Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thai-Flavored Ratatouille: Cooking Class Favorite

I signed up for another bunch of cooking classes at the community college including three more vegetarian cooking classes from my favorite instructor-chef, Alyssa Moreau. This recipe for Thai-Flavored Ratatouille is from her Vegetarian Local Style class and was my favorite out of the four dishes we made. It takes some of the basic ratatouille ingredients like eggplant, zucchini, onion, and bell pepper and puts them in a delectable Thai-inspired sauce.

Thai-Flavored Ratatouille
Chef Alyssa Moreau
(Serves 3-4)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced on the diagonal
1 cup zucchini, sliced in half-moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 tsp garlic minced
Sauce--recipe below
salt / pepper to taste
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat, add onion and saute a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add in the rest of the vegetables, (through the garlic), and cook until crisp-tender. Add in the sauce, cover and simmer about 5 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with cilantro.  Serve over rice.

Alyssa notes that she likes to steam her eggplant first to partially cook it. Also tofu or cooked sweet potato or yam are nice additions.

For Sauce:
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup almond butter
1-2 Tbsp shoyu (soy sauce)
1 Tbsp agave
juice of half a lime
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 lemongrass stem (peeled and minced)
1/8 tsp chili flakes
2 Tbsp cilantro

Blend all together and adjust flavors to taste.

Notes/Results: Delicious! The sauce is incredible; thick, creamy and slightly nutty with the almond butter. It has just a hint of spice but you could add more chili flakes or chili paste for more of a kick. I served it on top of a brown rice pilaf mix with sliced almonds on top and wished I had more; it was so good. If you aren't feeling the veggie vibe, adding some chicken or shrimp would be good too. This simple, flavorful dish is a keeper for sure.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cold and Refreshing: Watermelon Soup with Feta for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

One of my favorite magazines is Natural Health, which is always full of great articles and tips as well as fun healthy recipes. The July issue was no exception and I have several dishes tagged to make. The one that intrigued me the most was this one for Watermelon Soup with Feta from the "Easy No-Cook Meals" feature. With fresh watermelon and pineapple blended and topped with feta cheese, mint and cilantro, it sounded refreshingly different and good. This recipe might not be everyone's cup of tea (or rather cup of soup), but if you can suspend any beliefs you have that watermelon belongs with sweet ingredients (instead think of either watermelon gazpacho or watermelon salad with basil and feta), and that soup has to be hot to be good, you will probably like it. 


Natural Health says: "Cold soups made with juicy summer fruits like watermelon and pineapple require only a sharp knife, a blender, and a few tangy garnishes like feta cheese and some mint sprigs. Watermelon is loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin from sun damage and flush LDL ("bad") cholesterol out of your body." (BTW, both watermelon and pineapple are high in Vitamin C too.)  "Buy and store uncut watermelon at room temperature for maximum flavor and lycopene content. This recipe also includes chunks of pineapple--if you can't find it, use strawberries instead." 

"The combination of watermelon and feta delivers a sweet-sharp one-two punch that's refreshing--and addictive." 


Watermelon Soup with Feta
Natural Health, July 2009
Prep Time: 10 minutes (Serves 8)

9 cups diced seedless watermelon
2 Tbsp chopped spearmint
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cups diced pineapple
1 Tbsp organic honey
1/4 cup sparkling water
8 teaspoons crumbled feta
8 whole spearmint sprigs

In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 cup of the watermelon with the mint and cilantro and set aside.

In a blender, pulse the remaining watermelon, pineapple, honey, and sparkling water until smooth. (If your blender is small, work in batches). 

Using a mesh strainer, strain the soup into a large bowl or soup tureen, then serve into 8 bowls. Top each bowl with 1/8 cup of the reserved watermelon mixture and a teaspoon of the feta. Garnish with mint.

Per serving: 89 calories, 1g fat, (0.5g saturated0, 21g carbohydrates, 1.8g protein, 1.4g fiber, 38mg sodium, (2% Daily Value).


