Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look!

It's just like my favorite Printzregentstorte!



I'm trying to work up the courage to bake a Buche De Noel. Maybe I'll bring it to a Christmas party so I don't wind up eating it all by myself.


Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bolognese 100% Better

What if you could make a bolognese sauce that would make an Italian mama weep? There's a secret and I'm going to tell you. But first, let's reminisce.

When I went traveling through northern Italy two summers ago, we got to stop in Bologna, Italy. Bologna, where people come for the fat. We had some divine eating there. However, the dish and meal we remember the best was a place where they served us Osso Bucco Bolognese.

We were already fans of the traditional Osso Bucco served Milanese style with its charming citrusy notes and rich marrow goodness. But the bolognese styled Osso Bucco blew us away and still remains one of our best meals of all time.

In any event. We mustered up the courage to try to replicate the Osso Bucco bolognese and after researching we proceeded as such:

Bolognese with Veal Shanks

Take two to three veal shanks (1.5 lbs to 2 lbs) and pat them so they're nice and dry. Then shake some flour over them to coat. Saute the suckers in a creuset over a medium high heat which you can put later in the oven. When they're nice and brown on all sides (3-5 minutes each side), remove, and make your regular bolognese recipe. Remember that using veal stock or fond will also greatly aid your chances of a great bolognese. Then, place the veal shanks and juices into the bolognese sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then bake in the oven with the closed lid for 2-3 hours.

Enjoy! I have used the sauce with an "orzo" risotto with white wine and lemon butter, parsley and parmesan, and over macaroni for an oven baked gratin. All superbly delicious. 100% better bolognese, I promise!

Monday, November 30, 2009

To live by the sea

Sundays are often soup days at my place, and I had tried a delicious soup called Aziminu, the Corsican version of bouillabaisse, from the local Corsican restaurant (St. Campoloro) and I was overwhelmed by how much I loved the savory combination of seafood, tomato, and garlic galore.



Right before they served the dish, they sprinkled a whole palmful of grated pecorino cheese. If you know Italians, it's quite frowned upon to combine cheese and seafood, but the Corsicans, they did it gleefully. And it was fantastic.

When researching recipes for my own version of Aziminu, I mourned the fact that I had no tiny crabs, fish or cuttlefish (all part of the original recipe) for stock. The secret to a great bouillabaisse always begins in the stock (as Julia Child would have pointed out).

This is one of those labor-of-love dishes, but well worth it!

Aziminu
Serves around four?

Stock:
generous glug of olive oil (5 TB?)
one large onion chopped
two large shallots chopped
six fennel stalks chopped
two celery stalks chopped
three bay leaves
1 t of red pepper flakes or a small thai dried chili
one teaspoon dried thyme or fresh thyme sprigs
one head of garlic smashed
3 T clam stock granules (alternatively 3 bottles of clam juice)
1/2 c (1 dl) of stock made from shrimp shells with head*
fish stock (you can buy this in cube form or a fond)
six cups (around 15 dl) of boiling water
1 can of your best tomatoes (we use Mutti, but I've heard San Marzano is good too)

Seafood:
800 g (1 1/2 pounds) boned cod
300 g peeled shrimp
optional: tiny mussels scrubbed and bearded

Vegetables for the soup:
5 TB olive oil
1 leek chopped rinsed thoroughly only the white and light green parts
1 red pepper deseeded and sliced thinly
3-4 c boiling water

Garnish:
one large lump of pecorino grated
rouille -- a garlicky mayonnaise with cayenne and chili pepper and anchovies

*to make shrimp stock, use the shrimp peel and pour boiling water over it and let it steep for five minutes. Use a sieve to extract the "shrimp broth".

Saute the onions and shallots in olive oil in a large stockpot for around ten minutes. Add the fennel, celery, garlic, and spices and fry until fragrant (about a minute or two). Then add the can of tomatoes, the fish fond, clam broth, and shrimp broth along with the boiling water (less if you are using clam juice or fish stock).

Though the original recipe asked for a shorter simmer, I simmed this stock for two and a half hours. Then I sieved the stock.

In soup pot saute in a generous glug of olive oil (5 Tb?) the leek and the red pepper. After a few minutes add the stock and taste it. From that add more boiling water until the flavor is correct. Bring to a boil. Add the cod in whole filets for five minutes then take the cod out of the soup and place it in the individual bowls. Do the same for the shrimp and/or mussels.

Garnish with a generous handful of pecorino and spoon of rouille.

For getting your daily garlic intake, there's no better soup!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Bad Day

As someone interested in being a locavore, you can't rule out the positives of hunting. Being from southern California, for most of my life, I've assumed food comes from the supermarket. So after foraging for wild berries and mushrooms, hunting doesn't come up too far behind. Particularly on the island where I spent my weekends, there are many deer who carry ticks (lyme disease!), and eat up and destroy all of our gardening efforts (rest in peace peony bushes).

Not coincidentally, other locavores are also coming to the same conclusion. We started with perhaps hands-on gardening, and then started thinking about the repercussions of mass produced meats both on the planet and our health.

The NY Times profiles a local deer hunting class.

I, similarly, was invited to my first hunt. There's a forthcoming article about my experience hunting somewhere in here, but I'll just comment for today that I enjoyed during the NY Times video. Especially the point the local deer hunting class teacher made about how the deer have had a good life running around, (eating all our apples), etc, and then they have one bad day. If you've ever seen any footage of supposed "free range" chickens and eggs, one bad day is infinitely preferable to a whole lifetime of bad days.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Buttery Waffle Goodness



Today's product profile is Jules Destrooper, a Belgium biscuit maker that makes the most enchanting butter waffle cookies in the existence of the world.



The Belgians really know their butter waffles. These are a perfect foil for ice-cream and various other desserts because of their crisp, but satisfying crunch. The only struggle really is not to eat them all.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In a Bee House

Though this post isn't meant to go on in raptures about the qualities of honey, which is what I did yesterday to O, since this is cold/flu season and honey is the sore throat's best friend; the Bee House isn't about honey, but rather its companion -- tea.

When I'm home alone, I can't get through a whole 4-6 person teapot by myself. Unless I knit that tea mitten (a wooly outfit for a teapot), it doesn't stay warm long enough for me to drink it, so I'm thinking of getting a more petite pot.

Like this one from Bee House, a Japanese brand:



For Christmas, maybe? What's in your tea pot today?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grilled Cheese ...

... nothing else could ever take your place in my heart!

An L.A. friend tipped me off to The Grilled Cheese Truck, a mobile effort to bring grilled cheese into the world.




I have not been able to try it, being roughly half the world away from the City of Angels, but that oozing cheese logo gives me satisfying hits of homeyness, melty cheese, and the lovely crispness of buttered and grilled bread.

Did you know Swedes do *not* eat grilled cheese sandwiches? They are an open-faced sandwich culture. It's true.

There's definitely a panini or two around here. First, there was the steak houses, then the burger joints, and then the cascades of muffins (cupcakes), could it be that Swedes will soon adopt the ever so savory grilled cheese sandwich? One can only hope.

Last word is, whoever thought of Cheesy Mac with BBQ pork and carmelized onions is officially my hero.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Maple Delicious

Now that it's fall/almost winter (here in Sweden, at least), I'm a regular consumer of hot chocolate. Though it may be my favorite way to warm up after a chilly walk outside, I'm beginning to also become a fan of the maple steamer. Nothing could be simpler, nor yummier.

Maple Steamer

1 c warm milk
1-2 t B grade maple syrup
2 pinches of cinnamon

Combine, and drink in good health!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Buttery Crumbs

This recipe comes from a Swedish institution called Vedholm in Stockholm.

When I was first introduced to the dish, I was amazed at the simplicity and the individual flavors enhancing the others, along with the textures.

I was also introduced to the idea of cooking fish for 10 minutes at the highest heat my oven goes up to.

Pike-perch Beaulieu adapted from Vedholm.

2 lbs pike-perch filet, or other firm white flesh fish like cod
1 stick of butter
1 cup of dry white wine
1 shallot finely minced
2 T of finely chopped parsley
2 egg yolks
1 c/100 grams of bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F/275 C.

Place filets in an oven friendly dish. Melt the butter. In a bowl combine bread crumbs with the butter, shallot, parsley, egg yolk, and salt and pepper.

Cover the filets with the mixture and then pour the wine around the filets.

