Saturday, February 26, 2011

Veal Cooked in Milk--German's Favorite Dish?

Years ago, I was invited by a German-Australian couple for a dinner at their place in Oxford. Although it was almost two decades ago, I still remember that for the main dish they served a big piece of roast beef cooked slowly in milk. Although it was spiced with just salt and pepper, it had a nice and distinct taste and was amazingly tender--it melted in mouth. I suppose that this recipe was originally German, and my friend chose it because of her boyfriend who was allergic to red pigments in food. Can you imagine life without carrot, tomatoes, peppers, raspberries when they are not only among the most tasty items but just looking makes you drool. But, maybe because Ray was Australian, his allergy did not include red wines. In fact, he was a great connoisseur of fine wines, single malt scotch, and other exquisite spirits.

Not long ago I was invited for a dinner, here in DC, by another German friend, who is an excellent cook (I got from him the mango with ginger recipe which I posted some time ago). I was very surprised when for a main course he served veal, precisely osso bucco, also cooked in milk.

I was trying to figure out if those two similar dishes have roots in German cuisine, but I found no indication of that. Please correct me if I am wrong. I have found a slightly similar dish on one of the Italian cuisine websites, but it still was not the same and it used pork.

In general, I consider veal too bland in taste, but this particular dish was very delicate and at the same time had a surprisingly rich taste, thanks to herbs and vinegar. Its preparation is not complicated. The secret lies in slow cooking. For that purpose you need a special casserole. I use the iron cast le creuset, which is designed to simmer meat for a long time in low temperature.

Veal Cooked in Milk
(Serves six)

6 pieces of osso buco or veal with bones,
24 cloves of garlic,
4 cups of whole milk,
2/3 glass of white wine vinegar,
4 brunches of fresh rosemary (if you use dried rosemary instead, you need to strain the sauce before serving),
4 tbsp of butter,
salt and pepper,
beef bouillon cube (optional).

1. Melt butter and fry meat until gold on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
2. Add all the pieces of crushed garlic and fry meat with garlic for another 2 minutes.
3. Pour in vinegar, follow immediately with milk, and mix well with a wooden spoon.
3. Add pepper and rosemary brunches.
4. Let it simmer on a very low temperature without bubbling for about 90 minutes and up to 2 hours.
5. Check the meat with a fork--it should be butter soft.
6. At this stage, season with salt or bouillon stock.

You can reduce the sauce and serve it with the meat or just take the meat out and serve alone.

Serve with a potato gratin with crème fraîche, or fresh tagliatelle pasta.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blackberry Crostata--For Blackberry Phone Lovers

If you were looking for a Blackberry phone pictures, this is not the right place. All I can offer are those beautiful blackberry fruits and a dessert made of them.

It has been more than half a year since I posted my blackberry fruit cake and I still cannot figure out, if it is really people's favorite fruit, and the easy cake recipe that attracts them, or if they just look for information on that lovely piece of electronics. The only way to find out is to post another blackberry recipe, also quite easy, and check if that will also become a number one on my list.

Obviously this is not a season for blackberries in Washington D.C., but it is in Mexico. They arrived to my local food stores not only ripe and sweet but also cheap. So the other day I bought a couple of boxes to make a fruit tart.

Of all the cakes, tarts are among my favorite ones. I love the shortness and the crunchiness of their crust and softness of the fruit topping. I have already posted two tart recipes, but I have probably another ten in my collection. Interestingly enough, each of them is on a different crust, although they all belong to the same tart family and are made mostly from the same ingredients.

Today's cake is a typical country cake that looks a little bit rough, and is very simple, but it is very delicious. It comes from the Italian tradition, but this dough if put in a tart pan can make a perfect base for any pie. The entire dough is made in a food processor. The dough needs to be chilled and then in the simplest manner filled with fruits and baked. Because the dough is very rich in butter it needs to be baked fast in a high temperature, so the butter does not melt. Also, this will ensure that the fruits will release their juice but will still preserve their fresh taste.

