Two Different kinds of Pesto: Sorrel and Basil & Celery

Saturday, April 21st, 2012
green — by Johanna

Some may think it’s silly to grow your own sorrel when you have it growing wild just around the corner. As the cultivated sorrel has a slightly milder and nicer flavor I believe its a great idea to include this sour and lemony herb in a  garden plot.

Its best is to harvest the young light green leaves, as when the leaves gets older and larger (darker green) they get tough and unpleasantly sour. Sorrel can be cooked like spinach for soups and omelets or raw in salads and pesto (see below). I also think the sourness in this pesto works terrifically well with fish, poached or cured. Spread on cracker this sorrel pesto can be a simple and delicious appetizer.

Sorrel Pesto

about 2 cups of young sorrel leaves
2 garlic cloves
a handful of walnuts
fresh red chili to your own taste (I use about ½”- 1″ depending on hotness)
½ cup grated parmesan
olive oil
a few sprigs of parsley (optional)
season with: salt and pepper

Pick about 2 cups of very young Cultivated Sorrel leaves. Rinse the leaves in cold water and drain while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop the walnuts and the chili a little. Grate the Parmesan roughly.
When the sorrel is dry, run them in the food processor (or use a mortar and pestle). Add chopped garlic and run the machine a bit before adding chili, walnuts, (parsley) and parmesan. Drizzle some olive oil over. Blend the mixture carefully as it should have a crunchy texture. If necessary add some more olive oil. Season with salt and fresh pepper.

Note: Sorrel contains plenty of vitamins but the plant contains some oxalic acid which is not healthy if eaten too much (especially if your body easily creates kidney stones). I think to have sorrel on a few occasions over the summer can hardly harm you.

This spring I have seeded plenty of basil and they are now all growing on my window sill. They are doing well but are still too small to be harvested. If you don’t have the patience to seed basil you can of course buy a plant from the plant shop. You can also sometimes find small pots at the vegetable shop which work really well replanted in a larger and nicer pot. I use basil to spice up almost any vinaigrette and as a main herb when making hazelnut baked cauliflower. Why not try basil as a flavor in cocktails! I like it with cucumber in my favorite summer drink pimm’s cup. Even if it’s well known, I still think basil on fresh tomatoes and mozzarella is magical.

This basil pesto is made with the addition of celery stems (and leaves) that gives a nice grassy flavor. Instead of pine nuts I use walnuts (or roasted sunflower seeds). I use this basil pesto with spaghetti, as side to vegetable patties or on bread topped with tomatoes.

Basil & Celery Pesto

2 stems of celery
about 2 cups basil leaves
two cloves of garlic
handful walnuts (or sunflower seeds)
½ cup fresh grated parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper

Rinse the basil leaves carefully under cold water. Set aside and let dry while preparing the other ingredients. Chop the celery and garlic into small pieces. If the celery comes with leaves I would add them to the pesto as well. Mix all ingredients in a blender, starting with the basil, garlic and some olive oil. Add the celery, walnuts and lastly the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add as much olive oil as you like. Use less if you like to spread the pesto on bread and more if serving with pasta.

Both of these pesto variations, when packed nicely in a jar, are a great summer present – especially when you have a place in your garden where sorrel or basil grows better than any flowers.

If you like to learn more about sorrel I suggest reading Sarah Smith’s article about sorrel at The Foodie Bugle and Clotilde Dusoulier’s 50 Things To Do With Fresh Sorrel post.

Over at Food52 you can follow Amy Penningtons City Dirt column on how to grow plants from seeds etc.

this article was originally published at Ecosalon

 

 

Cured Trout for Easter

Friday, April 6th, 2012
diagrams,fish — by Johanna

It’s Easter again and I’m planning to treat myself and guests to some cured trout. To cure trout I use the same method and ratio as when I make traditional Scandinavian gravlax. The recipe below is plain and simple. Not much more is needed for this delicate treat, but if you want to try something different you can add other flavors. Ederflower, ginger, crushed juniper or a shot of aquavit work really well. The list is endless.

Besides salmon and trout you can use this same method to cure other types of fish. Mackerel is an excellent option, and Keiko over at food blog Nordljus cured a good looking seabass with a scent of licorice. As I love licorice, I decided to add some toasted fennel seeds to my cure this Easter, which I think will go really well with the mild trout flavor.

for the curing you will need

1 kilo (2 lb) trout fillet
1 teaspoon freshly milled white pepper
4 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons sugar
bunch of dill

toasted whole fennel seeds (optional)

for decoration
fresh dill
lemon

Note: The trout should be frozen one or two days before you start the curing. The freezing will eliminate unnecessary bacteria.

It’s not hard to fillet your trout yourself. The benefit is that you can use the remaining parts (except for the guts) to make an excellent stock together with bay leaves, carrot, celery, onions, dills stalks, some herbs like thyme, salt and pepper.

If you still think this is too messy, ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you but remind them that the skin should be kept on.

When you have your fillets ready. Rinse them in some cold water and pull out, if there are any, remaining bones with a pair of pliers.