Bake for ten minutes. Serve with boiled or steamed potatoes.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Craving Pumpkin


Some Swedes asked me if pumpkins taste good. The answer is, "Yes!"

I need some pumpkin intake pronto. All inspired from The Boston Globe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Judie's of Amherst

Many of my friends went back to Amherst for homecoming. I am fiercely jealous, but the leaves are also turning in Stockholm. And I'm drinking real apple cider by the liter-load. And, and, and. Though I haven't quite ventured as far as making apple cider donuts, I have remade one of my favorite dishes from Judie's a restaurant run by Judie.

Though the popovers are divine, as well is the apple butter, my favorite ran toward the roasted garlic crusted salmon with leek and portobello mushroom pasta in a buttery lemon-wine sauce.

However, my boyfriend hates both penne and mushrooms (unhappiness), so my recent obsession with orzo was indulged instead.

Roasted Garlic Salmon with Leek Orzo

2 heads of garlic
2 t olive oil
500 g of salmon filet (1 lb of salmon)
salt & pepper to taste

1 c orzo
1 leek white and pale green parts only sliced thinly
1 sploosh of dry vermouth
1 lemon
2 T butter
salt and pepper to taste

On a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle the garlic with olive oil, and wrap the garlic in the foil and roast at 200 C/400 F for 20 minutes depending on your stove. The garlic is roasted when it is looking a rich yellow brown and looks slightly translucent.

Mash the garlic into a paste. Pat dry your salmon fillet and sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper on it. Then evenly spread the roasted garlic paste on the top. Roast for 15-20 minutes appropriate to how thick the filet is (check if the salmon is flaking) at 200 C/400 F.

Boil water for the orzo and prepare according to instructions. Melt 2 Tb of butter in a pan and saute the leek for five minutes. When the leek looks wilted add a sploosh of dry vermouth, and let the alcohol cook off.

Drain the orzo well and combine it with the wilted leeks and the juice of half a lemon. Serve alongside the roasted garlic crusted salmon with additional lemon slices on the side if desired.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Food rules!

Michael Pollan highlighted some rules for eating since he famously has been quoted for saying, "Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables."

He welcomed suggestions for eating well. I'm particularly struck by the Japanese home cook's credo of the five colors, five preparations, and five flavors. I've recently added pickled vegetables to my Asian meals, and it does add another dimension.

I liked also ending with fruit. I didn't realize it was also an Italian habit, but in my family we always end with that light sweet note. It works as a signal that the meal is finished.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Noriwich

No, it's not a city in England, or district, or county. It's a Nori (toasted seaweed) Sandwich.


Sometimes, when you've got all the right ingredients, magic happens. I had totally forgotten about my favorite onigiri (rice ball with filling) from Shibuya. It was a nori-sandwich with teriyaki chicken, and lo and behold, last night I made soy sauce chicken.

I also had bought some toasted seaweed called kim -- it's Korean style toasted seaweed brushed with salt and sesame seed oil. I had leftover rice, leftover teriyaki style chicken, Japanese mayonnaise, slivers of pickled mustard greens and salad.

Teriyaki Noriwich

1 sheet of nori or kim
1/2 c cooked rice at room temperature
1/4 c teriyaki chicken in pieces
a drizzle of Japanese mayonnaise
a drizzle of teriyaki sauce (optional)
slivers of pickled mustard greens (also optional)
several leaves of salad

I just laid out the ingredients as shown above and then closed it more like a pita and cut it into three sections. Lamentably, the noriwiches were not the most stable. I think using regular sushi nori is more stable, but kim is more flavorful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sproutilicious

Did you know sprouts are healthier than the actual vegetable or bean, in this case, that springs from it?



I remember countless late afternoons where my mom made me snap the ends off the mung bean sprouts. The bottom of the mung bean sprout is where the root used to be settled in the earth and a slight brown color. "Why do we have to do it?" my sister and I used to complain.

"Because," replied my mother, as many weary mothers will easily identify with not needing to explain their actions.

Turns out, when you blanch your mungbeans as in this recipe, the brown parts look translucent brown instead of the very pleasant translucent white.

Now blanching vegetables is very simple. The basic idea is to quick-cook them. So first you immerse them in boiling water for the proscribed amount of time (varies from vegetable to vegetable), and then you put them into a cold water bath to stop the cooking. Both steps are essential. You kinda wonder why even bother when mung bean sprouts are so crispy and fresh tasting on their own. In this case, blanching them lets the marinade soak into them much better. In other kim chi recipes they have had me salt them, but I think I might try blanching them next time as well.



Fantastic Mung Bean Sprouts tossed in Rice Vinegar and Sesame Oil

1 1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
1 drizzle of sesame seed oil
1 t sesame seeds
1 1/2 inch (approx 1 cm) coin of ginger peeled and in slivers
1 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar

Snap off the roots of all your mung bean sprouts. Children are especially useful for this task. Boil water and place mung bean sprouts in a bowl and cover them with boiling water for one minute. Drain the sprouts in a colander and run cold water over them.

In a bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and toss the sprouts in them.

The fantastic thing about this recipe is that it can be served as a starter or a vegetable side dish. You don't have to worry about it cooling because it's supposed to be served at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Parisian v Sicilian smackdown

After acquainting myself with as many foodie recommendations possible, my boyfriend and I went to Paris for a long weekend.

I cajoled him into visiting Berthillon. I had already my flavors rehearsed too, salt caramel and chocolate. What is this salt caramel craze sweeping Paris? I don't know, but I like it!

While standing in line I also saw that they had Mirabelle plum sorbet -- Mirabelle is a particularly adorable tiny yellow and blush variety of plum that is exceedingly sweet. So I asked my boyfriend to order that one separately.

And lo and behold, the couple in front of us asked for their luxury French ice cream ... in a giant macaron! Having had the same phenomenon happen to us in Agrigento (they asked for their gelato in a brioche), I made my boyfriend order the sorbet in a pistachio macaron.

The results? Turns out that the macaron ice cream sandwich was merely pleasant, not as fulfilling as a brioche with gelato, but that might have been the flavor combination choice. Next time I make macarons, I'll try again. I could think a nice raspberry flavored one might work, or a chocolate macaron with chocolate ice cream. It's a hand held treat.

However, the salt caramel ice cream was every bit as good as promised. Once you get to the tiny isle that Berthillon, walk past every single one of the cafes which say they have Berthillon ice cream (glaces) because the Berthillon shop is farther down and has the widest assortment of flavors. I almost missed out on salt caramel ice cream because we were deceived and it was a hot sunny day in Paris.



In other Parisian notes Laduree needs no further recommendation, but the salt caramel macarons were also divine!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cauli-wonderful

Food has fads too, you know. You can scarcely go out anywhere without some cauliflower puree peeking out from under your meat of choice.

Fall has come around the corner, and though we're enjoying a bit of an Indian summer, the evenings are quite chilly.



That is to say ... cauliflower plus soup = perfection. Give cauliflower a chance!

For one of the easiest and comforting soups, (and fastest) look no further.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower chopped
1 leek chopped using only the white and pale green parts
4 small potatoes peeled and large diced
6 cups chicken or vegetarian broth (I normally cover with water and add two broth cubes)
1 T butter
1 bay leaf
1 t dried thyme or 1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
1/2 c cream or whole milk

salt and ground freshly ground white pepper to taste

an immersion blender

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the leeks. Saute until the leeks are softened and add the chopped cauliflower, and potatoes along with the bay leaf and thyme. Combine and stir for a moment, and then add the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour. Use the immersion blender in the pot until all is creamy, and add the cream or whole milk, and then season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Serve with the best levain/crusty sourdough bread you can find.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Golden Plum Jam

There is scarcely a better pleasure in the world than a fresh sun-ripened golden plum eaten right off the tree. I find them superior to the purple ones, but haven't had the pleasure of a Mirabelle plum to compare it to. I have had, on the other hand, Mirabelle plum jam and it is divine. They must do something secret to it.



In the picture you can see that I also love Swedish butter so much I don't even bother to spread it correctly or wait until it softens. I just make my peace with unevenly spread butter, it's still fantastic.

However, this plum jam I made from the excess plums has that fresh plum taste in every mouthful! It's incredible ... there is jam, and then there is jam!



The other weekend we had been booked to go to a wedding, but I still insisted we spend the day before going out to the country house because I knew all the plums would be ready. And they were a bit over-ready. Though hesitant to make jam with very ripe plums (there had been a lot of rainfall too hence the chanterelles), I went ahead anyway.

