Archive for June, 2012

An Italian Job

Posted in bacon, bread, cheese, italian, leftovers, mushroom, pasta, salad, side dish with tags on June 29, 2012 by oskila

I recently claimed that the cooking gets more laid back in the summer. For some reason, after posting that, I’ve cranked the game up a notch instead. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the dishes get lighter. Roast and gravy isn’t too compelling when it’s hot and sunny outside I guess.

Today’s dish is pasta based, as opposed to the last post which had som pasta chucked in as a filler. It’s also meant to do away with some leftovers and try out a couple of new things.

As you can see, today’s lineup is filled to the brim with good stuff! Romaine lettuce, Grana Padano cheese, mascarpone, cucumber, half forgotten radishes, mushrooms, fresh garlic, leftover zucchini, balsamic vinegar, leftover lemon, onion, bacon, olive oil, truffle oil and a nice sourdough roll. Again, me and the little cherry red camera haven’t quite agreed on how indoor photography without flash is best carried out. And as usual, I forgot to include the pasta in the lineup, but I believe that since I don’t give much directions anyway, people actually replicating my dishes will be able to figure out how to cook spaghetti anyway.

First, let’s give the zucchini a quick sweat

Once that looks nice, add mushrooms, garlic, onions and bacon to the pan.

Normally, one would use cream, crème fraîche or roux/milk for sauce, but I decided to try mascarpone, which is usually associated with desserts. Since it’s fat fatty fat fat (40%) I’m taking it down a notch with the double amount milk. If you haven’t started boiling pasta and toasting bread it’s time to get that going.


The amount of fluids is intentionally a bit on the low side, since I feared dumping a whole lot of mascarpone in a dinner would make it heavy and greasy. Some herbs and a swig of wine doesn’t hurt, but since I had no wine, I added a splash of balsamic instead.

Simple salad with lettuce, cucumber, radishes and cheese flakes. The intricacy is in the vinaigrette. Oil, vinegar, salt and pepper as usual, but with as much lemon juice as vinegar and a few drops of truffle oil, which takes things to another level entirely.

Assemble dish in spaghetti pot. I usually add considerable amounts of black pepper at this point.

After initial toasting, the roll had a drizzle of oil, a rub of garlic and a short trip to the oven to take some of the raw edge off the garlic. Remove from oven, add salt and call it bruschetta.

Today’s plated dish shot is brought to you by the balcony. This recipe isn’t really complicated enough to warrant nine images, but it can still be simplified further. I’d imagine that it’s very tasty even without bacon for example. Those who really like salad could instead make that part more complicated by adding more stuff, but that’s rather obvious.

To conclude, I’d say the mascarpone works quite well in this dish. Its slight sweetness compliments that of the onions and zucchini, while offering a nice contrast to the salty bacon. Next time, I’m hopefully doing fresh fish.

 

The Hollandaise Hassle

Posted in baking, cheese, eggs, french, sauce, vegetarian with tags , on June 28, 2012 by oskila

I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately and looking especially at the competitive ones, it’s obvious that making Hollandaise sauce is considered a basic skill. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a hollandaise made from scratch. In fact, I think I’ve only eaten Hollandaise when at my parents’ and while I’m pretty sure my mom is fully able to make a real one, we’ve only had powder sauce as far as I know. Since emulsified sauces seem to often be a hurdle for amateurs in competition shows I figured it was best to do some research before starting to separate eggs.

While the Internet is good for many a thing, the scores upon scores of foodie blogs (calling the kettle black here, yes) can be more hindrance than help sometimes. I turned instead to mrs. Child. The Hollandaise recipe in the Swedish paperback edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking covers a page and a half, which meant it was going to be too meticulous. I figured Ginette Mathiot’s Je sais Cuisiner  would be more down to business, and indeed, the recipe was only 14 lines long. With the combined wisdom of the two grande dames of French cuisine under my belt I got cracking.

Since Hollandaise is pretty labor intensive, I wasn’t able to pause for photographs, but I can tell you that, while I was a bit nervous at times, it certainly wasn’t as tricky as expected. Or I’m just a natural, who knows…

After completing a lovely lovely sauce (or as Gordon Ramsay would say – ‘THE most amazing’) I turned to a small container of egg whites that was surplus to requirements. I don’t like to waste perfectly fine food, so I did the only thing I could think of; meringues.

To be honest I don’t like meringues  very much and have therefore not made any in the last 20 years. Since they didn’t turn out all that great, either because of insufficient beating, too much beating or not enough sugar, I shall not linger on the subject, but will still insert a picture of when they were still looking good. (Time to clean the oven door though)

Moving on, I needed something to serve the sauce with. It’s very good on its own of course, but doesn’t really constitute a proper meal. In my experience, Hollandaise is, in Sweden that is, pretty much only served with poached fish, but the scripture indicated that it goes well with other stuff. Vegetables for example.

