Friday, 11 September 2009
Most fig recipes that are savoury combine figs with prosciutto. I never saw the huge draw of prosciutto. I think it's a bit dry, honestly. But I like the idea of something uber salty going with the sweet figs, so I decided to pair it with caviar. It's fairly easy to buy caviar here in the Czech Republic, but I know it's a bit more difficult in the states. I was so excited by this salad that I forgot to crumble goat or blue cheese over it, but it was delicious as is.
All you do is tear up some mild and spicy salad greens, mix them with some green onion tops and/or leek rounds, slice some figs over it, and then spoon some caviar over that. For a dressing, I just drizzled some balsamic over. It was fabulous. The crunchy salt of the caviar paired beautifully with the sweet and soft figs. Definitely try it with some goat cheese, I wish I had!!!
With the camera flash
Without the camera flash, close up
Friday, 4 September 2009
Yes, I've been terribly terribly bad about blogging, it's not good. I've made some awesome things too! A granola bar with no eggs, no sugar. A leek and blue cheese quiche. A RIDICULOUS amount of really yummy salads!
My first blog after my brief hiatus, will be about what I made last night for dinner. My mom was here for a month and we cooked and went out to eat a lot. Hence, I have gained a couple of quite obvious poundage. *sigh*. It's mostly because of the insanely good wine and beer we have in this country, but I'm sure the large lunches and dinners didn't help much either. So last night I committed to healthy and seasonal.
My mom has family friends that live in a tiny village outside of Plzen, Czech Republic. One of the older ladies always picks and dries mushrooms, and gives them to us as gifts when they come. One kind has a delicious woody, earthy smell. The other kind, smells kind of fishy and pungent. This time, my mom received as a gift the fishy pungent ones. I've put these before in a potato soup, and I seriously thought that they ruined the soup. I was determined to try again, and decided to pair them this time with some asparagus I had. Asparagus have a nice assertive flavor that I thought would counter the mushrooms. I also changed the way I cooked them:
When I used them for soup, I just threw them in. This time (as you'll read below) I did something different.
White Asparagus with mushroom, onion, and garlic
1/2 kg white asparagus
1 small onion handful (about 1/3 cup) dried mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
grated Edam cheese (about 2 heaping tbs)
Cut the icky ends off the asparagus
Cut the asparagus into 2 inch long spears
Place in baking pan, and roast on high heat, shaking pan occasionally to make sure all sides are lightly browned
Place mushrooms in bowl, cover with b oiling water
Squeeze out mushrooms, and put them in a hot nonstick pan
Sautee on high heat
Add the mushroom water, and let the mushrooms absorb it
Add some more water, and let them absorb again
Throw in the onion, and turn the heat on low
Let the onion brown a bit, and slice the garlic into thin slices while it does
Toss in the garlic and saute a bit more
When the asparagus is done, take it out, and pour the mushroom onion garlic mix on it
Put the pan back on the stove, and pour more water in, scraping up any residue on the bottom
Let the water reduce til it just barley covers the bottom of the pan
Pour the water sauce over the asparagus with generous amounts of salt and pepper and toss in the roasting pan with the cheese.
The roasting pan also has some bits on it, so by pouring the water sauce in, you can quickly scrape those up too. Also, the heat from the pan melts the cheese. Mmmmm.
Mushroom and onion and garlic sauteeing goodness.
Friday, 26 June 2009
Instead of using my standard Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, I decided to do a search for "Buttermilk cookies" Why? Because I know that when you make a cake with buttermilk, it is UNBELIEVABLY moist and soft. Also, I have 2 containers at home and wanted to use them before they went bad.
Ideally, I would have used candied ginger as well, but I was too lazy to go out and find it, so I stuck with powdered and freshly grated. Doing the buttermilk cookie search, however, was the best idea EVER. I am a complete convert and will use this recipe as a cookie base from now on. These cookies are AMAZING. But, if you like a crunchy cookie, then don't make these. You won't be happy. If you like soft, cakey cookies, then get thee to the kitchen ASAP and make a batch! They are to die for!
Buttermilk Cookies (with ginger and chocolate chunks, see note at bottom)
(adapted from Buttermilk Cookies, from epicurious.com)
125 g (1 stick) butter
120 g (1/2 c) packed, dark brown sugar
60 g (1/4 c) white sugar
1 tbs freshly grated ginger
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
360 g (1 and 1/2 c) flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
80 g (1/3 c) buttermilk
200 g (7 oz) chopped bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (300 F)
Cream butter, sugar, and gingers together til light and fluffy
Beat in egg and vanilla
Add flour, baking soda, and salt while alternating with the buttermilk
Stir in chocolate chunks
CHILL dough for about 10 minutes in a freezer
Spoon rounded teaspoons onto a greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet Bake for about 15 minutes or until cookies don't look wet on top.
NOTE: You can modify the flavors too if you like! I made another batch the next day, and used 200 g white chocolate chunks and about 100 g chopped roasted salted peanuts. Mmm mmm!!!
Thursday, 25 June 2009
First, I froze two icecube trays of them. I mushed some berries, left some others whole, and put them in the individual icecube slots. Then I poured a bit of water over it all, and froze them. I plan on putting them in vodka or soda water!!
Then, I wanted to really showcase the currants, so I decided to make a not too sweet pie dough, and put in the currants. Any pie crust recipe will do, but what I did was grind up some almonds, and replace about 1/4 c. of the flour with those. It added a delicious nutty taste, and the fat from the almonds added moist richness to the dough.
Then, I pressed balls of the dough into a muffin tin, about 1cm up the sides, to make little tartlet shells. I baked in a 350 (170 C) oven for about 20 minutes, and then popped the shells out. After that, I heaped red currants into the shells, sprinkled some sugar over them, and baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes.