What I wanted to keep the most was the golden color. It's so pleasing to the eye. I peeled and pitted all the plums and even squeezed some lemon juice on them to try to keep the color fresh. Then I blended them with a immersion blender, and boiled them for about five minutes with some "jam sugar" sugar that already has pectin in it. The ratio for low sugar jams is 2:1 (fruit:sugar). However, I just added sugar until I was satisfied with the taste. (Note, if you want the color to stay yellow, don't add any browning parts!)

I sterilized my old jars and lids with boiling water, but I'm a bit paranoid so they're all going into the fridge.

The jam turned out slightly like a jelly because of the high water content, and in the future I'll try to make plum jam a week earlier before they start getting overripe, but, all in all, I am pleased to discover that jam making is actually quite easy. It does take time to peel and pit all the plums, but, it is a bit meditative. And though nothing beats eating golden plums off the tree on a sunny day, a spoonful of this jam is like all of that concentrated in one delicious bite.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Found!



Some people have started to ask me about mushroom hunting tips. However, when it comes to chanterelles it's both visual acuity and a propensity to hide your treasure trove and not telling *anyone* where it is.

Chanterelles are these lovely fragrant mushrooms which are easily positively identified. When it comes to mushroom hunting, only positively identify. Most mushroom species are poisonous or inedible so unless you're a mycologist the hobby hunter only needs to learn a handful of the best tasting mushrooms and ones that might be mistaken for them.

Chanterelles are highly prized for their taste. They're also such a visually beautiful mushroom, in my eyes.

With chanterelles, they often come back every year in the same spot. Imagine my delight when I found a very well hidden secluded spot for chanterelles. There are fall and summer chanterelles, so there's no use checking back in former spots out of season.

I had been hesitant, but optimistic, when I went out to check my super secret spot to which I've only told my boyfriend because he hates mushrooms, and there was my bounteous crop. I can't wait for the next rainfall to check again.

He asked me this morning if they tasted better than chanterelles I've bought at the market, and the answer is, of course!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Life's Little Luxuries

There are two luxuries I've been recently introduced to at two separate restaurants -- Lux, the Michelin star rated restaurant on Lilla Essingen, and Rolfs Kök on Tegenergatan 41. One costs $129/lb and one costs free, kinda.



Lomo iberico bellota is made from acorn-fed Iberico pigs with an exquisite taste that is both delicately smokey and sweet. At Rolfs Kök you can order 30 grams of the stuff. It melts on your tongue. They presented it as wafer thing slices. This makes me believe I need to drive down to Spain and do some private importing myself!


Photo by Sean Dreilinger

The second is something you can find for free. Fresh hazelnuts. They sprinkled them over a dish we were eating and the light crunch of the hazelnuts was so heady. I had never tasted a nut that was so fresh before. Hazelnuts grow on bushes here in Sweden, and I've had them pointed out to me before, but I'm going to have to investigate if such a delicacy grows wild for the taking.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Let them eat ...

cake?

In one sense, I feel like this is reinventing the wheel. Cake is so delicious that cake should be cake. On the other hand, I have been forced to stop "eatertaining" myself lately, which means no cinnybuns and no madeleines. It's quite trying. So a healthier cake that still tastes great? Something to mull over. Or try a recipe or two?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lydmar Hotel Review

My review of the new (old) Lydmar Hotel restaurant is available in the Swedish Bulletin magazine. It was tasty! It's on page 26.

Smoothie Deconstructed

Though I don't have as elegant tableware available to me as the Top Chef Masters do, I still have a fondness for playful food.



Here is my smoothie deconstructed. It is essentially a sweet lassi and a plate of nature's finest strawberries. This is obviously a very flexible dish with a touch of the theatre -- because you pour the chilly smooth lassi over the fruit and eat it much like a soup/dessert.

Deconstructed Smoothie

1/2 c kefir or Swedish a-fil
1/2 c milk
1 - 2 T sugar (according to taste)
Sliced fruit: strawberries, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, or mango

In the 1/2 of milk, stir the sugar in until combined, add the kefir or fil. In a bowl, lay out the fruit, place the lassi mixture next to it. If you're feeling particular hot, place the lassi mixture in the freezer to get it extra cool before serving.

Guaranteed delicious!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

White Nectarines & Summer Sun

I've been trying to eat local for a few years now, but this was the year of, I-can't-calculate-carbon-miles-for-the-life-of-me, so I bought more than kilo of sweetly fragrant nectarines from the supermarket. People often ask me how I know a fruit will taste good, and I point out that if the fruit smells sweet, that's a good sign (it should not smell overripe), feel for firmness/give (nectarines in particular should be firm, not mushy), and if you see brown on the skin of the fruit, that is often a mark of high sugar content.

Anyway, I was invited to a bring-your-own-meat bbq today at Vintervik in Aspudden (it's lovely there), and I decided on a tuna steak. I had once read a menu that said, tuna burgers with peach and jalapeno chutney on it. I didn't actually get to eat that burger, but the idea stuck with me, so today I made a quasi-chutney.
.
I couldn't bring myself to cook the nectarines because they were already so lovely, and why bother peeling the skin when the skin is delicioso also?

White Nectarine Un-Chutney

2 large white nectarines in small pieces
1 large shallot minced
1 lime's worth juice
dash of whatever vinegar you have
1 chili pepper -- serrano or jalapeno
salt

On a gas stove or grill, blacken the outside of the chili pepper and the let it cool. Peel off the capsicum (the outside papery part), and chop. For less heat, remove the seeds.

Mix all of the above and let rest for awhile to let the flavors really meld. Serve with seared tuna!

Would also taste good with some pork too, I bet!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lazy Summer Recipes

Unlike a lot of my American friends, I'm not swamped with 40 C/90 F kind of weather over here in Stocktown (an affectionate name for Stockholm). However, you still get parched over here, and there's nothing like a cool glass of lemonade, no?

My problem with lemonade is that simple syrup you make at the beginning. I've circumvented it a bit by just using as little hot water as possible and eyeballing sugar which turns out right more or less.

But! There's an even better and fizzier way to make lemonade! There's something called 'fruktsoda' which is basically a sweet soda with no flavor in it. You add a hefty squeeze of lemon, and smush a few blueberries in it, and voila! Wild Blueberry Lemonade soda!

You heard it here first, people!

Wild Blueberry Lemonade

1/2 liter of sweet carbonated soda
1/2 large lemon
20 wild blueberries

Combine.

The best part is munching on the blueberries after your lemonade is gone. it's refreshing, and good for your eyesight and brain. Also, the 'fruktsoda' you can buy here in Sweden has a lot less sugar than other brands.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Crossover

I don't usually mix food and poetry, but in this instance I really enjoyed this article by Mark Dow: Terminology & Ice Cream.

It was also an interesting blog post because the writer is a creative writing teacher (presumably) at Hunter College which is a post that I would probably flirt with since it's a creative writing post and located in New York. That is, if I finally wind up publishing some of my own poetry and decided to live in New York again.

In any event, this last week, someone lectured me about sweets and sugar in general. It made me laugh a little because Thai people hover over their food with a spoonful of sugar, or vinegar, or chili flakes, or fish sauce, or all of the above to make sure the dish they receive is the perfect balance of the sum of all those flavors.

Today, I enjoyed a marvelous dessert made of pandalus leaf flavored pancake filled with toasted coconut, served with vanilla ice cream, and a syrup infused with toasted coconut-ty goodness served at Restaurant Malaysia on Luntmakarsgatan (closer to Odengatan).

I guess it's just not so simple to explain to some, but, to me, oh, the sweetness is worth it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Red Currants and Wild Cherries

It's that time of the year again when the red currant bush fairly bursts with these red plump berries which are far too sour to eat off the bush, yet tantalize you with possibilities.

I've been experimenting with apricot, golden raisin and walnut bread, which was delicious, but I think needs more walnuts, and I'm still feeding my starter, but haven't dared to use it yet!

Anyway, we were viciously attacked by these fierce biting insects while picking the currants, and I got bitten twice before realizing I should have my wellies on instead of my flip-flops.

So now we're drying red currants in the oven at 140 F/60 C for 2-3 hours with the stems on and picked over.

I'm also sitting around with bunches of wild cherries. I made a French (clafoutis) dense moist cake with them last time, pits included (as traditionally is done), but it was a bit of an ordeal picking out every 10 pits in each bite.

