Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Cherry Salsa/Chutney

 I had never really thought of cherries as a savory food, but after harvesting a bucket full of cherries and already filled three and a half jars full of jam, I was kind of under pressure be creative.

The thing is that cherries tend to attract insects and their offspring while on the tree. While swallowing a maggot or two never harmed anybody, I didn’t fancy getting a belly full of maggots. That, and cherries tend to mold quickly so that you had a three day time window to consume them. The secret is to not wash the cherries until just about the point that you are to consume or use them!

I spotted a recipe from a colleague’s North & South, a monthly magazine from New Zealand, in their February 2008 issue.  It featured a family’s cherry farm, and also shared some recipes of their own, which included a cherry salsa

All you need to do is to mix together 36 stoned and diced fresh cherries, ½ diced red onion, 174 handful flat-leaf parsley, Zest of half a lemon, 100 ml olive oil, 25 ml vincotta, Sea salt, and cracked pepper.

Because I didn’t have vincotta, a sauce made from sticky grape extract, I decided to play around this recipe a bit and made a chutney instead, using the pan drippings from the accompanying beef steak that night.

So I sautéed the onions in low heat, added the cherries, added all the seasonings and sprinkled the parsley just before serving. It tasted great and was a good contrast to the salty beef steak. A great way to use cherries!

Raclette

What is there not to love about melted cheese? Melted cheese gives me warm, fuzzy feelings, makes everything tastes better, makes Everything! better. Like butter, my love affair with cheese, especially melted cheese will hopefully never die.

With this adoration in mind, I was quite pleased with this past holiday season, because it turned me on to Raclette BIG TIME. I was invited to a big, wooly holiday raclette pow-wow with friends, while the children buzzed around us. Everything about raclette screams to me as fancy-schmancy comfort food. Raclette is a Swiss specialty.  Basically, it’s a teppanyaki grill, but there is space under the heater to melt the cheese in these tiny pans, which you transfer on your plate to eat with bacon, cooked on top of the grill, boiled potatoes, and an assortment of veggies like corn, peas, carrots, and herbs. I was so in love with the idea of melted cheese on meat and vegetables, I just had to get one for myself.

Since New Year is the season of the Raclette, I bought a grill for 20 euros, which I hopefully will get to use soon!

This Year’s Harvest

This year’s harvest is quite a disappointment. We had a long winter, then floods, then a very dry spell, all at the wrong times! The potatoes didn’t and couldn’t get water just when they needed them, and thus are quite small. My tomato plants in my balcony haven’t been generous either, though the ones in the garden are doing quite well.

The picture above is the first salad made from this year’s first tomato harvest from my balcony and the garden. Tomato mozzarella salad is a classic of German kitchens, and is normally seasoned with olive oil or balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Since I couldn’t decide between vinegar or oil, I used both!

I also got zucchini and squash blossoms too, and with that the garden sponsored fried zucchini blossoms. Today’s Italian night was magnifico!

Nigella’s New Orleans Coleslaw

It’s really nice that this dinner with friends thing is turning into a regular happening. Last dinner’s theme was comfort food, which accidentally turned into a belated 4th of July party. A friend made fried chicken and Macaroni and cheese, and I made Nigella Lawson’s New Orleans Coleslaw.

A surprisingly easy recipe to make, with unanticipated substitutions. The recipe calls for either white or Savoy cabbage, known as Wirsing in Germany. I thought I wouldn’t be able to find it since it’s summer, but it was all there for the taking. I thought pecans wouldn’t be a problem, but I couldn’t find them even after scouring three supermarkets that I ended up substituting with walnuts.

Julienne-ing the cabbage was the fun part. Mixing them in a too small-bowl was trickier. Anyhoo, I got really good results and I would really recommend this recipe!

Fiori di Zucca

So, as you know, my zucchini plant is in full bloom, and during my personal Italian night, I made Fiori di Zucca, or filled zucchini flowers, battered then deep-fried to a crisp.

