Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pass the Beans, Please

Do you eat enough vegetables? Do you really, honestly, get your "6 a day?" I think it is pretty safe to say that even though I have the best of intentions, I don't. For all the thinking, writing and enjoying food that I do, I'm actually a real slouch on an everyday basis.

This is an account of last Thursday, but you could tell the same story for many of the days during the looooong time off I've just had:

I wake up, a large glass of tea on the bedstand next to me, lovingly provided by Martin. I get up, lounge around the apartment for a couple of hours (internetting, checking the balcony, doing some scrap-booking (on a good day)), then suddenly realize I need to get to work. I shower and run out the door.

You did notice I forgot to eat breakfast, right? And even though I take my tea with both milk and sugar, please, and there is a lot of it, I'm pretty sure it doesn't fit neatly into the category of "stamina-inducing breakfasts".

So I jot to work, sit there for a couple of hours, willing the words and numbers on the computer screen to come together. And because I was hurrying out the door, it's not like I remembered to bring lunch. Fortunately, sometime around 2 or 3 o'clock, one of my co-workers feels sorry for me and offers me a couple Werther's Echte. Real nice - but again, food? It's not.

I finish up work, my stomach growling so loudly people passing by my desk must surely be able to hear it. Irma, the local, petite supermarket is my next stop. Because face it, the reason I didn't really eat that much and didn't bring lunch was because there was no food in the fridge/fruit bowl/on the counter.

And naturally, what happens next is I go into a frenzy, buying all the things that look even remotely good. A pound of fresh, organic green beans, yoghurt, carrots, a whole chicken, milk, cream, cheese, eggs - oh yes, and that ham overthere looks good too, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, I completely forget that I'm only cooking for myself that evening. And that we're not going to be home for the next couple of days.

So what does a very hungry preson then do?

She roasts her chicken, simply, the Nigella Lawson way, with just a couple lemon wedges and some rosemary stuffed inside it, butter, olive oil and salt and pepper slathered on top. She finds one of the most simple recipes for green beans she could lay her hands on (because hey, it's gotta be done in a snap) waits for the chicken to finish, quickly assembles her beans - and sits down to a well deserved meal, finally. She eats all of the crispy skin from the chicken, together with the entire pound of mustardy green beans.

And crosses of one of her vegetables -out of a should-be six- of her list. Then another three or four. Because afterall, she did eat a pound of beans.

Green Beans in Vinaigrette - adapted from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners (p. 137)

Simple, classic, and wonderful, if you ask me. But then, I love the nose-biting effects of mustard and the crisp of green beans, so it would most certainly be a winner in my book!

4 handfuls of French beans, stalk ends removed
2-3 heaped teaspoons good French mustard, to taste
2 tablespoons good-quality white wine vinegar
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 a clove of garlic, finely chopped
optional: 1 tablespoon capers

Roast the beans in a little butter in a big pan. (You may want to blanch the beans first, but I usually get by with adding a splash of water during the first couple minutes of sauteeing, then letting that boil away. I do like my beans just this side of al dente, though, so you work out what you want.) Roast them until blistered in spots, then add half the chopped shallot and
the garlic. When you start smelling the garlic, turn of the heat, having let the garlic and shallots just started to go translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble your vinaigrette: into the mustard, stir vinegar and olive oil, like when making mayo. Add the rest of the shallot and salt and pepper to taste. Add the still warm beans to the vinaigrette. Mix in the capers, if using. Serve immediately.

And, um - if you plan on eating the entire portion... How do I put this? Account on a certain amount of gassy build-up (this may have to do with me liking the beans only slightly cooked, though). The dish is definitely worth it, but I just thought I'd warn you!;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Am I Doing?

It's time for a chat.

You probably remember I had a loooooong list of New Year dares up back in January. I thought this was the time to do a short recap of how I'm doing on that list, because, you know, I've had all of my summer holiday to get stuff done, there's only four short months left of the year and - maybe, just maybe, I need a literal kick in the behind to get back in gear. So:
  • Do more comparative cooking and, especially, baking.
Well, it started out great! But since that fight, not much has happened. I've done quite a lot of comparative tasting, like organic vs. regular cucumbers (couldn't tell the difference, except for a slight difference in texture), and mayo (homemade wins, no doubt) , but other than that. Meh. So I can't quite cross that of my list, yet.
  • Cook Osso Buco.
I actually did do this, quite a while back, but it just wasn't worthy of a post. That may have had a lot to do with the recipe, which I sorta winged, drawing on a couple of insprations. I absolutely lovede the gremolata thing, and I haven't given up on Osso Buco - come autumn, I'm sure I'll find an excuse to try again.