Notes/Results: Good! Cold and refreshing. You taste the sweet, fruity flavor of the watermelon and pineapple and then get the salty taste of the feta and the fresh herbal taste of the mint and cilantro. When reading the recipe, I kept thinking about pairing basil and mint together with the watermelon (as much as I love cilantro as the recipe asks for), so I tried it that way too. Both were good but I think I prefer the basil in the topping a bit more. I used some small sweet local watermelon and fresh pineapple. In fact, with the exception of the feta and sparkling water, the whole dish was made with fresh local ingredients. The watermelon rind cut in half and the flesh scooped out makes a fun soup bowl or a larger one would make a great a soup tureen, but the soup looks equally pretty in a small glass bowl, dessert dish or goblet. Pull this recipe out in the dead of summer when you can't bear to spend time cooking or turning on the oven. 



Let's see who is in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week:



First up is Natashya at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies who treated her hard-working and dehydrated hubby to some Gazpacho after a long, hot afternoon of yard work. Using Ina Garten's recipe as a jumping off point, she spiced it up just the way she likes it. Natashya says "it came out delicious" and was "very refreshing indeed."



Ulrike from Küchenlatein is here with a delectable bright green Spinach Soup with Parmesan Crisps and Sour Cream. Ulrike adapted it from a vegetarian cookbook by Gabriele Kurz, a native-German chef living in Dubai. In addition to the baby spinach, this soup combines potatoes, garlic, cream, salt and pepper with a yummy garnish of some thick sour cream and crisp Parmesan cheese crisps.



Having green purslane growing in a pot along with a jalapeno chili plant gave Graziana at Erbe in Cucina the idea to combine these two ingredients into one delicious Hot Green Purslane Salad. Graizana made this one simple using just purslane leaves and green chilies (she says you can use any green chili pepper you like), and dressing the salad with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Fresh local cooking at it's best!



Welcome to Jamie from Life's a Feast, joining Souper Sunday for the first time, all the way from Nantes, France. Here with a Zucchini Carpaccio served with a Mozzarella Tomato Salad, that she says "is the ideal summer meal, light and cool, healthy and a snap to put together." Jamie says you can serve this delicious salad, "as is, with a bit of fresh bread if you like and a bottle of chilled white or rosé." Thanks for sharing it with us Jamie!



Kristen from Whatcha Eatin'? is back this week with her favorite easy sandwich to share, the Chicken Salad Wrap. Made even simpler with store bought rotisserie chicken and kept healthier with light mayo, the chicken salad is nestled in a wrap of your choice. Kristen says she "will make a bunch on a Sunday and have wraps ready for the week for lunches." Quick and delicious--what could be better for summer?!



A smaller turnout this week for Souper Sunday, but some very creative recipes that are perfect for summer. Thanks to everyone who participated. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich you want to share at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays, click the logo on the side bar for all the details.

Have a great week!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea: A "Simple Saturday Sipper" from Martha Stewart and Pictures from a Weeknight Tapas Party


When the weather is warm and muggy, nothing is better than pulling open the refrigerator and being able to pull out a big pitcher of a thirst-quenching drink. Finding this Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea in the latest Martha Stewart Living, it seemed the perfect choice for a "Simple Saturday Sipper". Using fresh, sweet Waimea Strawberries from the Big Island and basil from my CSA box made this especially fresh, and using a berry-flavored black tea bag allowed me to cut down on the sugar. Black tea is full of antioxidants, basil has lots of Vitamin K and strawberries are filled with fiber, Vitamin C and other good for you stuff, so this sipper is not only delicious--it's good for you too!


Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea
Martha Stewart Living, July 2009
(Makes 2 Quarts: Serves 6 to 8)

8 black tea bags
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
1 cup water, plus more for steeping tea
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh basil, plus more for serving 
ice for serving

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add tea bags, and let steep for 5 minutes. Place strawberries in a bowl. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add basil, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain over strawberries, discard basil. Toss to coat. Let stand until cool, about 25 minutes. Combine strawberries (with syrup) and tea in a pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled. Serve over ice, and garnish with basil.


