Lentil Dip

Thursday, July 12th, 2012
green,sides — by Johanna


It may be silly to suggest cooking dried legumes when you can get them ready to eat in a can. But I still insist that there are so many benefits to cooking them yourself that it’s worth every step. And it’s pretty easy to do. You can also cook large quantities at a time and store smaller portions in your freezer.

Legumes like lentils or beans work all year round in different ways. Cold in salads and warm as a side to eggs, beets or with any green vegetable. Chickpeas are wonderful as a starter together with toasted almonds. Green lentils with beets, feta and parsley create a simple and delicious salad alone or together with baked vegetables or meat. Hummus or any other dip (see below) are perfect treats and easy to whip up with any fresh produce that the summer can provide.

I always cook my legumes together with some herbs, vegetables and salt (see simple version below). Sometimes I add bones or small pieces of meat when cooking the legumes. It gives a specific flavor but it’s far from necessary. Cooking time depends on what type of legumes you have, for example cooking lentils is far quicker than chickpeas. It also depends what you are planning to do. If you are making hummus you may want to cook the chickpeas until they are almost mushy but for a salad they should just be soft.

Some legumes such as most beans and chickpeas you will need to soak for at least 8-10 hours (but longer is better). Change the water a couple of time to keep them fresh (it can smell really bad). Lentils, split peas and mung beans do not need soaking.

The lentil dip below can be served together with fresh vegetables such as raw carrots, cucumber and celery. Slightly cooked cauliflower and broccoli also work well. You can also use the dip as a spread on freshly baked bread and crackers. Enjoy!

lentil dip
(Plenty of dip)

one cup dried french lentils (almost 2 cups cooked)
1-2 bay leaves
A sprig of sage
½ onion (and/or other vegetable scraps such as carrot, celery or fresh fennel)
about one tablespoon of salt

for the dip
about 2 cups cooked lentils (as above)
one shallot
chili (more or less depending on how spicy you want it)
2-3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoon coriander*
2 teaspoons cumin*
one teaspoon fennel*
reserved lentil liquid
juice from a ½ lime

seasoning
smoked paprika powder (e.g. bittersweet Pimentón de la Vera)
sea salt
some olive oil
cilantro

First step is to cook the lentils. Rinse the lentils and cook them gently together with about two cups water, bay leaves, sage, salt and onion (etc) until soft (about 15-20 min). You may need to add a little more water. It’s important that you don’t cook the lentils dry and there should be about a cup of tasty liquid left when the lentils are done. When done reserve the liquid as it will be used later. Let the lentils cool and remove all bits and pieces of the sage, bay leaves, onions etc.

Chop the shallot into tiny pieces. Saute on very low heat until it starts to caramelize. Raise the temperature a little and add chili together with the spices. Stir everything together and add the lentils to the pan. Poor some of the water over and let cook for just a little bit. (You could stop the cooking here and just enjoy the lentils as a side to eggs, meat or vegetables).

Let the lentils cool a little before blending together with garlic in a food processor. Add lime juice plus some of the reserved lentil liquid to create a smooth texture. Season with flakes of sea salt and smoked paprika powder. Lastly add as much cilantro as you wish. Just before serving add some olive oil and a splash on top.

* I prefer to toast whole coriander, fennel and cumin in a skillet at high heat. When they start to “pop” remove them immediately from the pan into a mortar and pestle. Grind until fine. The flavor will be richer.

 This article was originally published at EcoSalon on 10 July 2012.

Market Fresh

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
green — by Johanna

Recently I illustrated the article Market Fresh by Jules Clancy. The article is about shopping local fresh vegetable from the market. It was published in the summer issue of Foodie Crush Magazine created by Heidi Larsen, July 2012.

Pickled Mustard Herring

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
diagrams,fish — by Johanna

This year I will be celebrating midsummer here in NY. Midsummer is the day when Swedes like me celebrate the longest and brightest day of the year. We eat plenty of herring, new potatoes (that you buy freshly picked and dirty), aged cheese on “knäckebröd“, drink aquavit and sing songs. The dessert is always strawberries which are often eaten plain with just a little sugar and cream (either whipped or mixed with milk.) Some make creamy strawberry cakes while I serve mine with dark chocolate cake and whipped cream.

For practical reasons the midsummer holiday is always on the Friday closest to the actual summer solstice day which this year will be on Friday the 22nd of June.

The traditional herring you eat for midsummer is Matjes. It’s an excellent herring typically spiced with sugar, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Traditionally you eat this type of herring with sour cream topped with chopped chives and new potatoes & fresh dill. I love this meal so much that I keep eating it throughout the whole summer.

