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Janssons frestelse/Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Gratin)

28 Dec I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

My sister-in-law Annika was born and raised in Sweden and in the 20 or so years since she appeared in our lives, (cue ABBA’s Greatest Hits) she has introduced us to such marvels as aquavit (also called snaps), lingonberry, ginger cookies, and (stop ABBA soundtrack and start spare, percussive track suitable for forbiddingly cold and spare winter landscapes and mythic creatures) the Volvo commercial featuring footballing demi-god Zlatan Ibrahimović. Mmmm.

Thanks to Annika, we like to do a Swedish Christmas Eve buffet table. Or we like to have her do a Swedish Christmas Eve smorgasbord to which we contribute a couple of things.

How it looked going into the oven (sent Annika'photos of my progress so she could advise)

How it looked going into the oven (sent Annika’photos of my progress so she could advise)

Unfortunately she and my brother and my marvellous niece don’t live close enough to us anymore for Swedish Christmas Eve all together, but thanks to IKEA, my dad’s gravlax (salt and sugar-cured salmon) and Annika’s easy potato gratin recipe, (The dish is called Jansson’s temptation) we were able to do a reasonable facsimile this year. Emboldened by the success of this dish, I think I will try her Swedish meatball recipe next year!

Happily, we had leftovers for midnight snacking!

Happily, we had leftovers for midnight snacking!

Important note: The Swedish call sprats (a small fish/herring) by the name ‘anjovis’. DO NOT BE FOOLED. They are not the same ‘anchovies’ as you buy in the tinned fish section of your local supermarket (unless your local supermarket happens to be IKEA). They are not oil or salt-packed Italian anchovies with a strong salty fish character. These are pickled in spiced vinegar and are light and completely different. So beware!

Willy’s online seems to sell them, although a recent check showed them to be sold out! i-Gourmet has them too. I will be trying out tinned “bristlings” which might be the same and I will let you know.

I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

Jansson’s Temptation
This is Annika’s recipe, halved, which was more than enough for our family of four. If you want to feed loads of people, simply double the quantities and use a 9×13 oven dish

 About 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 tin spiced and pickled Swedish ‘ansjovis’ (sprat filets) – I use “ABBA Anchovy Style Sprat Fillets” from IKEA

1 Cup whipping cream/heavy cream

Butter for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 425°

Butter an 8×8 dish and spread about a third of the potatoes over the base. Cover with about half of the onion, and place half the ‘ansjovis’ fillets on top (save the liquid that the ‘anjovis’ are in!).
Cover with another third of potatoes, then the rest of the onion, and the rest of the ‘anjovis’. Finish with a last layer of potatoes.

Pour the liquid from the ‘anjovis’ tin over the potato mixture.

Pour the cream over the potatoes – you may need a bit more or a bit less – it depends on the size of the dish you’re using. You want the cream to almost cover the potatoes.

(Other people like to sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot some butter slices over the breadcrumbs, but I never do.)

Bake in a 425°oven for about 1 hour. It’s ready when the potatoes are soft and the top layer is getting golden.

 

You may also like:

Gravlax

This years gravlax is phenomenal. EXCELLENT for entertaining as you can divide into pieces for each event.

This years gravlax is phenomenal. EXCELLENT for entertaining as you can divide into pieces for each event.

Scandinavian Shrimp Salad (Skagen Salad)

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

 

 

 

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Cornbread

26 Dec Reading through the ingredients first!

The best thing about school holidays is that the kids are home. The worst thing about the school holidays is that the kids are home.

Okay, that’s not really how I feel about holidays but it seemed like a catchy way to start this post on cooking with kids.

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

Regular readers know my seven-year-old is starting to learn his way around the kitchen. Part of that is giving him responsibility for certain dishes at the holiday table. He can manage roasted asparagus on his own now. He makes bread as well, from his prize-winning no-knead recipe. And with his grandfather, he makes a delicious cornbread that goes well with roasts (and chili).

What's next? Let's see.

What’s next? Let’s see.

The original recipe comes from Kids Cook! by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a treasure trove of simple and tasty recipes that kids can manage. Padushi and Leandro have tweaked it a bit (starting with substituting the margarine for real butter and beating the eggs before mixing with the rest of the ingredients) and the results are an ever-so-slightly sweet, rich crumb that has a lovely cakey texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

The other results are a kid who is learning to follow instructions, a grandfather who is learning to let the kid do the work, and a grandson and grandfather who accomplish stuff together.

*See tips for cooking with kids below.

Nice crumb!

Nice crumb!

Easy Cornbread

1½ Cups cornmeal

1½ Cups buttermilk

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

½ Cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ Cup butter, melted

1 tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, beating for about a minute.

Pour batter into a greased 8”x8” pan.