Notes/Results: Delicious, cool and refreshing, this is a wonderful drink for summer. The basil comes through with a nice subtle herbal taste, but since I like even more intense basil flavor, I think will up the amount of basil leaves and steep it a bit longer next time. Using a natural berry-flavored black tea enabled me to cut the sugar down to about 1/3 cup, so I reduced the water for the syrup to 3/4 cup. I served this in tall glasses and garnished it with plenty of fresh basil. Be sure to include a tall ice-tea spoon to scoop up all those yummy strawberries. This is a keeper recipe for sure.

-----------

What is better than enjoying delicious food with good friends? Having friends that are incredible cooks. My friend Natalie had a small group of us up for Spanish tapas this week. I have known Natalie for about 13 years and she is one of the best cooks I know, as well as a recent addition to food blogging at Ask Natalie Hawaii. The food was divine, (Natalie outdid herself with many different pupus to try), the wine brought by everyone was delicious and the company was wonderful. It was a chance to escape from the world's craziness and we all left full and happy. Here's a few shots of just some of the food we enjoyed. (Please note that my photography skills decline in relationship to the amount of wine and food I consume).

Sweet Piquillo peppers stuffed with homemade corned beef and grilled:


The finished pepper dish:

This is black garlic (read about it on Natalie's post here). This was my first time trying it and I liked the earthy, slightly licorice taste of it.


It was perfect on top of this bacon-wrapped pork loin. (Is there anything better than bacon wrapped around pork?!)


Grilled "Gambas


Grilled sweet green peppers (we ate lots of yummy peppers!)


Nat let me contribute a couple of cold tapas so I brought the Gazpacho that I made for Barefoot Bloggers (here) and it was perfect as "gazpacho shooters" to start our meal.


This is Goat Cheese with Mojo Verde that I made from The Barcelona Cookbook by Sasa Mahr-Batuz & Andy Pforzheimer. This is the current cookbook I am reviewing and I just started trying recipes from it, (hopefully the review will post sometime next week). This yummy dish passed the "foodie friend test" with flying colors! You can find a copy of this recipe here


This doesn't begin to cover the spread of food we enjoyed: rice, lots of veggies, Spanish ham, cheese, grilled bread, etc. It was a lot of food!

Mahalo again to Nat for hosting such a great night!

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dinner with Tyler: Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger and Soy, Cold Sesame Noodles & Sweet Chili Cucumbers

Since I made two Tyler recipes last week and combined them into one dinner, I did myself one better and made three of his recipes this week. I started off by noticing the recipe for Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger and Soy on the Food Network site.  While trying to decide what to serve with it, I noticed that it was part of a menu for a How to Boil Water episode along with Cold Sesame Noodles and Sweet Chili Cucumbers. Since the noodles have gotten great feedback from the Tyler Florence Fridays members who have tried them and I love me some marinated cucumbers, I decided to make the whole dinner as my TFF pick for this week. I made a few changes of course, including reducing the salt and oil in just about everything (Bad Tyler!), and using buckwheat soba noodles and almond butter in the noodle dish. A great make-ahead meal for a hot summer night as you can marinate the chicken, make the cucumbers, boil the noodles, put it all the fridge and then just pull it out when you are ready to make dinner. You simply grill the chicken, blend the sauce for the noodles, add the finishing touches and it's ready to serve.


I am just posting the entree recipe for the Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger and Soy here. You can find the link to it and also the links to the recipes for the Cold Sesame Noodles and Sweet Chili Cucumbers here.

Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger and Soy
Tyler Florence
(Makes 4 Servings)
 
2 cups soy sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1 lime, juiced
4 inches fresh ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin

Combine the 1 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, half of the lime juice, ginger, and garlic, and 1/4 cup cilantro in the bottom of each of 2 large freezer bags. Put 2 chicken breasts in each bag and get them coated with the marinade. Then set the bags on a work surface, force the air out and seal them. Allow chicken to marinade for 1 hour. You can also freeze the chicken right in the marinade at this point. To do so fold each bag over the chicken 3 times, tape them well, and date them. Put it in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Place a large grill pan on 2 burners over medium-high heat, or preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill. Fold a few paper towels into a thick square. Blot some oil on the paper towels and then carefully and quickly wipe the ridges of the gill pan or the hot grates of the grill to make a non-stick surface.

Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Lay the chicken on the hot grill and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side until charred and firm. Serve with the sesame noodles and cucumber pickles.



Notes/Results: An easy and delicious dinner and perfect for the warm, muggy evening we had. For dinner I served the whole chicken breast warm over the noodles with the cucumbers on the top and the sides. For lunch the next day I had the cold chicken sliced over the noodles and cucumbers and enjoyed it even more as both the noodles and the cucumbers have more flavor on day two. 


Chicken: The chicken is very flavorful and tender. I think having reduced the amount of salt I use overall, that I may be a bit "salt sensitive." Even though I used a reduced-sodium soy sauce, reduced the amount by about half and didn't salt the chicken after removing it from the marinade (yikes Tyler!), for my first few bites I thought it might still be too salty for me but I ended up liking it as I ate more. I reduced the amount of olive oil too, using about half the amount the recipe called for and increased the lime juice a bit, using a whole lime for the half recipe of chicken. 

Noodles: Yum! I can see why these have been a popular choice at TFF, they are creamy and good. I did reduce the oil and soy sauce slightly and upped the chili paste and rice vinegar. I used buckwheat soba noodles for the base and freshly ground almond butter. I find I really like the flavor of almond butter in dishes like these--still nutty but more subtle than peanut butter, plus I almost always have it around my house. I will be making these again.

Cucumbers: Crispy, cold, slightly sweet and with a kick from the chilies, these are a perfect refreshing little side dish with lots of flavor. 


All together a great dinner and wonderful lunch the next day!

You can see what recipes the other Tyler Florence Friday participants made this week and find out how they turned out by going to the TFF site here

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gazpacho--Barefoot Bloggers

Our final Barefoot Bloggers recipe for June is Gazpacho, selected by Meryl of My Bit of Earth. I am a Gazpacho fan and have made several different recipes for this cold Spanish soup, but had never tried Ina's recipe so I was happy to get the opportunity to make it. Another bonus is that there was no butter to cut out, a semi-rare thing in an Ina recipe. Although this is generally a pretty healthy recipe, I did find two things to cut down on; olive oil and salt and I reduced both, (the amounts I used are in red below and are for a half batch of the soup--which still in Ina fashion, makes a pretty large amount). In The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina recommends a particular brand of tomato juice called Sacramento Tomato Juice and since I didn't see it at either of the two stores I went to, I went with the on-sale V-8 Vegetable Juice, (the low sodium version because you can always add a bit of salt to taste and you don't get the massive amounts of sodium that are in the regular version), which worked perfectly. Finally, there is just something about gazpacho that calls out for shrimp, so I served mine in a margarita glass topped with fresh parsley and basil and hooked some of the plump pink beauties on the rim--perfect for a summer party.  

In addition to The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, this recipe is also at the Food Network site here.


Gazpacho
The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten
(Makes 4-6 Servings)

1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups) (I used low-sodium V-8)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil (I used about 1 Tbsp for a half batch)
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt (I used a very small pinch for a half batch)
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (I used the full teaspoon for a half batch)

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.