Other common flavors are mustard, onion, lemon or dill herring. More rare or rather unexpected flavors are tomato, garlic or curry herring (not my cup of tea though). You can find these different types at any supermarket in Sweden or more homemade styles in most Swedish fishmongers.

If you can get hold of fresh herring, the best experience is to cure and flavor herring yourself. This can be a tough task if you are outside Scandinavia. In New York City I have only seen fresh herring a couples of times. In the city it’s possible to find simple cured herring in vinegar. You don’t really need to do anything if you find this kind of herring but with just a few simple additions like mustard and dill you will raise this fish to another level (see below).

the cure
(if you can get hold of fresh fish otherwise skip this part)

  • about 1 lb filets of fresh herring*
  • ½ cup white vinegar (6%)**
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon salt

Rinse the herring in cold water. If you like you can skin the herring but I normally do that after the cure as it gets off easier then. Mix the white vinegar together with the salt and the sugar. When the sugar and salt are totally dissolved in the liquid add the water. Place the herring in a bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over. Set aside in the fridge for about 24 hours. Stir in between to make sure that all fillets gets properly cured. Its done when all fillets have become white in color.

Let the fillets drain properly in a strainer while you prepare the sauce. Remove the skin with your fingers or use a knife to peel it off. Cut the fillets with a scissor into bite size pieces.

mustard herring

  • about one lb cured herring(as above or get simple herring in vinegar. Only use the herring pieces, removing all liquid, onion, etc.)
  • 3 tablespoons sweet mustard
  • one tablespoon dijon mustard
  • one tablespoon brown sugar
  • one teaspoon sherry vinegar (apple cider vinegar works as well)
  • 50 ml neutral oil
  • ½ cup dill
  • one shallot

for decoration

chopped chives

Mix together mustard, sherry vinegar and sugar. Add carefully the  oil drop by drop while stirring. Chop the shallot and dill finely and add it to the sauce. Season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. Place the herring pieces into the sauce and stir carefully around so the sauce gets around the fish evenly. Let the fish rest for a couple of hours, preferably 24 hours but I can never wait that long. Before serving chop the chives into 1/4” pieces and sprinkle on top. Serve the herring with new potatoes or just on dark rye bread with sliced boiled eggs. Enjoy!

* It’s not impossible to fillet the fish yourself but you need some practice. This is one way: Cut off the head and tail. Open up the stomach with a small knife (or even your fingers) to take out the innards. Make it as clean as possible. Now comes the tricky part where you use your thumbs to loosen the backbones by pressing your thumb under it. When it starts to loosen grab the top of the backbone and pull it off. You now have both fillets connected together. Remove the fins with a scissor and rinse the fillet in cold water. You will get a hang of it after some practice. If you think this is too messy, just ask your fishmonger to do it for you.

** If you only find 5% white vinegar you should use a little less water.

Before buying any fish check with Seafood Watch for the most sustainable options.

Thei article was originally published at EcoSalon on 19 June 2012.

Sofi’s Caramelized Rhubarb Jam

Saturday, June 16th, 2012
fruit,sweet — by Johanna

Currently I’m in Sweden taking care of an old house in the countryside. It’s as beautiful and lovely as its sounds. In the garden there is rhubarb, stinging nettles and leeks. The strawberries are flowering which shows that there will be delicious and fresh treats to pick in a couple of weeks . The deep red poppies are surrounded by bumblebees and the fish are jumping in the pond.

This weekend I had some dear friends over for dinner. I had successfully baked sourdough bread which we enjoyed with dried sausage, aged goat cheese and olives while my friend Johan Kohnke prepared the rooks that was one of the sensations of the evening. The rooks are a delicacy similar to quail. In this part of Sweden there is an old tradition for farmers to hunt them as the birds often collect the seeds from the new seeded fields. Instead of just feeding them to the pigs, my friends and I had the pleasure to enjoy them with a creamy porcini mushroom sauce spiced with plenty of wine and herbs from the garden.

For dessert my Sofi Meijling made a Cardamom Panna Cotta with a jam she cooked with freshly picked rhubarbs from my vegetable plot. The panna cotta was made with both heavy cream and Greek yogurt (about 50/50) which gave the pannacotta a slight sour flavor (see example of other panna cotta recipes below). Sofi used about one teaspoon crushed cardamom to flavor this evening’s final dish.

This rhubarb jam was such a great reminder of how much I love having a vegetable garden. You don’t really need mush to make something so simply delicious.

