Sunday, June 3, 2012

Old Bay Seasoning

Hello again, 

I would like to share some homemade condiments I have whipped up in the last couple of weeks. First,  is this version old bay seasoning, which is not available on this side of the Atlantic. 

Usually this type of seasoning would be made out of dried and ground ingredients only, but I thought why not substitute some ingredients for their fresh counterparts. Especially with ginger I so much prefer to leave the ground verity in the cabinet. This method makes a slightly moist seasoning, so dont make too much and keep it in the fridge to use up within a month or so. 

I used this seasoning together with some red chili paste I had made earlier with lemon slices to marinade a kilo of shrimp and prepared them in the shell, "papillote' style in the oven. They were spicy and heavenly. 

The method is simple: 
Combine all ingredients in a small processor and grind until a paste forms. I noticed the mustard grains were still mostly whole, so I used the mortar to crush an additional amount. 

8 bay leaves
2 teaspoons celery salt
1-1/2 teaspoons whole mustard seed
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 cm peeled fresh ginger cut into slices
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
+/- 15 whole cloves
+/- 15 whole allspice berries

Thursday, April 26, 2012

spinach and nut pesto quiche

Hello again,

When I found myself left with a whole bunch of parsley and not in the mood to make a tabouleh salad, I decided to work it in a batch of nut pesto. I often make something like this, but never quite the same thing. basically, I toast some nuts or seeds, grab a bunch of green leafy herbs and put it all in the processor with some olive oil, shallot or garlic and seasoning. Its great to have in the fridge as it can be used to top a salad, on toast, in a sandwich and on pasta of course. 

Here, I worked it into a quiche, with sauteed spinach. I usually keep some uncooked pie shells in the freezer, so this made for a really quick, light meal. 

Pre-bake the crust with pie weights or perforated with a fork. Sauté the spinach with salt, pepper and olive oil in a large pot, finish with a finely diced onion. To prep the wet ingredients, whisk some eggs, add freshly grated parmesan, yogurt, mustard and nut pesto. season with salt and pepper. Fill the prepped pie-shell with the spinach mixture and pour in as much egg mixture as you can fit. Bake for +/- 30 minutes or until the quiche has set and  no runny egg can be detected. 

How do you like your nut pesto?

Liza xoxo

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crab salad in the real sense of the word

Hello again,

My local seafood merchant sells these boiled crab legs. They have been asking for my attention for a while now, but since I am not a big mayonnaise eater (except for with my fries, and I wouldn't be a real belgian if I didn't), I decided to make a salad with crab instead. 

I added what I had on hand, which is often a combination of salad ingredients that happen to be available at the veggie market. Sprouts are great for spring. Radishes are still available and give a nice bit of bitterness and crunch. Always avocado, I think there is no substitute for the richness and creaminess an avocado can add to a salad. And I need only half as much dressing for full satisfaction. I also added cucumber, because it is fresh and makes the salad much lighter. I do leave the seeds in there. I like the hidden bite of water, and if you eat the salad right away, there should be no danger of getting a pool of cucumber juice at the bottom of your bowl. Do dress your greens separately before adding them to your bowl, if you try to get them coated in dressing inside a bowl with heavy ingredients, your greens will wilt and bruise under the pressure. I also like to finish a salad with some toasted nuts and seeds. This time I used flax and sesame.

Note on the crab leg, put it in a ziplock bag and use a hammer. be careful not to add any bits of shel to your salad. you teeth will appreciate your concern.  

Note for the dressing: add to a small jar, a bit of whole grain mustard, salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice from one small fruit and a 1/3 cup of nice cold pressed olive oil. Shake well, and serve. 

Does anyone have a crabby salad they would like to share?

Liza xoxo

Sunday, April 22, 2012

coffee in a jar

Hello again,

More and more I am convinced that coffee and espresso machines are not worth buying. Sure, a decent tavern style espresso machine can make a great cup, but the kinds that are available for the home are just not strong enough. 

I have been eyeballing this gadget. It doesn't use use any electricity and it's strength is irrelevant because its mussel pulled and therefore as strong as you are. If I ever get around to getting one, ill keep you posted. 

In the meantime, this is how I brew my coffee at home. It is a method I came up with, holding in mind all the important factors that influence the flavor of your coffee, e.g. the ratio of coffee to water, the temperature of the water, the freshens of the grind and the amount of time the grinds are in contact with the water. Also, no expensive coffee nerd items are needed and yet this coffee is superb. Here is how it goes: I add 2 tblsp of freshly ground coffee (ground on the regular setting) to a jelly jar and fill it up with hot water. The water is just under the boiling temperature. I let I sit for 3 minutes and then I strain it through a coffee filter. I would say this method is a mix between french press and drip coffee. Notice the nice layer of foam? 

I will be getting a better filter system, this is the one I have in mind.

Let me know how you like your coffee. For the frothed milk lovers, I will keep doing some research,...