Notes/Results: As usual Ina's recipe is great; simple and very flavorful and so good on a hot day or night. Cutting the oil and salt still resulted in a delicious soup--in fact I think even using the low sodium vegetable juice, if I had used Ina's amount of salt it would have been too much. The sweetness of the shrimp is perfect with the savory soup and helps round it out, making it feel more like a meal. The keys to a good gazpacho are great, fresh vegetables, (says the girl who used the on-sale V-8!) and letting it set in the fridge overnight to get nice and cold. When I have made or been served less than stellar gazpacho, it usually relates back to these two things. The fresher and sweeter your veggies, the better your soup, and letting it sit for 12-24 hours allows the flavors to mature and meld together. I also like to get my onion pretty fine, while keeping the other veggies chunkier. There is no worse gazpacho buzzkill in my book than biting into a big old hunk of onion, so I give them a few extra pulses which also makes for a thicker broth. Although I made just a half batch of this recipe, I had enough for a couple of glasses and the rest is going to accompany me to a small tapas party tonight where it will be served in small juice glasses with a shrimp hung over the side of each one as "Gazpacho Shots.


This was a really great pick--thanks Meryl! You can find out more details on the Barefoot Bloggers as well as see what the other BBs thought of this recipe by going to the site here

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Cool Summer Treat: Apricot and Cardamom Yogurt Ice Cream

As much as I love all the exotic tropical fruit available here, (my dinner last night consisted of large bowl of sweet, cold mango and toast), I sometimes crave other fruits that are not local or as readily available like blackberries, peaches, plums and apricots. We do get them here, but usually they look pretty worn by the time time they have traveled all those food miles to get to the grocery stores. I always consider myself lucky when I find these fruits looking good and fresher than the norm, and I was happy to find some large and healthy looking apricots at Whole Foods. I ate several and then decided to make something with the rest. Craving homemade ice cream, I found a great-sounding recipe for Apricot and Cardamom Yogurt Ice Cream in Ice Cream! by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson. I have several ice cream books and Ice Cream! is a fun little book with lots of easy recipes with interesting ingredients and different, exotic flavor combinations.


Ice Cream! says: "Apricots go well with cardamom. The little black seeds inside the green cardamom pods give a strong but subtle flavor. With the addition of yogurt, this ice cream has an almost Indian slant.

Apricot and Cardamom Yogurt Ice Cream 
Ice Cream! by Pippa Cuthbert & Lindsay Cameron Wilson
(Makes 3 1/2 Cups or 800 ml)

2 1/2 cups (500g) fresh apricots
1 cup (200g) extra fine sugar
scant 1 cup (200ml) water
3 cardamon pods lightly crushed
juice of 1 orange
1 3/4 cups (400ml) Greek yogurt

Halve the apricots, remove the pits and chop. Put the chopped apricots, sugar, water, cardamom pods and orange juice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the fruit is tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods, transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Allow to cool completely.

Stir the yogurt into the cooked mixture and churn in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions, until frozen. Transfer to an ice cream container or ice block molds and freeze. Put in the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.


Note: If you are not a fan of cardamom and omit it, you're left with a delicious creamy apricot ice cream all on its own. 
 


Notes/Results:
 Good--both tangy and sweet, the cardamom and apricot really pair well together. I cut out about 1/3 of the sweetener, so mine may have been more tangy than the original recipe. I also really love cardamom so I put in double the amount, (six pods), and the flavor came through nicely. I used non-fat Greek yogurt to cut out some of the fat and calories and make it a healthier option. This ice cream, topped with some crushed pistachios, would be the perfect end to a great Indian meal. I would make this one again.

I am sending this along to the month-long Ice Cream Social being hosted by three wonderful bloggers Tangled Noodle, Scotty Snacks, and Savor the Thyme. They will being doing a major round-up of everyone's ice cream and frozen concoctions after the end of July.



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cookbook Review: The Scandinavian Cookbook

Half of me is Scandinavian, (Danish & Swedish), but I do not know much about the food or the culture around food in these countries. Besides the occasional meal of Swedish pancakes or Swedish meatballs and the few times the Danish Ebelskiver pan was brought out and we enjoyed the little stuffed pancakes, we didn't eat many Scandinavian dishes. Because of this I was very excited to receive a copy of The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann to review. This is a gorgeous book that not only explores the food from Denmark, Sweden and Norway, but also celebrates the culture of these countries. Trina Hehnemann is a chef, food writer and published cookbook author who lives in Denmark. She started out catering for rock stars like Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones and today owns and runs cafes in Denmark. 


