Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cream of sweet pea soup

Not my number one creamed soup, but it wasn't bad. I think I like peas fresh too much to enjoy them sufficiently when cooked. Leave off the celery I used here, it was leftover and fit into a green soup. Turns out, the flavor was a little too strong. The peas came from my garden, the only other successful plants this year apart from my cucumbers.

4 strips of bacon
1 tsp oil
3 tbsp flour
1 cup leeks
1 quart chicken stock
3 cups peas
0.25 cup milk

Dice the bacon and cook with the oil in a pot. Remove the bacon pieces and reserve for the top. Add flour and cook until it smells like baking bread.

Add leeks, cook for 3 minutes, then add cold stock, whisking to avoid clump formation. Add peas and cook for 5 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.

Stir in milk, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with bacon bits and parsley or chives. Serve.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Macedonian kebapi

A divine meat course for the meat purists. This dish has three types of delicious meats and some salt. That is it. The meat is grilled and served with fries, pita bread, cucumber salad and good wine. This must be made on a proper charcoal grill, as the other versions simply don't produce the same smokey flavor.

1 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground pork
15 g salt

Acquire good, organic meat from animals grown as close to the traditional ways as possible. Mix the meats and add the salt. Knead the meat for 5-10 minutes.

Wrap into plastic foil and refrigerate for a few hours. Shape into long cylinders a little thicker than half an inch. Grill over hot embers, but not flame! Do not overcook!

Serve with flat bread and onion, plus cucumber or tomato salads.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


As part of an adventure this year in Austria I tasted real pretzels. Not that I haven't head pretzels before, but not one of them was the real thing. Crusty outside with a soft, chewy center, these provide a perfect meal or snack with spicy mustard and a proper Frankfurter. The outside of the pretzels is unusually brown. This is due to the little base bath that the pretzels must take before jumping into the oven. All the tasty flavors on the outside of meats and breads cooked at high temperature are developed by a set of reactions called: Maillard reactions. It so happens, that these are sped up in basic conditions. Now, one can go extreme, and bathe the pretzels in lye. But nowadays the home-cook will prepare a baking soda solution to achieve a similar outcome. It's worth it!

0.75 cup warm water
0.5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tsp dried yeast
11 ounces of flour
1 oz butter
5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
egg wash

Mix water, sugar, salt and yeast in a Kitchenaid blender. Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.

Add flour and butter. Mix and then knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. Oil and cover with foil. Set aside covered for 50 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with vegetable oil.

Mix the 5 cups of water with the baking soda and bring to a boil. Shape four pretzels and immerse into boiling bath for 30 seconds. Place onto baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with pretzel salt.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until desired brown color is reached. Cool on cookie rack then serve with spicy mustard.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie

This was one of the first pies I've ever tasted. We stayed on campus as summer workers during my college years, and an adventurous, good friend of mine decided that we are going to prepare a pie. She found lots of rhubarb growing in one of the college plots and bought a box of fresh strawberries. We did not have cooking equipment. Everything in the kitchen had to be solved creatively. Lacking a pie dish, my friend grabbed a metal cookie box and lined it with aluminum foil. The pie that came out was one of the best pies I've ever had. Unfortunately, the metal box was not reusable. It did not weather being baked well.

2x9-inch pie crusts
3 cups of rhubarb
1.5 cups strawberries
0.5 cup sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla
0.5 tsp cinnamon
0.25 cup Minute tapioca
2 tbsp butter
0.25 tsp salt
egg wash
granulated sugar

Roll out the bottom crust into an 11-inch circle, place into shape. Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix hulled and quartered strawberries and rhubarb cut into quarter-inch pieces. Add sugar, lemon zest, tapioca, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Mix well.

Pour filling mixture into bottom crust. Cover with top crust rolled out to 11-inches. Seal crust and tuck under. Cut slits into top.

Brush with egg-wash and cover edges with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and bake for 25 more minutes, until juices bubble thickly.

Cool on a cookie rack, serve lukewarm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Potato salad with dill

I am a fan of potatoes. Potatoes in all shape and form. While I enjoy the previously posted potato salad recipe a great deal, and it is a lighter concoction than this one, this recipe has a special kick to it. The celery provides crunch, the potatoes are perfectly cooked, the mustard provides zing and the dill and extra little something to tickle your fancy. So, here it goes. This is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa.

1.5 pounds of small white potatoes
1 tbsp Kosher salt
0.5 cup mayo
2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tbsp good Dijon mustard
1 tbsp whole-grain mustard
0.25 cup fresh dill
0.5 tsp black pepper
0.5 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped onion

Ad the washed potatoes to a large pot of water with a tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour into colander and cover with cloth. Allow to steam for 20 minutes.

Chop the celery, onion and dill. Mix the mayo, spices and buttermilk. Add the onion and celery. Add the cool, diced potatoes. Stir and refrigerate overnight.

If fresh dill is not available, dried dill can be substituted. I found that 1 tbsp provided enough flavor to substitute for the fresh. I did try the recipe with both options.