Now, I first read about this dish in Eat, Pray, Love. (Yes, I will own up to reading that book and liking it. So there.) When I visited Rome for the first time in September last year in my own Eat, Pray, Love moment, I ordered fried artichokes and zucchini blossoms. I really liked it. It seemed simple enough to make.

anchovyMy kababayan Kuya Francis (my friend, not only from Facebook), who works as a chef, gave me a small jar of anchovies preserved in oil during my second visit last December.

So now that I was all set, I bought mozzarella cheese, fizzy water, and downloaded this recipe. Like their recommendation, I got firm mozzarella chesse. Mozzarella di Bufala, or Buffalo Mozarella, tends to have a creamy/milky interior. I didn’t want oil splatter, so I went for normal mozzarella.

Mixing the egg with fizzy water made the liquid very foamy, to the point that I asked myself is this normal? But it made the crust really crunchy.

As I said, really easy to make, and it is a great appetizer. Think of this as zucchini tempura. However, this has to be eaten quickly. I prepared seven flowers for myself, eating the last ones prepared first. Eating the first flowers at the end, I noticed that the crust had turned soggy. But it was the same taste of sweet, salty, and creamy all at once. I highly recommend this to anyone. Up next, make Fiori di Zucca with chili tinapa!

Suki

What does the word suki mean? For a person who runs a household, everything.

Suki is a Filipino word, which in German, translates to Stammkunde, or a regular customer of a particular shop.

Gaumenfreude in Erfurt is a pop-up shop that sells their own mustard mixes, jams, condiments, and sauces. They also sell preserves from the region, things like Sauerkraut and pickles made the old fashioned way–without any vinegar used to preserve them!

I always buy their Bärlauch Senf or mustard. Bärlauch, a wild relative of leeks, is a German obsession in the spring. They collect them when they can find them in woods and parks everywhere. Of course they were going to pair it up with mustard, Germany’s favorite condiment.  I love this particular mustard so much I use it on everything! Dips, sauces, and as a seasoning for stewed meat.

Gaumenfreude’s stall can usually be found at the Erfurt farmer’s market on Saturdays or whenever there is a festival in the Erfurt-Weimar area. The man at the shop recognizes me already, and always gives me something to nibble on as a thank you. Last time we saw each other, he wanted to give me a cherry. But since I love me some pickles, I asked for one. 😀 The perks of a suki.

Food Fight! Mont d’ Or vs. Ofenkäse

Allemande versus Frankrreich!

Now, you didn’t think that I bought bread from Backstube just for any old reason, did you?

Ever since Marketmanila turned me on to David Lebovitz, I’ve been following his blog to get ideas on what other foods that I have to try before leaving this earth.

A trip to the Swiss-French border last week, concentrated around Geneva, gave me an excuse to try out Mont d’ Or, an unpasturized raw milk cheese made near that area. David made a blog post about Mont d’ Or that piqued my curiosity. I was getting ready to hunt down fromageries in France for it, but all I needed to do was go down to the next Migros supermarket, which had the last seven boxes of this cheese in one of its refrigerated shelves. It was a bit pricey, € 6,99 for a wooden carton (I made sure the box was stapled and the cheese au lait cru, David, in case you are reading this. But that is wishful thinking).

Then I thought, why not try it side by side with German Ofenkäse? This is also basically fondue in a box. So off to the supermarket to get a wooden carton of Ofenkäse from Allgäu, and beat it to a friend’s house to share the goodies, eat a cheese dinner and make the comparison.

wine

Next to the Migros in Neydens in France is a wine store, and I was quite relieved that the young proprietor spoke English. I asked for a wine that went with the cheese, and recommended this bottle from Switzerland, since I am partial to sweet and fruity wines. Fendant only cost me € 11 a bottle, which is quite cheap for Swiss wine. I opened this bottle of wine and drank it with my friend while we prepared the cheese the same way, the way David described on his blog post.