Mix together salt, sugar and pepper. Rub the fillet with some of the mixture and sprinkle the rest on top of the fillets. Wash the dill and chop finely. Put the fillets together, meat against meat with the chopped dill and (if you like) some toasted fennel seeds (slightly crushed) in between. Wrap the fish in a plastic foil. Let the fish cure in the fridge with something heavy on top for 48 hours. Turn them now and again.

After two days, unwrap and clean the fillets. Start to slice the trout at the end of the fish into thin diagonal slivers using a fillet knife (or any other suitable knife). Garnish with some dill branches and slices of lemon. They can be served on toast or dark bread. However this fish is sensational on a thin “knäckebröd” topped with a drip of Hovmästarsås. Enjoy!

Hovmästarsås
Stir together 3 tablespoons mustard, 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar with plenty of chopped dill. Slowly start dripping in a little less than a 1/2 cup of olive oil into the mixture while stirring continuously (just like you make mayonnaise). If you add the oil too quickly the mixture can separate. The result should be a thick sauce. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

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

 

This article was originally published at Ecosalon, 5 April 2012

Minty Zucchini Salad

Friday, March 23rd, 2012
cheese,diagrams,green,sides — by Johanna

Every summer I enjoy fresh mint from my own little garden. I grow three quite common types: pepper, lemon and Water Mint. All three work really well for cooking and I use them regularly in teas or as a flavor in different kinds of drinks. A few crumpled leaves together with elderflower cordial are a perfect match (with or without gin). Crushed with ice and Lime Mint makes for fantastic mojitos or a refreshing ingredient in a Pimm’s Cup.

It’s easy to grow mint but if you’re not careful, mint plants can rapidly take over your garden plot. Their roots are aggressive and hard to exterminate, so best to plant them in pots or at an unused part of the garden where they can grow freely without interfering with other growing treasures.

There are many different types of mint, some more common and others more rare. A more rare example are mint plants that have the scent of different kinds of fruits such as pineapple and strawberries. There is even a mint that has a clear flavor of chocolate. Not sure what I would do with this kind of mints but it’s funny as pineapple, strawberries and chocolate are all great companions to mint. For example in this strawberry salad, you can switch basil for regular mint.

Earlier this year in Marrakesh, I got inspired by the simple way they use mint in different kinds of salads. The salads were often just tomato, peppers and red onion cut into tiny pieces and blended together with finely chopped mint leaves, a squeeze of lemon and olive oil. Simple and delicious.

Anna Brones‘s mother makes a fresh mint pesto and it sounds perfect drizzled over a potato salad or even a grilled lamb chop. When the summer is here you may prefer something cool to eat instead of hot meals from the stove. A fresh red pepper and tomato salsa is an excellent choice. And a watermelon and feta salad makes a perfect starter or as a side for grilled meat and vegetables.

One of my latest treats is this simple and warm Zucchini & Feta Salad that is great to serve together with vegetable patties.

Warm Zucchini & Feta Salad

(for 2-4 people)

one – two zucchini
olive oil
some salt
some chili (fresh or flakes)
one or two clove of garlic
lime
¼ lb (100 g) feta
about 10 leaves of fresh mint

Wash the zucchini and cut thin slices along the long side (you may want to cut the zucchini in half crosswise first). Sprinkle some salt and olive oil over. Heat up a pan with some chili and fry the zucchini slices at a semi high heat (you may also put them on the grill or roast them if you like). Just take a few at a time as they shouldn’t touch each other while cooking. When the slices start to brown, turn them over. Just before they are done squeeze some garlic over. When the garlic has melted and the zucchini has a nice color, transfer them over to a serving dish. Repeat until all zucchini slices are done. Squeeze some lime and drip it all over the salad. Cut or crumble the feta and sprinkle it over the salad together with finely chopped mint. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.

 This recipe was originally published at EcoSalon on 22 March 2012

Pump up the Carrots! (by Sofi Meijling)

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
diagrams,fish,green,sides — by Johanna

One of the first times I met Sofi Meijling she treated me to a fantastic eel salad. It was Christmas eve and the salad was blended together with apples and dill. Since then we have become really good friends and she is somebody who I really enjoy having around in the kitchen. Sofi is that kind of person who could turn a catastrophic moment in the kitchen into a culinary adventure. She always has a great idea of how to turn a bland stew into something sensational.

Sofi, who used to be a graphic designer, works as a dramaturge (litterary adviser for theater plays) in both Malmö and Copenhagen. She is an excellent translator and is fluent in both Danish and English. She can also get around with some Russian. Impressive!

For some time Sofi lived without a normal kitchen and instead of getting a microwave she cooked her meals with an electric kettle and a soup thermos. She developed methods to steam different kinds of vegetables, boiled soft eggs and, according to Sofi, made the best couscous ever. She mastered the kettle and thermos so well that she once cooked an entire dinner for 4 adults and two kids.

I hope Sofi one day will start her own blog as I really enjoy her cooking and stories. Until then I’m happy to host her here.

