Archive for first course

Butternut Bisque

Posted in cauliflower, soup, squash, turkey, vegetarian with tags , on September 20, 2012 by oskila

OK, it’s not a bisque in the strict sense, but I’m prepared to let that slide for the cause of alliteration. It’s soup time again, especially with proper autumn lurking around the corner and the stores filling up with interesting vegetables, such as butternut squash. Around ten years ago, as result of a slow Americanization, groceries in Sweden started selling pumpkins late in October, following up a few years later with other varieties such as butternut and spaghetti squash. When I was a wee kid, Halloween was something occasionally heard about from friends going abroad and fed to us through television, but we never considered celebrating it. These days though, kids are trick or treating all over the place, but for some reason during the All Saints’ weekend. Maybe I’m just bitter because I don’t get to beg people for candy…

The main ingredients of this little soup. Butternut sqash, red onion, carrots and cauliflower.

Peel, chop and grate, then let things break a sweat before adding water. Don’t throw out the squash seeds.

Adding a bit of seasoning – Coriander seeds, garlic, cumin, turmeric, star anise and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Let it simmer until everything is soft – say half an hour.

Giving the seeds a quick toast in a hot pan. Add a hint of fat and season with for example onion powder and chili powder. With these small seeds, the process takes about ten minutes.

In the meantime we have at the soup with a hand blender (discard the star aniseed first) and adjust seasoning.

Soup served with sprinkled seeds and some turkey bacon (it was half off. Ordinary bacon or no bacon at all is fine too) Also splashed about with some cream just for fun.

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First Harvest – Individual Gazpacho

Posted in leftovers, mediterranean, soup, tomato, vegetarian with tags , , on August 9, 2012 by oskila

The second homegrown tomato was finally ripe for harvest. In the picture it’s a bit trimmed down, since a dry spell during our trip abroad caused it to split on one side.

the term ‘individual gazpacho’ draws upon the fact that small, one helping, pies are often called individual. Only in this case it means gazpacho made with exactly one tomato. (which also means about enough gazpacho for one, not too hungry, person)

An inventory of the current stock yielded half a cucumber, a frozen chili, a small red onion and garlic, although unless your area is vampire-infested it’s advisable to use less than a whole clove. I also used olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, vegetable stock powder and fresh basil. Typical gazpacho also contains bell peppers, but I didn’t have any, so I chose to pretend a piece of chili pepper was close enough.

Cut stuff into manageable pieces and say hello to mr. Blender.

After sufficient blending and adjusting of seasoning it was time to plate. I tried two different styles and liked both, so I’m posting both.

 

I’ve gotten the feeling that Greek yogurt isn’t among the expected gazpacho garnishes (usually olive oil and croûtons, period) but since it had some heat from the chili, a bit of yogurt wasn’t out of place at all. The red leaf is homegrown basil. The containers used are a punch cup and a shot glass, to give an idea of the amount of soup teased out of one tomato.

Moules au Safran

Posted in bread, condiments, french, mediterranean, sauce, shellfish with tags , , , on August 5, 2012 by oskila

Hey hey hey! French title! That’s because I spent ten days in France and picked up a word or two. It says ‘mussels with saffron’. A fairly French (or Provençal)  dish. Originally, I had planned on trying razor clams since the grocery store happened to have them, but a combination of economic sense an a failure on the clams’ part to look attractive upon close inspection, steered us towards the trusty old blue mussels instead.

Ingredients for the main component of tonight’s dinner: Blue mussels, white wine, lemon, garlic, saffron, shallots.

Sweat shallot and garlic in a large pot, then add mussels, then saffron, lemon juice and wine.

Remove mussels and start reducing the broth. I strained the solids from the broth and then reduced the broth with the sieve partially submerged in it, to get more flavor from the shallots and garlic. Thicken the broth to sauce using a dairy product or two. I used crème frâiche and Greek yogurt to avoid the worst greasiness that can happen if one’s too generous with for example double cream.

