Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July: Australia

July: Australia

July is Australia month for our food travels.  The calendar has vegemite toast, lamingtons, beer, BBQ snag, balmain bug, meat pie, fish and chips, flat white and peach melba.

Vegemite (some sort of brown paste which is spread on toast) will be the first thing I will look for at the grocery store.  I have always heard it tastes awful but I have always wanted to try it.

Lamingtons sound delicious:  a sponge cake with chocolate and coconut with a layer of cream in between.

Flat white refers to a layer of velvety foam on top of coffee, similar to a cappuccino or latte.

Snag is a colloquialism for sausage on the BBQ or barbie.  And a balmain bug is butterfly fan lobster, a species of slipper lobster.

Meat pie is a popular take-away food.  It's a small pie in a tin, made with minced meat and gravy and the data says Australians consume on average 12 per year.

Peach melba is a dessert of peaches and ice cream with a raspberry sauce, and it was invented for Australian soprano, Nellie Melba.

Will be fun to try a few of these iconic items.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberry Jam

Really tasty!  And not too difficult to make.  Next time, I will figure out how to get them to keep their round shape ---as mine flattened out.  
I found lingonberry jam made in Sweden in our international aisle.  It tastes a little like cranberry sauce.  

Swedish Meatballs
(adapted from Simply Swedish)

Serves 4

2 potatoes (floury variety) -- I used two baking potatoes
400 g mixed pork/beef mince - I used 1 lb. pork/beef ground beef mix
50 ml milk (about a 1/4 cup)
1/4 yellow onion
1/2 - 1 t. salt
3 pinches ground white pepper (I used black)
1 egg
2 T. butter

2 T. flour (I used gravy flour)
400 ml water  and 1 T. beef bouillon, concentrated (I used 1.5 cups chicken stock)
100 ml cream (I used 1/2 cup half and half)
1/2 t. dark soy sauce (I used Worcestershire sauce)
salt and pepper

Serve with:  lingonberry jam, boiled potatoes, boiled carrots

Peel the potatoes and boil them until completely soft.  Pour away the water and let the potatoes steam off and cool.  (I microwaved my potatoes in their jackets until soft -- about 8-9 minutes.  Then let them cool. Then peeled them. And pressed them through a food mill.)
Put the minced meat in a bowl, press the potatoes and mix in with the milk.  Peel and finely grate the onion and use this to season the meat mixture along with salt and pepper.  Crack in the egg and work to a smooth mixture.
Make meatballs equal in size so they cook through at the same time, then fry them in a pan with butter until golden brown. Put the meatballs in a dish and keep warm or lay directly on the table with the rest of the smorgasbord.
Sprinkle the flour in the frying pan while stirring to prevent it from clumping together.  Whisk in the bouillon and cream, allowing it all to simmer for 3-5 minutes so the flour has time to swell before adding the soy sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the meatballs either as part of a smorgasbord or as a complete meal with sauce, potatoes and lingonberry jam.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Swedish Apple "Cake"

Swedish Apple "Cake"

Don't understand why this dessert is called a cake but it doesn't matter because it is delicious!

I'd call it more of a crumble or a crisp than a cake.

What made it special was the use of spelt flour and breadcrumbs instead of oats and all-purpose flour for the topping. And cardamon instead of cinnamon for the spice. And almonds for the nuts.

I used Margareta Schildt Landgren's cookbook, Simply Swedish, for the recipe and then adapted it, doing the best I could with the conversions.

Swedish Apple "Cake"
(adapted from Simply Swedish)

Serves 4 

4 firm crisp apples
4 T. butter plus extra for greasing the pan
grated rind from 1 lemon
3 T. superfine sugar
1/2 c. spelt flour (look in the organic aisle)
1/2 c. unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 to 1/3 cup of almonds (either slivered or flaked)
pinch of salt
1/4 t. of cardamon, or more if you like

whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 inch ceramic baking dish or pie plate or cake pan.  Rinse then peel, core and slice the apples.  Arrange them in the greased baking dish, and pile them up in the middle, if needed.

Grate the lemon rind and sprinkle over the apples.  Sprinkle the sugar next. Sprinkle the cardamon evenly over the top.

Mix the spelt and the breadcrumbs together, add a pinch of salt, mix again, then sprinkle evenly over the apples.  Shave, or cut the butter into small pieces and dot the dish.  Sprinkle the almonds over the top.
Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or as long as 1 1/4 hours until the "cake" is bubbly and well browned on top.   It should be golden brown.

Let it cool slightly.  Then cut a nice wedge and scoop it out into a shallow bowl.  Add whipped cream.  And serve with a spoon.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June is .... Sweden

June is ...Sweden

Lycklig matlagning---

Off to a late start, but still hope to make some Swedish food during the month of June.

The calendar shows meatballs, lingonberry jam, semla (a sweet roll), lingon dricka (a cocktail), pickled herring, and janssons frestelse, a Swedish casserole.