Bake at 450° for 25-30 minutes (if you use a glass pan, you’ll need the longer time) or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*Tips for cooking with kids

1. Get all the ingredients and measuring equipment laid out before having them wash their hands and get started.

2. Make sure the surface you are using is a comfortable height for your child(ren).

3. Use aprons or smocks or clothes you don’t care about.

4.Read the ingredients and ingredients out loud with the kids BEFORE starting. Use that opportunity to make sure you have everything you need. FRom this point on, the fewer times you have to turn your back on them the better.

5. If you will be allowing the kids to measure ingredients, have them do it over a bowl that is not your mixing bowl. That way accidental overpours or spills don’t ruin your batter or dough or whatever.

6. As soon as you are done with an ingredient, close it up and get it out of the way. Many spills come from stuff left around just waiting to be knocked over.

7. Remember to have fun. This one can be a challenge for me…my little guy can be very impulsive and tends to believe that he has a better way of doing things than the instructions indicate. I am learning to hold it together and focus on recovering our recipe from whatever he’s done, but when you do get snappy (and I do), just take a deep breath and remember that you are not the only adult that has ever barked at a kid who isn’t listening or wrecking your kitchen. Keep Calm and Keep Baking, as it were.

 

4 Effortless Yet Elegant Party Appetizers for Busy People

20 Dec Love that electric skillet!

I was recently invited to do a cooking demonstration at Nassau Community College (where my more usual role is as a full-time ESL lecturer in a language immersion program) for the Mom’s Club, a campus club for student-parents where they get support in their struggle to complete their college education while raising children and often simultaneously holding a full-time job!

So these are women who needed a fun mini-workshop that would include some nifty snacks, some honest conversation and maybe even a few ideas for inexpensive and easy appetizers they can easily prepare for their families. I think this line-up delivered.

All hands on deck!

All hands on deck!

It was a pleasure to cook for this small group — thanks to professors Beth Goering and Molly Phelps Ludmar for inviting me and also providing an electric skillet, bread and soft drinks.

Happy holidays ladies!

Happy holidays ladies!

Together — I put everyone to work, of course — we made Spanish-style garlic mushrooms, cilantro-sunflower seed pesto, black olive and walnut paste, and white cheese and red grape skewers. Everything was done within a half hour, so we had time to sit and eat, which is a rare treat for busy moms!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Here are the recipes:

White Cheese and Red Grapes (requires toothpicks!)

Cut Latin style white cheese into cubes about the size of the grapes. Skewer a single grape and a single cube of cheese onto each toothpick (this is a job kids love! and it keeps them busy while you are trying to do other things.) and arrange on a serving platter. The cubed cheese is the base.

Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Pesto (sunflower seeds are a terrific alternative to pine nuts or walnuts for those with nut allergies)

One bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped (YES you can use the stems)

2-3-4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds (roasted and salted seeds add a lot of flavor)

Squeeze of freeze lemon

pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)

extra virgin olive oil

abundant grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or Locatelli cheese

salt to taste

Place cilantro, garlic, sunflower seeds, lemon, and optional pepper flakes in a food processor or blender and whirr until chopped. Add olive oil bit by bit (in a thin stream if you can pour while blending) until you achieve a thick paste. Add cheese to taste (start with about 1/4 Cup) and serve over pasta or as a spread for bruschetta, crackers or sliced bread.

For an easy basil pesto (my second grader makes it!) click here.

Black Olive and Walnut Paste (Tapenade)

1 can pitted black olives (or one cup good seedless black olives if you can afford them), drained indifferently

1/4 Cup walnuts (but add them Tbs by Tbs)

1 tsp capers drained indifferently

2-3 anchovies from a jar, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel

leaves from 3-4 thyme sprigs

optional extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients (except optional olive oil) in a food processor and blend till smooth, adding olive oil as necessary. Serve as a spread for toast or crackers.

For another version heavier on the anchovies, click here.

Spanish style Garlic Mushrooms

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

12 oz white or Cremini mushrooms, stems removed (and saved in the freezer for stock) and wiped clean with paper towel.

3 Tbs dry red wine (I took some mushrooms out at this point to accommodate someone who doesn’t consume alcohol)

1 Tbs chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the oil until loose and fragrant. Lower heat to medium low garlic and cook gently until golden brown.

Add mushrooms and stir to coat., Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms start to brown deeply and release their juices. Add wine and raise hand eat to a fast simmer for about 5 minutes, until alcohol has cooked off but there is still liquid. Sprinkle with parsley salt and serve with crusty bread.

For a more complex version of these mushrooms that includes butter, click here.

Artichokes or Fartichokes? We Test Them

7 Nov Another view of them raw

I got a quart of Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus),as a special bonus from the farm the other day and I was thrilled to get to try them.

