Friday, May 30, 2008

Dining Lately

Woooha.. I'm on my new computer. And I just finished processing a few photos in absolutely no time at all. Also, I could see what I was doing to the pictures! Although I do love my little 12" Ibook by now it is actually several years old, and not at all suitable for some of the things I do, like try to edit my photos. Now, changing to a 24" screened Imac definitely have some good sides. And, since it's more than three years newer,  it's so much more powerful I can't believe it. Just saving a photo used to take loads of time, now it's instant. 

But, I'm not really here to rant about my new computer. I wanted to put up some more dinner photos. I've been waiting for the computer to arrive all week, and so I was lazy with fixing t
hose images since I knew it would be much quicker as soon as I got this to work. That's why you get a number of dinners in one post here. Top one is today's sesame seed salmon stir fr
y (today must be the day of alliterations). Then, my first real taste of summer. That's new potatoes (but I have to admit that they weren't that great, it's just not time yet.) I'll have to wait for a few more weeks for the real thing, but still, new potatoes with pickled herring and chives might be the most essential summer meal to me. Except for strawberries, that is. Further down is a quick fried rice with frozen peas (no way that the fresh thing is available up here yet, unless they fly it in from quite far off), and a tofu stir fry. 
And yes, there is some kind of stir fry emphasis this week. I'm sort of going through
 some of my cookbooks when making shopping lists. I pick one and sit down to find a number of meals I could make from it and write a list of things I would need. This week I happened to choose a Chinese cookbook, or at least a Swedish version of a Chinese cookbook. I'm quite convinced that not all of the recipes in there are totally authentic, but I sort of got inspired to learn more about Chinese cooking. Anyone has hints about the best books for learning more on the regional cuisines of China?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leaning Opera Cake Tower

So, this is what this months Daring Bakers challenge came out like in my kitchen. A leaning tower of Opera cake. This months there was four people hosting, namely the two founders of the Daring Bakers, Lisa from La Mia Cucina and Ivonne from Creampuffs in Venice together with Fran at Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea from Whiskful. Thank you all for a great challenge!
In addition to posting this challenge, they also suggested that posts could be dedicated to Barbara at WinosAndFoodies. While I do not know Barbara, I checked out her blog which is a very nice read. Barbara, even not knowing you, I would like to dedicate my cake entry to you and the fight against cancer.
So, now to my cake making. The recipe we used for the Opera cake can be found for example in Ivonnes challenge entry (it's really quite long, and I'm never totally comfortable about putting anyone else's recipe up on my blog without asking, so I link instead, hope that's OK).

Learning from last months challenge, I had decided that even though I had no real reason to make a huge cake, I would still enjoy the challenge. So I left work a bit early on a Friday afternoon (my brain had stopped working anyway, so I couldn't really write much more), dropped by a shop to buy a bit of white chocolate and got home and started to work on a mini version of the Opera cake. I decided to make a fourth of the recipe, and decided that I had two pans that would together be the right volume for that. I started to measure up ingredients. At this point the phone started to call. And suddendly I wasn't at all going to have a nice Friday night for baking, but was invited to a last minute put together dinner party. Oh well, it was still some time to go, and I had a few eggs separated, (and divided into parts since I wanted things like 6/4=three half eggs), so I decided to go ahead with the joconde and the butter cream. Luckily everything turned out well except for me freaking out about there being to little batter for two pans and decided to do it all in one of the pans. As you can see I ended up with somewhat to thick layers because of this. I decided to make use of some wonderful pistachios I had bought a few weeks earlier for this, so I substituted ground pistaccios for most of the ground almonsds in the recipe. Then I made a very lime-tasting butter cream by adding the zest of two limes and the juice of one to the butter cream. The butter cream was nice and easy, no problem to make. I actually heated the syrup for the butter cream all the way up to 124° C, since I didn't understand in what way that had gone wrong (and I like instructions to be explained...) I had no problems doing this, but maybe my butter cream would have been even better if I had followed the sugestion and only heated it to 107°C. Anyhow, it worked fine.

The next morning, after a nice dinner with some friends I went back to working on my cake. For the syrup, I choose to use a orange flower honey which I thought would compliment the pistaccios. And I also made a white chocolate mousse with some extra chopped pistaccios and a little bit of lime zest. Then, finally I made the glace, which I, as I remember it left plain and decorated the cake with some of those amazingly dark green pistaccios.
And when I had put it all together I realised that I really should have used two pans for the joconde, because, well, this was quite a lot higher than it was wide. But at least it looks kind of funny :)
Also, with this thick layers of cake, I really should have used huge amounts of syrup to get them all spongy. Maybe I was a bit to much in a rush to do this properly, because I think it could have been done a bit better. Also, the thickness of the layers made it quite hard to get all the layers into one bite. But, I made it, and I don't think I've ever made a cake with so many components before. And I was certainly enjoying myself while making it. So, thank you to all Daring Bakers that makes this event so much fun each month!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Exactly What I Needed

So tonight I threw together a pasta, quite simple, really almost no work. And it turned out to be exactly what I wanted tonight. Somehow fresh tasting, and still interesting enough to make it feel like a splendid meal. The chives I grew on the balcony last summer have survived, and I managed to find some fresh aragula lettuce. Yummy!

Yesterday I had dinner at a friends house, which included asparagus and some salsicca that was oh sooo tasty. I wonder if I will regret not going to the right store when getting some sausages to go with the risotto I was planning for tomorrow, when my mother will be visiting. Let's hope the ones I have will do.