With the leftover currants (yes, I still had more!!!) I combined them in a saucepan with chopped peaches, a sprinkling of sugar, and a tablespoon of light cream. I simmered on low heat for about 45 minutes, and then put it in a container in my fridge. I'll probably use it as a jam, or as a filling between biscuits.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Oh my goodness the things I've been cooking. It's spring/summer time, so the produce is positively BURSTING! For starters, here are a couple of salads I've made:
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tbs chopped summer savory
several handfuls halved cherry tomatoes
Sliced leek rounds
2 cloves of garlic mashed with a bunch of salt
4 generous tablespoons EACH of cilantro (coriander) and flat leaf parsley
Chopped green pepper
Mix with feta, vinegar, and a generous helping of salt and pepper
To make the Sopsky Salad really Czech, sprinkle a bit of sugar on it as well.
Monday, 15 June 2009
So originally, I had wanted to make a chocolate peanut butter cake, specifically this one from epicurious which looks SO. GOOD. I had 3 problems though:
1) no butterfingers in the Czech Republic
2) I knew that someone would inevitably be allergic to peanuts or hate peanut butter
3) I didn't have 3 of the same size (9 inch) cake pans.
So I had to have a substitute. When I go to restaurants and order dessert, I LOVE ordering dense, fudgy, flourless chocolate cakes if they're on the menu. I mean, I DO have a double x chromosome, that means love for chocolate runs in my GENES for heaven's sake! So I hit up epicurious again looking for a flourless chocolate cake with one other caveat: No separate beating of whites and yolks. Why? Truth be told, I'm really just lazy, and I have 1 hand mixer and not many bowls. I didn't want to have to go through the charade of separating eggs, getting many dishes needlessly dirty, and cleaning and re-cleaning my mixer blades. Besides, beating the whites and then folding them in makes for a more spongey cake, and I wanted FUDGEY, damnit!!!
So I found this recipe, and due to my living in Europe with European measurements, I had to modify it a bit. GOOD thing I did too, because I had been debating about whether I could stack two flourless chocolate tortes or not (I searched the net, but nothing seemed to come up) and eventually had to, due to the amount of extra batter I had. Why would anyone want to stack TWO already rich chocolate tortes? Because I like to do things to excess, and I wanted my cake rich, rich, and rich.
So here is the recipe that I modified a bit from the original:
500 grams bittersweet chocolate
500 grams unsalted butter
1 cup strongly brewed coffee
1 cup packed brown sugar
9 medium eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Line bottom of 2 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with parchment.
Place all chocolate in large bowl.
Bring butter, espresso and sugar to boil in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Add to chocolate; whisk until smooth.
Cool slightly. Whisk in eggs.
Divide batter into prepared pans. Place cake pan in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake until center of cake is set and tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from water. Chill cake.
While the cake is baking, make the frosting:
120 grams butter
50 grams melted white chocolate
100 grams sour cream
3 tbs powdered sugar
dash of vanilla extract
Whip all ingredients until combined and stiff
Put the first cake on a platter. Spread it with the frosting. Garefully invert the other cake onto a different plate/platter. Slide it off carefully in your hands and place it top side down on the frosting. It took me quite a bit of banging and pleading to get the cakes out of the pans, but eventually they came. I had buttered and floured my pans instead of the parchment, but I would HIGHLY recommend the parchment...
Finally, I glazed it with bittersweet chocolate mixed with some light cream. SO. GOOD. I probably gained about 5 pounds though from it. The good thing too, is that this cake is so rich that it feeds a LOT of people. I think I served about 15-20 with it. :-) I wish I had a picture of it but I totally forgot my camera. Oh well.
Ok, that's a bit of a lie. Here's a picture cropped from another picture. It doesn't look so appetising, but it SO was....
Thursday, 11 June 2009
I've never been as obsessed with barbeque sauce as my partner, but I've always sighed in frustration at the lack of barbeque sauce recipes that DON'T contain ketchup. My goal, one day, is to make a barbeque sauce from purely basic ingredients (this includes omitting worcestershire sauce and getting down to the meat and bones of the sauce ingredients - one by one) While I didn't have time to omit the worcestershire, I definitely thought I could omit the ketchup. What more is ketchup than tomato paste, sugar, and salt? So I finally got in the kitchen and made a barbeque sauce without ketchup! I used only the back of a barbeque sauce ingredients label (and a few obvious additions) as a guide. The only problem is, I didn't measure the ingredients (like always) but I'll make a list of ingredients, and whoever wants to try this can adjust to their tastes. When I was done adding sauce ingredients, I put in some cubed pork shoulder for a good ol' American tasting barbeque treat on the stovetop.
Paste of 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 jalepeno with seeds (if you want it spicy)
After they sweated a bit I added:
50 g tomato paste
2 tbs mustard powder (I may have added more in later, I forget)
1 tbs of tamarind pulp
Several long glugs of tomato juice (maybe about 600-700 ml?)
tbs or two of maple syrup
3 de-seeded finely chopped tomatoes
2 finely chopped sundried tomatoes
bit of water
LOTS of worcestershire sauce
red pepper flakes
2 tbs mushroom flavored soy sauce
about a tbs of liquid smoke
splash of vinegar
Generous pinch SALT
Try it. Play with it. I guarantee you it'll be delicious. I left mine un-pureed and had little chunks of tomato and onion in it, which I thought was just fabulous.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Another recent acquisition of mine is a springform pan (Cake!) So I decided I would use that and the eggs. What to make for the cake though? My friend Sara and I were talking the other day, and she loves the crusts of cheesecakes. So I decided that I would make a cheesecake with an extra thick crust, just for her. She also likes sour cream a lot, and I had some languishing in the fridge, so I thought I would include that as well. After searching epicurious.com, I found a recipe that seemed pretty basic and that didn't require many eggs. It's right here for those who want to read it.