Blackberry Crostata
(Serves six)

2 sticks cold unsalted butter,
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour,
1/4 cup sugar,
5 tbsp ice water,
pinch of sea salt.
3 boxes blackberry.

1. Put flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor container.
2. Cut butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Pulse the food processor on and off until the doughs forms into crumbles.
3. Run the food processor and add through the feed tube all the water at once.
4. Pulse it on and off until water is combined with flower but the butter still stays in sandy crumbles.
5. Place the content of the processor on a piece of plastic foil and with hands gather into one disk, about 10 inches in diameter. Cover with foil and chill, preferably over night.

To bake crostata:
1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
2. Roll out the dough on a surface sprinkled with flour into a disk of about 13 inches in diameter.
3. Transfer the dough gently into a large baking sheet.
4. Sprinkle the dough with 1 tbsp sugar and cover with blackberries, leaving about 1 and 1/2 - 2 inches edge around.
5. Cover the fruits with the edge of the crostata pinching the dough to close it around.

6. Bake the crostata for 20-30 minutes, or until gold and until fruits release a little bit of juice.

Cool it for 10 minutes, dust with confectioners sugar, and serve still warm, if you like, with a dollop of crème fraîche on top.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms--And the First Breeze of Spring.

Last Thursday morning, I went out to do some grocery shopping before a long weekend. It was a sunny and warm day, above 70F. On the way back I noticed in my neighbors' front yard a big bush covered with yellow flowers. I am sure it was not like that earlier in the day, because I would have noticed that. It has been a warm but a very windy week but it is only mid-February and this bush, the only one blooming in my whole neighborhood, screemed "spring!" Today, however, skies in DC are still clear and bright blue, but a strong wind, which cut off our power again last night, reminds us that cold days will be back tomorrow.

When I went shopping on that sunny Thursday, I bought some large white mushrooms. They were so fresh and smooth that I got a whole bag of them.
I thought that I would serve them whole to preserve their good looks. Right away I had just one idea--stuff them. I almost forgot that we used to do that often back home where white mushrooms have always been very popular and widely available. For some reason I thought about that dish on this dawn of spring, because we made it during this season, when fresh vegetables were not yet available. We filled mushrooms with egg stuffing and served them on Sunday brunches.

Stuffed Mushrooms

14 oz or 8-10 big stuffing mushrooms,
2 hard boiled eggs,
1 medium onion, tiny chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs,
1 egg,
3 tbsp chopped parsley,
salt and pepper.

1. Preheat oven to 370F.
2. Wash mushrooms, remove stems gently and throw them away. Using a melon curving spoon, or a small coffe spoon, scoop out the gills and a little bit of flesh underneath them to leave place for the stuffing. Save the scooped out parts.

3. To prepare the stuffing, chop finely the mushroom parts that you scooped out and place them in a medium bowl. Chop onions, parsley, hard boiled eggs and add them to teh bowl. Add breadcrumbs and one beaten egg, and season with salt (about 1/2 tsp) and pepper.
4. Stuff mushroom caps with the filling and place on a lighty buttered baking tin.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
6. Serve warm with baguette or bread.

This is the bush that woke up for the spring last Thursday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Festive Berry Cake--A Birthday Treat European Style

Last week, I made a birthday cake for my son. Initially, he asked for a chocolate cake, but since I was also making a chocolate fondue for kids, he decided that a fruit cake would be better.

Born in the USA and having participated in many of his peers birthday parties, he has developed a much sweeter tooth than the rest of the family. For many years, for his birthday parities I was buying a typical cake, that I knew all the kids would enjoy. And even if they left hardly bitten pieces of it I did not suffer throwing them away as I would have had I made the cake myself and put my whole heart in it.

Philip is very fond and proud of my cupcakes and cakes, but I am afraid that deep in his heart, he still enjoys better those typical cakes with colorful icing. Last Friday, before I cut the cake, he said diplomatically to his guests: "My mom made this cake and it is unlike any other in the world". And I am not sure if he meant or did not want to say that it was "the best."