Plate the mussels and drizzle some nice saffron sauce over. We had fries on the side, as in a classic moules frites, but the fries are prefab and therefore not shown.

I will, however, gladly show off the bread I baked. It’s pretty nice to have something to slosh around in the sauce after you’re out of mussels.

And it’s of course not a proper French dish if there’s no aïoli to add more fat to your fried stuff. It’s the first aïoli I’ve made (in excellent teamwork with my fiancée) and also probably the best I’ve eaten. The trick is apparently to skip the vinegar and add small amounts of lemon juice and slightly too much salt – which will turn out to be the perfect amount of salt if the fries are underseasoned.

To sum up, it was very good eating, but I think I still prefer my mussels cooked by someone else, to save me the trouble of scrubbing and checking for bad ones and so on. I’d happily provide the aïoli though.

 

Ramen, We Meet Again.

Posted in asian, discount, japanese, leftovers, mushroom, noodles, soup, vegetarian with tags , , on July 8, 2012 by oskila

Ramen noodles – especially the instant variety, is in my opinion quite strongly connected with geek culture. In Sweden they’ve been associated with geeks and students (especially of sciences) in general since before most of us knew what an otaku was.

I’ve expressed my appreciation for instant noodles before but will today give the non-instant type (which also takes 3-4 minutes to cook but isn’t deep fried) because the grocery store had a sale on all brands of Asian food, to make room for their own upcoming line, which resulted in me scurrying homewards with a loot of ramen, miso paste, sambal oelek and sweet chili sauce after having parted with surprisingly little cash.

I’ve never been to Japan and most Japanese style restaurants I’ve been to serve almost exclusively run of the mill sushi – stemming from the fact that foreign food arriving in Sweden will quickly develop into a slightly bastardized, watered down and in one way or another standardized image of its former self, which is true for for example pizza (looks the same everywhere) Chinese (most menus are more or less copied off the first restaurant’s) and sushi (salmon, tuna, scampi and little else). I also think (not that it matters) that most Japanese restaurants here aren’t run by actual Japanese. What I’m getting at is that while I’m going to make something fairly Japanese today, my experience with Japanese food outside instant ramen and Swedish sushi is limited.

Now I’m of course contributing to the problem (if it is one) by calling a dish Japanese without proper knowledge. Ramen, miso and shiitake are obviously typical of Japanese cuisine and scallions and carrots frequently occur, but in my inadequately educated opinion, garlic and chili pepper adds a Korean influence to the dish. I don’t know at all whether leaf spinach occurs in either cuisine, but I wanted to use up the leftovers from the last post.

Chop what can be chopped, except the mushrooms and put in a pot to sweat. Since my purpose more typically is to inspire than to tell readers exactly how to cook a specific dish, I seldom write down specific amounts, but a word of advice; if you don’t appreciate a bitter and iron-y flavor, don’t use as much scallions as I did in conjunction with spinach.

Like this. (image added mostly for being pretty)

Shiitake sliced and browning in a separate vessel.

The stems are often a bit woody, but they can be dried and ground up for later use.

Mushrooms to the left, veg pot to the right, with miso paste, water and ramen added.

Chop the spinach roughly and add to the broth together with the mushrooms.

Done. Serve before stuff goes wilted, soggy or overcooked.

One could also add basically any type of animal protein with good benefits, but I didn’t, becausen neither bacon nor ground beef (which is what I had in the fridge) seemed very appropriate. The chili peppers, despite being yellow and fairly mild, add quite a punch, so I’d suggest accompanying this dish with a beer.

This looks like fish

Posted in fish, mediterranean, soup with tags , on March 11, 2012 by oskila

Two soup entries in a row? Who would have thought it? These things happen sometimes and are nothing to worry about. We were shopping for dinner a couple of days ago and went through a lot of alternatives until we decided on fish soup as we had seen bags of frozen mixed fish dice (atlantic salmon, european pollock and pangasius (aka river cobbler or basa fish)).