Lastly, we made a batch of elderflower champagne and it looks like the yeast process is working because our plastic sterilized bottles feel taut because the natural CO2 is developing. We'll let it ferment for another week before we try a bottle (excitement).

We're leaving for the northern Sweden country house soon. Potato dumplings and wild blueberries, here we come!

Monday, July 06, 2009

<3 Belgian Pralines

I'll say it plainly ... the best chocolates in the world are fresh pralines from Belgium.

This is a box of Marcolini chocolates:



When my boyfriend flew to Belgium for work, I told him if he didn't bring me a box of fresh pralines from Belgium, I wouldn't let him in the door!

Though Marcolini is only one of many fine establishments holding to the fine chocolatey ways of the Old World, I'll just have to wait for another visit to Belgium to enjoy them.

However, there is a Marcolini in New York! If you're fortunate enough to live in Belgium, Paris, London, Kuwait, Tokyo or New York make sure you swing by and savor a few of these delights for me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Not So Fast Quiche Redux

Forgive me for no pictures of late, I'm out in the countryside without the appropriate connective elements.

The restaurant Bla Porten is a famous old establishment on Djurgarden in Stockholm. My vegetarian friend ordered the quiche (a dish I often overlook), and it was full of spinachy-feta goodness. Since I like my eggs sooooo many ways already, adding a quiche to my repertoire was not my first thought, but I had time to mull it over, and I had some puff pastry stashed in the freezer, and for the first time in ages I had bought feta.

Because of the Vasterbotten mini pies I had made earlier, it wasn't such a far leap to think of a spinach and feta based pie either. I looked up some recipes, but ultimately had to come up with my own -- one which was spicier and with a dash of Asian panache. Unfortunately, this recipe is not nearly as quick to prepare and eat as I would like it to be, but during the summer I assume you could bake it in the morning, keep it chilled during the day, then bring it up to room temperature before serving it for dinner, this recipe makes more sense if you're feeding a larger group of people.

The Non Quiche Quiche

two sheets of puff pastry
50 grams spinach (1 1/2 oz) squeezed of water if frozen
1/2 white/yellow onion minced
1 t sesame seeds
1/2 t red chili flakes
50 grams (1 1/2 oz) feta
2 eggs beaten with a dollop of sour cream
1 T salted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C.

Thaw puff pastry sheets (about 20 minutes).

While the puff pastry sheets are thawing, mince the onion and saute it in butter over medium high heat. When the onion starts to look translucent, add the sesame seeds to toast and distribute evenly. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes and stir for a minute. If you have defrosted spinach, squeeze all the juices out before adding it to the pan. If you have fresh spinach, fry it in the pan until the mixture is quite dry.

Fit pastry sheets to a pie form, trimming as you go. Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.

Blend eggs with a dollop of sour cream (milk is an acceptable substitute). When the pie crust is ready, add the onion and spinach mixture to the crust, crumble the feta over the spinach, and pour the egg mixture evenly over the top.

Bake at 375 F/175 C for about 20 minutes, or until egg mixture is set.

Serve with a salad and some chilled melon for a summer meal. I have to say that the chili flakes and toasted sesame seeds give the regular spinach-feta taste profile a new zing. Toasted pine nuts would also be a great substitution if you have them already in your pantry.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's the Butter ...

On a 80 F degree day -- a temperature which Sweden hardly ever sees, I remembered how much I was charmed by the little ceramic butter containers when I ate lunch at Bouchon in the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle, and then once again saw at the restaurant Helsingborg in Stockholm.

The only dilemma is this, rustic or tres elegant style? The boyfriend falls on the rustic side and I fall on the impeccable French one. What do you think?





Hmmmmmmmmm ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Belated

Midsummer's!

Here in Sweden they celebrate on the Friday closest to the solstice (it's totally cheating, I know).

In any event, this is what you can expect to see on your plate on a regular Midsummer's Eve lunch.



Several kinds of pickled herring, fresh potatoes overlaid with dill sprigs, Swedish crispbread topped with Swedish butter (yum) and Västerbottens cheese, a boiled egg, and my own personal favorite -- a slice of Västerbottens pie.

Given that interpreting Swedish language in the grocery store is uneven, I wound up buying puff pastry instead of pie dough, but the results were still fabulous.

Västerbottens Mini Pies

2 eggs beaten
200 grams of Västerbottens or something like a extra sharp cheddar grated
1/2 c heavy cream
defrosted puff pastry sheets
muffin tins

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
smattering of chopped chives or other fresh herbs for topping (optional)

Set oven to 200 C/400 F. Lay pieces of puff pastry dough in the muffin tins. Prick all over with a fork (to prevent over-puffiness). When the oven is hot, bake for 10 minutes.

Combine beaten eggs with cream and salt and peppar. Evenly distribute grated cheese into each muffin tin (now lined, of course with puff pastry shells), and then pour over the egg/cream mixture.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the pies are set. Garnish if desired.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The reason the pies are so rich is because Midsummer's involves a lot of drinking of schnapps, and having a full belly prevents more than a little mayhem.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sourdough Non-starter

Over the weekend, my friend brought some fabulous walnut and dried apricot bread from her local bakery. I was so smitten with the idea, I wanted to try to replicate the bread from home since her local bakery is about an hour away. I do love bread, but a two hour round trip is still a little much for me.

In Sweden, there are not a whole lot of sourdough bread lovers. Swedish breads tend more towards molasses-sweetened breads which have a nice chewy texture (from the oat flour), but sourness isn't a highly sought quality. However, they're very into more sour-tasting rye and crispbreads.

When researching breads, I realized that I did want that bit of a tang in my bread and realized I needed a sourdough starter. I had made it once before a zillion years ago, but my then boyfriend wanted to throw it away (why are Swedes so paranoid about the refrigerator?), and I succumbed to the pressure.

In any event, now I have lots of ingredients (I'm planning on a walnut, golden raisin and apricot bread), but no bubbly starter. I have a cup of water combined with a cup of normal white flour in a plastic yoghurt container with my rice serving spoon stuck in it (you're not supposed to use metal), and about a 4-7 day wait for my starter to start going.

I guess the most useful thing I learned today is that bovete is buckwheat, which I accidentally took for oat flour havregryn. Galettes for everyone!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yeah, it tastes like spaghetti ...

Yesterday I was test cooking again a recipe I wanted to try to tweak for the culinary memoir I'm working on, and I knew I wanted to include some steamed squash.

I had picked up a very orange section of a hewed squash from my local grocery store labeled, "French pumpkin."

Since I was very busy making a paste for the recipe, and fixing the rice, and couldn't find a spare pot at the moment, I did the unthinkable.

Ages and ages ago, I had made spiced pumpkin cupcakes (search my blog for the entry) with cream cheese frosting. Hum, now that I think about it, I should have used some molasses to get a darker taste, but anyway, I had stumbled across some literature that proposed microwaving the pumpkin. Back then, that was unthinkable, but yesterday it seemed very thinkable.

I microwaved medium thin slices of squash on a plate in the microwave covered for 3 minutes on high. No go, 3 minutes more, looking better, 3 last minutes and voila, it was perfectly cooked squash.

Imagine my surprise when it happened to be spaghetti squash -- a squash I had only eaten once before during a leaf-strewn fall in Amherst.

I waited for my boyfriend to come home to try some of it. "It's called spaghetti squash."

He asked, "Because it tastes like spaghetti?"

I just sat and smiled, "You'll see."

He ate a bite of it and said, "That's strange it kinda tastes like spaghetti."

I threw up my hands, "Silly boy, it's shaped liked spaghetti."

Yes, the moment your fork hits the squash, small "noodles" of the cooked vegetable seem to come out of nowhere.

Anyway, I'm pleased the fridge is stacked with vedge. Now what to do with all my frozen wild blueberries?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

how to make Thai Ice tea

Ever live somewhere Thai Ice Tea is nearly impossible to find?

Thai ice tea - a sweet milky tea concoction colored brilliantly orange, is hard to be found in this area of the world (Stockholm). I would step in and out of Thai restaurants (there are like six in my neighborhood) and ask for Thai ice tea and they would shake their heads at me and my limited Thai vocabulary.

But:




I finally found it

Turns out I'm too lazy to take a pix of the tea I'm drinking now, but here's a picture of it from a former post.



I seep about four teaspoons of Thai tea with 3 teaspoons of sugar, then I strain it with some paper towel or cheesecloth-like item (it will get stained orange though, to note), pour it over ice, add unsweetened condensed milk, and then add water until it's suitably thinned.