Sofi’s Caramelized Rhubarb Jam
(for about 4 people as topping to pannacotta or ice cream)

About 6 rhubarb stalks
2 tablespoons regular sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar (Sofi used Swedish farin which is a similar sugar type)
1/3 cup water

Melt the sugar in a pan together with the water and let it cook for awhile. Keep an eye on the sugar so it doesn’t burn and stir a little now and again. You may need to lower the heat to medium. Clean the rhubarb and cut them into one inch long pieces. When the sugar is thick and sticky add the rhubarb and let them simmer until soft but not totally mushy. Set aside to cool before serving.

If you think this jam is too simple you can spice it up with either ginger, cardamon or licorice root.

The jam is also great together with aged cheese on bread but then I recommend you make a larger batch (just add more of everything).

Here are some Pannacotta recipes:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall makes Yoghurt and Vanilla Panna Cotta

Jules Clancy makes Panna Cotta with Mascarpone and serves it with pot roasted pears.

Ilva Beretta spices her Panna Cotta with lavender.

This article was originally published at EcoSalon on 16 June 2012.

Mazariner – a Swedish Pastry Classic (collaboration)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
sweet — by Johanna

Story by Anna Brones • Illustration by Johanna Kindvall • Recipe by both

Put two Swedes who love to cook in a kitchen together and there will be an immediate discussion of what baked good needs to be concocted for afternoon coffee. After all, we don’t mess around with our coffee breaks, and a serious coffee break deserves a serious pastry. So we settled on mazariner.

Mazariner are the darling of Swedish cafes, a balance of buttery pastry and almond filling topped with a thin layer of icing; the type of thing you bite into and wonder where this food has been all of your life. They’re just fancy enough that you don’t keep them on hand at all times, but you don’t have to put them on a serving tray.

Made in small oval tart tins, they can seem daunting to make, but as it turns out, are easy enough that you don’t need to cruise to your local IKEA to track down the mass produced version – although they do have them if you’re in a Swedish food pinch.

Our recipe search started with a few Swedish cookbooks and a call to my mother who was immediately reciting the ingredients from a page she had ripped out of a Swedish magazine sometime in the late 80s – when you come across a good recipe, you hold on to it. Johanna, being a more skilled pastry “chef” than myself did a creative combination of the many versions, and we both decided that plain icing just wouldn’t suffice. Add a little orange juice and you have a real masterpiece.

Make a batch of these, brew a French press and it will almost be like you’re sitting at a cafe in Stockholm. Almost.

mazariner

dough
7 oz butter (almost 2 sticks)
2 cups regular flour
¼ cup sucanat or organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons whole cardamom (crushed in a mortar, or slightly ground in a coffee grinder)
one small egg

filling
one cup blanched, ground almonds (can be replaced with almond meal)
2 bitter almonds (about 1 teaspoon almond extract, or more depending on how strong you want the taste)
2.5 oz butter
½ cup sucanat or organic cane sugar
3 small eggs

icing
juice from an orange
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large wide bowl cream together butter, egg and sugar. With your hands, mix in flour – this can be done either in the bowl or directly on a clean counter top. Crush the cardamom with a mortar and pestle as fine as you wish. If you don’t have a mortar or grinder, you can use pre-ground cardamom. Add it to the dough and blend well. Let the dough rest in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.

While the pastry dough rests, blanch the almonds by pouring boiling hot water over them and letting soak for a few minutes. They are ready when the skin slips off easily. Skin all of the almonds and grind them into a fine meal in a food processor. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and set aside to cool. Whisk the eggs together with sugar to a porous batter and add in almonds, almond extract (if you didn’t use bitter almonds) and butter. Stir together until well blended.
Grease small tartlet tins* (see illustration above) with butter. Line the molds with a thin layer of dough (about 1/8”) and fill them almost to the top with the almond mixture. If there is any leftover dough you can freeze it and use it some other time.
Bake in the oven at 400°F for about 15 minutes. The cakes should have got a slightly brown color on top. Let them cool a little before removing the cakes from the mold.

While the mazariner bake, prepare the icing. In a small bowl add the confectioner’s sugar and drip in some orange juice. The icing should be a little thick but still easy to drizzle over the mazariner. Wait until the mazariner have cooled before icing them.

Serve the mazariner for an afternoon tea or coffee break, you’re sure to make some new friends if you pull these out.

*If you don’t have small single cake molds as described you can use mini muffin trays or similar forms. In Sweden, disposable aluminum forms are often used, but stay away from single-use containers and do the best with what you have. We always encourage creativity!

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Other Swedish baked classics

Semlor - cardamom rich bun is filled with almond paste and heavy whipped cream
Kanelbullar – Swedish Cinnamon Bun
Lussebullar – Saffron Buns
Pepparkakor – Ginger Bread Cookies (at EcoSalon)

This article was originally published at EcoSalon, 15 May 2012