Archive for July, 2012

Using harvested stuff – Ramen with Pak Choi

Posted in asian, cabbage, mushroom, noodles, vegetarian with tags , on July 31, 2012 by oskila

Continuing the harvest theme by actually using the pak choi I proudly showed off the other day. Even though I’ve seen it in Swedish grocery stores on a couple of occasions, it’s a predominantly Asian vegetable, so what better then, than to combine the usage of homegrown cabbage with getting rid of the crumbly bits on the bottom of the ramen bag and the last pack of miso paste?

Ramen noodles and miso paste in a pot.

Add a pinch or two of ground up dried mushrooms.

Next, a dash of white wine (mirin is probably even better) and a bit of carrots and scallions.

Add boiling water and cook for the prescribed amount of time, adding pak choi at the very end to just have it a bit steamed.

 

A sprinkle of sesame seeds is perhaps not exactly customary, but quite tasty.

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Using harvested stuff – Pistou

Posted in cheese, condiments, french, herbs, italian, mediterranean, vegetarian with tags , on July 31, 2012 by oskila

Today it’s not about pak choi again, but about basil. Claiming that I’d be using freshly harvested homegrown basil would, however, be a slight lie. The basil wasn’t really harvested – more a matter of thinning out the leaves that looked a bit sad. And I didn’t really grow it; I bought a pot at the grocery store, split the root clump in four and repotted it. I did get it to grow quite a bit though, so it’s not all smoke and mirrors.

Pistou is what it sounds like – a French pesto (or, more correctly, a pesto from Provence) differing from its Italian counterpart by not containing nuts or seeds and that the cheese is optional. I opted cheese in, since one of the reasons I had for making this was to use up the Grana Padano in the fridge so we can start on the Parmigiano reggiano. Basil, cheese, garlic, salt, oil. All you need, but more salt and less oil than you will actually need.

Just as the names pistou and pesto indicate, it’s traditionally made using a mortar and pestle. Sometimes ‘traditional’ only means ‘the hand blender wasn’t yet invented’. If I was making a larger batch and in possession of a better mortar and pestle, I’d probably think differently.

Three minutes or so later, a small bowl of pistou. The bowl holds about three tablespoons.

In Provence pistou is often served with bread or with vegetable soup. We used it to liven up an otherwise potentially boring dish of pasta and bratwurst.

First Harvest

Posted in asian, cabbage, vegetarian with tags , on July 30, 2012 by oskila

Just wanted to brag a bit about the fact that the pak choi (or bok choy, or chinese cabbage) growing on my balcony has finally reached a size were use in actual food is a real possibility. If I’m to believe the text on the back of the seed packet, I’ll be self sustaining in pak choi until October. We’ve used up all the available pots, so if I’m to expand operations, I will have to do some guerrilla gardening down in the courtyard. I’m sure no one will mind.

Another Sausage and Rice Jumble

Posted in leftovers, rice, sausage with tags on July 28, 2012 by oskila

What to do when there’s a need for dinner quickly and no one has bothered to restock basically anything after the long trip abroad? One method, which I evidently use often, is to gather some leftovers, something frozen, and whatever fresh stuff there is, and then throw something together.

Still nearly frozen sausages, chucked in the pan. These sausages happen to be of an unusually coarse and interesting grind and subtly seasoned with juniper berries.

My brother had bought a bag of funny little green peppers and forgot them in my fridge, so I nicked one (don’t worry, he knows) and chopped it up along with a red spring onion.

Those not in favour of red onions or juniper berries got grilled falukorv and instant macaroni instead.

Falukorv is a Swedish sausage, in some aspects quite similar to bologna sausage. If I remember correctly, the sausage and its name originates in the Swedish city of Falun, where the copper mining operations used a lot of leather straps and therefore a lot of oxen to make leather from. Eventually, Germans working at the mine taught the locals to make sausages from the meat. These days there’s more pork than beef in the sausage though. Like with german lyoner sausage, the diameter of the sausage, the red casing and the ring shape are diagnostic attributes.