The book has 115 recipes divided by months and grouped into seasons to make the most of the local foods available in the Nordic region. The photography is gorgeous, (done by Lars Ranek, one of Scandinavia's premier food photographers), and features beautiful shots of the recipes, the ingredients and the countries themselves, making this the kind of cookbook you want to read and enjoy. Each recipe or grouping of recipes has notes about the history and customs of the dish, so I found myself learning a lot going through the book and selecting recipes to try. Hahnemann set out to show that modern Scandinavian cooking has "evolved" from the more traditional recipes and many of the dishes take inspiration from other countries and cultures while making the most of local ingredients.

Having a busy few weeks, it took me a while to work myself through this cookbook, selecting recipes that were appropriate for the season and the ingredients I have available here in Hawaii. Asian ingredients are no problem here and I can do fairly well in Mexican and Indian products, but you start getting into the European countries and sourcing recipe components gets a bit more challenging. None the less, I manged to cook a variety of dishes, most all very successfully and I found a few new favorites. 

The first recipe I chose to make was Meatballs in Curry Sauce, where small meatballs of pork and veal are boiled, then simmered in a curry cream sauce with leeks, carrots and apples. Being a huge curry nut, I liked the change from my usual curry recipes to this one. It was hearty, nicely spiced and delicious. 



Loving smoked and cured salmon, I thought it would be fun to try the Marinated Salmon recipe in the book. Cured in the refrigerator with sugar, salt and citrus zest, then frozen, defrosted and sliced thinly, it has a slightly sweet and citrus taste. In addition to snacking on it and eating it on bagels and toast, it found its way into an open-faced "Smorrebrod" sandwich that you will see below.



The only recipe I really struggled with was the Rye Bread. As I frequently lament, "I AM NOT A BAKER! (or apparently a bread maker either), therefore I am more than willing to shoulder the responsibility of my bread turning out to be a hard, slightly too salty, somewhat funky tasting lump. I did follow the recipe but more detail and specific instructions would have helped a bread-making neophyte like myself. For example, "Cover with foil and let stand for 3-4 days at room temperature (77 to 86 degrees F.). And there you have a sourdough starter," didn't give me enough direction to really know if my starter was ready. A description of what my starter should look like when ready to use and more technical details would have helped me, but of course, a more experienced baker might have been just fine. I did save out some of the starter and may try it again, although it was a bit high-maintenance for me. 



I had better baking luck with my old nemesis...yeast, in the wonderful Brunsviger, a soft, bread-like cake from Denmark with a brown sugar-butter glaze. 


It was good that I halved this recipe and made just a small Brunsviger as this tender cake and it's sweet topping are addicting. I enjoyed it with some mango-ginger black tea; not necessarily a traditional pairing but oh-so good! 



For the Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Cream with Crunchy Cucumber and Caraway Seed Salad, I used some really good smoked wild Alaskan salmon. The revelation on this one was the dressing, which with the light sour cream and kick of horseradish was delicious. The combo of flavors in this salad was right on and I loved the caraway seeds. A simple, light lunch or dinner, I will make this one often I think. The leftover dressing ended up on my new passion the "Smorrebrod" too.



A couple of other salads caught my eye; the Cauliflower with Coarse Almonds, where raw cauliflower is cut into small florets and tossed with a dressing that includes whole almonds that are coarsely ground, garlic, lemon and fresh chervil or parsley. Yum! The Carrot Salad with Parsley and Pine Nuts was also quite good and simple with its shaved carrots and toasted pine nuts dressed in lemon juice and olive oil. Both are perfect with a sandwich and great for a hot day.



Finally my new favorite thing....the Smorrebrod, which the author defines as "open-faced sandwiches made with rye bread, and preferably served with aquavit and beer. In the old days people ate very simple ones, such as rye bread with a slice of cold meat, and took them to work as a packed lunch. In the early twentieth century, decorated smorrebrod became fashionable as a late dinner, after theater, or in dance clubs where the guests did not want to spend hours sitting down to a meal and instead wanted to spend their time dancing. Smorrebrod are delicious and luxurious but do not take a lot of time to eat." 