There is a distinct danger of drinking too many Thai ice teas in a row when it's suddenly so accessible.

Test Cooking

Test Cooking for yourself isn't very fun.

Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, but I love to cook in conjunction to cooking for someone. Sharing the experience of good food is one of my absolute favorite past times. And, of course, it's no wonder that cooking for one doesn't have that same dimension of pleasure.

Today is day 3 of the Thai food test cooking marathon. The snack green mango is what started this blog in the first place, but if you rifle through my archives, though Thai food and sensibility has had a great influence over what I eat and cook over the past years, Thai food is still an adventure to me. Which is what my book is about.

Anyway, test cooking recipes for my book is proving to be both interesting and helpful in understanding the cuisine (and filling).

I can't help but think again that Thai and Italian food have the communality of very good produce which is a substantial boost to any dish. While pounding the latest curry paste (sans the creamy grey shrimp paste this time which kinda icks me out), I remembered that my aunts would throw in the whole garlic clove (they were so tiny to begin with) and pounded together even the thin skins of the tiny purple garlic cloves. This reminded me of the Animal, Mineral, Vegetable book by Barbara Kingsolver, and her short writing on various kinds of garlic, which in turn made me want to grow my own garlic. Garlic is already a marvelous addition to many dishes, but even more flavorful garlic? Be still my heart!

Pounding curry pastes quickly becomes a meditative process like kneading dough. It takes time, and you could use a machine (I couldn't, my food processor is out at the country house), but when you reap the rewards -- a much more flavorful curry soup, than one using the store bought kind, there's a glowing satisfaction to the whole process.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I'm going to need a bigger mortar ...

I'm test cooking for the book, "How to Eat a Green Mango," a book about my stay in Northern Thailand replete with my favorite recipes for the best dishes I've eaten in Thailand.




Imagine my surprise when the paste turned to paste! The instructions said to mash it until it was smooth. I was pretty incredulous that it could turn paste-like, but after some patient pounding, voila!

This does make me think about Thai foods relation to India. They're all about their pastes too. Relatively little elaborate pan/cooking maneuvers, but lots of curry/chili paste preparation. Probably because it's so hot in those countries one prefers to spend a little time over the stove possible!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Right Amount of Cheesiness

Carr's to the rescue!



Dear reader, I have been robbed! I just discovered this today after my trip through the Baltic (posts and pictures forthcoming). I went to the bank to try to get my details together to file a report with the police. I knew something bad was going to happen due to me not able to keep six currencies straight: USD, euro, Swedish kronor, Lats, Litas, and Kroon.

After my visit to the bank I stopped by my local grocery store to look for some crackers to eat a nice cheese we have at home, and I spotted Carr's Cheese Melts. Though I admittedly have been craving box macaroni and cheese (indoctrinated!), I decided cheese melts would suit me well, and suit me they do.

Carr's cheese melts are crisp with the right amount of flakiness punctuated by dots of poppy seeds and of course cheese and salt flecks baked right onto the top.

Just the sort of thing to stuff into your mouth while you hammer out your report for the police. *Sigh*.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Edible Blossoms

I'm growing summer squash.

Have you ever seen a squash blossom before? I got enchanted at the idea of them the first time I saw them stuffed with goat cheese and fried in a light batter in my Savoring Mexico cookbook released by Williams-Sonoma. That's a really good cookbook by the way. I keep trying to bring it to Sweden but the book weighs five pounds all by itself.



One of our squash blossoms has curled up on itself like a Chinese dumpling:



We couldn't be more tickled. Actually, squash blossoms are probably some of the most expensive vegetables around, and quite difficult to obtain. Although, you can eat some at various Italian bistros in New York, I've heard. Apparently, summer squash is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. I think they should make a list of the easiest to cultivate vegetables. I'm such a beginner, I need encouragement and some delicious vegetables to sustain me through the terrors of snail attacks on our tiny vegetable patch.

As long as we're talking about edible flowers, I'm planning on growing Nasturtium, which is from the watercress family and has a peppery flavor and great in salads, and also has a reputation for being a low maintenance plant:



And finally, a last touch to the amazing Italian fennel and celery salad we've been making ever since our last trip to Tuscany, wild violets:




Violet strewn Fennel and Celery Salad

Handful of violets, picked over and rinsed and patted dry
Wafer thin slices of fennel and celery (about 50/50 ratio)
Mustard dressing, recipe follows:

olive oil
Dijon mustard
sugar
salt
pepper

Unfortunately, I mix the dressing by feel, but like all good food preparation, taste as you go. In a bowl mix 1/4 of a cup of olive oil with just a small amount of Dijon. The mustard isn't meant to overwhelm the other flavors, just complement. It's the same idea with the sugar, salt and pepper. Salt the dressing a little bit more so that when you toss the fennel and celery in the dressing, it will enhance the flavor of the freshly cut vegetables.

Strew with wild or cultivated violets.

This is one of our favorite summer salads. My friend taught me that the human palate can readily identify three flavors (what many Italian dishes hinge their success on) which would also explain why Japanese and French food can often transmit pure clean flavors. Adding any more tastes is another ball game.

One of the best things about this salad is that it's so easy to prepare. Hope you'll dare to try it. Fennel is one of those vegetables I had scarcely been even acquainted with.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Salad Days



I've turned the hothouse into a baby leaf salad grower. One of my first forays into an edible gardening habit was strewing some gourmet micro green seeds, watering them whenever they looked like they wanted water, and then reaping the benefits with homegrown salad. It turned out so successful last time, I sowed with confidence this new batch for spring.



In this particular mix is some mizuna and mustard greens. There might be an odd dandelion green growing in there -- which are, incidentally, edible, but that would be due to the air being suddenly filled with the seeds of dandelion clocks yesterday.

One usually sows and then collects the salad. Depending on the type, it might grow again, or you need to grow from seed again. The turnaround is around two weeks, so it can be ideal to sow one week, and then sow the next week if you want to keep yourself in baby leaf or micro green salads.

Growing salad is easy as long as you keep it away from snails. We've been trying to grow carrots, parsley, leeks, yellow summer squash, salad, baby salad, and peas, but without fail, our outdoor garden is besieged by hungry garden snails.

We laughed when we saw the wild-eyed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on his program click on and off the flashlight while he searched at night for these destroyers of all a gardener's hard efforts, but who is laughing now?

Snail prevention tips welcomed!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Frightened by Fuzzy Logic?

I have a confession to make. I am frightened of my new Toshiba Electric Rice Cooker/Warmer.



I just bought it in Thailand. Yes, I had to go to Thailand to get a decent rice cooker. While I didn't search too ardently here in Sweden, the price was right for a fuzzy logic Toshiba Rice Cooker. While I admit that Zojirushi is the king of rice cookers, I don't exactly have the budget for one.

So, I finally broke out my Toshiba, and pressed start. I have never worked with such a fancy rice cooker before, so I'll also own up to popping open the lid sometimes to check on what exactly was going on!

Turns out, what I am not accustomed to is the 'soak' stage. It hardly emitted any steam at all (where did it go?). Each rice granule was frighteningly perfect. Perfect rice?!? I'm very used to over/under cooking rice by adding a bit too much water or too little and then either adding more water to try to soften it or letting it dry out when it gets too wet, but perfect rice?

I'm going to get spoiled. And how!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Here Come the Mangoes


There was a picture intended in mind to show you how these small mangoes are in relation to a normal sized Thai mango.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), all of these mangoes, small or otherwise, ended up too rapidly in my gullet for picture taking. But! I managed to snag this shot of the small mangoes at the market in Mae Rim.

I was in Thailand for the first time with my mother, which made a lot of unclear things much clearer since she is a native. This was the first time I was in Thailand at what seemed to be high season for mangoes (not for pomelo, unfortunately), and she told me that these small mangoes were known for being sweeter AND juicier!

Of course, I couldn't resist such a temptation and ate these with both coconut yoghurt and sticky rice as much as possible. I discovered tiny puffed mung beans as perfect counterpoint to the yumminess of coconut sauce laden sticky rice.

Thailand really is mango heaven.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where to Start?

The delicious small sweet mangoes or the huge brioche gelato sandwich I ate in Palermo? Though I stopped blogging for three weeks due to a family emergency, dial-up, and no wifi (the Sicilians tended to call it wee-fee), I definitely did not stop eating!

