Hearty Veggie Stew – lemony chickpea, spinach in coconut milk

What a long hiatus from our food blog! Last month we had an amazing reunion at Sara’s wonderful wedding. The happiness and love surrounded all of us and it felt like we all still lived a block from each other, even if it was just for 48 hours. Though, not surprising, the food and drinks were much better than our college days! Even the late night party pack (buffalo chicken pizza…) far surpassed EBAs! Also, breakfast food truck…salivating… I was lucky to have another friend’s wedding the weekend after so stayed in the US in between. Timing was on my side since Naomi was able to get away for a few days; not an easy feat when you’re a kick-ass resident. We hiked, cooked, sauna-ed and experienced the mountains just starting to burst with color. Did I mention that it was an amazing reunion? Needless to say, I felt a bit forlorn coming back to Switzerland, but luckily, fall is settling in on this side of the pond too – my favorite season.

Why do I love fall? The temperature is ideal for running; you don’t have to gear up in all the layers or calculate your run so you have optimal shade. The smell in the air is a mixture of the leaves turning and the dew in the morning. My favorite holiday of all time – Thanksgiving – is around the corner. And in Switzerland I get to celebrate it TWICE – Canadian Thanksgiving (last night!) and American Thanksgiving. Finally, hearty soups and stews are back! I love anything that has broth so with that I wanted to share this lemony spinach, chickpea, coconut milk stew, which we ate with rice, but you could do with any grain. Most importantly, this is a dish where even my carnivore husband said there was nothing missing and that it was amazing despite it being vegetarian!

Recipe adapted from www.thekitchn.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoon of olive oil
    2 onions
    3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
    2 tablespoon grated ginger
    3/4 cup of sun dried tomato
    1 large lemon, zested and juiced 2 cups of chickpea
    1 pound baby spinach
    14-ounce can coconut milk
  • Salt/peper to taste

Heat oil then toss in onions, garlic and ginger. Add lemon zest and chickpea to brown. Once browned add in the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add spinach and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste!

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Breakfast at Sara’s Wedding Tent

Flourless Chocolate-Almond Cake

Thanks Cat for keeping the blog alive and as I end my month of fun-employment, I wanted to at least have one-post!  Having just returned from an amazing yoga/cooking retreat in Southern Spain (highly recommend it for anyone interested!), I am eager to try out all of the gourmet vegetarian recipes that I learned.  I especially loved learning about quick, easy techniques that elevate your plates into something from a fine-dining establishment.   For example, using small metal round disks for plating/making parmesan crackers to adorn your dishes.  I also discovered the beauty of an ice cream machine.  We made delicious home-made vanilla ice cream, but also more exciting savory mustard ice-cream for an appetizer paired with red cabbage to a light rose-water sorbet.  I am inspired.  I only wish that the three of you could have been with me!   It was so fun to cook with others, but definitely made me miss you all.

As my last hurrah before plunging back into work, I am going away on a girls weekend.  It’s almost become a tradition for me to bake something whenever I leave since a) I like leaving a little love behind; b) I don’t particularly like baking; and c) I don’t like sweets/cakes so it’s an added treat for K when I am away.  Consequently, this week before my trip, I decided to try to re-create one of the dishes we had at the retreat, which was a flourless, almond (or hazelnut), chocolate cake.

Ingredients 

– 200g dark bitter chocolate

– 1 tbsp of strong coffee

– 1 tbsp of rum, brandy, cognac

– 1/3 cup of sugar

– 150 g butter

– 3/4 cup of almond meal

– 5 eggs separated (make sure you don’t get any yolk in the whites)

Directions

– Melt chocolate, coffee, alcohol, sugar and butter on low heat in a sauce pan until everything is mixed; remove from heat, transfer to large mixing bowl and make sure that it is cooled enough for eggs not to cook, but not so cooled it starts to harden.

– Add in almond meal

– Beat egg yolks then add to the chocolate mixture

– Beat egg whites until it becomes stiff with an electric mixer

– Fold into the chocolate mixture

– Put it into a cake pan at 180 degrees Celsius for 40-50 min or until the cake stops wobbling

– Consume with chocolate gancahe, frosting, ice cream or plain since it’s quite rich

YUM.

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Cake with home-made ice cream and sugar adornment from the retreat

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Photo of the retreat courtesy of a fellow yogi/cook from the week

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Almond blossoms in full bloom!

