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!
Saturday, January 14, 2012
My family likes to celebrate a late New Year, this usually means that almost everyone can be there at the same time. for years I had to pass, because I was abroad. But this year I made up for it with homemade festivities. Its a party of 20 and I thought I was going to make it easy on myself and make a large put of stew and a couple of lasagnas. However, my grandpa confessed he never ate a stuffed turkey and since I have picked up the skill in the US, I had to put in the extra effort and show the man what he had or had not been missing. The truth in my opinion is that if stuffed turkey was so great, people would eat it all year around. But it is traditional, also in Europe so on the menu, some cocktail bites, two large lasagnas and 2 stuffed turkeys.
First I needed to prepare some of the main ingredients like ricotta cheese, marinara sauce, pasta sheets, ...
Heating milk and cream for the ricotta. Traditionally this is made from why, but I haven't started to experiment with making other cheeses yet and the result with milk and cream is very nice. All it entails is heating until just under boiling temperature with some salt. Take if off the heat and stir in some lemon juice. Let it sit for 15 minutes and it will curdle. Then you can strain it through a cheese cloth or a towel.
Then, for some vegetable stock. I know it is traditional to make turkey stock from the giblets and wings and such, but I noticed that when I ordered the turkey here with the butcher, they prepare it it for you by opening up the turkey, taking out the bones and everything else and then they suggest to stuff it for you, which I thankfully declined. They gave me some kitchen twine to sew it back together instead. The point of the story I didn't have any extra turkey parts for the stock. I should remember to ask the butcher to keep all of that for me in the future.
What I used for the stock were, celery, fennel, onion, carrots, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, salt and whole black pepper.
For the marinara sauce I softened some onion, added whole, canned, peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper, and a whole lot of fresh basil. Let it simmer for 30 minutes and used a hand held blender to get the creamy texture.
Of course the pasta sheets, same old recipe. 100g of flour to 1 egg and a pinch of salt. I do have to say that getting the little machine, makes all the difference! you don't have to worry about kneading as much (this dough gets really tough) because you can pass it through the machine over and over, folding it in half every time.
Then for the lasagna meat sauce. This becomes a lot easier when you have your marinara pre-made. brown the minced meat in a dry put, add whatever vegetables you like, I used mushrooms and bell pepper) and let all the juice evaporate. Then add the marinara and let it simmer for 2 hours at least. The meat needs to be really tender.
To stuff the turkeys, I made some sausage meat with ground pork, sage, nutmeg, allspice and cognac. Just mix it all together an chill for a couple of hours.
In the meantime some mashed potatoes for the side dishes. These were made ahead and baked with cheese 30 minutes before the turkey was served.
For the white lasagna sauce, whisk a couple of eggs and mix in the ricotta cheese. I had to make a double batch of ricotta. That means you need to start with a liter of milk and half a cup of cream to get enough ricotta for one large lasagna. Then, mix in about 2 balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella and 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmigiana as well as a bunch of chopped parsley. Remember this is for 2 of these large lasagnas.
After chilling the sausage meat, it needs to be browned and cooled. Then I mixed in w hole loaf of toasted sourdough bread, I was stuffing 2 turkeys after all. Then I softened some onion, celery, apple, pear and parsley to mix in with the stuffing also.
Cranberry sauce is just heating one cup of water with one cup of sugar and 2 bags of cranberries with 2 pieces of fresh peeled ginger and a wedge of lemon. Its ready when all the berries have disintegrated and the sauce is think enough the coat the back of a spoon.
These bites are made from roasted pumpkin which I put in the blender, some fresh goats cheese and puff pastry. The were baked for 20 minutes just before the cava was served.
I also made some cheese puffs with the whey of the ricotta and some trappist beer, but I think this is where I started stressing for time, because all of a sudden I stopped taking pictures. I did get in a last money shot of the Turkeys.