Here's what they look like before washing

Here’s what they look like before washing

But a funny thing happened when I began to research…some articles suggested that as delicious as these roots are — favored by Native Americans back in the day and now beloved worldwide — and despite their cheery aliases —  sunchokes, sunroot and earth apples  — they have a dark underbelly. Emphasis on belly. The story goes that they cause gastric disturbances that no one wants to talk about, since they have so many tasty uses and currently are the darling of the foodie-rootsy set.

I took my investigation international, as my sources said the Brits in particular complained about the gas and christened them “fartichokes.” Given that the English would be unlikely to worry about the truth of such a terrific pun-type word and would happily use it with complete disregard to its relationship to actual fact, I had to corroborate.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

My son and I got on the Skype to Lowestoft, England to ask my friend Kate and her two boys, Alastair and Gregor, who are 10 and therefore can be expected to be well-versed in anything gassy. They said no, they’d never heard such a thing, but seemed to enjoy being asked.

Well, me being me, I forged on with the experiment, fearlessly offering my body as laboratory rat in the name of good eating, washing and peeling some (but not all) of these cute little roots that have a hobbit-y sort of charm. I set about roasting and then had a taste. They were delicious. Really delicious.

Firm to the bite then creamy inside, with a wonderful nutty flavor (the peeled bits were better than the unpeeled); I was smitten and already thinking about what I could do with them the next time. I then went to bed, after leaving some for my parents to try with their lunch the next day.

Another view of them raw

Another view of them raw

All was well, until suddenly on my way to work that next morning I found out that the Wikipedia entry was painfully true…and I quote… Continue reading

Buttery Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

1 Nov It doesn't get much prettier than this

I don’t always reap what I sow, being that my garden is often a disaster and if my family depended on it for primary sustenance, the de Cubas would be no more.

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

But in a delightful surprise, a late summer planting of leftover radish seeds, sown in some fit of hopefulness as I cleared the beds of the unproductive detritus of a summer spent elsewhere, yielded a pound or so of very fat cherry bell and French Breakfast radishes.

Should've harvested these a week ago....

Should’ve harvested these a week ago….

So fat, in fact, that they needed a roasting with butter to mellow the bite and soften the woodiness that comes when you don’t notice what is happening and you wait too long to harvest. It is the #gardenofneglect after all!

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

I added in there some watermelon turnips from our CSA (Restoration Farm), which were absolutely gorgeous, but I didn’t know what else to do with. This is the simplest recipe ever for a beautiful autumnal side dish!

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

Radishes, sliced into ¼-1/2” half moons and/or Watermelon turnips, peeled/pared and sliced into ¼”half moons

A knob of butter

2 Tbs (or more) extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 425°F

In a baking dish big enough to hold your quantity of root vegetables you have, place all the vegetables. Add a generous knob of butter (figure 1.5 Tbs for a 8×8 oven dish worth and go up a half Tbs for each inch larger). Pour 2 Tbs of olive oil over that. Stir everything around to coat and add more oil as you see fit.

Roast in the oven a half hour. Check how things are doing. The turnip will take longer, so lower heat to 375°F and roast for another half hour (you won’t burn the radishes, but the turnip will soften. I will be experimenting with a slower roast at lower temp all the way in the next few days). Sprinkle generously with finishing salt and pepper and serve.

Garbanzo (Chick Pea) Salad with Tahini, Black Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

13 Aug rustic and robust chick peas!

I love garbanzos (chick peas, ceci) in all different ways, but especially as a salad or salad topper. They add meatiness and texture to everything and taste great with loads of garlic and onions.

Also, very versatile...

Also, very versatile…

Here is a quick and easy salad that uses up the bits and bobs you have in your fridge. When I make this kind of salad, I feel as though I am just giving it everything I’ve got; you’ll notice that the quantities of each ingredient can vary to your taste and availability. We’ll be having this one tonight with cold leftover chicken, perhaps some marinated artichoke hearts, an olive assortment, some pistachios and clementines. Delicious light dinner!

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

Garbanzo Salad with Tahini, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives

2-3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

½ – 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

1-1 Tbs tahini

Pinch salt

1 Tbs garlic, minced

2 Cup garbanzos (soaked or from a can)

¼ Cup onion, chopped fine        

¼ Cup green pepper, chopped fine

2 Tbs sun-dried tomatoes, diced

1-2 Tbs pitted black olives, sliced

1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

In a serving bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, until smooth. Stir in tahini until smooth, then a bit of salt. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, adding additional salt if desired. Serve over salad greens or rice.

Georgia Kalamidas’ Purslane Salad (Another weed made useful!)

12 Aug I haven't yet met Georgia, but her last name suggests that the Greeks know how to manage this bad boy right

We were a bit bemused to find this thick-leaved rubbery-stemmed plant called purslane (Portulaca oleracea) in our pick-up and completely unsure of how to use it. It seemed to be the exception to the CSA rule of thumb: “When in doubt, saute in garlic and oil.” What to do?