黒豆 – Kuromame – Japanese Black Beans

Whenever we have visitors, they ask us what they can bring us and most often, it’s food. For example, Cat and her husband are coming THIS SUNDAY(!!!) and I have asked them to bring walnuts.  When my mom comes, she inevitably brings (literally) an entire suitcase of Japanese groceries since there is no place near Basel that has any Japanese ingredients worth purchasing.

ImageDuring my mom’s most recent visit, she brought kuromame or black beans, which are black soybeans. In the photo, you can see the size difference between Japanese black bean (left) and a normal black bean (right-small). These beans are normally cooked for New Years (the biggest family holiday in Japan) and is said to be good for your health for the upcoming year, but my mom’s friend, who is an amazing cook, always cooks me some when I go home.  I just love the salty/sweet combo where you can eat as a dessert, snack or with a meal. I had my mom call her friend to get the recipe and of course, it was a few ingredients. Interestingly though, she said to put rusty nails in it.  Now, this was the first time I had ever heard someone say this so I took to the web to get to the bottom of such a bizarre ingredient.  Interestingly, here is what I found – food that is high in protein are also high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is unstable and your beans can loose its dark, black color without the iron. Luckily, I found that you can also just make the beans in a cast iron. Love the combination of science and food. And here is the ridiculously simple recipe. 

Soak the beans overnight

Boil them until they become soft (some say this can take 8 hours…definitely didn’t wait that long) 

Season with soy sauce and sugar (to taste)

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

K had a four day weekend this week  (Ascension day on Thursday as well as a ‘bridging day’ on Friday- companies here realize many people would inevitably take it off, so they give it as freebie – so progressive). Unfortunately, my employer does not celebrate Ascension day or bridge so we stayed in Basel, which was a nice reprieve from our otherwise hectic schedules.  Focusing on house projects, we FINALLY BOUGHT A GRILL!!!!  Now if anyone knows K, this is a BIG deal in our lives and I must say, I feel more grown up with this purchase than any other we’ve made.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Basel is a wonderful place to live; however, the food scene is utterly lacking.  Granted, if you hop on a bike and cross the border, you are bound to find incredibly decadent, delicious French food, which we did Saturday night, but if you want anything ethnic, with a hint of heat, we have found the best option is to make it ourselves.  As a result, we’ve really expanded our culinary repertoire.  We’ve made many dishes where after taking a bite we exclaim – “Wow…is that it? It’s so easy!” So we christened our grill with Jamaican Jerk Chicken (it’s so easy!), parmesan/lemon asparagus and veggies. DELICIOUS.

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken Ingredients (Adapted from Saveur):

This mix is for one whole chicken deconstructed.

– 1/2 c brown sugar

– 1/2 c allspice

– 1 shallot minced

– 1/3 c peanut oil

– 1/4 c kosher salt

– 1/2 c minced giner

– 1/3 c lime juice

– 2 tbsp soy sauce

– 1 tbsp fresh thyme

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1 tsp ground nutmeg

– 7 gloves minced garlic

– 3 habaneros

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Rub all over chicken, especially getting into the skin area.
  2. Grill. (Not sure what one is involved here, but I’m sure most people who use one do).
  3. Consume.
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Jerk chicken with lentil, veggie quinoa salad with mustard, lemon vinaigrette

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Grills veggies and asparagus

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

As I write this recipe miles away from friends and family, I am deeply saddened by the events that transpired in Boston yesterday. My thoughts are with everyone and I am grateful for all of the first responders, out pouring of support and the coming together of people in the face of such senseless violence. As I prepare for my upcoming marathon, this article in particular captured the spirit of running and the importance of not losing faith.   These events also make me want to reach out to my community and reconnect, which is why this blog was originally created. So here is the recipe and some background. 

The Japanese are incredible with food, even pastries, which they are not so well known.  Their pastries are not overly sweet and very light. I never thought that I could make the strawberry shortcakes served at the beautiful department stores in Tokyo and that I always loved since I can remember, but K wanted it for his birthday. I will note there was a failed attempt Friday evening despite being armed with my newly purchased cake pan, white flour and sugar. Luckily, I had more or less planned for this as I always have meltdowns while baking; I am terrible at precise measurements and following directions.To my defense, my failed attempt was because I did not have a mixer/egg beater and no matter how much I worked my arm muscles to whip these eggs into a stiff batter, the end result was a dense, sweetened egg omelet, not a light fluffy pound cake. So after purchasing my first baking gadget (a hand held egg beater!) Saturday morning, I am proud to say – I succeeded!