I started with one of the recipes: Smorrebrod: Open-Faced Sandwiches with Flounder, Shrimp, and Basil Dressing. Not able to find flounder here, my Whole Foods fish guy led me to the closest thing he had, Dover Sole. The fillets are breaded in rye flour, cooked and placed on a slice of rye bread covered in lettuce, then topped with creamy basil-lime dressing and cooked shrimp. Delicious. 



I liked it so much that I used the leftover basil dressing to make my own Caprese Smorrebrod, using the tomatoes I picked up on the North Shore and some fresh mozzarella and basil. Again...Yum!



And of course some of my other leftovers, the Marinated Salmon and Horseradish Cream made an excellent Smorrebrod with some capers and green onions. 


Quick to make, easy to eat and a perfect light lunch or dinner, I foresee a lot of Smorrebrods in my future!


I have a bunch more recipes tagged to make in this book; everything from Captain's Stew to Lemon Mousse, Fish Cakes with Herb Remoulade and Dill Potatoes, Oxtail Ragout, Skagen Fish Soup and maybe even some "Glogg" for Christmas this year. A beautiful book that is a delight to read and full of great recipes, The Scandinavian Cookbook would be perfect for the experienced Scandinavian cook or for anyone who wants to learn more about the food and culture of these countries. With the beautiful photography and delicious recipes within, I am happy to have a copy on my bookshelves.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Turkish Delight Syllabub, An English Dessert for Cook The Books: The Little White Horse


A lifelong lover and devourer of books starting when I was very young with my Dad reading to me, they were a huge part of my childhood. That's why every now and then I still love to read a children's book, whether a classic like The Borrowers or Little Women, or something newer like the Harry Potter series. I was happy to see that Rachel, one of my fellow co-hosts, (along with Jo), of Cook The Books (our virtual foodie book club), had selected a classic English children's book, The Little White Horse written by Elizabeth Goudge and published in 1946, for the group to read. I was unfamiliar with the book, but happy to learn that it was a favorite of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling and it also won a Carnegie Medal. (Not to mention a recommendation from the wonderful Foodycat too).


A beautifully written fantasy about the young, orphaned Maria Merryweather, who travels with her governess Miss Heliotrope and Wiggins, her King Charles spaniel, to the mysterious and lovely Moonacre Manor to live with her uncle and new guardian, Sir Benjamin. The story follows Maria, the last Moon Princess, as she tries to solve the mysteries of Moonacre Manor, right the wrongs of her ancestors and bring happiness to the manor, the valley, her friends and family and herself. The book is full of vivid descriptions and imagery that enable the reader to envision the beautiful setting, the delicious food and the inhabitants of the manor, village and the valley surrounding it. There is a cast of colorful and imaginative characters, both human and animal in the novel and I think my favorite has to be Marmaduke Scarlet, the skilled and diminutive cook at the manor. Described by Goudge as a "little hunchbacked dwarf", with a "smile so broad that the ends of it seemed to run into his ears." Maria determines he must "be very old" because "the fringe of whisker that encircled his whole face like a ham frill was snow white, and so were his bushy eyebrows. Except for the whisker frill, his face was clean shaven, brown as an oak-apple, and criss-crossed with hundreds of little wrinkles." An excellent cook, Marmaduke Scarlet considers it very serious business; the kitchen is his private domain and it can only be entered by invitation. 

The endless array of delicious British food that Marmaduke Scarlett creates is sprinkled through the book and it was difficult to decide what to make. I finally decided on something I had heard of before but never tried, Syllabub, which Marmaduke makes for dessert while meeting Maria for the first time. Defined in The New Food Lover's Companion: "This thick, frothy drink or dessert originated in old England. It's traditionally made by beating milk with wine or ale, sugar, spices and sometimes beaten egg whites. It's thought that the name of this concoction originated during Elizabethan times and is a combination of the words "Sille" (a french wine that was used in the mixture), and "bub" (old-English slang for "bubbling drink")." In The Little White Horse, the syllabub is described as this, "Twelve eggs went to the making of the syllabub, a pint of cream, and cinnamon for the flavoring."


