Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Helsinki, moi moi

I'm doing some traveling this summer and am experiencing some food around the Baltic.
Our first stop was Helsinki. Our first breakfast was plain yogurt, with granola in the top, a sandwich and some pretty bad coffee. The bread was very nice and grainy.
I love going in to food markets in any and every country. In Helsinki the salmon was piled high and looked so fresh. I was going to load up on crisp bread but realized I can easily get it back home.

Then we tried some traditional finnish pies, Karjalanpiirakat that come with different fillings.
They're very common and everyone has their own old family recipe. We had potato, carrot, and the really interesting sweet rice. I may try to make some when we get home using this recipe link.

On the streets we bought the most amazing fresh peas and snacked on them right out of the pods.

At the busy market place where the boats come in with fresh fish we got a lunch platter from one of the stands. It was the freshest tasting fish I've had in a long time. It came with potato balls, a little salad and wasa crisp bread. The fish had a spice mix on it and was grilled right there at the stand. It was the best food I had in Helsinki. The picture is quite orange because the tent we were under is orange.

For dinner we had Thai one night and Nepalese the next. Lots of Nepalese restaurants. It seemed very similar to Indian. 

A curry chicken, rice, naan etc. Very good but not as good as the fresh salmon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Low Country Cooking

We went to some friends' house for dinner the other night. They had just been to Charleston, SC where they took The Taste of the Lowcountry cooking class at the Charleston Cooks, Maverick Southern Kitchens. They were inspired and even brought back the grits from South Carolina.
Even their third grader was into it so he was our chef for the evening. Very cute.
He's really on to something because every girl loves a guy that can cook!
For the menu, which they printed up, we had grilled shrimp with low country seasoning, cheddar scallion grits, and warm okra and tomato salad with walnuts. All delicious together.
I don't think to make okra very often so I asked her for the recipe.

Warm Okra and Tomato Salad
1 to 2 large tomatoes
½ pound okra
1 T unsalted butter
¼ cup canola oil
1 onion, diced
¼ cup toasted walnuts
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 T minced garlic
1 T sugar
3 T basil, cut in thin strips
Salt and pepper

1.)     Fill a large stockpot 2/3 full with water and place on high heat.  Salt the water and bring to a boil.
2.)     Fill a large bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath
3.)     Score bottoms of tomatoes with an x.  Place tomatoes in boiling water for 10-15 seconds.   Pull the tomatoes out and place in ice bath.   As soon as the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, removed from ice bath and peel off the skin.  Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze out the seeds.  Roughly chop the tomatoes.
4.)     Cut off stems of okra – discard.  Slice okra into ½ inch segments on the diagonal.
5.)     Melt butter and oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion to the pan and cook until translucent
6.)     Add the okra, walnuts, vinegar, chopped tomatoes, grape tomatoes, garlic and sugar to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
7.)     Add the basil to the pan and immediately turn off the heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I was to bring dessert so I decided to try a couple of ice creams from my new David Lebovitz cookbook The Perfect Scoop.
First, I made fresh mint ice cream. The taste was wonderful, subtle and fragrant but as soon as I added our fresh egg yolks the beautiful pale green color turned bright creamy yellow. Someone said I should just say it's some exotic yellow mint. It was very good and I crumbled brownies over it. I can't wait to make it again.
I also made a fresh peach ice cream.

Here's his Fresh Mint Ice cream
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a small saucepan. [I usually put the pan over medium heat and stir occasionally until I see it start to steam.] Add the mint leaves, and stir until they’re immersed in the liquid. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Strain the mint-infused mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Press on the mint leaves to extract as much of the flavor as possible, then discard the mint leaves. Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl, and set the strainer on top.

Rewarm the mint-infused mixture. [Again, I usually put it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and watch for steam.] In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mint liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly; then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. [You can test it by running your finger across the spatula coated with custard. It’s done when your finger leaves a definite trail that doesn’t flow back together.] Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Squash

For a couple of weeks I had a plethora of summer squash. I love it and am always looking for interesting ways to enjoy it. I did a basic sauté with onions but at the end, added pesto and it really complemented the squash. We also grill it a lot. Slice it the long way and brush the slices with olive oil with some herbs and salt and pepper.
 I remember my mother  freezing a lot of vegetables so I wanted to give that a try too.
Wash, trim and slice up the squash.
Put it into boiling water for about 3 minutes.
Immediately put it in ice water to stop the cooking.
I did this in batches.
Lay on paper towels to try a bit.
Bag, label and freeze.
In a couple of months I can whip out some home grown squash from the freezer.

For my first Meatless Mondays I made Thai Squash Soup. The recipe calls for it to be served cold but we ate it hot and it was fantastic. I may have to actually buy some squash just to make more of that soup.