Liza xoxo

Sunday, January 29, 2012


This was the first time I made a dutch baby, no I did not produce a living being overnight. I found, its like a mix between a pancake and an omelet. Super soft in texture. Delicious! However, before living in NY I had never heard about anything called "Dutch baby" so I wonder where the name actually comes from. I did read somewhere, don't remember where, that it's based on an old German tradition. Its a super easy recipe and you could easily use the short oven time to set the table and brew some coffee. I had mine with apple butter ad some powdered sugar.

I don't remember if I mentioned this already, but I never buy powdered sugar. The fact that I hardly use it aside, its just too easy to make, and I can use unrefined sugar this way. Just pulverize it in a small spice blender, or mortar until it is fine enough to pass through a fine mesh sieve. 

In Belgium, we have "kringloopwinkels" these are the kind of thrift stores that sell gifted items for next to nothing. It is the next best thing to a flee market if you want to find treasures for cents. Here are some of the finds I did in my last visit. Two enameled pots, ancient, but no damage at all. These are so much better then any of the teflon coated pots on the market these days. My grandmother says these are the secret to her delicious cock au vin. She had to share, when her daughter in law could not comprehend how she got the skin so perfectly brown and crispy without sticking to the pot. 

A salad spinner, used to be part of every household. Now you see them hardly anywhere anymore. I seriously wonder sometimes how people wash their salad. I have been slaving myself over the salad greens. dumping them in a sink full of water and then drying them with a clean kitchen towel one by one. That's history now. I got a spinner for 50 cents.

My top find however is this copper pot. It needs a little bit of love before it can hit the stove, I'll do some research on how to naturally clean these after I am finished with this post. I paid 1 whole euro for this. New they cost an arm and a leg. I also got some baskets and some ancient cookbooks. Cant wait to try out some of there old menus. 

The first dinner party my new home has catered that included more then one guest. An because I think teenagers are hard to please I decided to stick with Pizza. And to be completely on the safe side, I had them top their own. Served some salad and soup and, ... done. 

I have been gathering some ideas for finger food. My mother is having an opening night at one of her exhibitions in a couple of weeks and has asked me to cater some snacks that people can eat without too many dishes. I saw this idea here and liked that it did not specify the specific ingredients. It makes you think about what it is you are in the mood for. They are ground nuts and dried fruits, shaped in balls and coated in toasted sesame. I added some marmalade for extra sweetness and tang. 

One cup of fried fruits: Figs, dates and dried cranberries. One cup of ground toasted nuts: hazelnuts and walnuts. Note: toast the nuts when they are whole. This will allow them to shed some of the skin. 
Kneed together with some marmalade until well combined and shape in balls the size of one tablespoon. Use wet hands to prevent from sticking too much. Roll in the toasted sesame and store in an airtight container. 

Another first timer in my kitchen this week were some scones. I got the recipe here except I used coconut oil instead of butter and dried cranberries instead of dried currents. Dried currents are not easy to find here. This is kind of ironic, because currents are very much from this area. I just don't think its traditional to dry them here as they are so plentiful in the summer. These scones stayed fresh all week. I had one for breakfast every morning before work. It turned out to be a big time saver and I am sure they freeze well. I feel a new breakfast tradition coming on. 

On the subject of saving time I have been focussing all week on stocking for lazy days. There is no point in telling yourself that you will make a freshly cooked meal every day, let alone a couple of times a day, so I decided to plan for these lazy days, with some easy to freeze items. Another way to combat this problem is to roast. These roasted fingerling potatoes with marinara sauce can be assembled in minutes and cook themselves in the oven while you attend to other things. 

I'm still making no-kneed bread more then other breads. I start it before going to bed and the next day when I get home from work, I shape it into 2 loafs while I preheat the oven with cast iron pots inside. one hour later, I bake them for 15 minutes on the highest temp possible with steaming water (I do this by pouring water in the oven tray on the lowest position and having the cast iron pans on the wire rack positioned immediately above), and then another 40 on 350F/180C. I start with a kilo of all purpose flower, although I do experiment often with whole wheat and spelt combo's. As long as the total is about one kilo. 3 cups of water/whey/beer and 1 tsp of dried yeast. combine well in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a spot with a normal room temperature. I freeze one bread and let it defrost over the period when I am at work. It will be best when its baked for another 15/20 minutes to refresh the crust. let it cool completely before cutting into it. This is essential if you want the bread to last a couple of days. 

From a blog I like to read, I got the idea to do a kumquat marmalade. Marmalade has been a guilty pleasure of mine and I always think that its not as bad If I make it with raw/unrefined sugar. Its laborious but worth it. What the recipe doesn't tell you is that its best to soak the rinds before you start cutting  and boiling them. It makes them tender slower and it really pays off in texture. 

 It was delicious on my date/nut pancakes for brunch!

Apparently, arugula comes with clovers these days. 

Quinoa patties for the freezer.

Mash of celery root for the freezer. Just make it like you would mashed potatoes. 

And lots of brussels sprouts, with either toasted pumpkin seeds or chopped almonds. 

Hope to be back soon with some finds from the new/old cookbooks. 
Have a nice week!