I've just realised my mistake in making it, but it was a good one, so I'll continue. On with the crust! Here in Czechia, we dont really have graham crackers. We do, however, have lots of nilla wafers (detske piskoty) which I think are just as good (if not better) than graham crackers. Since I wanted the crust to be EXTRA THICK, I used a whole 240g bag, which yeilded about 300g of crumbs. However, as you will see the recipe, you can to this or double it for an XXL crust. Now here is my mistake: The recipe calls for 3 eight ounce packages of cream cheese. Simple enough. 8 ounces in a cup, 250 g in a cup, so 750 g of cream cheese. Now, the last time I made a cheesecake, I used about 1 kg of cream cheese, and this thought was automatically in my head. So I ended up using 1 kg of cream cheese PLUS 250 g of farmers cheese. I also whipped the eggs like crazy. This ended up giving me a super thick cream cheese batter, but it was fluffy and DELICIOUS, so if you want a big ass cheesecake (not dissimilar to a cheesecake factory cheesecake) use that. For a more normal cheesecake, follow the recipe.
Slecna Sara's Cheeesecake
2 240 g bags of detske piskoty, crushed into crumbs
250 g melted butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs and 1 yolk
1 cup sugar
1 tbs vanilla
1 kg cream cheese
250 g farmers cheese
3 generous tablespoons sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
To make the crust, combine all the ingredients and press into a 7 inch springform pan
Bake for about 10 minutes at 150 c or until dry to touch
Beat the eggs and the yolk with the sugar on high speed until light colored, thick, and voluminous
Beat in the other ingredients on high speed until thick and frosting like
smooth the batter into the crust (there will be LOTS)
Bake at 150 c for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until center of cheesecake seems dry to the touch
As a side note, I used plain old tesco brand "soft cheese", Tvaroh (0,5% fat) and detske piskoty. This cake was surprisingly cheap to make, I'd say probably about 80 crowns! It still tasted fabulous though, despite it's generic ingredients.
Don't forget to share you decadent cake, or you will become a fatty!
Friday, 17 April 2009
1. Donvier Ice Cream Maker Perfect for whichever country my wanderlust may take me to: this ice cream machine doesn't use electricity (no, it doesn't use salt either). It's so cool. So elegant. How can you not want one? One of the only things holding me back from this appliance is that I'm not sure I'd make that much ice cream. I probably WOULD however, try to make fro yo and sorbets.
2. Home Hot and Cold Smoker Simply put, smoked things taste better. I don't eat a lot of meat and LOVE fish, so I need a smoker that would do cold smoking (can we say smoked cheese galore?) as well as the occasional hot. However, this appliance is as big as a small fridge. And living by myself, I'd say the chances of frequent use for this one are nil. Sadly :-(
3. Kitchen Aid Mixer Who DOESN'T want one of these? I just found a place that sells them in Czechia, but no price listed. I shudder to think how much it would cost. Additionally, I shudder to think of what would happen if I decided to move to England, Canada, or anywhere else that has a different electrical plug system than mainland Europe. But Ach, all those amazing attachments! Pasta! Sausages! Cakes! A GRAIN MILL! This is the grandmother of all that is mixed in the kitchen. I think I want Boysenberry.
*~Update: I just found a place that sells them in the Czech Republic. How much? At today's exchange rate (CZK 20.5 / $1) a cool $761~*
4. Food Dehydrator I can make banana chips and apple chips and dried strawberries and...and...and...everything without the added sugar and deep frying. Besides, it'd be great if I ever decide to one day go Raw Foodie (don't laugh, I was vegan, and the Raw food diet DID cross my mind several times...)
5. Home Canner When summer comes, and there are so many fresh fruits and veggies (especially tomatoes) I am dying dying dying to make tomato sauces, preserves, etc., to just pop open whenever I may need (ESPECIALLY) tomato sauce/juice. And the jars. Love love love the jars. However, I don't really have the storage means for the canner OR the finished canned goods. Sad, really. However, one of the nice things about a home canner is that it doubles as a pressure cooker as well. But, a really large pressure cooker, meaning large amounts of food, meaning terrible choice for single female.
6. Le Creuset French Oven I know, many of you might think I have one already but I don't. I'm almost embarassed to admit it.
7. Set of 4 Cheese knives There's one for every type of cheese! Soft and crumbly cheese, unripened cheese, hard cheese and for medium soft to medium hard cheese. Why wouldn't I get this? Because when I have cheese I kind of hoard it. I don't like sharing (i.e., entertaining with cheese, which would inevitably lead to using these knives) Yes, it's a bit disturbing.
8. Mandoline I suppose I COULD get this, but I haven't because there are so many out there, I'm worried about picking the wrong one! I DO like this one though because it stands on it's own and has a fairly simple looking dial to adjust thickness...
9. Bamboo Steamer Steamed fish and veggies all day every day. What could be better?
10. Digital Scale No more converting from ounces to cups to grams to mililitres. *sigh*
Ok, I'll probably add to this list later, but now I must get back to work. If you haven't noticed, another favorite site of mine to browse these gadgets is The Brooklyn Kitchen
Finally one more: A thermometer that works for meat as well as candy!!!
Monday, 6 April 2009
Braised Pasta with Caramelised Onions and Salmon in Mustard sauce
3 large onions
200 g pasta (I used macaroni shaped pasta, but you could probably use orichette or penne)
350 g fresh salmon fillet (no skin and deboned) cut into chunks
2 tbs mustard (I used green pepper Maille brand)
1 tsp old bay seasoning
generous pinch salt
1-2 large cloves of garlic minced finely
40 g grated grana padano
About 500 ml chicken broth and 500 ml water
slice the onions into 2 cm thick half moons
Heat a saucepan, and on medium high heat, begin to caramelise the onions (throw them in, and don't disturb them for about 2 minutes. Then stir them around, and leave them alone again. This should take about 30 minutes, after which your onions should be a woody brown. If you want a darker brown, keep going)
Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil, and throw in the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook about 7 minutes
Prepare the salmon and the garlic and the cheese
Push the onions to the sides of the pan
Pour the noodles and cooking water in, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom
Add the mustard, old pay, salt, garlic, and salmon, and stir gently to combine everything
Let simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or so until salmon is just cooked through
Top with cheese
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
This week, pork shoulder (no skin no bone) was on sale at Tesco, ($1.70 a pound) so I just had to buy and try. I looked up a lot of (American) recipes, and most use a barbeque or a smoker, and also use bone in skin on pork. Suffice to say, after reading most of these recipes it became pretty apparent that slow cooking was the way to go. I bought the pork on a friday to prepare, and things just fell into place after that. I love the idea of cooking something (especially meat) for so long that it falls apart and becomes amazingly butter tender. When you see the piece of meat hopping gently around in simmering cooking liquid, it looks so resilient and steadfast. After having cooked long enough though, a poke with a wooden spoon will send delicious ribbons off the previously impermeable meat.