The trusty DSLR was having a bad day, so I managed two pictures of the cooking process before the battery ran out. The files later turned out to be empty. A couple of attempts with phone camera turned out useless, so only the finished dish will be pictured.

First chop shallots, carrots, leek and garlic and sear gently in a pot of ample size. Add fish stock cubes, frozen alaska pollock, white wine, a pinch of dried sage, chili powder and white peppercorns and boiling water. Simmer until everything is soft and then blend it smooth with a hand blender or food processor. Add saffron, cream and more fish (the dice mentioned above) and simmer for two to three minutes more. Turn the heat off and add brined shrimp. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve with bread and rouille. (although we didn’t bother with making rouille)

 

The Rice Pancake Experiment

Posted in eggs, leftovers, rice with tags , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by oskila

The preparation and consumption of the dish for my last blog post about beef stew yielded a certain amount of left over rice which I decided to have for lunch the next day. As noon drew nearer I pondered on the matter of making yesterday’s rice more fun. Pancakes are usually fun. I went with the idea.

Since most people know how to make pancakes, there’s no real need for a lot of photos in this post. I mixed (with a hand blender) about two cups of cooked jasmine rice with a cup of milk, three eggs and about half a cup of wheat flour. Add salt, pepper and such. Let the batter rest for some time, then fry as usual.

I added the flour because I suspected that without it the pancakes wouldn’t hold together well enough. I don’t know if I was correct but I probably was. Blending more thoroughly than I did would of course make the batter smoother, allowing for thinner pancakes – which in turn means shorter cooking time. I’m thinking that the whiteness of these pancakes when not browned compared to common flour pancakes is rather striking and an interesting visual feature .

Rice pancakes, served with sliced mushroom, a leaf of red cabbage, sour cream and black pepper. As with regular pancakes, adding different stuff enables serving as either first course, dessert or anything else basically.

Rocket Soup (begin downcount)

Posted in soup, vegetarian with tags , on February 1, 2012 by oskila

A few months back I sat thinking about soups made with various green leaf vegetables and decided that I’d try to make soup out of rocket (also known as arugula, roquette, or rucola in various parts of the world). The project seemed a bit absurd, so I assumed that I was blazing culinary trail, but googling about while editing the pictures for this post I found recipes dating as far back as 1996, so it turns out I wasn’t as much of a pioneer as I thought. Enough intro, let’s get on with the food!

rocket soup ingredient lineup

This time I planned ahead and managed an ingredient lineup. Also included some equipment. Potato, onion, vegetable stock, carrot, garlic, white wine, rocket, milk (or cream).

Giving carrot, onion and garlic a quick sizzle along with just about every herb in the cupboard. Thyme, sage, basil, oregano, tarragon, marjoram and parsley. Also some bay leaves, white peppercorns and a small pinch of caraway seeds.

Adding rocket and diced taters.

Water, stock and wine added. Boil until fairly mushy. It should be noted that adding the rocket this early will turn the final product more or less breen (the colour roaming the murky depths between green and brown). Since it is edible raw it’s better to add it as late in the process as possible.

Now you know what breen looks like. Those of a rustic persuasion would probably prefer it served liked this, but since we’re not just cooking but cuisining here, there are a few more steps.

Here’s the soup post-op (the operation being 5-10 minutes stiff work with a hand blender) with milk added. It’s also salt and pepper time. To be fair, adding milk turns the concoction slightly less breen, but it’s still not all that elegant…

A serving suggestion – a dollop of sour cream, some julienned carrot, a sprinkle of parsley and flake salt (or why not persillade?) and a cheese sandwich. Cheap, healthy and easy to make! In fact, I think the total cost for four main course-sized helpings amounted to around SEK 25 provided you have a drop of wine already and don’t need a whole new bottle.

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