Goat

When you live with someone who loves meat, all kinds of meat, you end up with amazing stories. We have half a goat in our European fridge/freezer, which Naomi can attest is a quarter of the size of any standard American fridge/freezer.

Recipe to follow, but I this goat is 1.Free range; 2. Local; 3. Organic; and 4. Lived in a beautiful location. We had a leg of it on Sunday and it was amazingly tender and delicious.

Here I am with K artfully showcasing the meat how the goat most likely roamed on Friday.

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Tomatoes

Wedding planning, travel, visitors, and USAID have consumed my life making me not as diligent at updating on recipes. With summer in full swing Basel is a new city of eating on our porch, not getting dark till 10pm and floating down the Rhine with a beer afterward.

Summer also means that all of K’s hard work of having a nursery in our guest room for his seedlings are paying off! Tomatoes grown on your porch are so much better than in the store.

No recipe, just a photo of the delicious tomatoes K grew from tomatoes we bought at the store. He takes the seeds, dries them on a paper towel, plants them and a few months later – boom! Tomatoes.

My nomadic suitcase life starts next week without a moment to breathe as we put the final touches for the big day!

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Okra Salad + White Asparagus

I have two recipes in one post due to my long absence from ze blog.  We’ve used our location to it’s advantage over the past few weeks and enjoyed seeing friends and family in various areas. Every time I come back to Basel, it’s starting to feel more like home and the weather has been unbelievable.  With the start of spring, the first item to appear in the grocery stores: asparagus in all shapes, sizes, and colors!  I had heard of ‘asparagus season’ since we moved here.  This region seems to have a devotion to spring asparagus, especially white ones. I had never bought white asparagus as they seemed kind of creepy and not as healthy or nutritious as their green counterparts. Hearing all the rage and seeing them repeatedly at the supermarket, we took the plunge when we could buy a handful at the French farmer’s market.  Our Swiss friend warned us that you MUST peel the asparagus before you eat it.  Now, I assumed this was similar to needing to “peel” carrots or apples. Let me tell you – it is NOT the same. We did an experiment where we kept one asparagus with the skin…yuck.  Unless you like extremely bitter, roughage, peel the asparagus.  We also realized why one needs to buy the big, fat asparagus rather than the thin ones we bought (we were cheap) because peeling these things are ridiculously tedious and time consuming.  Definitely not akin to an apple or carrot.

We had these asparagus the “traditional” German method.

Ingredients:

– White Asparagus

– Ping of Salt

– 2 tbs Butter

– 1/2 Lemon

Recipe

– PEEL the Asparagus

– Boil water with salt

– Once boiling, squeeze the half lemon and put in the butter

– Cook asparagus for 22 min (or until you can spear them with a knife – our Swiss friend was very precise)

Surprisingly, the white asparagus actually punched a lot more flavor.  They were quite delicious…though I’m not sure if they’re worth the peeling ordeal.  Next time we’ll spring for the fat ones.

Finally, below is a quick recipe for an okra salad I often have for lunch.  I love okra because it’s slimy and gooey. In Japan you often eat it raw, but I’m not sure if it’s common practice elsewhere (I’ve only had deep fried okra down South, which is also delightful):

Ingredients:

– Okra

– Bonito Flakes

– Cucumber

– Pickled plum (optional)

– Soy sauce

Recipe

– Chop okra, cucumber, and pickled plum

– Mix together

– Sprinkle Bonito flakes and season with soy sauce

Tricks for Eggs

Naomi wrote about rice bowls with veggies and tofu – I wholeheartedly agree with her. Left over rice (or barley, quinoa etc) + veggies = the best.  Since Basel has no real edible tofu, for the extra source of protein I love gooey, runny eggs.  I know some people are opposed to runny eggs. I am not one of them.  Perhaps it’s from growing up in Japan where they often eat eggs raw or when the yolk covers each kernel of rice..mmm.  After a long hike in Neuchatel with Naomi last Sunday and on the train ride back, I was reading Bon Apetit and came across great articles on eggs.  Here are some fun pointers:

– Fresh test: drop an egg into water and if it 1) sinks = fresh and delicious; 2) bobs in the middle = not as fresh, but probably better for baking and fully cooked eggs; and 3) floats = garbage time!

– Poaching per esteemed chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry/Per Se) crack the raw egg in distilled vinegar before cooking to tighten the white. Boil water and instead of dropping the egg in, create a whirlpool by stirring then place the egg in.  Simmer for 2 minutes. Not 3 minutes or 5 minutes. TWO minutes.