Recipe adapted from this blog – the other headache was converting these measurements as well as not having cake flour (who knew it existed!) in Switzerland. This was for a 23 cm/9 in cake. 

Ingredients:

Cake:

– 6 eggs (separated with yolk and whites)

– 3/4 cups + 2 tbs of granulated sugar

– 1 and 1/4 cup of cake flour

– 2 tbs of melted butter

– 1 and 1/3 tbs of milk

Filling in the middle

– 10 strawberries sliced

– 1/4 cup granulated sugar

– 1/4 cup water

Stabilized Whip Cream (Frosting)

1 tsp unflavored gelatin

4 tsp cold water

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Decoration:

10 Whole strawberries for the top

 

Cake Directions:

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Line 9 in circular cake pan with parchment paper

– Medium bowl, add sugar and egg whites – beat with a electric mixer until stiff

– Add egg yolks whisk gently. Add milk. Slowly add flour while folding the mixture. Do not beat it, use a spatula.  Finally, fold in the melted butter. 

– Pour into cake pan, get rid of air bubbles by banging it on the counter (it worked). Bake 25-30 min until golden brown.  Cool and remove. 

Whipped Cream Frosting Direction:

– Mix (with electric mixer) cream and sugar until thick. Let stand while you make gelatin concoction.

– Put cold water in sauce pan, put in gelatin and let stand for 5 min without stirring. Put on low heat and stir constantly. Remove from saucepan and cool a few minutes, but don’t wait too long or else you will have clear jello. Pour into whip mixture and set at high speed until stiff.

Syrup Direction:

– Mix sugar and water into saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove and cool

Assembling the cake:

– Slice cake horizontally into two layers

– Place bottom layer on serving platter.  Spread syrup, then thin layer of whipped cream, then sliced strawberries.  Spread additional layer of whipped cream above strawberries. 

– Brush bottom of the top layer with simple syrup and place it on top of the bottom layer. Frost sides and top with remaining cream.  Decorate with whole strawberries.

Woah…writing this recipe was even tiring, but below are some photos! 

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Batter form

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Delicious.

 

 

 

 

Balsamic Reduction Pizza with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto, Arugula

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Female Monks Meditating at Angkor Watt – reminded me to slow down the pace in our crazy lives

Happy New Year!  When I was growing up whenever we came back to the US to my Aunt’s house, she always ordered my brother and I pepperoni and sausage pizza from Domino’s. Consequently, pizza has become a sense of homecoming for me whenever I return from traveling.  So when I got back from Southeast Asia after a wonderful holiday with both of our families and gorging myself on the flavors of lime, fish sauce, and fresh veggies, what more did I want when I returned home than a pizza?  My tastes have expanded since the Domino days to a flare of gourmet, but I bet if I had a Domino’s pizza now, I’d still find it delicious. Here are the reasons why this pizza is awesome:

1. Salad and main meal in one plate

2. Sweet/salty combo (you can add fresh figs when they’re in season for an extra punch)

3. Great for dinner party’s because it’s unique with the balsamic sauce and pizza (everyone loves pizza) AND it’s very easy to make

The pizza is inspired by a restaurant in Cambridge, Mass – Cambridge One – great bar and pizza!

Ingredients:

– 4 medium red onions sliced

– 2 tbs of butter

– 1/2-1 cup of balsamic

– 2 tbs of sugar

– Block of goat cheese

– Good prosciutto (5-6 slices)

– Bag of arugula

– Pizza dough (either store bought or this recipe is easy and good – http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/03/no-knead-pizza-dough)

Directions:

– Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius

– Melt butter in a frying at medium to high eat (cast iron preferred to deglaze) and once melted, put in the onions

– Cook the onions stirring occasionally until translucent (10min) and browning in the bottom of the pan

– Pour in balsamic with sugar and stir until syrupy

– Pour over pizza dough evenly

– Crumble the goat cheese

– Cook until dough is golden brown

– Remove pizza and top with prosciutto and arugula

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Winter Soup: Sausage, White Bean and Kale

The weather in Basel has been grey, cold and rainy.  Although the temperatures aren’t anywhere near what we experienced in Hanover, I still am yearning for a glimpse of sun.  At least the the weather isn’t  stopping us from enjoying the full range of festivals Basel has in store. We enjoyed dozens of rides for the fall festival, Herbestmesse.  We got completely drenched with friends, but felt like we were kids again enjoying the gluhwein, brautwursts and cheesy bread. Granted I got totally motion sick at the end of the night…now we’re waiting for the Christmas markets to charm the city center.