After thinly slicing two cloves of garlic, and inserting a total of one clove in each cheese into slits cut into the top of both , I splashed a generous amount (half a cup) of wine into both cheeses. The Mont d’ Or was then wrapped in aluminum foil with the top exposed, while the Ofenkäse was left to bake as it was.

At the halfway mark (15 minutes), I took the Ofenkäse out of the oven and sliced the top to expose the cheese inside, according to package instructions. At thirty minutes we took both the cheeses out and I made several photographs.

cheese2

As one could see, the Ofenkäse on the right looked like melted cheese on pizza. The Mont d’ Or on the left looked untouched.

Then we set sliced bread and the cheeses onto the table and had it with a salad of carrots and apples with creme fraiche dressing and cornichons. The French would gasp in horror, I know. But I made sure to eat all of the sour foods at the end and wash each bite of cheese with water so as to not spoil my taste buds.

It kind of felt wrong to have such a decadent dinner on a Friday. I was supposed to abstain from meat because of Lent, but it doesn’t make sense to abstain from meat when these cheeses were just so fatty.

cheese3Mont d’ Or is delightfully French. My first bite smelled and tasted like a smelly armpit. It was fatty, gooey,  and funky. It left a fatty deposit on my palate and my lips, as if I ate a bowlful of Nilagang baka, a very fatty Filipino beef stew. However, I would like to also add my discovery that Mont d’ Or is not my favorite cheese, as I am more partial to pungent goat cheeses.  Not that Mont d’ Or is not good. Au contraire.

After sampling Ofenkäse then Mont d’ Or, in that sequence, my friend announced her regrets for not eating more of the Ofenkäse because “how can anybody go back to eating that stuff?”

At this point I had almost forgotten the German cheese and ate it. Yuck! It tasted like nothing! It seemed different to me in every bite. Where there was harmony in the fat and garlic taste of the Mont d’ Or, there was only dissonance in Ofenkäse. It tasted in turns like air, then strongly of garlic, then like processed cheese food, a factory-like, completely manufactured flavor.

I’m sorry to say that when it comes to cheeses, the French just K.O’d the Germans.

 

Chicken Nuggets

This low-calorie Chicken Nugget recipe is a favorite stand-by for chicken breast recipes. It is quick and easy to do, perfect for a quick dinner. I eat this UFC banana ketchup and rice :-).

The English translation of this recipe is: 

A pack (1 pound or 500 g) chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

60 ml Buttermilk, or 60 ml milk thickened with a teaspoon of vinegar

Half a cup of crumbled cornflakes. I take a thick, food-grade ziploc plastic bag, fill it with cornflakes and beat the ever-loving shit out of it with a rolling pin.

1 and a half tablespoons of flour

Salt and pepper

A few drops of Tabasco sauce or a knifetip Sambal Olek

Some olive oil.

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Wash the chicken, pat dry and cut into pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the milk with the tabasco in a bowl. In a deep dish, mix the flour, cornflake crumbs, and more salt and pepper. Dip the chicken pieces in the milk mixture, then in the cornflakes mixture

Lay the chicken pieces on a lightly-greased baking sheet, about an inch apart. Place a drop of olive oil on each nugget and bake each side for 15 minutes each.

The chicken pieces retain their juices after baking, and are so flavorful, I haven’t used another chicken nugget recipe since finding this one a few years ago!

Taboule Salad

Taboule salad is a great dish to bring to potluck parties. It can be served cold, it can be given to vegans. It is not gluten-free however, so be warned!

According to Wikipedia, Taboule is a Lebanese salad that is pretty popular in the Middle East, Armenia, and Haiti. This is a very popular Arabian dish, quick and easy to make, done in 30 minutes. There are hundreds of recipes for Taboule on the internet, and they are variations of the same ingredients.

When I make Taboule I use:

250 g Couscous, soaked in 200 ml salted water and 1 tablespoon extra vigin olive oil

5 chopped big tomatoes or 8 halved cherry tomatoes

Half a cucumber or zucchino, unpeeled.