Let's start with the brioche. What an ingenious idea. Gelato has the most lusciously soft creamy texture that makes it so eminently edible. Then, take one of the most rich custardy textured breads in existence: the brioche. Together it's a heavenly combination.

I had eyed the Sicilians curiously as they passed me by holding one of these concoctions. I finally had the greedy pleasure of one in Palermo at Spinnato on Via Principe del Belmonte 117? I will have to look up the address when I get home. Turns out I'm not the only one to discover this particular antique cafe!

Cafe Spinnato

But then again, a picture is worth a few thousand words, right? I can't stop eating pistachio and chocolate gelato together, and then cantaloupe plus yoghurt flavor for a lighter treat.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sorry!

For the abrupt cut off in connection! I was in Thailand for a family emergency, but I ate lots of gorgeous Thai food, and I have many blog entries/pictures to post, but today, the order of the day is finding the finest gelato in Palermo and to eat it in a brioche. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Habana Yumminess

I have a guest restaurant in New York. Yes, the one restaurant I always take guests to because it's not too expensive, it's delicious, and kinda hip.

It's Cafe Habana in Soho. The dish that fills up your senses is the grilled corn on the cob laced with crema or mayo, cheese, cayenne pepper, and lime. Though grilled corn is hard to come by if you don't have access to a barbecue, or if you're a tad lazy like myself and stoking the coals isn't always the first thing that comes to mind, then this is the recipe for you. Almost all of the zing without the trouble:

Chile Lime Corn Salad

1/2 bag of frozen corn or corn cut from a fresh cob
1 T butter
1/2 lime
salt
a dash cayenne pepper
small knob of Parmesan Reggiano or Queso Cotija
a smidgen of green onions and cilantro cut finely for garnish and color


In a saucepan, warm 2 T of water with 1 T of salted butter. Add the frozen corn to the pot and stir and let it come to room temperature. Squeeze lime over corn, add a dash of cayenne pepper, and sprinkle with the grated or crumbled cheese and garnish.

It's a great side dish for any Tex-Mex or Mexican inspired meal. Hm, I wonder how they say "Eat up" in Spanish?

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Whole Fish + Microwave = ?

In terms of derring-do, there is probably not a more surprising presentation than fish prepared by dishwasher (the key is to wrap them up tightly in foil packets) which I have never tried myself.

However, yesterday, O and I attempted what not many others would attempt. Preparing Chinese-style steamed fish ... in a microwave. I knew this wasn't an impossibility. My own mother lives and dies by a salmon fillet recipe which steams the fish in the microwave too. Although, domestic salmon is famously fatty and it takes a lot of overcooking to ruin it compared to leaner fishes.

But, when we stopped by the market yesterday and saw the Arctic Char at a good price we rose to the challenge. I didn't know it was called Arctic Char until today when I found out that röding, or loosely translated to the "red one," was char. Arctic Char is somewhere between a salmon and a trout, but this recipe will work on any firm fleshed whole fish.

So, for the impatient and unwilling to do many dishes:

Ginger Soy Steamed Chinese Fish

Fish:

1 whole fish scaled and cleaned
3- inches of ginger finely julienned
3 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 a red fresh chili pepper also finely julienned
4 stalks of green onions sliced in 3 inch segments
a glug of rice wine or sherry
salt and pepper to taste

plastic/saran wrap

Sauce:

4 T soy sauce
3 stalks of green onion
2 T sesame oil
3 t sugar
1/2 a red fresh chili pepper finely julienned
2 inches of ginger finely julienned

Make sure the fish is clean, pat it dry, salt and pepper the flesh inside and out. Cut three slashes on each side of the fish.

On a plate you can fit into the microwave, place half of the herbs on the bottom of the place, and half on the herbs inside.

Add a glug of rice wine or sherry or sake if you've got it, and cover with with saran wrap but poke a few holes in the plastic wrap.

Microwave from anywhere between 5-9 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. This is purely a trial by error process, so err on the side of caution because the fish will also steam itself ready in the last two minutes sitting on the counter.

For a 2 lb fish, we approximated 8 minutes on high in the microwave.

While the fish is steaming in the microwave, in a pan heat the soy sauce and sesame oil together with the sugar. When the mixture is hot add the ginger, scallions, and chili.

Pour sauce over the ready fish. There is another step you can do which is heat regular oil over the stove and then blister the top of the steam fished with the hot oil, but I haven't quite mastered it yet. I'll write in an update when I manage to buy another whole fish again.

We enjoyed this dish especially with some stir-fry broccoli and garlic and white rice. The broccoli recipe will have to wait for another entry!

When the whole fish is on the table, the presentation is actually amazingly elegant, and the colors of the green scallions and red chili are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the taste buds. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ever had Czech food before?



Me neither, until I went to Soldaten Svejk. My review of the restaurant is out in the Spring issue of the Swedish Bulletin. Where does one find a copy? Hotels and embassies, apparently!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blue Milk & Cereal?

I'm not sure if I've featured it before, but I love Kashi Heart-to-Heart, but barring those (especially because I cannot privately import a whole stock for myself), multi-grain Cheerios have finally come to Sweden and so I can eat one of my favorite breakfasts which includes both the American and the Swedish -- in one bowl!



It's cereal with blueberry soup and skim milk. Swedes often eat rosehip soup with a drizzle of milk and crushed almond cookies, so this is ostensibly my take on the Swedish classic.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Scrumptious


Camille Bloch Ragusa Noir





I don't know about you guys, but I grew up reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I guess this is a good time to talk about chocolate since Easter is coming up. My absolute childhood favorite Easter candy is the Whopper's large malted eggs with speckled candy covered shells. Yum.

However, as an adult for an off-the-rack buy (meaning, not jetting off to Belgium to pick up some fresh pralines), this dark chocolate truffle bar is the best. We don't even try to buy any other kind these days as much as the Lindt bars which keep morphing into extra special creme brulee/chocolate cake bars (chocolate cake bars!?!).

Nope. Camille Bloch has the formula. The Swiss do know their chocolate ...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Which news would you like first?

The good news is that on Friday, the sun was shining, I had gone and eaten delicious nouveau Czech cuisine at the Czech embassy (including an intriguing spin on goulash with chicken breasts and blanched almonds) the day before, and I was due for a glorious walk around Stockholm's harbor with a friend and his baby.

I had mixed up the time, so I jumped on the T (T is for tunnelbana), and arrived in Gardet, but to my disappointment, the bakery Solsidan is a catering company. However. The Germany embassy sent me yet another lead, but this time I'm going to call ahead because I'm still waiting to get my City Bikes season card despite ordering it ages ago, and since the weather is so nice, I feel like I should be biking around town instead of hopping on and off the awfully well-oiled machine that is public transportation here in Stockholm. I'm serious! It's a model for other countries to follow.

So, there was no Prinzregententorte, but I did have a delicious carrot cake with tangy cream cheese frosting at Blå Porten which is a very old and distinguished lunching place on Djurgården.

I feel badly there is no recipe of the day, and this seems somewhat more like an update on an earlier post, but here goes nothing:

slow poached eggs are fant-bloody-tastic.

Do you remember? Boil the water, throw the eggs in with some vinegar and a spin and happy things happen while you wait. The key is also to make enough boiling water proportionate to how many eggs you're making. I've seen the light. Slow plus Poached Eggs = SANT which is the way Swedes writes Adam + Eva = <3 (heart), or more so in Swedish "true love."

This technique will come in handy on Friday when it is my duty to wake up him on his birthday with his favorite breakfast -- Eggs Benedict.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bavarian Delights here I come?

The lovely Germany embassy did deliver one address to me, in the same afternoon:

Konditori Solsidan
Brantingsgatan 33
115 35 Stockholm

I could call and check, but this wouldn't be half as adventurous as going there tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope the sun is shining brightly as it was today.

Bless those Bavarian bakers ...

Last year I traveled through Munich on a layover back from the States. Like anyone with curiosity for local cuisine on a long interim, I combed the airport for something delicious and different.

And behold:



The Prinzregententorte!

The waitstaff at the Dallmyr cafe/restaurant were very understanding. They didn't blink an eye when it appeared that I had fallen in love at first sight with a piece of cake.

Never had I eaten such a decadent and elegant cake before in my life. And I've eaten a lot of cake. I am ashamed to admit that two-thirds of the way into a slice of this luxurious cake, I gave up the ghost.