Now, I looked up the nutritional content of pork shoulder, and it's not the healthiest piece of meat, but you can ask for (and also do it yourself) a defatted/lean piece.
Even though I've lived in Prague for over two years and have been eating Czech food since the age of 1, I never pretend to admit I know how to cook Czech food (except maybe Gulas, but mine is never as good as the restaurants. *sigh*) Anyway, I went with a very very eastern European flavor scheme here. I especially wanted to use these juniper berries I had recently bought at Marks & Spencers. I have GOT to find more recipes with juniper berries, what a lovely little taste they have. So as for the finished result, I wasn't a HUGE fan, but my boyfriend loved it. After a day though, I actually liked it myself a hell of a lot better.
Slow cooked pork
900 g boneless skinless pork shoulder
7-8 cloves garlic
6-7 juniper berries, crushed and minced finely
3 all spice, crushed and minced
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs dried rosemary
1 tbs dried thyme
1 tbs dried sage
generous pinch salt and pepper
1/4 cup pickle juice or 1/8 cup vinegar diluted with 1/8 cup water
2 medium onions roughly sliced
1 large parsnip sliced
Flour for dredging
Water or stock for cooking
Make a paste of the garlic, and next 7 ingredients
Cut slits in the pork shoulder and stuff the mixture in
Rub any remaining paste over the shoulder
Pour the pickle juice or vinegar over the shoulder and turn to coat
Let marinate over night
Dredge the shoulder in flour
Heat a sturdy pot over a burner
Sear the shoulder on all sides
Now, I didn't caremelize the onions, but suppose I should have. I think it would have added delicious flavor. So carmelize your onions and parsnips, my friends.
Deglaze with water, stock, or even a bit o' wine
Put the shoulder back in the pan, and almost cover with stock/water
Cover and simmer on med low heat for about 6-8 hours, or until poking with a spoon makes some of the meat start to slip off itself in shreds. While it's cooking, if you want less liquid, un cover the meat and let some of it evaporate off. If you keep it covered the whole time, it actually ends up being more like a soup/stew. Also, turn the meat occasionally or at least baste the uncovered parts.
Turn off heat
Let sit over night
Reheat on medium low heat
Serve with potatoes or dumplings and sauerkraut
By the way, I think next time, I'd rather cook it in a tomato-y sauce or maybe a mustardy sauce and not do anything to the pork itself. I think it's delicious on it's own, but it's texture lends it more to a thicker clingy sauce.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
I had made stock from the chicken bones/wings that was very fragrant (hint: throw scallion/spring onion scraps in your broth!) So I warmed some of that, (about 250 ml) and then threw in the leftover chicken (also about 250 g), a generous tablespoon of oregano and gyros seasoning, and about 3 small sundried tomates, chopped. I let it simmer gently until most of the broth evaporated while I prepared everything else. If you do this with leftover chicken, it regains it's softness and you can shred it as well (which is what I did). Tastes just like new. The rest of the menu is as follows:
250 ml yogurt (preferably greek)
1 large clove garlic chopped and smashed to a paste with a large pinch of salt
1/2 of a small onion diced (and by small I mean very small)
about 3/4 cup (180 g) diced cucumber
2 tbs chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves and stems
1 tsp lemon juice
Mix all ingredients together.
I also made these flatbreads, which are REALLY convenient if you're pressed for time and someone in your house wants bread.
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Enough water to hold it together
When you have a ball of dough, pinch off pieces and roll them into balls. Then flatten out into circles with your hands (if you want thicker-ish ones) or roll them out into thin circles with a rolling pin.
"Fry" in a non-stick pan on high heat for the thin ones, turning once when bubbles form, or on medium heat for the thicker ones, again turning once. Keep them warm in the oven while you do the rest.
So we had a delicious dinner of the chicken, flatbreads, tzatziki, and chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and feta. We ate it so fast I had no time to take pictures. Sorry :-(
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
My friend posted this really funny article though about Walkers Crisps, and the dry humor of it is excellent. My favorite line?
"They taste precisely like a tiny cat piping hot farts through a pot-pourri pouch into your mouth."
If that doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.
Monday, 9 March 2009
I did make banana cookies again. I used about 1/8 of a cup of soy milk instead of butter and more flour (didn't measure, sorry) It did work though. I had a very stiff dough (again) so they didn't spread, and they're very sticky/chewy, a bit like banana bread. I also put a pinch of nutmeg in them this time which I think really enhances the flavor of the banana.
Anyway, I had the leftover carrots and peas, and had some frozen ground turkey, and potatoes, so I figured I'd make a shepherd's pie! I've never done one before but they are SO yummy. Now, I threw in a bunch of spices/flavors, but I'll mention which ones I don't think made a big effect.
500 g Ground turkey meat
1-2 tbs chopped sausage
300 g frozen veggies (peas, corn, carrots)
handful of chopped mushrooms (totally optional)
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 beef bullion cube (Don't know if this was absolutely necessary...probably not)
1 tbs grill seasoning (not too sure if it made a difference because it was really old...)