The cake I made was light, healthy--with fruits for only decoration, and not overwhelmingly sweet. We did have some leftovers, but they were all eaten to the last piece on the next day.

It is a simple sponge cake, for which I do not use any butter or its substitutes, but it is very moist because each layer is drizzled with a sweet punch, which I prepare for this purpose. To finish it, I use a French cream (crème patisserie), which is based on eggs and enriched with butter. Preparing such a cake is more labor intensive than just spreading a ready to use icing all over, but the whole preparation is not as complicated as it may seem, so this time I am putting a few more picture to explain all the steps. You can also use any kind of fruits to decorate it. For his birthday cake, I chose my son's favourite.

Festive Berry Cake
(Serves twelve)

Sponge cake base for 9-10" pan

5 large eggs,
1 cup sugar,
1 cup bleached flour,
1 tbsp cornflour,
1 tsp baking powder,
butter and breadcrumbs to coat the pan.

1. Preheat oven to 370F.
2. Put eggs in a large bowl, add sugar, and using an electric mixer beat for 5 minutes or until eggs acquire a very thick, mousse-like consistency. I use Kitchen Aid stand mixer and the machine does the job beautifully.
3. Mix together flour and baking powder and fold into thick egg mixture until completely incorporated.

4. Grease the baking tin with butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
5. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until gold on top.

6. Cool down completely and, using a knife to loosen up the sides, remove the cake from the pan.

7. Cut the cake horizontally in half using a long and sharp knife.

2 cups of warm boiled water,
4 tbsp sugar,
juice from 1 lemon,
Mix all the ingredients, cool.

2 cups of milk,
4 egg yolks,
1 cup sugar,
1/3 cup corn starch,
1 1/2 sticks soft butter,
1 tbsp vanilla extract.

1. In a large bowl whisk egg yolks and sugar until smooth and pale.
2. Add flour and the vanilla extract to the yolk mixture and mix until it becomes quite thick.

3. Cook milk up to the boiling point in a 3 qt pot.
4. First, add about a cup of hot milk into yolks mixture and using whisker gently mix until all the ingredients turn in a smooth cream. Then, add the rest of the milk and mix again.
5. Transfer the mixture back to the milk pot and cook on the lower heat constantly stirring with a whisker until the mixture becomes thick like custard. Let it bubble for about 20 seconds and remove from the heat. Cool until it is still slightly warm.

6. Cut butter into smaller pieces and using an electric mixture incorporate into the custard. All the butter should quickly disappear in the custard and create a shiny cream. Cool down completely.

3 cups of different fruits of your choice.

To put the cake together:
1. Put the bottom of the cake on a large serving plate. Using a soup spoon drizzle half of the punch on it, including on the sides of the cake, as they tend to be quite dry.
2. Use a little less than a half of the cream to spread it all over the first disk.
3. Cover the first (bottom) disk with a second sponge disk and sprinkle it with the rest of the punch. Cover evenly with the cream on top and on the sides.
4. Use some toasted slivered almonds or flakes to finish the sides and decorate the top with seasonal fruits of your choice.

Cut the cake using a very sharp knife after dipping it in a hot water (and drying it subsequently); this would make it easier to cut through the cream.

I like it most with a cup of espresso.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crunchy Pink Grapefruit Salad--Low Calorie Low Cost

Today, I have read in Yahoo news that clothing prices in America will rise 10 percent, starting in spring. So, let me ask if you have ever bought anything for just one cent? It may seem unbelievable, but I have, and of course it was not a hundred years ago but just last year, and it happened at a reputable store in my local shopping mall.

It was a very pretty short black skirt by Tahari, which I found at Bloomingdale's. The original tag price was $135, but the skirt was hanging in the sale section. The price scanner was not working with this item and I was sent to see the sales associate. When the lady look at the computer, she smiled widely and said "one cent". She could not explain why, but sometimes it was happening that, for some mysterious reasons, perfectly fine and newly arrived items showed a price of one cent. It was my size but, as you can guess, I did not even care to try it on. I paid one cent, that I had to dig out from my purse. No tax either, or maybe the tax was already included?