According to the Bavarian website, it was named after Prince Regent Luitpold by the Court Confectioner Julius Rottenhöfer. What a swanky job! Making cakes and sweets for the royal family.

Although, a cake of this magnitude cannot be solely dedicated to one man. Oh, no. Apparently it was simultaneously dedicated to the state of Bavaria because it's like the American flag -- where the stripes stand for the original thirteen states? The eight layers represent the former eight governmental districts. Clever confectioner.

I will unabashedly admit that I have no desire to actually try to replicate the cake at home. If I did this, first of all I would need 7-8 cake pans when I'm the proud owner of exactly one. Second of all, if I made this cake I would probably become the size of the state of Bavaria. No, I think this is best left to the masters, as the Bavarian websites quotes, "Cake shops and experienced housewives make the Prinzregententorte." Hum, yes, people who own eight cake pans.

I think that I will have to take this mission to the street! I am determined to find a Germany bakery in Stockholm. We have, after all, a German school, and embassy. I can't be the only one who appreciates the delights of a Prinzregententorte.

**Update! I called the Germany embassy here in Stockholm. Through a mixture of German-accented Swedish and my half Swedish/English replies, the query has been suitably taken up by the researching efforts of the Germany embassy, and if there's anything Germans are known for, it is thoroughness! I'm crossing my fingers. My German friend has suggested I jet to Berlin for some cake. Not an entirely bad idea ... planning a whole vacation around cake.

If you have the need to bake something bombastic, here's the recipe below taken from the Food from Bavaria website.

Prinzregententorte

The Sponge:
six eggs
160-180 g sugar
160-180 g flour (half cornflour, if desired)
a pinch of baking powder
a small packet of vanilla sugar or grated lemon rind
1 tbsp water, optionally 80 g butter (the cake layers can also be made from sweet shortcrust pastry instead of sponge)

The Chocolate Butter Cream:
250 g butter
150-180 g icing sugar
2-3 egg yolks
100 g dark chocolate (softened and cooled),

Coating: dark chocolate (chocolate glaze).

The cake bases are made first. Separate the egg white from the egg yolk. Beat the egg yolk first with water and then with 2/3 of the sugar to form a foam. Now add the vanilla sugar or lemon peel as flavourings. Stir in the butter (optional). Beat the egg white to form a stiff foam. Fold in the remaining third of the sugar and add this mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Sieve the flour and baking powder over it and mix everything together. Divide the mixture into eight and bake eight thin layers (200°C, six to eight minutes) in a well-greased spring form (diameter 26 cm) until golden brown. Remove them from the spring form immediately after baking and allow them to cool.

To make the filling, warm the chocolate in a bain-marie until it is liquid, and then allow it to cool slightly. Beat the butter until it is fluffy and then fold in the icing sugar and the egg yolk alternately. The mixture should be very fluffy. Gradually fold in the softened chocolate drop by drop. Add extra sugar or chocolate to taste if necessary. Spread the cream on seven of the cake layers and place them one on top of the other. The eighth cake forms the top of the cake. Smooth a little cream over the edge of the cake.

To make the glaze, melt some dark chocolate and thinly and evenly cover the whole of the cake with the chocolate glaze using a brush.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brunch Snob

I happened to talk to a new acquaintance about brunch. Among all the American imports to Sweden, this is the latest trend (steakhouses and muffins/cupcakes being the others). He was ecstatic about the concept of brunch -- which many of us are. He began to describe exactly what was on their menu to me: smoothies ... meatballs.

"Meatballs?" I asked in disbelief. Brunch has, however, come a long way here in Stockholm. A slew of restaurants serve brunch -- but they serve it buffet style which drives down the quality of food and drives up the price of a brunch outing -- without even including a bloody mary or a mimosa.

The first time I tried to make brunch for my Swedish friends, no one came. They couldn't quite wrap their heads around the concept, and likely lagged around in bed instead. That was four years ago. Still, in my household, brunch is sacrosanct and here is one of my best brunch recipes.

Wild Blueberry & Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

serves 2-3

1/2 c (2 1/2 dl) buttermilk*
1/2 c flour
1 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1/4 t sodium bicarbonate
dash of salt
1 large egg
2 T of melted butter (cooled)

1/2 c wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 package of ricotta
zest of one lemon

*I use a-fil here in Sweden

Mix the wet ingredients together in one bowl. Mix the dry in another bowl. Add the dry bowl to the wet. The batter should be lumpy. Do not over-mix!

Gently fold in the ricotta and lemon zest.

In a pan or griddle over medium high heat, dollops batter in rounds. Once you see bubbles, sprinkle blueberries on each pancake and flip. Cooking each side around 2-3 minutes depending on their thickness.

Serve with warmed maple syrup.

I'm only regretting that I've eaten up all these pancakes already.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

blogging LIVE from Saturnus

Woo, live blogging!

There was an entry titled "Misadventures in Macaroons" that I haven't written, but I could have. There were many macaroons, none of them crunchy, or with "feet", but all of them delicious. But when one opportunity is sunk, another rises forth(!) at one of my favorite cafes in Stockholm. I almost regret to tout another reason to come to Cafe Saturnus -- besides the buns as big as your head, and lattes you could take a swim in. My personal favorite here is the hot chocolate made of voluptuous whole milk and melted chocolate. But, lo, yet another reason to come and be greedy: raspberry macarons.

Dear reader, I will keep researching. Chocolate macaroons on the next visit!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shrimp, it's what's for dinner ...

My mom would always ask me when I still lived at home, "What should I cook for dinner?"

Sometimes it's just enough that you have a craving for Mexican, or Thai. But sometimes, just sometimes you need a new idea, a push in another direction, something to narrow the endless possibilities.

I love cooking home food. Things that are manageable. Unlike WD-40 and inverse eggs benedict, or olives macerated and remade into olives, home food depends on a realistic budget and amount of time and energy put into what hopefully will be a tasty and delicious meal.

If you're not a regular cook of Indian food, you might have to run out for a few spices, but I promise the result is rewarding!

This is a curry without ginger or garlic. I'm guessing because of Kerala's location is southerly and closer to Thailand, that's why there's coconut included in the dish.

Prawns in Kerala Curry

4 T butter
1/2 t black peppercorns
1 t mustard seeds
1/2 t fenugreek seeds (these are also called methi)
1 large onion chopped
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 green serano chile deseeded and minced
1 can of tomatoes (we love Mutti in our household)
1 t salt
1/4 lb shrimp
1 T tamarind paste
1/2 c seafood stock (I use clam stock found in Korean and perhaps Japanese grocery stores)
1/2 can coconut milk

Melt butter, add chopped onion, peppercorns, mustard and fenugreek seeds. Saute until golden brown. Add the ground spices tomatoes and salt. Break up tomatoes and cook down until most of the water is gone. Sir in the tamarind paste and stock and simmer down. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer and taste to see if the spicing is right. Add the shrimp and simmer for a few minutes until the shrimp are ready.

Serve with steamed rice. I like to serve it with some mango chutney on the side.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fridays I'm in love ...

Growing up, I only ate sausage in small quantities. I never became a huge fan of those patty style sausages either. In a lot of Asian cuisine, sausage is used more as a complementary aspect of a dish -- like poh piah (a Malaysian dish). Poh piah is comprised of a mass of ultra healthy vegetables wrapped in a fresh rice paper, sprinkled with lots of herbs like green onion and coriander, and then dappled with a few sauteed shrimp and bits of Chinese sausage. I promise to put up a recipe in the near future.

After becoming introduced to Italian delicacies through 'ino in New York, I found the best Italian delicatessen run by Sal at DiPaolo's in Little Italy and Spicy Soppressata is my favorite whether eaten by itself, or accompanied by some hard cheeses and marinated artichokes on a plate of antipasti. They know customer service -- and all the more reason to go there for slices of Parmesan-Reggiano or fresh ricotta for your next New York soiree!

I'm probably going to outrage the Swedish portion of my readers, but I'm not a fan of falukorv (a traditional Swedish sausage). But! I have found an amenable recommendation instead. I love eating this sausage for breakfast -- but then again, I love the piquant taste of spicy sausage even in the morning.



My product highlight of the day is Ugglarp's Cabanossy. I apologize, I did take a picture of the product, and then even went to the official website to try to get a better picture, but the honest truth is that sausage doesn't photograph well.

For Swedes, if you cannot find it in your local grocery store, go ahead and ask the manager if it's possible for them to buy it for the store. Ugglarp uses only meat from Swedish farms. Buy local meat when it's possible!