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbs fresh
1 tsp dried or fresh rosemary
1 and 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
Generous 4 fingered pinch of salt
several cracks of black pepper
300 g water
2 large potatoes
100 g milk
60 to 80 grams of shredded cheese (I used hunters cheese [lovecky syr] and a bit of stilton)
Put the potatoes in a pot to boil
Heat some bacon fat or oil in a large pan and sautee the onions until they have browned and caramelised
Add in the turkey, sausage, and bullion cube and brown the turkey
Add everything else
Let simmer for about 15 minutes to combine flavors and let some of the water evaporate off. If you want a bit more sauce, add some more water
Adjust seasonings as desired
pour into a baking pan (about 8x8), spread evenly, and smush down a bit
Whip the potatoes with the milk, add a pinch of salt and pepper
Spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture and sprinkle the cheese on top
Bake at 170 C (350 F) for about 10-15 minutes, until cheese and potatoes brown slightly
PS, this picture makes it look like there were a lot more potatoes than filling, but that was not the case. The potatoes just sank a bit and the filling runneth-ed over when we spooned it on our plates :-)
Friday, 6 March 2009
I've already bought butternut squash and parsnips, and I am TOTALLY making my chowder. By the way, research has found that a chowder is a chowder if it incorporates seafood. So mine is technically not a chowder. I bet a couple of pieces of mild white fish would be DELICIOUS in it though...
I'm also going to make banana cookies again. Maybe with a chocolate chip in each one or something...Oooo maybe I can squeeze some peanut butter in the middle somehow...Must think this through...
I will also make brussels sprouts. Maybe with some chestnuts. Winter is almost over and I want to make sure I eat the chestnuts before they are lost to me until next winter!! I actually just did some research on chestnuts and apparently one can freeze them. I will definitely be doing that this weekend...
I've been cooking a lot more for myself than for my boyfriend, so there is a chance I will make something for us on Saturday. I was thinking of a slow roasted chicken. There's a sale on chicken thigh pieces at my grocery, so I was thinking of mashing up loads of garlic with rosemary and thyme (my two new potted herb additions!!) spreading it over the chicken, and covering and roasting on low heat for a loooooooong time. The boyfriend's brother's family made an excellent dish like this that also have pieces of caramelised onion. I'm thinking and debating how to incorporate this into my chicken. Maybe caramalise the onions and spread it over the chicken after the garlic/herb mixture...hmmm. I like. I will sit and plot more, and fill you all in on the results.
This leads me to another weird thing that happened on Monday. He said to me, "Maybe we should invite my brother and his family over for dinner on Saturday and I can make spinach". Now, for some reason, this absolutely positively infuriated me. Both him and his brother have made this spinach before (it's actually just about the ONLY thing my boyfriend knows how to cook). It's good, but people have HAD IT before. I was so furious and indignant that HE was the one who would get to cook and NOT ME. What bothers me the most about this is that I think it's not a normal reaction. I felt hurt, wounded, pissed off, and sad. I think it's because the message that I got was "Your cooking isn't good enough for company, only mine is". Now that I've sat and written this, it helps, but I wonder why I was/am so uptight about it. I think it's great that he occaisionally cooks, but he only does the same thing. I wish I could encourage him to try other things. Then again, I know that not everyone is like that. My sister has a pretty steady repertoire that she sticks with (mostly stuff my mom made for us when we were little) I, on the other hand, pretty much rejected everything my mom ever cooked. I ate it when I was little, and liked it, but I wouldn't dream of making any of her standards (Spanakopita, lasagna, bolonaise, svickova, etc.) now. It's actually quite unpleasant for me to even THINK about doing that. But, I know that some people have their comfort zone with recipes and just stick with the same stuff. I don't think I could ever do that though. I like experimenting way too much!!!
PS, My basil started sprouting!!! I had a HUGE sigh of relief after my haphazard planting of it. There are teeny tiny little green shoots that make me so happy and proud.
I'm planting some other things this weekend and am QUITE nervous. I will also update on how that went. I may be in tears of frustration by Monday, just a warning...
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Not the best mentality. Now that I finally own my own place, I can actually "commit" to having plants; helped even more by the fact that I live on the ground floor of an apartment building and my flat looks out into the (currently) cold, stone courtyard. My neighbors have planted things as well, but as I bought the place in November, I haven't seen anything yet. I've just seen empty pots with twigs and dirt that look quite forlorn indeed.
I took the plunge and decided to plan a container garden. And actually PLAN and RESEARCH, not any of this half-assed seed throwing. What did I decide to plant? What else, but food! I picked my choices based on what plants are hardy to cold weather, what plants don't need too much sun, and finally, foods that I like but are usually too pricey or unavailable. I also wanted (hopefully) some color in my garden; not just green green green. This left me with:
Spring onion (not pricey and always available, but it's hardy and I bought a winter variety. I also inevitably never use the whole bunch)
Brussels sprouts (LOVE the taste and would kill to have them all day every day in the fall and forever. Plus, the plant looks really frikin cool)
Spinach, Watercress, and Rucola (I've never found watercress here, and am constantly annoyed at the price being charged for the other two in supermarkets. It's just leaves!!!)
Beets (I love beets. And you can use the greens too. SO multi purpose!!)
Broadbeans and purple greenbeans (Broad beans are hard to find here and I bought a mottled red pod which I think will look very cool. The purple green beans are edible and turn green when cooked. Thought good to add color to the garden)
Cauliflower (I don't like buying whole heads because I never make it through them. Also very hardy to cold weather)
Sugar snap peas (Annoyed at unavailability and price of these. Imagine my shock when finding out they're one of the easiest plants to grow)
So thats my list. I've found this site INCREDIBLY helpful on planning. I love how each blurb also tells you what are good companion plants. I've already decided to sow my peas and spinach and/or peas and beets together. I've realised that I should not start my brussels sprouts and broadbeans until midsummer. I've been googling container gardening and coming up with some positive results. I've also looked up if you can use cat poop as a fertilizer (you cannot)
Now I just need to buy some nice big pots and some soil for all my new babies. This led me to another wonderful discovery. I thought that I'd have to go out to one of the big gardening stores in Prague that are an annoying metro (plus bus) ride away. This is understandable, seeing as how I live smack dab in the center of the city. I remembered though that my aunt mentioned a gardening store by bila labut I went there, and it's absolutely amazing. They have seeds for EVERYTHING! (Almost: I wanted rainbow chard and red beets but they didn't have them, so I settled for black beets and no chard) But still, how convenient! Little shop but huge assortment. And so cheap too. I got 10 seed packets for only 128 ($5.75 USD) For those who may be interested, here's a map.