The other day, while browsing between shelves at a local food store, one reflection came to my mind. Prices are going up all the time, but there are still many products that we can buy, maybe not exactly for one cent, but for less than a dollar for the whole item or at least per pound. Yesterday, I saw bloody oranges that I bought for a tart, three for a dollar, huge pummelos for 89 cents a piece and, pink grapefruits two for 1 dollar, which I bought to make my lunch with.

I did a lot of cooking recently, including a birthday cake, so I wanted to make something easy and light for lunch. These grapefruits reminded me of a nice and crispy grapefruit salad that I used to make. It requires only three ingredients (grapefruits, walnuts, and celery sticks) and is very healthy, because grapefruits are a great source of vitamins A and C, and have a lot of potassium. I like to blanch the walnuts to soften them up, and that way they complement nicely the soft and juicy citrus and very crispy celery sticks. I must honestly say that my mother, who is visiting us right now, and who is used to more traditional tastes, did not like it at all, maybe because she does not like the celery sticks. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much for my lunch.

Crunchy Pink Grapefruit Salad
(Serves four)

3 pink grapefruits or 2 pummelos,
1 cup walnuts,
6 celery sticks, about 2 cups,
1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt,
1 tsp sugar,
1 tbsp olive oil.

1. Supreme the grapefruits--remove the segments and leave the white membranes out (see the picture).

2. Cut celery sticks into very thin slices.
3. Pour hot water over walnuts and soak them for about 10 minutes. Drain.
4. Cut grapefruit segments into smaller pieces, gently squeezing out excess juice, and put in medium sized bowl together with celery sticks and walnuts.
5. Mix yogurt with oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add it to the bowl and gently combine with all the ingredients.

If you like it very crunchy, you can serve it right away. If you let it stand for sometime, the celery will soften and will be less crispy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Milk Chocolate Cremosa--Valentine's Dessert that Can Melt Any Heart

I took many pictures yesterday but still wasn't really satisfied with any of them. Then I realized that I simply did not like the combination of red or pink and brown, so only the first photo will be in these Valentine's colors.

There is a well-known proverb in English as in Polish, "The way to man's heart is through his stomach". There is also another famous quote from George Bernard Shaw "There is no love more sincere than the love of food". I think both of these statements are true and I made yesterday a dessert that I think can win any heart or make anyone fall in love (if not with the cook, at least with the dessert itself).

I decided to make a chocolate dessert, which is served by Chef Michael Schwartz in his Miami restaurant. According to Metropolitan Home, this dessert has become a great hit. It is served with sea salt and olive oil. I was intrigued but not surprised to see these ingredients being used in a dessert because I knew from an Italian friend that vanilla ice cream in certain parts of Italy was served with a drizzle of olive oil and salt.

I love good quality milk chocolate, although I am not a chocolate dessert person and have always preferred fruit desserts. But, believe me, this dessert is divine! It is one of the best chocolate desserts I (a humble me!)have ever made or tasted .

As always, I experimented a bit, but I hope I only improved the already excellent taste of this cremosa. I added a tablespoon of Frangelico liqueur, and put a dollop of mascarpone cheese on top instead of mocca parfait (if you you want to make it lighter, you could add some unsweetened whipped cream instead or nothing at all). The secret of this dessert lies in the quality of the chocolate. Chocolate chips are not suitable for this purpose. I used a block of Belgian milk chocolate from Trader Joe's. This dessert is not really on the light side, quite the opposite, it is very rich and satisfying, but it is definitely worth the sin, especially to celebrate your Valentine's Day.

Milk Chocolate Cremosa

1 1/2 (11 oz) cup good quality chocolate broken into small pieces,
1 1/3 cup cream,
3 tbsp sugar,
3 egg yolks,
1 tbsp Frangelico liqueur (optional),
1/2 cup heavy whipped cream or a couple of spoons of mascarpone cheese,
1 2 cup toasted hazelnuts ,chopped
extra virgin olive oil,
coarse sea salt.

1. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
2. Whisk egg yolks with sugar in another heatproof bowl until smooth.
3. Put cream in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
4. Whisking constantly add the hot cream to the yolks mixture.
5. Return the mixture to the saucepan where the cream was cooked and cook whisking until slightly thickens, about 2 minutes, but do not allow to boil.
6. Pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
7. Add liqueur and chill the cremosa for a minimum two hours.

To serve put a a generous spoon of cremosa on a dessert plate

and put a dollop of cream or mascarpone cheese and some roasted hazelnuts on top. The dessert was superb already now...

....but when I drizzled it with olive oil and sea salt, it was just out of this world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Buckwheat with Mushrooms--Just To Start With

All my childhood, at least twice a month, I had buckwheat for dinner. I was lucky to like it but not everyone did although we all had to it. So if I wrote my blog in Polish, I would never talk about buckwheat. We all know too well how to serve it. But the other day, when I was buying my buckwheat at Whole Foods, a women who watched me filling the whole bag with it, asked "How do you eat that?" With pride and unhidden pleasure I gave her the whole lecture about many ways we prepare buckwheat in Poland.

We prepare all kind of dishes with buckwheat, except for soups where we use different types of kasha. First of all we just cook it and serve it with different toppings and sauces. It tastes great with a meat sauce, especially with a rich beef and porcini goulash, or with zrazy and a beet salad. Another possibility is it put some fried bacon on top. There are also some vegetarian versions: with a fried egg on top or with a simple mushroom sauce. Quite popular among vegetarians in my family were cabbage rolls, called golabki, filled with buckwheat instead of meat. I also  heard recently about a baked buckwheat dish with farmers' cheese, which I will be willing to try once and share my experience.

Buckwheat has a very distinct taste, but it is rather mild, so we always serve it with traditional salads that add some character to it. I like to eat it, for instance, with cabbage salads, especially sauerkraut, or just with cucumbers in brine.

Although it is still relatively unknown outside my part of the world, I see buckwheat's becoming popular on some blogs, like Tea and Cookies and 101 Cookbooks. It is a very healthy grain and could be a great vegetarian meal. Buckwheat is rich, amongh others, in omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B. It is also gluten free and can help lower cholesterol thanks to its high flavonoids content. For now, these simple suggestions are for those who never tried it and wonder how it can be eaten, but I am sure I will post soon some more complicated and vegetarian dishes featuring buckwheat.

Buckwheat with Mushrooms

How to cook buckwheat

1. Boil twice as much water as buckwheat, add a tbsp of salt.
2. Add buckwheat, and bring it to boiling. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, until all the water evaporates.

A Simple Mushroom Sauce

one 8 oz package of white mushrooms,
1 onion chopped,
1 cup cream table or heavy whipping cream,
1 tbsp soy sauce,
salt and pepper,
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley,
2 tbsp oil.

1. Heat the oil on a frying pan, add onion, and fry for about 3 minutes.
2. Wash mushroom and cut into slices. Add to the pan and fry until all the water evaporates and mushrooms turn gold.
3. Add cream to the mushrooms, soy sauce, pepper, and a little bit of salt (please remember that soy sauce is already salted). Mix all the ingredients and cook for about 3 minutes. If the sauce turns out too thick, you may add some water, especially if you use heavy whipping cream.
4. Pour the sauce over the hot buckwheat and serve with chopped parsley on top.

And also a version with a fried egg on top.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Halibut in Pear Sauce--And a Rule to Remember

Looking at this first photo you may be surprised to see the recipe below. I just preferred to take a picture of a pear instead of a fish. First, I am not a great amateur of fish. Second, I don't find them too photogenic. I eat fish from time to time and I know that they are very healthy but I also understand and respect that some people (like my sister or my son) may not like them at all. In general, and especially in such an international and diverse environment as Washington D.C., it is wise to be aware that people may not wish to eat what you may wish to serve them.