Some leftover rice is added, along with various spices, and the jumble is done.

This is of course a very very simple dish, which doesn’t perhaps need as elaborate a blog post as this, but I’m doing it for the purpose of inspiration, to me and others.

Also, if you haven’t noticed yet, the blog now has a facebook page, where there’s occasionally other stuff that doesn’t quite fit in the blog. There’s also a ‘like’-button near the top of the blog’s main page. Tell your friends ;)

The French Adventure

Posted in cheese, french, fruit, shellfish with tags , on July 25, 2012 by oskila

Some may have noticed that NerdCuisine hasn’t updated in about two weeks. The main reason for this is that I’ve spent ten days in France, where I’ve spent more time pointing at stuff in menus than cooking, and gone online almost only for important stuff and only with an iPad. I don’t fancy writing and photographing whole blog posts with an iPad.

And now I’m back home, feeling a need to post something, anything, and thinking that the popular type of food blogs other than those with recipes is the kind of blogs where people simply tell their readers what they’ve been eating lately. That’s what I’m going to do now.

First of all I must say that I’m impressed with the French food stores that I visited. The sheer difference in selection is humbling. Needless to say, I had a ball every time there was food shopping that needed doing. Even the gas station supermarkets had more stuff than many medium sized grocery stores here in Sweden. I certainly don’t know about any gas stations here that offer foie gras or fresh mushrooms.

We spent large parts of the trip in the small village of Blauzac, about 10 miles north of Nîmes, in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. One of the more obvious features of the house was the fig tree in the courtyard.

I didn’t encounter a fresh fig until I was 23, and most figs I’ve ever seen in Sweden have seemed to be hours away from rotting and sold at 7-15 SEK each (about 1-2 USD), not to mention the dried ones, which I’ve never liked. Will look into the possibilities of pot-growing a fig tree on the balcony (might be too windy).

On the second day in France, I fell in love with Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes. I think they’re much more interesting than the more ordinary looking beef tomatoes we usually get in Sweden.

They turned out to be very good for grilling.

The next day was Saturday, which seems to mean market day in rural french towns, in our case Uzès, a short distance from Blauzac. The importance of the market is even more apparent when you consider that it was held as usual even though it was also Bastille day and the day when the Tour de France was going to zip through town.

Garlic is obviously important. This wasn’t even the largest pile.

Bought a piece of Gruyère-like cheese at the market to have something to snack on while waiting for the bikes. We had laid siege to a couple of café tables and ordered a steady stream of coffee in order to keep our seats without complaint.

After the spectacle had died down (see, the competing bike riders were harbingered by a continuous flow of more or less fanciful sponsor trucks, making noise and handing out free samples for several hours) I was glad to go home to Blauzac and finish off the cheese along with a fig.

This is probably the closest this post will get to a recipe. I was charged with the task of dessert. Figs with Brie, black pepper and balsamic vinegar. The vinegar came in a spray bottle. Very convenient.

Now I’m skipping a couple of days, not because the food wasn’t interesting, but because I didn’t take any pictures. We headed for the Mediterranean coast to have lunch in Bouzigues, a small town, but very big in the seafood business.

Huîtres gratinées – Gratinated oysters

Moules à l’aïoli – Mussels with aïoli

Moules farcies – Stuffed mussels

Not only did the restaurant we visited know very well how to make sure lots of molluscs hadn’t died in vain. They also were quite good at desserts.

Crème Catalane (which is quite similar to brûlée, only with milk instead of cream)

Fromage blanc au coulis de fruits rouges et yaourt – Quark with red fruit sauce and yoghurt

After the lunch in Bouzigues, we spent a few days in nearby Balaruc-les-Bains. Apart from an accidentally ordered starter of whelks, the food was good considering that we didn’t pay very much, but it wasn’t mindblowing either. Either way, I didn’t take any pictures since dinner often happens late in the day in France, and I didn’t want to use flash.