Pump up the carrots!
by Sofi Meijling

This time of year I am getting a bit bored with the old swedes, parsnips and carrots. Roasting them in the oven, blending them in a hot lentil soup, mashing them into a golden puree is all nice and comforting, but now’s the time to wake them from the dead of winter and let the sunshine in! This delicious way of enjoying them raw suits any blend of roots, or carrots on their own. They will keep for several days, so you can make a large batch at a time. (Just make sure to use clean tools when you fish out the portion needed.)

Orange Cured Carrots
Fill a glass storage container with thinly sliced carrots. I recommend the use of a mandolin, if you are not particularly fond of slicing.
Use one orange per pound of roots to make the marinade. Choose organic oranges, since you want to use the zest, but tart or sweet variety doesn’t matter, the acidity will have to be balanced to taste anyway. Grate the zest off first, then press the juice from the halved fruits. Add double the amount of sunflower oil, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sucanat, a pinch of Korean chili flakes, a little ground black pepper, and a clove of garlic, cut in half but not crushed. Now add your apple cider vinegar, generously if your brand is full-bodied, a little less if the oranges were tart to begin with; the mix should be fresh and pleasantly sour.
Pour the marinade over the carrots and leave in the fridge overnight. Try it as a side dish with pork, with roman lettuce and rocket in a green salad, gently heated with lots of blue poppy seeds for your vegetarian buffet – or as I did last week: add their glory to a fish soup.

Waiting for spring Fish Soup
Sweat thinly sliced fennel, coarsely cut spring onion (or the green part of a leek) and a little thinly sliced garlic with olive oil. Season generously with salt, black pepper and some lovage. Set portion-cuts of haddock, pollock (saithe) or cod on top of the vegetables and add boiling water until just covered. Simmer gently for a few minutes. Add the oranged carrots when the fish is almost done, let them get warmed through but not softened. Sprinkle each serving with freshly chopped tarragon and/or cilantro.

(kokblog recommend to always check what fish to buy…
Seafood Watch (US) and WWFs fisk guide (Sweden)

Spätzle – German Egg Noodles

Saturday, March 10th, 2012
egg,pasta,sides — by Johanna

Årsta fältet, a flat field in a suburb of Stockholm, may not be the most exotic place to visit in the capital city of Sweden. But somewhere in that field I had one of my most peculiar food memories ever. It was there I ate spätzle (or maybe it was Hungarian nokedli) for the first time in my life. The spätzle was served with a rich goulash that we made in a hanging cast-iron pot over an open fire. This is that kind of moment that is hard to recreate.

The goulash was amazing but it was the spätzle that won my heart. Since then I’ve been treated to spätzle again and again and I love it as much every single time. However not many cooks have been able to share their recipe as they cook it by instinct without any instructions. Fair enough, I just had to start figuring out my own way.

I started by playing around with different recipes I found online. The result was often not that great which probably had more to do with the choice of flour than the recipe. I discovered that, for example, pastry flour (why use that in the first place?) made the batter taste really floury in an unpleasant way. I also tried adding fresh grated potatoes but then it became halušky (potato noodles). At some point I gave up and started to use just regular wheat flour. The result made me very happy and pleased!

Recently I followed Steen Hanssen’s recommendation to use dinkelmehl (spelt flour). The spätzle became darker and had a slight nutty taste. I liked it.

for the batter
(2-3 people)

3 eggs (depending on size)
¼ cup of lukewarm water
about 1¼  cups of spelt flour or regular flour
pinch of salt
some freshly grated nutmeg
a couple of tablespoons of butter

Heat up some water until its just lukewarm. Mix together eggs, water, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Gradually start adding flour, little by little. Make sure to avoid creating lumps. The dough has got enough flour when its a little stretchy and easily falls off you spatula without breaking. If you get the dough too stiff, just add some more water. Let the dough rest for about half an hour.

There are many different ways to “form” the spätzle and its probably very individual which method you may prefer. I have tried some techniques with more or less success. I think using a spätzle lid is the easiest and my kitchen doesn’t ends up in a mess (see image above).

Heat up some salted water in a large pot that will fit the spätzle lid nicely (see below for other methods). Bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat. Place the lid on top of the pot and add ¼ of the dough on top. Start to press the dough down with a spatula (often comes w/ the lid). Stir around the spätzle a little so they don’t stick together. The spätzle are done after about 2-3 minutes when they float up to the surface. Use a skimming ladle to fish them up. Repeat above steps until the dough is finished. Adjust the heat if necessary. Add some melted butter to the spätzle so they don’t stick together.

Serve the  spätzle with a rich goulash, creamy mushrooms or baked in the oven topped with cheese.

Other methods (and there are more)
Another technique is to use a pasta strainer, preferably those with larger wholes. My stainless steel strainer worked fine, even if it was a little clumsy, the spätzle came out pretty nice, tiny and delicate! Just let the strainer rest at an angle on the edge of the pot (see image above) and use a soft spatula to press down the batter through the holes into the hot water.

If you want larger spätzle you can use a smaller chopping board and a chef knife or a bench scraper. Place one batch of dough on the chopping board and let it rest at an angle at the edge of the pot. Start to cut small pieces of the dough right into the boiling water. It worked okay and probably would be better with practice.

Recipe and drawings was originally published at EcoSalon, on 11 March 2012