Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie - The Daring Baker's January Challenge

This was my second DB challenge, and this months challenge was Lemon Meringue Pie. Lemon Meringue Pie is not a standard dessert around here, but my Mom made it a few times in my childhood (she is half American, which means that she makes some food that might not otherwise not have been known to me). I always loved it, so many thanks to this month's hostess, Jen at The Canadian Baker for making it a challenge. Since there is only two of us here, and the recipe seemed to be a rather large one, I choose to make only two fifths of the original recipe. (The recipe used five eggs, so making something that would require a whole number of eggs seemed convenient.) This turned out to be quite a lot for two people anyway!
So, here is what they looked like. Since my only pie form used to be a non-stick thing that some time during December decided to deliver pies with a non-stick coating I decided to go for the free-form tartletts. I was really nervous about how the filling would manage this, never having made a lemon curd before, but everything worked out perfect. Actually, D. thought that I had piled the curd up a bit too high, I think he would have preferred more meringue and less lemon. I must admit that I cheated a bit to get the nice browning marks by using a kitchen torch. Since we ate them almost immediately there was no problem at all with weeping meringue or something like that. The red stuff on top is dried cranberries which I thought looked pretty on top of the meringue. I never had cranberries before, but found them in the supermarket a few days before making the pie and decided to buy them without a plan of what to use them for. Don't they look pretty on top of the white meringue? I hope this isn't cheating, I just put them on top as a decoration.

Would I make this again? I still love lemon meringue pie, but since I had a success with this I actually went on and made some more lemon curd with another recipe I wanted to try. Most of the result is now in the freezer, so next time I will probably be lazy and just use that. I'm still to unsure about translating measurements to know how different the crust was to the one I usually make, but it worked fine, cooked beautifully golden and tasted great. And the meringue was fluffy and tasty, so yes, I actually already made it again for another pie.

Again, thanks for a yummy challenge Jen! Now, I'm looking forward to the February challenge.

Just can't believe it's been almost two weeks

I don't know what happened. I really didn't intend this to happen. I wanted to create a blog that I would use, all the time, since it is about something that I enjoy doing daily. But those last two weeks things just were to much I guess. Work has been kind of very very busy. And last weekend we had a wonderful break from everything, and went south to see my family. We didn't see them at all during the Christmas season, not at all actually since last summer, so it was really about time. My parents had even had time to move house since I was there. Anyway, my not writing does not mean that I haven't been cooking of course. I'll just have to get better at reporting it :)

So, right now I made real homemade vegetable stock for the first time in my life today. Can't say anything about the results yet, since I haven't cooked anything with it (but I'm planning to use it for some polenta with shiitake and fava beans tonight). Right now I can just say that maybe the taste of soy sauce is a bit to much (I followed a recipe, but maybe I shouldn't have?). But we'll see what happens when it's put to use.
Second thing is that I'm working out a method to keep us with fresh bread throughout the weeks. Usually I do this by making a lot and putting what's not going to be used for a day or so into the freezer, and even though it works fine, it's not the same as really fresh bread.
(If anyone is wondering, this part of the world isn't for bread snobs like me, that is, people who don't like the bread at the supermarket, if you don't bake your own. Unless you were living right in the middle of town here there is no way to get fresh bread daily without going quite far to obtain it. And besides, I like baking, and I certainly like the taste of my own bread. )

My latest idea was to try out leaving some of the dough for one of our favourite bread in the fridge a bit longer than it usually stays there. See, usually it goes into the fridge overnight for a long and slow proofing. This time, I made a full batch, but I only put one bread into the oven. The other two (or the dough for two more planned got to stay in a plastic box in the fridge. Today I took out enough dough to make another loaf and put it into the oven. Haven't tried it yet, but it looks as good as the loaf made at the time prescribed by the recipe. If this thing seems to work I might write down the plan.