Having spent four nights in Balaruc, we headed back to Blauzac to settle down a bit before heading home again via Marseille. Cooking dinner at the house there is a collective effort since there’s often a lot of people to feed. We had previously provided a potato salad, grilled tomatoes and a brie and fig dessert but were completely in charge this time. We decided to grill some lovely merguez sausages and serve them with ratatouille and hand cut pommes frites/french fries/chips since the kitchen equipment included a deep fryer. I’ve eaten ratatouille on several occasions, but never made it myself before. It turned out rather nice, partly, I’d like to think, because of coeur de boeuf tomatoes.

The camera battery died before I could get a proper photo (which also happened a couple of minutes before the Tour bikes raced past us) so we’ll have to make do with a phone photo. The ratatouille pan and frites bowl looks a bit small in the picture, but they contain food for 12 people.

It’s only good and proper to also mention that while at the beach in Sète, near Balaruc-les-Bains, I asked my girlfriend to marry me, which she graciously agreed to do. Now you know, in case this and future posts are unusually silly or chipper.

Cheating at Pie

Posted in cereal, fruit, pie, vegetarian with tags on July 10, 2012 by oskila

The English language has a whole lot of words for different kinds of pie-related desserts, like cobbler, crumble, grunt and slump, while Swedish lumps everything together as pie or crumble pie (but one gets away with calling crumble pie just pie too). Most home-made pies I’ve encountered are definitely of a crumble persuasion though, which makes the British and American pie tradition intriguing to an inquisitive geek.

The reasons that I don’t make a lot of desserts or any sweet baking is that it usually requires lots of exact measuring and takes quite some time. So, I wanted to make a pie-type dish for once and needed to cut every possible corner. What I ended up with could be described as something somewhere in between a crumble and a pandowdy (I guess, because I’m not entirely clear about similarities and differences). Here’s what I did.

Half a lime (for the juice), an apple and a nectarine.

Slice fruit and arrange in a dainty manner in a greased skillet (this one I think was once owned by my grandmother. Built to last.) Squeeze the lime in and drizzle some treacle over the whole thing. Put in hot oven for a while to soften and infuse.

Meanwhile, crumble up some cereal – in this case special flakes, and mix with liquid margarine. Melted butter is probably even nicer.

Add lemon cake mix and stir like there’s no tomorrow. I borrowed the idea of using cake mix for crumble from my girlfriend, who in turn got it from her sister.

Spread the mix on top of the fruit and add another drizzle of treacle just for the hell of it. Put back in oven and bake until it looks nice.

In order to get a proper crunch it needs to cool for a bit.

Despite being made with lime juice and lemon cake mix, the final product was surprisingly sweet (in proportion to the amount of treacle), so I ate it with crème fraîche and some unsweetened berries to get some freshness in there. Ice cream or custard will of course be good too. Total cooking time, about 25 minutes depending on oven temperature.

The Recycled Burger Brunch

Posted in bread, cheese, ground beef, leftovers, sandwich with tags , on July 9, 2012 by oskila

Yesterday my dear brother threw a barbecue at our parents’ house. He had a slice of marinated ham on the bone, the Swedish trade name for which translates as ‘Flintstone roast’ since it looks like a cartoon steak, which he suggested would suffice, but I had already thawed a kilo of ground beef to cook dinner with, so we had both. After a quick trip to the grocery store the four people attending ended up with enough food for 8-10 people. We left my brother with most of the leftover food for lunch boxes, but brought some grilled halloumi and one of the 200 gram cheeseburgers I had made back home with us. Those are the main ingredients for this post.

The burgers were probably the best I’ve ever made. Perfectly seasoned, beautifully slow-barbecued and with lovely flavors of smoke and charcoal.  A night in the fridge gave it a density that would make a meatloaf green with envy. Anyway – burger and halloumi sliced. Revolutionary idolatry optional.

Put burger and halloumi on bread. Add onion to taste and a sprinkle of grated cheese for good measure.  Grill in oven for a while.

Put sandwich on a plate on the balcony. Add potato chips, a squirt of ketchup, funny-looking tomatoes and a cool drink. Then call it brunch only because it’s past noon and the first meal of the day.

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