I also found a GREAT place that has every single kind of plant container you could ever want. It's on Dlazdena, and here is a map. They even have the degradable little seed cups for your starter plantings. I ALMOST bought some pots, but want to check out Tesco prices first before I commit. They have a lovely wide but more shallow pot that I'm imagining my greens and my onions in. Oooo this is just so much fun. I'm so glad that I have the time and space for it now. I even happily found out that the wall my windows (and plants) are on is south-facing. So hopefully, what little sun reaches the courtyard will direct hit my babies.
I think the hardest part for me with the plants and herbs will be thinning. I just can't bear to tear up little plants and THROW THEM AWAY. It just seems unnecessarily cruel to me. I think I'll need a couple of glasses of vino before I can bring myself to do it with the new garden. At least with beet thinnings, you can eat them (What CAN'T you do with beets?!? Amazing things...)
I'll keep updating and hopefully post pictures and recipes from my new little garden in the upcoming months...
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
So I went home for lunch and wanted to use my parsnips for something quick and delicious. This is what I ended up creating:
Mashed Parsnips with Cheese and Mushrooms
2 large parsnips cut into 1 cm pieces
knob (about a tablespoon) of runny cheese such as Camembert
1 large shitake mushroom, de-stemmed and sliced into small pieces
tbs or two chiffonade of green part of leek
Pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper
Boil water in a small pot
Put in parsnip cubes
While cubes are boiling, cut up cheese into small pieces and prepare shitakes and leek
after about 10 minutes, drain most of the water, but leave a bit in the pot
Blend the parsnips and water with an immersion blender
Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melts
When cheese melts, stir in mushroom and leek
I actually had this right out of the pot. It was great because the only utensils I dirtied were the cutting board, knife, immersion blender, and spoon. Very quick, healthy, and easy and warming on a chilly day.
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
It's quite good and quite cheap. I just don't usually like how much oil he puts in to start. You can also double the recipe. I call it "mess" because it's not the most attractive dish. However, like many unattractive things, it has a hidden quality: tastes delicious!!!
Petr's Spinach Mess
1 package frozen spinach
1 small can tomato paste
1-2 debrecinske parky (flavored hot dogs) sliced into rounds
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
Defrost the spinach in a bowl in a microwave.
pour enough oil in a pan to cover the bottom
saute onion and garlic
throw in the hot dogs, cook for a bit
Then throw in the spinach (with any leftover water) and the tomato paste. Pour in about 1 cup (250 g) of water too.
Let it simmer for about 5-7 minutes til it thickens. While simmering, throw in any spices you want. There should definitely be about 1 tbsp of salt or podravka in it along with some pepper. We've thrown in garlic and onion powder, chipotle chile powder, Old bay, and he threw in some "mexicka gril" too. (literally, ALL of it. Trust me)
Personally, I think that some thyme, sage, garlic and onion powder would be good, and also any other poultry or fish seasoning
while the spinach is simmering, make a sunny side up egg.
Serve the spinach with the egg, and houskovy knedliky (or bread) Top with a dollop of plain yogurt.
I know the egg sounds weird, but it TOTALLY makes it so much better.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
The market was out of normal red beans, so I had to buy organic. I was just reading an epi post addressing the topic, and found the arguments quite interesting. Honestly, I am sooooooooooooo antiorganic. I think the whole idea is just a load of crap. Science and genetics are GOOD tools, not the spawn of Satan. They can make food healthier, more resistant to parasites and diseases, and just more consistent and available. Why not use them to help a world experiencing a bit of a food shortage? In the words of many anti-organics, I believe that eating organic is a tool that people with enough money use to appease their guilt about the plenty that is available to them.
Yes, I'm a huge huge fan of farmers markets, but if my farmer is going to use pesticides or genetically modified seeds, power to him. I'd rather support local business than try to make a half assed ecological statement. Point being, I had to buy organic beans, and they didn't taste any different/better than regular. I find this with most if not all organic foods, with the exception of wild vs. farm raised salmon. In fact, I might even call organics (even the beans) more bland...
1 cup (250 g) dried red beans
1 oz (40 g) chopped salami (I used Uherak, or Hungarian salami)
1 small onion diced
5-6 slices pickled jalepeno
2 garlic cloves mashed with 1 tbs salt
few cracks black pepper
Put everything in a saucepan
Fill with about 75 ml (3 cups) water
Simmer on medium low heat (I used 4 on my electric range) for about 2 hours, stirring sporadically
After two hours, the beans should be soft. If not, just keep cooking. You won't kill them.
Mash some against the side of the pan and stir to make the liquid thick
If you want more liquid, add more water and mash some more
I just eat it out of a bowl with some cheese sprinkled on it. Yum.
Monday, 23 February 2009
I had a very black banana in my fruit bowl, and love the taste of banana. I do not, however, like the taste of a very soft, almost rotting one (who does? Reminiscent of baby food). I recently made chestnut cookies/drops using a minimal amount of butter: about 2 tablespoons, so I thought I'd start with that. I was a fan of the lower fat content and didn't miss it at all. I suppose the sugar won't make these really the healthiest cookies, but you can switch out the white sugar with splenda, and I'm sure that'll help. If you want to make these vegan, just use vegatable spread or margarine instead of the butter.
Also, these cookies are pretty versatile: Instead of the vanilla you could use almond extract. You could also throw in some chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc. The flavor could also be changed by adding a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg (or both) I kept these pretty plain just to see what they'd be like (Ok, I confess I did actually put some caramel pieces in mine, but it didn't turn out too well: melted and oozed out).
1/4 c. (65 g) packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. (65 g) white sugar
1 and a half tablespoons (knobs) of butter
1 small, very ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Cream together the butter and sugar
Add the banana and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and combined
add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until thoroughly combined
Stir in a small handful of chocolate chips if you want
Roll rounded teaspoons of the dough between your hands, into balls, and place on baking paper lined baking sheet
Bake at 150 c (300 F) for about 10-12 minutes, until tops of cookies are slightly hard.