I've also been thinking a bit. About the time I spend on cooking, and how and why I do that. I mean, most people don't. Most of the people I meet daily certainly also cook daily (maybe not all of the old professors at work, they might rely on wife's cooking, or maybe I'm just prejudiced :) ). There's not much choice, you need to eat to live, and to eat you need to cook, right? But most people wouldn't spend an hour on Friday night planning what to buy when buying groceries on Saturday, in order to have a number of nice meals to choose from when wanting to cook throughout the week. We had a quite nice Friday night in the sofa, with a glass of port wine, doing exactly that. Does this make me obsessed? We just had no other plans, and it's so much easier to get things to make sense while shopping with a list than when you're just trying to come up with some ideas while at the supermarket...
On the other hand, cooking has lately turned into one of my most time consuming hobbies. And why not? I have the time, I also have the money I spend on it (most of which I would have spent anyway, since, like I said, you need to eat to live). And at least sometimes the results is delicious enough to justify the effort... :)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Late Resolutions

Lately, when reading other blogs, I've seen so many New Year's Resolutions. I don't usually do that. My resolutions of that kind usually turn up in September, due to the new school year. I might be grown up by now, but going to grad school and part time teaching means that I'm not out of schools yet. So the year in my mind seems to start around when fall term starts, which is around the first of September. But reading all good ideas and worthy ambitions people have, I've gotten inspired. Maybe I'll give it a try, but I'll do it my way. My resolutions are, mainly about having fun I'm afraid...

First of all, I want to try to learn to make more desserts. There's a lot of stuff that I'd love to try. And I do love sweet. Preferably, I'll do this systematically, so that I also can learn to improvise on my own. But, I really don't need to put on weight, so the other part of this resolution is to learn to make them the very best, but real small.

Secondly, I want to make breakfast more interesting. Our breakfast, at least at weekdays, always consist of one of three things: Either bread with some topping (cheese, ham, vegetables, jam etc), or müsli and fil (Swedish type of soured milk - somewhat like a thin yogurt), or oatmeal with lingonberry jam and milk. I'd like to add some new variations, though I don't know what yet. Some mornings there just isn't time for anything else than müsli... (but on the other hand, müsli is good. I have a newly roasted batch on the counter right out of the oven at the moment, and I do know I will want that for breakfast tomorrow.)

And third, occurring to me as I write is one more thing, which sort of contains both the first ones. I'd like to try to make as many meals as possible in the coming year into good meals. Meals that are tasty and created with some thought. Containing good foods that I feel comfortable about buying. Meals that, at least most of the time, are healthy. As few of I-just-have-to-eat-something meals as possible. This is a resolution both about energy and about organisation, and I don't believe that I will manage to make every meal so. But I'll go for as many as I can.

And then some comments on this. I actually made a first try for making new desserts today. I tried to make crème brulé, but a very small batch. I never tried it before because I always believed it contained a lot of egg white, which can sometimes give me allergic reactions. But then I read through a recipe not that long ago and realised that just the yolk was used. And I really liked the taste. (I also liked the fact that I got to use my new kitchen torch on it, that's fun!) But I'm not sure whether the recipe I used need some adaption, or if I just had the oven a bit to low, a little to short, but they were a bit runny. On the other hand I adjusted a recipe for four normal size servings to one that gave two small (more like two half) servings, that is, one that used one egg yolk. The amount was about as much as I wanted though, so if anyone has a good recipe this size, please tell me. :)

Finally, the photos in this post are of D. turning the pancakes he made for breakfeast this morning. That is not really part of any making new kinds of breakfast - he makes it now and then when he feels like making something extra for me. Or maybe just when he wants pancakes, I don't quite know (and I'm not going to complain).
I was playing around with my new camera which can take pictures bursting rather quickly which is a lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Simplest Sallad - A Childhood Favourite

