like a Brazilian hammock (these are the most comfy in the world). These answers can be too complicated to explain and I mostly shrug, but I realize inwardly, I'm waiting for the right time for these things. I can't have a hammock without a yard, and I don't have a yard because I don't want to drive a car and because I don't want to have a car, I live in a city.

In any event, this blog has been neglected while I've been working on my book about Sweden, but after I ate a fourth of the much dreamed of and wanted Warm Pear & Dark Chocolate Almond Cake, I decided that others could want to eat some too. I got inspired directly by Al Di La of Parkslope Brooklyn, where this warm pear and dark chocolate cake was a lot of yummy mouthfuls after a meal which burst with flavor.

In any event, I searched high and low for a good pear and dark chocolate cake. I've made pear coffee cake before, more of the cinnamony kind, but this cake tasted more rustic. I was even tempted to use a little cornmeal.

Unfortunately, I am an imprecise baker. It's equal parts arrogance and recklessness. Since I've baked enough, I feel I know the outer periphery of what makes baking science work, and I was lucky enough, this time, to succeed.

Warm Pear & Dark Chocolate Cake

2/3 c flour
1/2 c salted butter melted and cooled (if using unsalted add 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
3 T marzipan or 3 T almond flour
2 eggs
1/2 c sugar
1 vanilla bean's worth of seeds or 1 t vanilla extract
4 oz dark chocolate -- use the thin dark chocolate bars and break into squares
3 ripe pears (I prefer Bosc)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Peel pears and cut out cores and slice into quarters. Lay in a circle with the rounded parts touching the bottom of the cake pan. On top of the pears, add the dark chocolate pieces so none of them are touching the bottom of the cake pan.

Beat eggs and sugar together. Add the melted butter. Add the marzipan and beat until fluffy. (If using almond flour use when adding the regular flour). Add vanilla bean seeds, then flour, baking powder, and baking soda. After the batter is smoothly combined, pour the batter over the pears.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tester comes out clean. You may want to cover the top to prevent it from getting too brown.

This is great for afternoon tea or dessert. I recommend you serve it warm because it tastes best that way.

Now to return to the losing battle between myself and eating more of this pear cake ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Seaweed (Nori) Scrambled Eggs

O figures that we can live on dried dates until his next paycheck. Oh, the period of abstinence that must come after a period of gluttony. I admit to you, that I ate as many Cuban pulled pork sandwiches as possible, and twice the world's most decadent chocolate bread pudding courtesy of the Dessert Truck (University and 8th 6pm-midnight check website for which dates).

In any case. No, we did not make date pudding for dinner. I made, instead a low maintenance version of the NYTimes published recipe Scrambled Nori Eggs, by Momofuku owner Dave Chang, I believe sans immersion blender.

When in New York, a friend told me that she loved the Kim chi Risotto recipe which she had eaten at least seven times already. I was tickled because I have only made the dish a few times myself! It's nice when a recipe gets legs of its own. Although I was disturbed that google wouldn't call up my recipe when I googled it. *le sigh*. To note, I also throw in shelled boiled edamame (fresh soybeans) into the kim chi risotto as well. I'm hoping this simple dinner recipe will tickle the fancy of Asian-fusion diners.

Anyway, I digress, Asians often eat eggs, usually omelette served on rice for dinner. This is not considered "breakfast for dinner" as it often is with Caucasians, but rather just dinner for dinner.

O called these "Seaweed Eggs" so I guess that's what I'm calling them also.

3 sheets nori ripped up into salad sized pieces
boiling water (1/2 c less)
3 T Tempura sauce concentrate (or soba noodle sauce you can find this at your local Japanese grocery store ... Japansk Torget on Tegnerg. in Stockholm, and um, Sunrise Mart for New Yorkers)
5 eggs beaten loosely
2 T salted butter (preferably Swedish, but European butter will do, please do not skimp on the butter or use oil, butter really tastes better!)
1/4 t sesame seed oil
toasted sesame seeds

optional: furikake (nori & sesame seed blend)
salt to taste

Rip up nori sheets and place in a bowl, add just enough water to cover the nori and let is soak for awhile and add the tempura sauce concentrate. When the nori mixture has cooled a bit, add in the eggs and beat. Add just a smidgeon of sesame seed oil and salt to taste.