In reality I had already planned to serve the sauce with vegetables and decided on mushrooms and zucchini. Since the mushrooms in the store were such pretty ones I made quite a large batch.

While the mushrooms sauteeeeeeee away in their pan I turned my attention to the zucchini, which had already been sitting in brine for a couple of hours, the reason being that I find zucchini quite hard to season properly – everything you throw at it more or less bounces off.

The zucchini were poached using the pot that I used to melt the butter for the sauce, hoping for a subtle glaze and butter flavour. After poaching for a little while, the zucchini too went into the sauté pan to get a bit of a sear. Now, zucchini, mushrooms and Hollandaise sauce isn’t really the ideal meal either, so I ended up serving it like this:

Sautéed mushrooms and zucchini with Hollandaise sauce, rotini with mozzarella, salad of cucumber, tomato and fresh basil and garlic bread. Nice, light summer eating at its best.

Five Ingredient Dinner – Fried Rice with Sirloin

Posted in asian, beef, rice with tags , on June 27, 2012 by oskila

Neither this dish or the Five Ingredient Lunch was conceived or cooked with a five ingredient shtick in mind, but I guess it’s a reasonable number of flavours and textures to put in food if it’s not to be too messy on the palate. Actually, what I really mean is five main components, since ingredients should also include for example salt, pepper, water and oil. This has kindly been pointed out to me by people who are as nitpicking and obnoxious as me, so I’ll just smile and wave and claim artistic liberty.

As you can see, this photo has plenty of motion blur, because the little red compact camera and I have different opinions on how photography is best carried out. The ingredients are: shredded beef sirloin, which has been marinated in a mix of soy, water, garlic and vinegar, rice, carrots, red onion, green chili pepper.

Rice is in the pot, meat drained of surplus marinade, and I simply can’t help but like pictures of prepared ingredients on cutting boards. Especially when the cutting was done with a lovely Japanese knife – a knife that’s so sharp I won’t use it when I’m in a hurry.

The carrots are the crunchiest ingredient, so they fry first.

Adding onions and chilies.

Adding meat. Sirloin of beef bought shredded like this is of course the trimmed off pieces of a proper steak, but a good way for stores and suppliers to minimize waste as well as a neat way for cheapskates like me to get good meat at reasonable prices, since a tray of shredded meat like this comes at less than half the price of a whole piece of sirloin of equal weight. There’s no point in trying to cook these thin shreds medium; focus on getting  a good sear and the marinade will keep the meat reasonably juicy anyway.

Long time readers (if there are any, I’m not sure) will have noticed that I often mix everything in rice dishes. I think it’s a good way to spread flavour around and get the rice a bit more interesting. It does seldom look very posh, but elegance isn’t the only way for a dish to appeal visually.

Then again, with a bit of effort, the completed dish can still look fairly posh.

Noodles with Bacon and Scampi

Posted in asian, bacon, discount, eggs, leftovers, noodles, shellfish with tags , on June 25, 2012 by oskila

Before I started an actual blog (and then moved it from Blogspot/Blogger to WordPress because of Blogger’s stupid interface) I occasionally posted recipes as notes on Facebook, a few of which recipes proper, with listed measurements and such, while most were more like stories, just like this blog. While flipping through my deviantArt account I found a good and hearty noodle dish, originally posted on Facebook in August 2011. This is also one of the dishes that triggered my whole discount goods and leftovers idea.

A pack of Scampi (Norwegian Lobster) that set this dish rolling. Since this industry usually has a significant negative impact on seabeds I don’t buy them as a rule, but it’s better to eat than to have it thrown out. They’re better than Giant Tiger Prawns anyway. If you’re buying aquacultured prawns of any kind you should stop. Now.

I accidentally added numbers to the original file, so the lineup today is unusually thorough. 1. Half an onion. 2. Discount scampi and diced bacon. 3. Japanese soy. 4. Seasoning, including garlic powder and green curry powder. 5. A carrot. 6. Chinese egg noodles. 7. Half a red chili. 8. An egg. 9. Frozen peas. 10. A slightly wilted mushroom. Most of these ingredients are either discount, leftovers or the last remains of something.

Onion, mushroom, carrot and chili in the pan.

Bacon, scampi and seasoning added. The general consensus is that since the scampi is already cooked it doesn’t really need to be put in the pan at this stage, but I wanted to get a bit of a sear on it and don’t mind a bit of chewiness.

As usually, the noodles have been prepared backstage and go in along with peas and egg. I don’t come across noodle dishes with eggs like this very often here in Sweden, but when I traveled Malaysia it was quite commonplace.