Being back in town means that I plan to post a little more regularly, so I'll start that off today by admitting to still love this simple salad. It's maybe a little bit childish, and not very elegant, but I can't help it, this time of the year it's so perfectly simple to make for any kind of quick dinner. I used to love this salad when I was little, and I still do. It was almost destroyed by the school kitchen, where they used more coarsely grated carrots, and too little, or maybe no orange at all, but my love for the good stuff survived. It's so simple, and most people might already either make it, or think it not worth making, but I'm going to put it here anyway. Just because I like it so much. To make it, you need a couple of carrots, I used three rather large one for the bowl in the photo. You also need an orange. Peel and grate the carrots on the finer side of a grater. (A coarser grate can be fine too, but in this combination with oranges the carrots become nicely juicy if grated finely.) Peel the orange and slice it in slices slightly less than a cm. Make the slices the way so that each slice can be easily divided into several parts by hand. Remove seeds. Mix together and eat.
If you're two people who like it a lot, this is enough for a side salad to go with one meal. If you don't like it as much as we do, it keeps well in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year (and dinner the day after)

I had planned to write about our New Year's Eve dinner yesterday. We really amused ourselves, putting together a huge menu, and then cooking it. But tonight, after spending a day taking it easy, and really rather tired of rich holiday food, I think I'll write about tonight's dinner instead. I really love tomato soup. Tomato sauce is one of the first things I remember cooking, and it's so perfectly versatile. Tomato soup is more or less a diluted tomato sauce, with some garnish, but lately we have developed a tomato soup which is somewhat different from the tomato sauces I usually make. We ate it with a slice of nutty bread (leftover from yesterday) covered with tasty Danish (I think) cheese (Sorte Sara) quickly grilled in the oven. This tomato soup becomes really tomatoey, but is still somehow fluffy. It is made something like this:

Canola oil to cover the bottom of your pan
Two yellow onions
Garlic to taste
Pinch of dried chili pepper powder or cayenne pepper
1-2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
One bottle of pureed (?) tomatoes (the Swedish word is "passerade" - I really need to get a culinary cross language dictionary) (The bottles we find here are about 700 grams.)
Salt and white pepper to taste
Dried oregano to taste
1-2 tsp honey
10 or so sun dried tomatoes - the dry kind, not the one soaked in oil
Either 1/2-1 dl of cream, or 1 egg yolk and 1 Tbsp cream

Start with rehydrating the dried tomatoes by putting them into a small container and pour some boiling water over them. Leave them like that for some time. Meanwhile, saute finely minced onions and garlic in the canola oil. Add chili powder and tomato paste and allow to get hot. Pour in the contents of the tomato bottle and add water until a good consistency is reached. Especially if using an egg yolk in the end, the soup can be rather runny. Season with salt and pepper, and add some oregano and a little honey. Allow the soup to boil for some time. Take the dried tomatoes out of the water (I usually add the soaking liquid to the soup) and mince them about as finely as the onion (equal, and small, size of the bits and pieces give a nice feel in the mouth in this soup). Add them to the soup and let it simmer some more. (For example, spend this time by making grilled cheese sandwiches to go with the soup.) Finally, either add some cream, take the pot of the heat and whisk around so that the soup cools down a bit, or, if you happen to have a lonely egg yolk lying around in the fridge (we had tonight) use a fork to stir it together with a little cream. Take the pot of the heat and whisk it around a bit to cool a little. Add the egg-cream mixture slowly while whisking. Voilà. Tomato soup with tomato and some more tomato.

I usually make this soup with just cream, as I said above, the egg yolk was mainly to use up a egg yolk leftover from yesterday. The reason that it came into being was a granita that we had for dessert today. Yesterday we had it between courses, but the recipe yielded quite a lot even though D. was halving it when he made it, so some "champagne" granita desserts are about to happen this week. Quotation marks are because though the recipe called for champagne, D. used a rosé cava instead. He also used red orange juice, and the result is a sweet looking pink granita, quite unlike the icy elegant one pictured together with the recipe.

Oh, and as you might notice, I have pictures!! It's not that I finally managed to find the stupid camera cable (it's still gone) but Santa (or rather D.) was awfully nice to me and bought a far to expensive Christmas gift, so I have a nice new camera. Now I only need to learn to use it. And to fix some useful background for my pictures, just letting whatever part of our often messy kitchen act as a background just isn't such a good idea. :)

OK, so that's it for today. Maybe I'll get back to writing more about the things we amused ourselves with yesterday, but for today, tomato soup will have to do...