In a pan, melt the butter and scramble the eggs until they are loosely set, my method is constantly scrapping in the edges of the cooked eggs, and then flipping them over when they are mostly set. Sprinkle the scrambled eggs with toasted sesame seeds and furikake and serve over rice. (I prefer Nishikin rice).

Serves 2

Note: I also successfully rewarmed leftovers for lunch today and they were sagoy oishi!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

An excellent crumb

Project Madeleine Non Madeleines is a success!

zest of one lemon
2/3 c white sugar
2/3 c flour
half a stick of salted butter
1/4 t baking powder
2 eggs
splash of vanilla extract

one nonstick muffin tin or muffin cups

Preheat oven to 350 F

Melt butter. Blend eggs, then add sugar, and vanilla extract, keep blending. throw in flour, baking powder and zest.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Tea cakes should look slightly golden brown. Tip out onto cooling rack.

Mumsfillibaba, or so they say in Swedish.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

White Cheddar Grits with Green Onion

One good thing that came out of living in the south, even though many people say Arkansas is more Mid-west in culture, is grits. I guess my grit eating days began in the hallows of Waffle House. but the idea of gourmet grits sounded even better.

Anyway what I'm trying to say is that I've been having cheesy grits in the morning with hot sauce and a poached egg and it's delicious:

Joy's Morning Cheesy Grits
some grits -- I use polenta flour, it's basically any coarsely ground corn.
half a cube of chicken boullion. I have done it both with milk and boullion and I think pure boullion is better, and water (or obviously chicken broth).
(sorry I'm not being highly specific here, making grits is like making oatmeal, just make sure you don't have too little liquid or too much)
extra sharp white cheddar cheese
chopped coriander
chopped green onions
hot sauce your favorite I tend to use mexican style for this recipe
poached egg

freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth to a boil, throw in grits, stir over lowered heat. Chop the rest of the stuff up except the egg, poach egg. The grits should be finished pretty fast like 5-10 minutes, in a nice bowl place the cheddar on the bottom, pour in the hot grits, place poached egg on top with the sprinkle of green onions and coriander.

Brekkie, good stick to your ribs stuff.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Christening a Rhino

There was an obvious change in my life about a year and a half ago. I was no longer in the States, and I had become an ex-patriate again. I moved, for what I thought was temporarily, to Stockholm, Sweden.

I noticed that I wrote less and less on my dear foodblog entitled How to Eat a Green Mango and I felt bad for my handful of readers and my family (hi mom!). I was letting them down. What happened?

Well, I started cooking a lot less. It wasn't lack of ingredients, or lack of hunger, it was actually a surfeit. Suddenly, someone was cooking for me!

As a rule, I host a lot of dinner parties because there's hardly anything more fun/anxiety ridden than feeding the people you love. I had become a bit of an anomaly with my regular dinners, and my friends even explained their hesistancy in cooking for me.

But, I love when other people cook for me because food = love. It does. I'm starting this first entry with loooooooooooooooove.

If you are ever lucky enough to have a Thai person who knows how to cook, love you, then you've obviously eaten some of the most delicious food in the world.

I was talking to someone about what had made me a good cook, and my wide exposure to delicious Asian foods is something I accredit my experience background with. That, and I cook a lot.

If any of you visit Thailand, you'll understand what I mean. Thai people love their food, Thai people love their tourists. Thai people especially love their tourists because it's a huge boon to their economy and has, in all likelihood, raised their quality of life standards.

I was lucky enough to eat some version of this dish in Mae Rae, a tiny town outside of Chiang Mai (my personal favorite part of Thailand). It was my aunt's sister who we had gone over to visit, and while we were chatting in broken English (I often reply in broken English because it's the most understandable), my aunt's sister whipped up this dish for me. All of it! I nodded stuffing myself, like I had done so many other occasions before. Gin! Gin! was something I heard very often with the very persuasive smiles of my relatives bearing kilos of tropical fruits and delicious desserts upon me.

Being sufficiently Western, and having a boyfriend who eats so much, he's the rhinocerous of this "Feeding a Rhinocerous" equation, I upped the meat significantly. I still think it's much wiser to eat less meat, but Otto prefers a lot of it. We both agree that we love pork, and if he didn't it'd be very hard to be together since I am half Thai and half Chinese, and both those cuisines eat a lot of pork. Pork, yummy.