Rather than making the book's version, I went to the great English "Domestic Goddess" herself, Nigella Lawson, to see if she had any syllabub recipes. Perusing her books I found that Nigella had several to choose from, but the one that caught my eye was her Turkish Delight Syllabub from Nigella Bites. Created to taste like a Turkish delight candy, (a sugary sweet, rubbery-textured candy made of cornstarch or gelatin, lots of sugar, pistachios and very often rosewater), it sounded exotic and fun to try. (Plus I love how Nigella's recipes are always written to sound like she is there talking to you while you are making them--very entertaining!)

The recipe can be found in Nigella Bites (page 207) or it is also at the Food Network site here.

About this recipe Nigella says: "This hasn't got the temple-aching sweetness of Turkish Delight, not its palate-cleaving glutinousness, but rather it is a cloud-like spoon-pudding version that attempts to catch the aromatic essence."


Turkish Delight Syllabub

Nigella Lawson
(Makes 6-8 Servings)

3/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Cointreau)
2 lemons, juiced
8 tablespoons sugar
Just under 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons rose water
2 tablespoons orange-flower water
2 tablespoons finely chopped shelled pistachios

Combine the orange-flavored liqueur, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl (I use the bowl of my freestanding mixer) and stir to dissolve the sugar, or as good as. Slowly stir in the cream then get whisking. As I said, I use my freestanding mixer to this, but if you haven't got one, don't worry - but I would then advise a handheld electric mixer. This takes ages to thicken and doing it by hand will drive you demented with tedium and impatience. Or it would me.

When the cream's fairly thick, but still not thick enough to hold its shape, dribble with the flower waters and then keep whisking until you have a cream mixture that's light and airy but able to form soft peaks. I always think of syllabub as occupying some notional territory between solid and liquid; you're aiming, as you whisk, for what Jane Grigson called "bulky whiteness." Whatever: better slightly too runny than slightly too thick, so proceed carefully, but don't get anxious about it.

Spoon the syllabub in airy dollops into small glasses, letting the mixture billow up above the rim of the glass, and scatter finely chopped pistachios on top. 


Notes/Results: Oh My! Syllabub is decadent and good without being too heavy; it is very light and fluffy. At one point as I was making it, I thought "OK, I am basically just making softer, runnier whipped cream here, what is exciting about that?" But after tasting this cloud-like concoction, I realized that it is on its own level entirely. The combination of the slight tartness of the lemon juice, the sweet and slightly bitter taste of the Cointreau and the floral essence of the rosewater and orange-flower water blend together so well. Then you have the fluffy, creaminess of the syllabub offset by the crunch of the ground pistachios on top. It is simple to make, other than requiring about 10 minutes or so of whipping to get it to the right texture without getting it too firm. I used my electric mixer and I have to say that it was lucky that Marmaduke Scarlet's arms "were much too big for the rest of him", since he had to whip his syllabub by hand! Although Nigella's recipe is more exotic in flavor than Marmaduke's syllabub, I figured that since he made saffron cake and other delicacies, he wouldn't mind the Turkish influence. In fact I garnished my syllabub with a little saffron too. I do think he would have had a big problem with Nigella herself and her habit of sneaking into the kitchen in the middle of the night for a snack and sticking her fingers into things!


I really liked The Little White Horse, it was an enjoyable and easy read. Thanks to Rachel for selecting it! If you would like to join us at Cook The Books for this round, you have until June 26th to read the book and get your entry representing this book posted. For more details on Cook The Books, and to see our upcoming selections, (It is my turn to host the next round and we will be journeying to China for The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones!), visit the CTB site here.