1 and 1/2 tablespoon each of parsley, mint and coriander. Leave out the coriander to be sprinkled extra on the salad, since many people don’t like it. This baffles me because I love coriander. Mint is also optional, since I only have fresh mint leaves in the summer.

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon

1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped

1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped.

Approx. 6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

In a salad bowl, season the couscous and pour the salted water in with the 1 tablespoon of    oil. Let it stand to absorb the water.

In the meantime, cube the tomatoes and the cucumber, and finely chop the onions and herbs. When you’re done, the couscous should have absorbed the water. Add in the herbs, tossing the couscous and adding seasonings after putting each ingredient in the bowl. Add the rest of the olive oil and the lemon juice, and continue mixing until it is well incorporated.

This is enough couscous to serve 8 people. If this is a side dish, 12. You can jazz it up by adding cubed feta cheese or olives. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Julia Child’s Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe

While it could be described as wasteful, I would have to say that this recipe puts the cream in cream of mushroom soup. As Julia Child recipes go, this requires copious amounts of butter. Yum.

You would need:

3/4 to 1 pound mushrooms (300 to 400 g). I used Champignons.

A 2 1/2 quart saucepan, and 2 smaller saucepans. Heavy-bottomed.

1/4 cup minced onions

5 Tablespoons of butter

3 Tablespoons of flour.

6 cups of boiling white stock/broth. the book says chicken, I used pork and broccoli.

2 Tablespoons parsley, and their sprigs

1/3 bay leaf

1/8 tsp thyme

1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt, a bit more to season, and pepper.

2 egg yolks and whipping cream (Schlagsahne) For lack of it, I discovered that plain yoghurt was a good alternative.

Julia also talks about fluted mushroom caps. It is basically a way to decorate the mushrooms, jazz them up a bit.  I’ll talk about them later.

First off, you have to clean the mushroom with a paper towel to rid it of the dirt. Then separate the stems from the caps. After that, save 5 to six of the best looking caps, chopping the rest of the caps into thin slices. 

Cook the onions in the big pot in 3 Tablespons of butter over slow heat, up to 8 minutes. The onions should be tender, but not brown. Add the flour and stir over moderate heat without browning. Take it off the heat.

Your stock should be boiling in another pot. Off heat, beat the broth into the onion with a wire whisk and blend thoroughly, bit by bit. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mushroom stems, parsley sprigs and herbs, and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Strain, and press the juices out of the mushroom stems. Then return the soup back into the now-empty saucepan.

In the saucepan where the stock used to be, I melted 2 Tbsp butter in medium-low heat until it bubbled. The book says foaming. Then toss in the thinly sliced mushroom caps, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and the 1 tsp lemon juice. Cover and cook for five minutes. Then add the whole thing, juices included, in the soup base and simmer for 10 minutes. If you are not using this immediately, pour a tablespoon of milk on the soup and wait until it forms a film over the surface. Re-heat to a simmer before the next step.

Beat the egg yolks and cream with salt and pepper in a mixing bowl( in my case I just re-used a saucepan for less washing-up). Beat in the hot soup by the spoonful, until a cup of soup has been added. Then gradually stir in the rest. Return to the bigger saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two, but don’t let the soup come to a simmer.

fluted mushrooms

As for decorations, remember the saved mushroom caps? Basically all you need to do
is to press the mushroom between your thumb and middle finger. Take a paring knife and and cut a shallow incision diagonally, from where your thumb is. And make a parallel cut to form a wedge. 

  Like so.

When you’ve peeled the top off, you’ll have a white triangular strip. With your index finger, turn the cap towards the groove between your thumb and index finger and start over, until you’ve made a mushroom “flower”. Saute the caps in some butter and a spritz of lemon juice.
Before serving the soup, stir in 3 Tablespoons of butter by the tablespoon. Pour into the serving bowls, and decorate with the fluted mushroom caps and finely chopped parsley.
This was so rich and creamy, I was secretly happy that the Germans did not touch this when I brought this to a pot-luck! It was meant to serve eight people, so I ended up eating this for the next two days.