On the table is a dala horse.


Monday, June 8, 2015

June Peonies

First Peonies of June

Can't believe it is June already.  One of my favorite things to do is pick peonies from our backyard. These are the first ones to bloom and then the more traditional paper-tissue pink and whites ones will follow.  Love having bouquets of them around the house and on the kitchen table.  

We had a very hectic month of May, including Tom injuring his right hand --- and he is right-handed.  So, he is out of commission and won't be cooking in the kitchen for a month or more.  But he can supervise.  

He instructed our niece, Chelsea, how to make his go-to recipe, Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Broccolini  (click here to see recipe) soon after his accident.  She had been asking us for inexpensive, easy-to-make recipes since she would be cooking on her own when she moves to NYC.

Now she is gone and we are on our own again.  

I am kind of looking forward to a summer of being forced to not do too much, e.g., reading books, painting, and catching up on projects, while he recuperates.   

Tomorrow I will post what country the month of June is....


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak by Tom

Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak by Tom

This is a very easy rub for any kind of steak, and, I think, would work well on pork as well.  But for this recipe I used it on flank steak.

Chipotle powder is made of ground smoked red jalapenos.  The flavor is rich, smoky and hot, but not crazy hot.  It gives a deep smoky flavor to stews and salsas.  And it is good on marinated vegetables and grilled meats.

This was exactly how it worked on the flank steak.  A smoky and rich flavor that complimented the Salsa Verde sauce we served with it.


Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak
(adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Liebovitz)

Serves 6

1 1/2 # Flank steak
1 tablespoon Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon ground Chipotle powder

About 1 hour before grilling the meat:

Dry off the flank steak with paper towels.  Then sprinkle the flank steak generously with salt and pepper and the chipotle powder.

Rub it into the meat and let it sit at room temperature, on a plate, covered with plastic wrap.

How to grill it:  I have written this up before, but for clarity get your grill good and hot.  Make sure your grates are clean.

For rare, which I think is best for flank steak: grill on each side for 4 minutes a side.  Total cooking time - 8 minutes.

For medium rare: add a minute per side.  Total cooking time 10 minutes.

Don't overcook flank steak.  It gets to be tough and loses flavor if overcooked.

Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before carving to keep the juices (and, as a result, the flavor) from "leaking out" of the meat.  And remember that the meat continues to cook a bit while resting.  That is why you don't want to over-grill flank steak.  Think of it as like al dente pasta.  Best to stop the cooking before it gets to be too done!
Cut crosswise against the grain.  We like it rare.  If someone in your group doesn't, you can always microwave an individual portion for 10 seconds at a time until it gets to the desired doneness.  Or throw a piece or two back on the grill.

As I said at the beginning, a very easy way to prepare flank steak but with excellent taste results.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Avocado Boats (Aguacates Rellenos de Verdura)

Avocado Boats
filled with avocado, tomato, peas and panela

For Sunday dinner, our niece, Chelsea, and I tried out 4 recipes from the new Mexico cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte while Tom made a grilled flank steak, using a recipe from David Liebovitz.

This one was voted the best recipe and one that we would most likely make again.  The filling is excellent.

The boats aren't really necessary but they are very pretty and would be nice for a dinner party. Chelsea gets the credit for creating the boats and filling them so nicely.

The recipe calls for panela, which I found in the cheese section, but mild feta can be substituted.

Avocado Boats
Aguacates Rellenos de Verdura
(from the Mexico cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte)

Serves 4

4 ripe avocados
juice of 1 lemon (I used lime)
3.5 ounces panela or mild feta, diced
1/3 cup green peas, barely cooked (I used frozen petite peas)
1 tomato, peeled seeded and chopped (I used 8 small cherry tomatoes, chopped)
salt and pepper

optional:  cilantro as garnish

Note from B:  When you pick out your avocados, be sure to select ones that aren't overly ripe so they will stand up as a boat when you carve them out.

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit.  Scoop out most of the flesh from the avocado halves, leaving a 1/2 inch layer of the shell.  Carefully peel off the skins from the avocados, and sprinkle with the lemon (or lime as we did) juice and salt.

Combine the avocado flesh, cheese, peas, tomato in a bowl (and squeeze lime juice on it) and season with salt.  Fill the avocados with the mixture.

Place on platter and serve immediately.
We garnished ours with cilantro.  And served the extra filling at the table to add to our flank steak tacos.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May: Mexico


Many people will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo today. It is a tradition which goes back to 1862 in Puebla as a celebration of a battle victory over the French.   Over the years, it has become a worldwide way to honor Mexican heritage.

For us, it begins a month of exploring Mexican food.  And for this purpose, I ordered the new cookbook, Mexico, by Margarita Carrillo Arronte published by Phaidon.  It arrived yesterday.
The inside flap says that it is "the definitive bible of Mexican home cooking."