A friend of mine, who introduced me to many culinary secrets, taught me this good host rule: "Whenever you invite people for dinner, always ask them about their dietary preferences". Then she illustrated this with a story how she invited her husband's boss for a dinner, and even though she was vaguely informed that her guest would not eat meat, she did not foresee how the evening would turn out. She prepared a wonderful Portuguese dinner based on seafood and fish, called Arroz de Mariscos, which was always well-liked by her vegetarian guests. Unfortunately it turned out that that night her guest was a vegan. And since rice was cooked together with the seafood he did not eat it at all. Neither did he drink wine, even though one of the best South African selections was served, nor eat dairy, so a plate of the best cheese that you could buy in Geneva, and a Vacherin dessert--meringues with crème fraiche--were left untouched. It is still not clear to me though who made a bigger mistake, she by not being more inquisitive, or he by making her very uncomfortable despite her best efforts.

Time to come back to the recipe itself. I still see beautiful pears on the shelves of many local food stores. They preserve well during our long winter and could be used in a variety of ways. This is probably one of the lightest versions of a fish dish that you can find. Both fish and pear are low in calories and there is no cream or heavy sauce and not much oil in this recipe. Since it is a very simple dish, I like to use a quality fish like halibut or sole to make it. For a better visual contrast, and to add some texture to the meal, I like to serve it with a black rice or a six grain Kagayaki rice.

Halibut in Pear Sauce

4 pieces of halibut or sole fillets,
2 soft pears,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1 tsp red pepper (optional)
salt, pepper,
3-4 tbsp olive oil (for frying),
2 tbsp butter.

1. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.
2. Peel off the pears, remove seeds, cut into quarters and then into small cubes.
3. Melt butter on a pan, add the pears and fry them for about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice, mix and keep it warm on a very low heat while preparing fish.
4. Heat the oil on a large frying pan. Fry the fish fillets in it for about 3-5 minutes on each side or until they turn light gold.
5. Transfer the fried fillets to the plates, pour over pear sauce. Sprinkle with red pepper, and serve with rice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spicy White Cabbage Salad--A New Arugula?

Looking at most popular recipes on food blogs, I often wonder if in cooking, like in fashion, simplicity is the way that always works best. On top of my blog list there are still the simplest dishes, including two cabbage salads, that basically require only one ingredient and some spices. I cannot figure out what explains this popularity, especially that Polish readers are in a minority among the visitors of this blog.

Are we simply tired of green salads and no one can be any longer impressed with a bowl of arugula? Or, are we looking for the new, easy, and healthy vegetable, that is ether still not fully appreciated in some parts of the world or already forgotten in others.

Well, whatever the reason, I could not be happier, as I always have some new recipes for salads, including cabbage salads. Ever since I tried arugula, I cannot live without it. I can eat it every day and will never get bored with its peppery taste. But for certain dishes that come from my native cuisine I prefer salads that are traditionally eaten with them. For example, I serve cabbage salad with most potato dishes, because the zesty taste of cabbage contrasts nicely with their mild taste.

I like to eat white cabbage salad in the summer and early fall when cabbage is young and green, naturally sweet, and almost as delicate as lettuce. In the winter, I prefer red cabbage salad or sauerkraut. But I have discovered this salad recipe, which uses fresh white cabbage, but seems pretty wintery to my taste. It is spiced with cayenne pepper and garnished with walnuts. Unlike most other cabbage salads, it is not predominantly sweet and sour but spicy from the hot pepper and walnuts. Wonderful with fish and meats, especially grilled and roasted.

Spicy White Cabbage Salad

1/2 small cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups),
1 tsp sugar,
2 tbsp lemon juice,
1 small onion, chopped,
1 garlic clove, minced,
1/2 cup walnuts chopped,
1/2 tsp paprika,
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper,
1 tbsp oil (in this recipe I like the neutral taste of grapeseed oil),
1/2 tsp salt.

1. Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Add salt, sugar, and lemon juice, and squeeze it gently with hands. Set aside for 15 minutes.
2. Add onion, garlic, walnuts, paprika, cayenne pepper and oil. Mix all the ingredients.
3. Let it macerate for 10 minutes and serve.