The only other excitement with the weather turning is that we are in soup season again!  There is nothing better than having a hot pot of soup just steaming and reducing on your stove.  This recipe is one of my favorite soups because it’s hearty and really flavorful.  I also love kale and finally found some at the French markets.

Ingredients:

– 1 garlic clove (minced)

– 1 dried red pepper (chopped)

– 4 shallots (minced)

– 2 onions (minced)

– olive oil

– 2 sausages (I like to get merguez or something flavored. They had fennel ones at the store, which were delicious – chopped)

– 4 Cups Chicken Broth

– Parmesan rind

– 2 bay leaves

– 10 stalks of kale (chopped)

– Salt and pepper to taste

– 1 can of white beans

Directions:

– Heat olive oil in a pot (preferably a Le Creuset-like pot) and when hot toss in onions, shallots, garlic and chili. Saute until onions are translucent

– Place in sausage and brown the sausage. You want to get a nice brown base at the bottom of the pot.

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See the brown?!

– Pour in chicken stock and degalze (very important to make sure you get a good soup base)

– Bring to a boil adding in the bay leaves and parmesan rind

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– Turn the heat down low to reduce for an hour or so

– Remove bay leaves and what’s left of the rind and add kale and white beans

– Bring back to a boil and serve to beat those winter blues away!

– Optional garnish: parmesan cheese and parsley

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Middle Eastern Dinner

I’ve had an exciting month at work with trips to Uganda, Ethiopia and back to the US. After successful launches of our program in Uganda and New York, I’m thrilled to finally be back home.  Part of what calms me after being away, especially after a month in a suitcase, and makes me feel back home again is cooking. There is something about cooking an elaborate meal and pouring over a new recipe that soothes me. My family and friends, as evidenced by this blog, are all obsessed with food and it’s really how we show our love.  When Naomi came and visited me, she left us with a bounty of goodies because she’s an amazing guest and friend, but one of the most exciting items she left us was a cook book called “Modern Flavours of Arabia” by Suzanne Husseini.  Middle Eastern food is usually not in my repertoire despite or perhaps because of my Morocco stint with Cat (parasite anyone?).

I am coming around and I do LOVE the flavors. So here is a whole Middle Eastern dinner menu, which I adapted from Huseini’s book, that served as a great home coming for me on Friday when I was jet lagged, exhausted, but absolutely happy to finally be home and cooking. Thanks Naomi!

Bulgur Pilaf (great cold as a salad as well)

Ingredients:

– Olive Oil

– 1 Onion chopped

– 2 cups of bulgur (I’ve never cooked this, but LOVE it)

– 3 cups of chicken stock

– 1 tsp allspice

– 1 orange for zest and juice

– 1 pomegranate

– 1/2 cup of fresh parsley

– 1/2 cup of almonds

Heat olive oil and saute onion on medium heat.  Once browned add in bulgur and toast slightly.  Then add chicken stock, allspice, orange zest and squeeze orange in it. Once the liquid boils, turn it to low and simmer until all the liquid is gone (15-20min).  Remove from heat and add pomegranate seeds, parsley, and almonds as well as season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tip – the best way to take out the pomegranate seeds is by placing it in a bowl of water and breaking the skin.  The seeds will sink and all the white bits will float up, which you can pick out.

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Stuffed Capsicums

Ingredients:

Peppers:

– 4 red or yellow capsicums (or peppers…the former sounds so fancy!)