I'd love to hear other sausage recommendations. In America I'm a fan of chicken apple sausage found at Whole Foods. In our household we are also addicted to lamb sausage but are engaged in a food mystery because the kiosk on the corner offers better lamb sausage than what we can find in the local grocery stores. The mystery continues ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

8 Hours or Presence of Mind?

My boyfriend has rightfully earned the name "flan monster" or flanmonster because he once hosted a dinner for four and made an 8 person sized flan. After we all ate one slice each, he then proceeded to eat the rest of the entire flan sealing his unofficial nickname forever.

Since he got a promotion, I thought I'd make him an extra special dessert: panna cotta. I, like many other Americans, grew up on jello. Jello was, and still is, strangely refreshing. Chewing on those red flavored slices fresh from the fridge was a summer past time.

My sister made a panna cotta for Christmas with a lovely carmel sauce. After having scanned a restaurant menu, the words yoghurt panna cotta caught my eye. A new spin on a classic. I was a little dubious though since the favored desserts of my boyfriend are all egg based and panna cotta is not, but I thought I'd try something new.



Remember that stovetop raspberry jam? It's the perfect sauce for a yoghurt panna cotta. There's a lot of yoghurt mousse action going on here in Stockholm. Yoghurt panna cotta is similar, just less airy. Yoghurt gelato is also one of my favorites. It's that yoghurty tang that works so well, perfectly complementing fruit.

I had intended to make this for a dinner, but then found out that panna cotta takes a minimum of 8 hours to set, but, like jello, making panna cotta is one of those quick mix it together and forget it dishes. Low maintenance, and elegant!

Yoghurt Panna Cotta

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cup turkish/greek yoghurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan dissolve the gelatin in the heavy cream, then heat over low heat and stir together with milk, and salt. Add gelatin/cream/milk mixture to the yoghurt beating well with a whisk. Pour into forms and refrigerate for 8 hours or over night.

It's cool, creamy, and voluptuous.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

gatekeepers

It's always astonishes me when I come across an unbalanced home cooked meal. The most likely guilty party is my boyfriend whose emphasis on proteins and carbs are meant for those with extremely hearty appetites and those who care little for nutritional content. Vitamins, people!

Tara Parker-Pope covers this issue today in the New York Times

It might not come as a surprise that I'm the innovative type of home cook. Someone who definitely has a bent towards healthy foods, but is curious and enjoys food of all cuisines.

I've mentioned it before on my blog, but the Thais really do have it right. A traditional home cooked meal in my family prepared by the loving hands of mom usually includes rice, a clear soup with vegetables and maybe an odd fish ball or two, a stir fry with the minimum amount of oil comprised of small slices of meat and vegetables AND another vegetable side dish.

You might notice that that means that there is very little dairy, cream, cheese or meat in an Asian meal, and you would be right.

While I hold this meal structure as my standard, it's often hard for me to always muster up the energy for a complete vegetable side dish. I think, though, it's a habit one needs to form. In a quick fix, having some frozen green beans, spinach, or peas, is a good way to round out a meal (with some salt and a little butter). Thais in Thailand often buy a few of their dishes at the market, but I think they're often prepared more healthily than a lot of pre-prepared foods in the American and European marketplace.

What are your favorite vegetable side dishes? My latest discovery from Croatia is sauteed Swiss chard with tons of garlic over potatoes.

Swiss Chard over Potatoes

4 medium steamed or boiled and peeled potatoes in large dice
1 bunch chopped Swiss Chard
4 cloves of garlic minced
olive oil or butter
salt

Chop the Swiss chard into small squares. Over medium-high heat, melt butter or add olive oil, sautee garlic for one minute, add chopped Swiss chard until wilted, and strew over the large diced potatoes. Salt to taste.

Monday, March 16, 2009

for the love of lasagna

I think I'm particularly addicted to the tang of tomatoes combined with the voluptuousness of dairy -- in almost any form which is why I'm particularly enthralled with lasagna.

My love affair with the decadent dish began as a child. My mother would take the time to make a lasagna which substituted cottage cheese and egg for ricotta, which she must have found in some woman's magazine back in the 80's. I still adore this lasagna, parmesan that comes in a Kraft green box and all.

Later on, I joined the culinary club at Amherst College, and was delighted to learn how to make a Wild Mushroom lasagna with bechamel sauce taught by Betty Rosbottom who features recipes in Bon Appetit. It was one of my first lasagnas with bechamel, and I still feel pangs of regret that I've misplaced that recipe.

One of my ex-boyfriends made me a homecoming lasagna. I often compare food with love, and the tangy goat cheese lasagna filled to the brim with vegetable was a valentine my taste buds will never forget.

One of my sisters must have mentioned my friend Angela's scrumptious lasagna. Turns out it had been pioneered by her father. This lasagna includes boiled eggs, spinach, and canned spaghetti sauce. It's a quickly made lasagna intended to overload you with protein. It's one of my boyfriend's favorites.

Lastly, of all the lasagnas is my friend Francis Strand's Turkey Walnut Lasagna. Never could a lasagna be further from the original lasagnas my mom used to make. Francis Strand's cooking always has a bent towards the decadent -- despite the inclusion of turkey.

From the kitchen of Francis Strand:

Mushroom Walnut Lasagna

500 g (1 lb) mushrooms
4-5 dl (1 cup) walnuts
1 tub mascarpone cheese
500 g (1 lb) ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1-2 T dried sage
Lasagna pasta sheets (ones you don't have to boil, or fresh)
300-400 g (10 oz) grated Pecorino or Manchego cheese
optional: walnut oil


Bechamel sauce
2 T butter
3 T flour
1/2 (2 cups) liter milk
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F).

Brown the turkey in a skillet and add salt and pepper to taste along
with the sage; set aside. Cook the onions in the drippings until soft,
add to the turkey.

Combine in a food processor the walnuts and mushrooms (you can add a drizzle walnut oil) until relatively finely chopped but not so fine to become a paste. Mix with the mascarpone.

Melt the butter, add flour to form a paste, then slowly add the milk, keep stirring to prevent lumps. Cook for about five minutes.

Alternate the various parts, starting first with a little bechamel,
then the lasagna sheets, a thin layer of the mushroom walnut mascarpone mixture,
then turkey, then some of the pecorino. You can probably get at least
four layers, maybe five. Make them pretty thin. The last layer should
be cheese, save plenty for the top.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Environmentally friendly cooking?

I'm currently living in Stockholm, and as I write this post, some ultra-spicy Thai ramen is making my lips tingle.

The first time I saw my Swedish friend boil water in Sweden, I was surprised. He matter-of-fact-ly filled an electric kettle, poured a centimeter or two of water in the bottom of a pot, and set the pot on the stove over high heat while the electric kettle was boiling. Within minutes the kettle was finished, he poured the water into the pre-heated pot and voila, instant rolling boil.

This method is particular useful when you'd like to eat the quickest of quick foods: ramen. Now, I won't lie to you and say that I don't eat ramen. In fact, there are just some days when you're feeling lazy and there are no leftovers. However, I punch up my ramen by throwing in some frozen spinach (I always have some in the freezer) or any other vegetable I happen to have that will cook up fast, and then poach an egg while it's cooking. This guarantees at least a bit of nutrition, I promise!




According to my boyfriend, using an electric kettle is the most energy efficient way of boiling water. According to other studies, boiling more water than you need is a Europe-wide problem, so you should know exactly what you need. I know I need about an 8 on my Bodum kettle to make a full pot of tea.

While I was in New York, I was impressed by my sister's All-clad pot. It retained heat at such an amazing rate. I can only think that having a heat efficient pots and pans is not only environmentally conscious, but also works as a great boon to being able to control your cooking. It's definitely on my to-buy list.

Though some food recipes have discussed making your own hay box (lining a box with copious amounts of hay) to cook your food to be the most energy efficient, I haven't gotten that far yet. But! I have been suitably impressed upon to start poaching eggs by bringing the water to a boil and then letting the eggs sit in the hot water until they're finished (4-6 minutes) -- the same with boiled eggs.

Cutting back on meat is the most environmentally conscious gesture you can make, but Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also pointed out that you can choose meats which are the most energy efficient in terms of the environment like pork and chicken. On an entirely unrelated note, apparently lamb is the most likely to be treated the best out of all the possible animal abuses since lamb doesn't thrive in poor conditions.