Anyway, I tried these methods out on a farm fresh egg I bought when Nat was here at a Funfschilling in Germany. Had no idea what a Funschilling was, but a friend took us to lunch there and it was DELICIOUS farm to table food and great produce etc from the farm.

Note the beautiful yolk – you can also tell a fresh egg by the color/firmness of the yolk. The mass produced eggs have yolks that are pale yellow and break easily which I am sure shows the lack of nutrients and freshness:

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End product – I had it with left over black forbidden rice.  As Naomi said in her last post, I often also put seaweed (from Japan), soy sauce, and fresh scallions if I have them.

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PS – Totally forgot the timeliness of writing about eggs with Easter coming up.  Here are some tips for natural eggs coloring:

– Blue/purple: Red Cabbage

– Yellow: Saffront

– Red: Red Beets

– Green: Red Cabbage and Tumeric

Simmer ingredients with 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar and place eggs in it for 30 min!

Masayo Salad

Spring is all around in Basel – I heard from my coworkers that it was 80 degrees in Boston?  Insanity!  Here we’ve had wonderful spring with flowers blooming everywhere and great running weather. I’ve also been lucky to have some of my favorite people spend extended amounts of time in der Schweiz.  Last week, a good friend from college, Nat, coincided with a large Basel football game. Sausage and beer?  Yes please!  This is us in Barfuserplatz – the main square in Basel with lots and lots of people.

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Prior to Nat’s visit, my mom provided a lot of Japanese inspired loving in my belly.  One of my favorite salads she made was a red cabbage aesthetically beautiful and scrumptiously nutritious salad. Although I will never be able to perfect my mom’s knife skills of slicing cabbage so thinly and delicately (primarily I lack a lot of patience…), I was missing her and loved the salad so went ahead and replicated it for my lunch….and dinner.  YUM.

Ingredients:

Salad:

– Red cabbage (thinly sliced)

– Wakame (seaweed salad – buy at most Asian stores or Japan…I have dried wakame that I soak in water for 10min and ta da!)

– Carrots (thinly sliced)

– Avocado (cubed)

– Cucumber (chopped)

Dressing (guestimates so taste!)

– 1 tsp of sugar

– 1 tsp of cayenne

– 1 tbsp of sesame oil

– 3 tbsp of rice wine vinegar

– Handful of sesame seeds

– 2 tbsp of ground sesame or white miso (depending on which you like/have)

– 1 tbsp of soy sauce

ImageNoms – get your butt over here so we can consume large amounts of food and vino together.  So pumped.

Dan Dan Noodles

When I was young people used to ask which culture I identified with.  I responded, “I act more American, but my stomach is Japanese.”  I am obsessed with Southeast Asian and East Asian food. It brings me great comfort when I eat it. And I love cooking it as well. As Sara can attest, when I land in Boston my first request is Pepper Sky – amazing Thai food in Central Square. Kileken would also say that I am purist – I am not a fan of fusion or restaurants that cater all of Asian cuisine in one: “Thai, Chinese, and Japanese!”

Basel is not the epi-center of good, ethnic food. If you want bratwurst and rosti then you’ve come to the right place.  It’s also much harder to buy Asian ingredients. No different kinds of tofu in the grocery aisle (pining for Whole Paycheck…).  As one Japanese friend told me – if you want good Asian ingredients, go to London.  Anyway, we improvise and also have my mom send me goodies. I’ve also expanded our repertoire of cooking and dug into Sichuan cuisine.  I had the most amazing Sichuan food in Tokyo over the holiday and knowing we could never find it in Basel, we sought to replicate it ourselves.   Noodles, spiciness (love, love the spice), and soy-sauce based sauce = delish.

Ingredients:

Sauce:

– 3 tablespoons of tahini

– 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame oil

– 5 tablespoons of black rice vinegar

– 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

– 1.5 tablespoon of dark soy sauce

– 3 tablespoons of chili oil or garlic chili sauce

– 4 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger – keep the juice! (we use ginger all the time in our tea, cooking etc, so every few weeks we make a huge batch in the cuisinart and freeze them in ice cube trays)

Other

– 3 garlic gloves – minced

– 1 cup of protein (I prefer pork, but chicken or tofu work as well) – minced

– Five balls of nest noodles (Thai Kitchen has great ones)

– 1.5 cups of fresh peanuts (not roasted) – chopped finely

– Bok Choy – chopped

Garnish

– Scallions/green onions chopped

– Fresh bean sprouts

Directions:

1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together.

2. Get a wok or large skillet and place on high heat.  Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil, once hot put in minced garlic until golden brown.  Then put in the protein and cook for 10 min on high heat.