That’s all there is to it. Not very complicated. Some might think that bacon and shellfish is an odd combination, but in my opinion it works, since it’s a well known fact that bacon, like cheese and/or cream, improves almost any dish.

Macaroni, Meatballs and Pickled Radish Salad

Posted in pasta, side dish with tags , on June 21, 2012 by oskila

Summer has really dug its heels in by now, and as a result, the cooking gets more laid back. Eager as always to make an example, I made instant elbow macaroni with prefab meatballs (the real Swedish meatballs) and some lightly pickled radishes on the side, just to keep things somewhat interesting. This pickling method is commonly used with cucumbers in Sweden. Doing it with radish instead makes it similar to Japanese tsukemono (which means ‘pickled things’).

Slice some radishes thinly and put in a bowl.

Add  a mixture of water, salt, sugar, spirit vinegar (12% acid) and white pepper.

Place another bowl on top and apply pressure, for example in the form of a cast iron pepper mill. Refrigerate.

Browning the abominable meatballs.

Adding macaroni (told you they were instant), sautéed scallions, grated cheese, an egg and a splash of milk.

Checking out the pickle, which hasn’t finished pickling of course, but is pickly enough for this dish. Leaving it overnight dissolves the red colour and makes everything a subtle pink.

A plate of, if not sublime and exquisite, so at least well meant and filling food.

The Leftover Peppers Cheese Spread

Posted in cheese, discount, leftovers, sandwich with tags , on June 18, 2012 by oskila

After making the taco fish cakes and pico de gallo for the last post, I still had a large chunk of green bell pepper and half the chili pepper left, as well as half an orange bell pepper from when I fixed sandwiches for a board meeting. Then, last night at the grocery store I found an intriguing cheese in the discount bin. Marquis; Danish orange-rinded little thing with a very buttery texture. Supposedly it’s quite similar to Saint Albray.

So, top to bottom, diced orange bell pepper, diced green bell pepper, a pre-tasted cheese, a small amount of finely chopped green chili pepper. Using slightly wilted vegetables like these means they won’t add as much moisture in the next step, which is a good thing.

Cut the cheese into more manageable pieces and mix everything in a suitable container. One could probably go on all sorts of seasoning adventures – I only added a pinch of black pepper.

Put the mixture on bread and look happy. If I’d had any red wine I’d probably have some.

Taco Fish Cakes

Posted in alaska pollock, condiments, rice, side dish, tex-mex with tags on June 16, 2012 by oskila

I’ve been meaning to do something with fish for some time, but wasn’t sure what. Started a Tex-Mex train of thought after happening upon the Wikipedia article on pico de gallo. Googled about a bit to make sure I wasn’t completely ripping someone else’s idea, and there were a couple of dishes with similar names, but with different execution; often simply tacos filled with fish instead of other meats.

Here are some of the ingredients, but not all. Fish (Alaska Pollock, horribly cheap, probably sustainability issues), green pepper, tomato, egg, lime, green chili, spring onions, tortilla chips. By now, inquisitive minds are probably wondering what it is that makes this recipe a taco fish cake recipe. Well, the idea is to crush the chips and use them as breading.

First, put some breadcrumbs, milk and various spices in a bowl. I use white pepper and dill for fish and chili powder and cumin for Tex-Mex. Stir well and set aside. Time to operate dangerous machinery.

This is what Alaska Pollock, onions, garlic and chili look like, coming out of a grinder. I strongly recommend putting all the veg in the grinder first if you want to do stuff this way, since it’ll most likely get stuck somewhere in there unless the fish is there to push it through.

Ground stuff added to the bowl along with an egg. The seasoning will probably need adjustment at this point. Especially since I haven’t mentioned salt before now. Salt!

One would think that crushing tortilla chips to fine crumbs is quite easy since it evidently happens spontaneously in every bag of the stuff, but no. Stiff work! The machine that connects to my meat grinder also comes with a blender, but the blender is broken, so I had to do it the hard way.

A jump past some scraping, sculpting, shaping and breading gets us straight to five fish cake sizzling away happily in quite a bit of oil. Without the breading I’d be horribly close to making patties yet again, but these are undoubtedly fish cakes. It even says so in the title!


Done! As you can see, there has been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. Once again I decided that detailed descriptions of rice preparation aren’t all that fun. The guacamole and sour cream dip was done before even lining up the ingredients and the pico de gallo I made while the fish cakes fried. My pico de gallo is for wussy Swedes like yours truly, who don’t always like the punch of raw jalapeños. I use chopped green bell peppers instead, along with a moderate amount of the nameless milder green chilis grown in Europe and normally found in Swedish grocery stores.

I’m rather pleased with the result, but if I cook this again I’m going to go heavier with the seasoning since the fish cake didn’t have much of an oomph. I’m also thinking that using seasoned tortilla chips could add another level to the dish.

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