I first saw the book when I was traveling to Houston last January, but didn't carry it home because it big, and very heavy.  It has 704 pages!

Tonight I will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo by perusing her cookbook and marking recipes we will want to try this month.

And perhaps by making margaritas for us--- even though it is a Tuesday night.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Greek Spaghetti by Tom

Greek Spaghetti by Tom
The actual Greek name for this Bolognese style recipe is Makaronia me Kima.  Kima is the actual word for ground beef, but also refers to a meat sauce.

This one struck my eye when I was surfing around the internet looking for a Greek recipe as the Greek food month comes to a rapid close.  I found it in  Do not confuse this with an Italian-style tomato sauce.  Even though tomato sauce is an ingredient, the taste is much different due to the different spices.  Mint, fresh parsley, oregano and cinnamon give this meat sauce a unique taste.  I used the meat sauce with buccatini cooked al dente.  I enjoyed this different approach to using pasta.


Greek Spaghetti

Serves 4

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mint
salt and pepper to taste
15 ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pound pasta of your choice ( I used buccatini)
Grated cheese

In a large sauce pan, brown the ground beef in the olive oil until the pink is gone. 

Add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one more minute.

Add the wine and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Now add the parsley, cinnamon, oregano, mint, salt and pepper.  Next add the tomato sauce and the water.  Add the water to the empty can of tomato sauce before adding to the mixture to rinse out the can.
Now the ketchup, butter and the brown sugar.  Bring the entire mixture to a low boil and simmer for about an hour slightly covered to allow the mixture to thicken.

Prepare the pasta per the directions on the box.  I like pasta al dente, but prepare to your liking.
Plate the pasta and generously spoon the meat sauce over it.  Grate a hard cheese on top.

And there you have it, "Greek-style Bolognese-like spaghetti".  An interesting and quite good way to have pasta.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Greek Lamb Chops (Paidakia) by Tom

 Paidakia (Greek Lamb Chops) by Tom

Trolling around the internet for more Greek recipes, I found this incredibly easy recipe to make. And the same can be said of the taste - incredibly good.  Very simple preparation and some attention while grilling make for a very tender and tasty lamb chop.

These are meant to be eaten with your fingers.  These are to Greeks what baby back ribs are to Americans.  Most tourists who visit Greece love them and long for them when they leave, or so it is claimed.

We used them as the meat course in our meal, but they could just as easily be used as an appetizer or as an hors d'oeuvres.


Greek Lamb Chops (Paidakia)

Serves 2 - 4

1 - 1 1/2 pounds rack of lamb, separated between each rib
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Lemon wedges while eating (optional)

Rinse the lamb chops under running water.  Rub a good olive oil all over them, and then generously sprinkle both sides with oregano, sea salt and pepper.  Cover with a plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
About 15 minutes before you want to eat, get your grill good and hot.  When ready, place the lamb chops on the grill.  You will get some flaring due to the olive oil, but try to minimize charring of the lamb chops from this.
Grill the first side for 3-4 minutes.  Then flip them over and grill for another 3-4 minutes. 
Lamb chops should be a little on the medium to medium-rare side.
When finished they will look like this with some nice grill marks on the lamb chop.  Drizzle some freshly squeezed lemon juice over them if you would like to.

This is about as easy as it gets.  Use the bone as the "handle" and nibble away!

        --- Tom

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Greek-style Beef Stew by Tom

 Greek-style Beef Stew by Tom

Continuing on the "Greek Food Month" journey, I came upon a Greek style beef stew recipe that I thought sounded pretty interesting.  I like beef stew, but this had flavor combinations that I had never had in any beef stews before.  Worth a try then, I thought.

This recipe comes compliments of  I have had success finding good recipes at this website in the past, and this did not disappoint as well.

This was quite easy to make and really was very good.  The secret is to let it simmer slowly for a couple of hours to get the meat nice and tender.

If you like beef stew, like I do, you will like this Greek-style recipe.


Greek-style Beef Stew

Serves 6

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat, or sirloin steak trimmed of excess fat and cubed into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red wine
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
14 ounce can beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6-8 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
~1/3 cup water
2 potatoes, cut into 2" pieces
2 carrots peeled and sliced into bite-size pieces
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and brown on all sides.

Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté for one more minute.

Pour in the red wine, the red wine vinegar, and beef broth.  Then stir in the tomato paste and mix well.

Add the rosemary, oregano and peppercorns.  Also add the bay leaves, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and black pepper.  Stir this all up.

Now pour in the canned diced tomatoes.  Rinse the can with approximately 1/3 cup water, and add that to the mixture.

Bring the mixture to a low boil and then reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer for at least two hours to allow the meat to get tender.  Taste the stew to see if you need to add salt.  Mine did, so I added probably about a teaspoon of salt.

I had Barbara guess all of the ingredients, and she did a good job of figuring out most of them.  Try it yourself when you make this very tasty Greek-style beef stew.