3. Pour in the sauce. Cook for five min. Put water in a big pot for noodles.

4. Pour in raw peanuts. Cook for 10 min until everything mixes.

5. Once water for noodles is boiling, put in noodles.  Cook for five minutes.  Once al-dente strain and rinse with cold tap water.

6. Transfer noodles back into pot and pour sauce from wok, mix well.  Don’t wash wok yet.

7. With the wok still having the sauce remanents, flash fry bok choy.

8. Serve noodles, with bok choy and garnishes on top.

 

May not look appetizing, but it's a flavor punch

Yummy Banana Bread

Although I am not a baker, Kileken loves banana bead and I hate throwing away old bananas, but there comes a certain juncture when they are too mushy and brown for my granola and yogurt breakfast-banana bread to the rescue. This is a recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated. My Aunt gave me ten years of bound Cooks Illustrated and it’s fun to read since they actually describe the science of cooking. For example, take caution when mixing. If you stir to a smooth batter, the loaves turn out tough and small. Flour contains protein and when protein mixes with water, gluten develops. The more you stir/mix, the harder the loaves. My mom has first hand experience with this as she accidentally used a mixer. The other reason why I like this recipe is that it uses yogurt and I have found you can cut the amount of butter. The yogurt also creates a much softer and tastier bread than conventional recipes.

Ingredients
Wet Ingredients
– 3 very ripe darkly speckled bananas (1.5 cups)
– 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
– 2 large eggs beaten lightly
– 4 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
– 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
– 2 cups of all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup of sugar
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Optional:
– Chocolate chips
– Coconut flakes
– Nutmeg
– Orange Zest
– Walnuts

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Grease loaf pan
3. Mix wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
4. Mix dry ingredients in a larger bowl
5. Lightly fold wet/banana mixture into dry mixture until thick and chunky. This is when you would add any of the optional ingredients.
6. Pour into loaf pan and wait 55 min or until golden brown/chopstick does not come out gooey when you poke the center
7. Enjoy!

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Purple potatoes

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I am in love with these purple potatoes from the farmer’s market in St Louis, France across the border from Basel. I’m not sure if they are more nutritious than regular plain white potatoes, but Kileken says the purple ones have more antioxidants. I believe him. What’s awesome about these potatoes is each one of them have a different hue and pattern. My mom visiting from Japan also said they taste better. I believe her too. We roasted these potatoes with carrots, onion and garlic underneath a “brick” (we used a cast iron to butterfly it down) roast chicken, but below is a recipe where the potato is at the heart of the dish.

Simple Roast Potatoes
Ingredients
– 7 Purple potatoes (I guess you can use normal ones too…they are the size of fingerling potatoes.)
– 1/4 cup of olive oil
– Fresh rosemary or thyme
– Salt & pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or approx 200 degrees Celsius. Slice potatoes as thinly as you can-about as thick as a quarter or you can use a mandolin if you have one. Toss it in a bowl with rosemary and olive oil. Put on a metal baking sheet. To have the ultimate crispy potatoes (I hate soggy potatoes): 1) do not crowd the potatoes; 2) have enough surface area; and 3) do not use a glass dish. Cook until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper at the end!

Honey Poached Pears

Honey Poached Pear

A Honey Poached Pear

Pears are in high season at the farmers market in France over the past few months. Over Thanksgiving when I was in Maine, we had dinner with friends who made a lovely dessert of Poached Pears.  They are light and perfect for winter post-meal, especially with a dollop of ice cream or fresh whipped cream.  By cutting the pears flat on the bottom, you can stand them up on a plate. You can make it a day or two in advance and given the simplicity of the recipe yet elegant presentation, it’s great for dinner parties. If you have extra sauce, you can also save it and pour it over yogurt.

You can also use red wine and the peaches turn a beautiful rouge color, but I personally prefer white wine since I find it to be lighter and more delicate in flavor.

Honey Poached Pears

  • 4 large pears, peeled, stems intact
  • 1/2 cup of mild honey
  • 1.5 bottles of white wine
  • Half a fresh lemon squeezed
  • 4 springs of fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 5 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon or 2 tablespoons of cinnamon powder

Directions:

In a large pot, put all the ingredients together and ensure that the pears are snug. Put it on moderate heat and simmer until you can put a fork into the pear (20-25 min). Do not cover.  Take the pears out and put them on a plate.

Strain the liquid into a pot and discard all the spices.  Reheat the liquid at high heat to reduce for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid should be light and syrupy.  Allow the liquid to cool slightly, then pour over the pears when you serve with ice cream.