  • Make pasta/to use my Kitchen Aid attachments more often
I have done pasta a couple of times, since that first encounter on New Years Eve. But the other attachments haven't been put to the good use they should. Sausages, really, c'mon Zarah!
  • Enter the Indian kitchen.
Nope. Well, and then again, There was a probably-not-so-authetic version of Chicken Tikka Masala. Which was tasty. But I need to get my groove on, here....
  • Cook Chicken Parmesan, a classic Wienerschnitzel and Cordon Bleu.
Martin's done saltimbocca a couple of times! But, no, none of these, either...
  • Make puff pastry. And then bake me some fine Danish "Wienerbrød" with it.
Who on earth put this on the list? Who?? Geez... A no on that one, too.

  • Thrash less food because it's gone bad.
This is actually going quite well better than expected. That is to say, it's become more present in my mind and thus in my everyday shopping and eating habits that I need to use some of the stuff I already have. Also, I've made lists of what I have in the freezer and cupboards that hangs on the fridge door, which helps with me knowing, at any given time, what's available (and what needs using). I update them regularly, 'cause even though I try to remember to cross things off when I use them, something always slips.

Mostly, though, this is going well, because (pat on shoulder) I've gotten better at substituting - no, you don't HAVE to buy buttermilk because you need two spoonfuls - soured milk or creme fraiche or yoghurt, that you already have in the fridge and that is very near expiration, just might do the trick- and improvising with the stuff that's already there. In fact, it's become somewhat of a sport to do a fridge clean-up cooking whenever Martin's out for the night and I just have to cook for myself.
  • Find the recipe for Ranch dressing I've been looking for...
Any suggestions??
  • Make stock! Vegetable, veal and chicken - and maybe fish. And actually keep some handy, throughout the year. Shall this be the year of the death of Touch of Taste? (a liquid stock thing)
Well, it has been the death of Touch of Taste (read: I'm substituting water and wine), but I haven't quite, shall we say, kept stock handy. There is a small stash of chicken stock in the freezer as I write, and this is one thing I am adamant about. Besides, chicken salad is gooooood!
  • Cook fish, at least once a week.

Wo-hoo, one thing that's actually going well!! We've had tons and tons of fish and shellfish, and we're enjoying it, too. Sometimes, they're classics, other times, we're doing new and adventurous recipes - it's all good.
  • I'll try not to buy any cookbooks.
I thought this was going to be the hardest one of them all. Seriously. I've bought at least 10 cookbooks a year for the last 5-6 years. And even though my Amazon Wishlists are ready to burst at the seams, I haven't bought a. Single. One. Yes, I've been blessed with three (all courtesy of Mom - Mom, I love you!)

Two Danish ones: Noma, from the restaurant, which is gorgeous, but has totally inaccesible recipes (for an everyday meal, anyways) and FISK by Nikolaj Kirk, our version of Jamie Oliver, only better (Take THAT, J.O!) Fisk means, as you probably guessed, fish, so this one has come in quite handy.

Also, I got Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection. I like it, but it was more of a nice read than anything I suspect I'll ever cook anything from. But time will show.

That's it. I'm so proud of me. Yes, there are still three cooking magazine subscriptions (gastro, a Danish one, and Gourmet and Saveur) and I love them for the thrill of them dropping in my mail box ever so often. They probably make the longing for real cookbooks easier to resist. I've also re-discovered the library - did you know they actually have pretty cookbooks there, and they let you have them for a month, and you don't even have to PAY for it?? Amazing, that.

What we have been doing with regards to cookbooks, is putting the ones I (we) already have to good use. Like, we've been using them. Like, we've cooked recipes, straight out of the books, only using our good judgement to adjust etc. Every Sunday, we picked out three cookbooks, then picked a recipe from each, and cooked it during the following week. It's brought us lovely treats such as Thai fishcakes, croquetas and pappardelle with scallops. The project has been on the backburner over the summer, but we're counting on getting in back in gear, now that I'm starting school again.

So that's how I'm doing - how are you doin'?

Friday, August 17, 2007

After that, you need food.


Um. I, um. Well, okay. I sorta borrowed the 5 first books of the Harry Potter series from my (9-year-old) little sister.

The first four was devoured in three days. Then I got stuck with number five, probably because I'd just seen the movie.

But then, um. The 6th. was available from the library. And. Um. The last one was in the shops again.

So - ah. The last two days, I've been cooped up in the chair in the corner of our living room, only breaking loose when making tea (they have an awful lot of tea in those books, don't they?) and changing the candles and turning on lights.

And now. I read them. All of them.

Forgive me. But. Um. Does anyone around here carry wands?


Any snakes? Scars? Robes?


Just checking if I really AM back in the real world...

I'm hungry.

Don't you just love vacations?

Promise, I will be back - with food - soon!;-)