A note. These cookies have a very stiff batter due to the high flour and low butter content. Because of this, they will not spread when baking and retain their lovely little ball structure. If you want a flatter cookie, smush your balls flat. I like them better as balls though, because I think they look prettier/cuter and the middle is very soft; it's almost like you're eating raw cookie dough. The best part about this though, is since it doesn't have any eggs, you don't have to worry about catching salmonella by eating uncooked cookie dough. Ah HA!
If you think they look a bit boring (let's admit it, they do look a bit boring: light brown balls), dust them with some powdered sugar when they come out of the oven or drizzle with melted chocolate once they have cooled.
I still had the bottom (majority) of it left over, and a sprinkling of corn, so I thought I'd make a squash soup. I usually shy away from squash soups because they're pretty ubiquitous. Most, if not all, call for an apple or a pear along with nutmeg. I love the sweetness of squash, but don't want to try to pump it up with a fruit. I've recently mentioned my fondness for parsnips, and their sweet-ish delicious flavor. What better way to compliment a sweet-ish vegetable with another sweeter vegetable? Oh the heaven. I had this corn left over, and also some mushrooms that I bought at discount at Tesco. I also had some VERY VERY VERY sad potatoes that were demanding to be used before they turned into a moldy mess in my kitchen drawer, and I dreamed up this soup.
Due to my healthy eating attempt, I shunned cream/milk/etc. in favor of plain old water. I did this very complicated thing that I read in a recipe of boiling the squash seeds to extract as much flavor from them as possible. I'll leave it in the recipe, but do not feel like it's a necessary step. I tried searching for a Squash Chowder online, and every one had cream in it. I suppose a chowder by definition has to have cream in it. Kind of annoying. Anyway, hopefully anyone searching for a Butternut Squash Chowder recipe will come upon this one and delight in the fact that it is creamless (just realised it's vegan as well...hmmm) It's creamy enough as it is, and adding cream I believe totally overwhelms the flavor of the soup. Let the veggies stand alone by themselves, beautiful, sweet, tongue coatingly flavorful.
Squash and Parsnip Chowder
Bottom half of a Butternut squash (I KNOW the measure is so imprecise...lets say about 2 pounds (800 g) unpeeled butternut squash
1 medium onion cut into quarters
4 medium-small parsnips peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 garlic cloves
4 smallish (size of a tightly closed fist) potatoes, peeled and cubed
10 smallish cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced (not too thinly, they add nice chunky texture)
80 g (1/3 cup) corn kernels
generous teaspoon old bay seasoning
teeny pinch nutmeg (hypocritical, I know)
Cut Squash in half and scoop out seeds
Place squash face down on baking sheet with quartered onion
Roast on high heat until skin starts getting black bubbles
While Squash is roasting, put the seeds in a large pot and fill with about 2 cups (500 ml) water
Boil the water and simmer the seeds in it for about 10-15 minutes
Strain the water and remove the seeds, or be cool like me and fish them out with a slotted spoon
Add more water, and throw in the parsnips
Simmer them until the squash is ready
Smash the garlic cloves and make a paste with 1 tablespoon salt or Podravka
Add to the parsnips
At this point, the squash should be done or close to done (takes about 45 minutes)
Take it and the onions off the baking pan, and pour some water into the baking pan
Scrape up any squash and onion bits, and add them to the cooking parsnips and garlic
Peel and cut up the squash into cubes
Add it and the onion to the soup pot
Fill the soup pot to just under the level of squash pieces
Simmer about 5 minutes
Puree in blender or using an immersion blender
Add the old bay, nutmeg, and some black pepper. Also salt, if you think it needs some.
Throw in the potatoes, corn, and mushrooms, and simmer gently until potatoes are cooked through (about 10-12 minutes)
Adjust seasonings as needed
Serve with some nice bread, a sprinkling of finely grated Eidam cheese, and drizzled with some porcini and truffle oil (Yes, I'm a snob, just bought a bottle at Marks and Spencer's ) *smirk*
Friday, 13 February 2009
I've been ridiculously frustrated by the usual thorn in my side: my boyfriend. Or maybe he will not be my boyfriend in the very near future. What he does is besides the point, the point is that I've stayed with him for much longer than I should have, and I stupidly told him to give up his apartment and move in with me to my new one. From then on, (November) it's been more or less one, big, AWFUL headache.
I'm frustrated by how he leaves the apartment messy and dirty. He tracks mud and dirt in the house (even though he takes off his shoes) and doesn't clean it up. I'm frustrated at the fact that I do the majority of the grocery shopping and he always says he'll help, but in reality he never does. I feel like he's using me: he's using my kindness, my cleanliness, my cooking, my place, my cat, etc. to help him deal with his life. I am his life. I'm frustrated that it's gotten to that point. I'm frustrated that he has no motivation to better himself by looking for a new job, or even just cruising the internet and seeing how things work, what's out there, reading the news, etc. He's content with just bumming off of me for the rest of his life. He's content with sleeping until 14h and then slowly stumbling to work (as a waiter) He's content to let me do all the difficult things (pay the mortgage, pay the bills, do the shopping, have a real job) while he just coasts. He's sucking all of my energy from me and I hate it. I'm getting more and more depressed and sad, and I just want him out.
The worst part is, I've told him that I want him out, and HE WON'T GO. This is primarily because he doesn't have a place to go. Also, he probably doesn't take me seriously because I've told him to leave (and never acted on it) many times before. There are ways that he could look for a place to go. I actually cruised some classifieds yesterday and totally found flats, people looking for roommates, etc. for his price range.
My dilemma is. Do I accept a flat for him and then move him out of my house? Or should I just take all of his stuff and move it to his brother's house (who lives further away?) I just want him out. I want him out so bad I want to cry every time I come home and he's still there. What amazes me the most is, how can he live with himself and still be there when he KNOWS that I don't want him there? Oh my God, if I knew that someone didn't want me living with them, I would get the hell out of there A.S.A.P. That is so embarrassing.