– 2 cups of basmati (cook it before you stuff…my mistake)

– 2 tsp cinnamon

– 2 tsp allspice

– 3 garlic cloves minced

– 1/4 cup of fresh mint – chopped

– 250 g minced lamb

– 1/4 cup of olive oil

– Slices of tomato

Sauce:

– 4 garlic cloves

– 6 tomatoes – peeled (boil them in hot water and peel the skin)

– 1 cup chicken stock

– 4 tbs tomato paste

– 1/2 cup mint – chopped

– 1/4 cup parsley – chopped

– 1 tsp cinnamon

– 1 tsp all spice

Peppers:

Cut the top of the pepper carefully like a jack-o-lantern and hole out the pepper.

Mix the rice, cinnamon, all-spice, mint, lamb and oil together.  Stuff the peppers and place the sliced tomato on the top. Place in a baking dish.

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Sauce:

– Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic.  During this time put the tomatoes, mint and parsley in a food processor.  Once garlic is browned add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, and chicken stock. Then add the tomato paste, cinnamon and all spice.  Cook everything for 10 min then pour over the peppers and dish.

Cook everything in the oven for 45 minutes or until the peppers are roasted/cooked.

Yogurt and Tahini Sauce

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup of yogurt

– 1/2 cucumber chopped

– 3 tbs of tahini

– Sumac, salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together

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Serve everything together – ta da!

Greek lovin’

Greece was wonderful primarily because the food was always so fresh and flavorful. Interestingly most restaurants had very similar menus, but we always stuck to seafood either grilled or fried. The octopus, squid, sardines and fish such as grouper were delicious especially finished off with fresh lemon and flavor-punching olive oil. The feta was also smoother and lighter. We spent most of our time on the beach in little taverns along the shore eating what was caught that day. Having gotten back, K made a Greek inspired dish with our new copper pan!

Ingredients:
Olive oil
Octopus
Sardines
Tomatoes
Basel (this would not be Greek but we had fresh Basel in the patio garden which we couldn’t resist)

Directions
1. Put everything on the dish
2. Drizzle olive oil
3. Cook at 200 degrees Celsius
4. Once out drizzle with fresh lemon

We made our own ravioli from scratch this past-weekend-so fun!!

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Goat Recipes!

Thanks Cat for your lovely post recapping our wedding!   After a month in the States, an amazing wedding in Wonalancet, NH and a glorious honeymoon in Greece, I am slowly returning to our daily rhythm in Basel.  We are still glowing from all the outpouring of love and support from our wedding as well as perhaps the strong sun in Greece despite the multiple applications of sunscreen throughout the day.  I loved the food in Greece (more on that later including a 5L jug of olive oil), but for now, I am glad to be back cooking.   Tonight I used my own recipe of Dan Dan noodles from a few posts back and we ate on a muggy summer day, which has broken thanks to a thunder storm as we speak.

My *husband* (eeeeeek  – first time in ‘print’) looked through our blog recently and commented on the lack of meat wondering if he wasn’t in the picture, whether I would be subsisting on seaweed, noodles, brown rice, kale, and tofu.  He’s most likely right, but thanks to him, I get exposed to such adventurous cooking as the below.

Consequently, none of these are my recipes.  This is all K-man, meat-master himself.  The first is a goat leg with potato gratin, which we luckily enjoyed with friends, and the second is goat liver in a rosemary red-wine balsamic reduction. The latter I did not have the pleasure to sample as I was in the States already.  Measurements are unclear as usual.

Goat leg with Potato Gratin

Marinade:

– Red wine

– Crushed black pepper

– Cumin

– Mustard

Potatoes:

– Mandolin potatoes

– Season with oil and rosemary

Preparation:

– Trim the goat leg of excess fat

– Insert five crushed gloves of garlic into the leg with slits

– Spread marinade over the leg three hours prior to roasting

– Prior to roasting, sprinkle with salt and rosemary and lay potatoes below so they get covered in the juices from the lamb

– Put at 400 degrees F to develop a crust for 10 min then turn down to 350 degrees F

Goat Liver in Rosemary Red-Wine Reduction

Ingredients:

– 3 white onions

– Spring of rosemary and 1 bay leaf

– 1/4 cup Balsamic

– 1.5 cups Red wine

– Flour, butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper

Preparation:

– Caramelize onions in butter until browned

– Pour in red wine  and balsamic with spring of rosemary and one bay leaf

– Simmer until reduced

– In a separate pan, lightly dust liver with flour and sear in olive oil (be careful not to overcook) with salt and pepper to taste

– Pour sauce over liver

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