Thai Pork Tomato Coconut Bolognese
Serves 4 or 2 depending on your dining companion

Heh, did I mention I can't speak Thai? You should eat this with sticky rice if you have some handy, or you can make your favorite rice. I've eaten this over Italian spaghetti and it doesn't do any harm.

A few things you should know about. There are some major perils to Thai cooking. First, that I now understand why Thai people have outdoor kitchens. The culprit is trying to roast shrimp paste. But, you can't get the same authentic and delicious flavor without it. Here's where ginger, lemongrass stems and limes come into the equation. After you've made your house smell like roasted shrimp paste, a smell which will be seared on your brain from that moment and on, boil at a low heat lemongrass, crushed lime, and ginger in water and your house will smell ok again. Believe me, we tried everything, and this is the best route.

I am still a bit intimidated by Thai food. I will admit it! But, there are a few ingredients that this recipe uses which are widely used in other Thai dishes, so don't be afraid to start your pantry with these things because the flavor is worth it.

5 dried red chilies deseeded, then soaked in hot water 10 minutes
3 t salted fermented soybeans
1 T galangal or ginger
5 cloves of garlic minced
1 onion minced or 5-6 shallots minced
1 t shrimp paste roasted
3 T tomato paste
1 lb minced pork
1 can quality whole tomatoes (like Mutti)
1/2 can coconut milk stirred well
1 t light brown sugar or palm sugar or just sugar

1 handful of cilantro minced

You can find the dried red chilies sold by the bag at Asian stores. Here is a picture of the salted soybeans, a mystery ingredient I had long loved before knowing what it looked like in a jar ...

And here's a picture of a Shrimp paste bottle for those of you who will risk all for authentic Thai flavor!

If anyone wants to mail us tips about roasting shrimp paste or how to clear the air afterwards make sure to mail us here

Sorry for the long introduction. Deseed and soak the chilies. In a mortar or a food processor, mash together the galangal or ginger if you're using it, together with the salted soy beans, and the now reconstituted chilies.

In a large heavy bottomed deep pan, heat vegetable oil with the teaspoon of shrimp paste in it. Fry it as long as you can stand it (it should change a darker shade), and then throw in the minced onions. Sautee until translucent, add the paste made of the chilies, galangal, and soybeans and continue to fry another minute or so.

Add the minced pork and brown until all the meat is finished cooking which should take about 10 minutes, then add your canned tomatoes, and tomato paste. Mash up the whole tomatoes in the pan, and simmer, add the teaspoon of sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add half a can of the coconut milk and stir to meld the sauce.

Mince the coriander and throw it in just before serving.

Serve over rice or noodles.

In tomato based recipes please spend the extra money to buy good canned tomatoes. I, myself, am a complete convert. The taste is so much richer and even more expensive canned tomatoes doesn't cost the earth.

I know this recipe is going to be an adventure for many -- especially those of you lacking some of the crucial ingredients for a Thai pantry, but I promise you the taste is aroy mak mak! meaning, very delicious.

Please let me know how it turns out!

Sorry guys!

I've been trying for a year now to figure out talking about Pan Asian and Californian influenced food without cooking as much of it and as you've obviously noticed, blogging about the New York food scene has gone by the wayside now that I live in Stockholm. Stockholm, Sweden, yes.

I also have a new and wholly unexpected influence on my cooking, whom I could affectionately refer to "Otto is a Rhinocerous" based on a Swedish children's book about the rhinocerous who ate everything.

When I mentioned to Otto, that "How to Eat a Green Mango" had intrinsically changed due to his strong food opinions and cooking influences, I asked him what we should name the new blog. Feeding a Rhinocerous"" he said smiling.

"That's a terrible name," I frowned at him, and then he explained the background. Essentially, I complain all the time that it doesn't matter how much I cook, Otto eats all of it. A meal I prepare for four people which would normally last me a few days suddenly vanishes in one mealtime.

Otto loves his French, Swedish and offal, and I love my Asian, Indian, and Western tastes as well. I hope you'll enjoy this journey in the far northern reaches of Scandinavia as much as you've loved "How to Eat a Green Mango".

Without further ado, click here