And, the lentil soup I made on Monday by the way : It was extremely simple. Some minced onion (one small) and pancetta (four slices) sauted in a little oil. Vegetable stock (or should it be broth, I'm uncertain of the difference of those words in English? anyway, about 750 ml, a little more than 3 cups) and lentils (200 grams, about 7 oz) added, together with salt, a little pepper and few crumbled leaves of fresh thyme. Cooked until lentils where nice and soft and served with a little lemon juice and grilled pancetta. Be carefull not to throw all the grilled pancetta on the kitchen floor, pancetta is quite fatty and you will immediately need to clean the floor (speaking from experience). :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Decadent Saturday, and A Somewhat More Austere Monday

It seems as if I'm eaten at other peoples homes more than at my own place lately... And even though it's not entirely true, since I don't bring I do get less pictures to put here. I also was totally amazingly lazy duringn the weekend, and except for this one meal from Saturday afternoon I didn't really make anything I could even think of putting here, even though I'm trying to keep my ambitions for what's allowed here not too high. The idea of putting my dinners here was to motivate me to cook anything at all right now, remember? But this, on the other hand, was extremely good. So maybe that makes up for it? I don't buy meat for myself that often, but since I was doing my shoping downtown in a store that has very good meat from a farmm just outside town, I couldn't really resist. And polenta with blue cheese doesn't make it worse, don't you think?

Today though, after a lazy weekend, I went for something a bitmore healthy... Lentils, and pancetta soup with garlic toast, though I managed to burn the toasts a bit. And I don't want to talk about the pancetta... Really, I managed to get a first batch all over the kitchen table when I tried to turn them to grill the other side. I think some cleaning godess heard my secret thought about that I could maybe get away with not cleaning the kitchen floor until later in the week. But it made me feel a lot better about being lazy all weekend. Both the cleaning and the soup. And I can have lunch from the leftovers tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Favourite Potato Salad

This potato salad was first made for me by my Bulgarian roommate Petya in Prague. She made it when she had recieved a care package, containing among other things Bulgarian goat cheese from her mother. She was a bit homesick at times, and I think this warm salad reminded her of food from home. And it's one of the best potato salads I've ever had, so I make it every now and then. It was March when she made it there, so it was made from winter potatoes. I don't think I had had potato salad that wasn't made from new potatoes before, but this works fine, at least tastewise. It looks a bit mushy though. And I had no Bulgarian goat cheese, so I used some lebneh that I found at a local ethnic store some time ago, which made it even mushier, but still tasty. I don't know if I mentioned it yesterday, but I finally had time enough to make some bread to. I used it for the toast. And then, now I just finished my dessert. Sometimes there's nothing like a cup of hot chocolate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

To Get A Lot Out Of A Little

The title refers to getting a lot of dinner out of relatively little work. And I'd say that's certainly what I did. I made some soup tonight, but the sallad was just using up leftover beans and adding some tomato. The soup was great though, made from a vegetable I had no idea what the English name for was, but according to wikipedia it seems to be called sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke. Anyway, under it's Swedish name (jordärtsskocka) I have gladly used it for a long time. It's great in a potato gratin, or roasted, but it might be even better pureed in a creamy soup.
You see, spring hasn't really started yet up here. The birches are just beginning to look faintly green. On Saturday I went to a barbecue at some friends place, and they had actually sown some carrots about a week ago (so, still long time before anything is up really), but they have a very well protected place to keep them with a good micro climate. I'm considering sowing the coming weekend in my community garden. But from this part of the country there is still really -nothing- that has been growing this year. Sunchokes, on the other hand, can be harvested throughout winter when the ground isn't frozen. (At least I think so?) So while I read about a lot of people starting to use spring ingredients, that's not for me yet. If anyone is interested, the season for local strawberries up here is in July... On the other hand, the sun just dissapeared behind another building from my northern window. So, when season is here, it's here for real :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kitchen Therapy

So, I'm back home. Actually, I came back on Monday night, though I wasn't able to enter the appartment until after midnight, due to forgotten keys and security guards taking an hour to come and let me in. It was rather cold here on Monday night, about one degree above freezing. Guess who felt extreeeeemely foolish for forgetting keys? Because of all that, I was rather tired yesterday, and didn't manage to do what I thought, namely make one of those dinner posts I mentioned earlier. But here I am today! I actually got inspired and cooked a bit more seriously than I usually do for myself. And it was tasty. And I even got dessert!
While in France, I bought a book called le Petit Larousse de la Cuisine or something similar (I left the book with D. since it was rather heavy to carry back). I'm planning to use it next time I go there, since even though I can usually cook what I want, I really don't know that many of the ingredients names in French. So I thought, if I have a cookbook I can buy what it tells me, and maybe I'll learn some new words. But, this book also have some preliminary words on how to eat, very fascinating to compare with Swedish recommendations. For example, cheese was, as I understood it recommended to eat after both lunch and dinner, dayly. And dessert. So today, I took this to heart (not the cheese though) and cooked two different courses, and cut up some melon to have for dessert. For someone who usually just throws together some pasta with something to make it taste good when cooking for noone else, this is quite a feat. :)
The photo shows everything together. First some beans fried with onions and sweet pepper, then an improvised rice dish with spinach and hazelnuts and some melon with honey and yoghurt. I know this is no way a gourmet meal, but it was tasty, and the cooking of it really helped me slow down after a rather hectic day back at work.