1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk
2 tbs butter
1/4 c (65 ml) sugar
1 package (about 2 tbs) yeast
About 1 1 /2 c (375 g) White flour
put the butter and buttermilk in a bowl together with the sugar and microwave about 20 seconds until butter has melted and mixture is warm (but not too hot)
Stir a bit to make sure the butter is completely melted
Empty the contents of the yeast package into the mixture
Wait about 10 minutes (wash some dishes or play with the cat)
the mixture should have little bubbles in it
Add the flour and stir gently
Make sure the mixture is combined and not too sticky. If it needs more flour, add some. If it's too dry, add a bit more buttermilk.
Knead it a little until it is soft and pillowy
Let rise for at least an hour
When ready, roll it out into a rectangle that is about 1-2 cm thick (1/4 inch)
Sprinkle the entire area generously with brown sugar (about 3-4 tbs)
Sprinkle the entire area generously with cinnamon (about 2 tbs)
Spritz or drizzle melted butter all over
Roll up the dough, and cut into rounds about 4-5 cm (2 inches) thick You should have about 8
Place the rolls, cut side up, in a baking pan
Let rise overnight in the fridge, or an hour by themselves
Bake in a 150 c (325 F) oven for about 15-20 minutes
Mix half a package of cream cheese (smetanovy syr, I use the tesco brand, but Lucina works too) with about 1/4 cup powdered (or regular) sugar and 1 tbs vanilla
Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls when they're ready.
I'm going to health-a-matise my chestnut cookies a bit, and I'll try to get them up over the weekend.
Monday, 9 February 2009
I made this in an attempt to do a fridge cleanout before I lost some veggies. I've recently had a bit of a love affair with parsnips. I think after having been fed too many carrots when I was little (mostly because of my own begging) I've tried to avoid cooking with the orange rod. I have also never, ever (even when I was little) been a lover of cooked carrots. Raw: fine, cooked: not so fine.
Parsnips on the other hand, are DELICIOUS to me when they are cooked (raw is ok, but not half as gorgeous as cooked) They have a sweet, starchy, slightly potatoe-y taste that is a perfect compliment to several other flavors including buttery beans, salty bacon, sweet apples...Not to mention they're incredibly healthy (more so than carrots, I've read)
So the parsnips were the main veggie to be used in my dish (I decided to make a soup because of the cold weather and my craving for something warm and saucy) There was a bit of leek left over, along with a head of cabbage that I've slowly been paring away at. So that was really all it took. The name is a play on the color of my sun starved skin and the whitish/green of the soup
Pale Winter Soup
1 cube veggie builion
8-9 cups (1 litre, +/-) water
3 medium peeled parsnips cut into cubes
4-5 leaves (1 and a half cups, 330 grams) shredded cabbage
1 small onion, diced
1 small leek, white and pale green parts cut into rounds
3-4 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with about 1 tablespoon podravka or salt
1 heaping tablespoon (or four fingered pinch) of herbes de provence
splash of vinegar
Put the water and the buillion cube in a pot.
Bring to a boil
While water is coming to a boil, prep everything else
Throw everything into the pot, stir and simmer actively for about 10-15 minutes
Adjust seasonings as desired
Puree slightly with an immersion blender for a thicker soup
AH so easy! And yum! I think I had about 3 bowls.
I'd like to add right here that there is no sauteeing, no fat, no thickening, nothing. I made this soup when I was tired and lazy, and honestly, I don't think presauteeing the onion, garlic, leek, etc. would have done anything. It's a lovely simple soup that looks quite pretty too. I'll try to take a picture of the leftovers before I scarf them down.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
So then I was browsing epicurious again, looking for parsnip based recipes. I had completely forgotten about the white beans, because they were dried, and it wasn't necessary that I use them up immediately. I came across this white bean and parsnip stew that actually had very low ratings and less than stellar reviews. What I got from reviews from both recipes was:
a) too watery
b) not enough flavor
c) bit too much garlic
Finally, (I said several places!!) I had a delicious white bean and tomato stew with a mashed potato crust at Bumpkin restaurant when I visited London 2 weekends ago.
So off I went to create my parsnip and bean dish. And make it healthy.
I started off by rinsing the beans and putting them in a large pot. I would say I used about 1 1/2 cups of beans (375 g) I basically made sure that there was a layer of beans at the bottom of the pot. No pot bottom visible. I'll list the rest of it the traditional way:
Half a head of garlic cloves, peeled and minced (I started with 4 cloves, then added more according to taste)
1 bay leaf
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds/cubes about 1/2 inch thick (1.5 cm)
1 small white onion OR about 1 cup (250 g) of leek greens (Not the darkest parts, the medium to light green parts)
Use the leek greens if you want a more colorful stew
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 generous tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 generous tablespoon salt or Podravka
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
Put the beans, half the garlic, bay leaf and beans in the pot
Fill the pot with water (about 2 litres / 8 cups)
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer beans for about an hour and a half (I went shopping whilst they simmered)
When you get back (or while you're still home) prepare the parsnips and onions or leeks
Add in the parsnips, leek, the rest of the garlic, and the seasonings
Simmer vigorously until parsnip has softened.
Spoon some of the beans, parsnips, and liquid into a blender/food processor
Process until thick and creamy (If you catch some leek, that's fine too, but your stew will have a bit of a greenish tinge)
Stir it back into the stew.
If it's not thick enough for your liking, process some more beans and parsnips
Adjust seasonings to taste (I think I went quite heavy on the salt. But that's just how I like it)
stir in the tomatoes and cook until soft.
Serve with some yummy bread (I prefer Czech dark Sumavske bread. When it's fresh it's as soft as a piece of cake)
PS, notice how there is no butter or oil in this one? It STILL tastes delicious!! Feel free to add in a splash of oil/butter/whatever if you want a bit more richness.