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Fortunately, our Restoration Farm grower Caroline Fanning provided a recipe from someone I think is another another member, Georgia Kalamidas (duly credited here) and the Internet provided more info on what this thing is. Apparently, some folks think it is a beautiful edible ornamental. Others think it is a weedy, resilient pain the gardener’s ass.

University of Illinois Extenson educator, Sandra Mason in a very funny and informative piece called “Purslane: Weed it or Eat it?”  discusses the relative merits of purslane in the garden. For example: “Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.”

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

The edible nature of this useful weed is another story. In young plants you can use the stem. My pick-up partners, Lori and John, and I tasted the stems and were not impressed. So we removed the leaves (it takes a while, so factor in time for that), rinsed thoroughly (purslane generally grows close to the ground) and followed Georgia’s recipe. The purslane is a bit like watercress without the nuttiness, and a bit like parsley but milder. In fact, you could substitute either in this salad, which was absolutely refreshing and delicious, with a lot of brightness and crunch. And by the way, you can apparently saute it in garlic (the rule stands!), and also in soups, but don’t cook it too long or it will become mucilaginous (slimy, like okra). Also, next time I might substitute oregano for the mint and add feta. Click for basic recipe! Continue reading

Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it’s gooey, you’ll like the food history

18 Jul This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds

In Puerto Rico we call it guingambó (geen-gahm-BOH) or variations on that word, which seems to derive from the original African term for it. You may know it as okra (which may be another African derivative) or ladyfingers for the elegant shape of its conical pods. Usually bright green, there are gorgeous red varieties too (the red color doesn’t really hold up in cooking, unfortunately). It’s available year-round in hot places, but in the Northeast, it is a summer to early fall vegetable.

From the farmer's market

From the farmer’s market

It is said to originate in Abbysinia/Ethiopia/Eritrea and made its way across Africa and eventually to the Americas where it was particularly embraced in the Caribbean and Southern — especially French –U.S. There were loads of Africans imported against their will to those regions but okra came with them and it happens to grow well there. And they had to do a lot of the cooking so they incorporated it in creative ways.

Chop Chop!

Chop Chop!

Gumbo, that deservedly beloved stew cook-up from the New Orleans area,was thickened with okra and probably gets its name from that same African word that sounds like guingambó, although you might think that “gummy” has something to do with it too. After all, that gooey stuff inside called “mucilage” definitely brings things together. Today it is gaining popularity amongst non-Southern, non-Caribbean people and that is a good thing! You can bread and fry it, which is on my list to try soon, and when my CSA farm has some I will eat it raw and love it up, but the way I adore it is stewed.

A little ham for sweetness and depth

A little ham for sweetness and depth

My dad claimed not to like okra for the usual reason: TOO GOOEY! But then I brought some red okra home fresh from an organic farm in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico (Productos Sana) and he went at it and changed his mind. Funnily enough, my late maternal grandmother (Puerto Rican) used to make a delicious stew. My dad (Aruban), in his experimenting, inadvertently ended up creating the same dish with nearly the same flavors as she used and I am very happy!

This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds

This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds the way my grandmother did. Easier to eat.

The recipe is below, but first, a few valuable links for food history nerds. Continue reading

Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)

16 Jul Tostón de panapén

When they talk about flakes of manna falling from the sky, I am sure they are talking about tostones de panapén.

Chunks browned lightly

Chunks browned lightly

Panapén or pana is what Puerto Ricans call breadfruit. The back story of how breadfruit got to the West Indies from South East Asia is actually one of the most famous seafaring tales around: The Mutiny on the Bounty.

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather brought his produce and my great-uncle had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

Captain Bligh, on that ill-fated trip was trying to bring breadfruit to plant in the  Caribbean for cheap slave food.

Wikipedia image

Continue reading

Zucchini: 7 Superstar Supereasy Recipes

12 Jul Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all love summer veggies fresh from the garden. Except — admit it! — when there are piles and piles and piles of zucchini sitting around your kitchen counters waiting for a purpose. For that time there is this post.

I have collected some of my favorite zucchini recipes here to inspire you and yours to enjoy zucchini in different ways (and overwhelmed gardeners can send this to their friends as they pass off some of the overabundance of zucchini from the backyard).

Enjoy! You will remember these days fondly in the dark of winter.

Rosemary-Manchego Zucchini Fritters

 

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

 

 Remoulade (Easy Summer Squash Slaw…cooooool)

 

Zucchini Slaw

Zucchini Slaw

 Crunchy Creamy Zucchini Corn Fritters

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

 Easy Stovetop Lemon-Oregano Zucchini and Yellow Squash

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

Healthy and Happy Grilled Veggie Kebabs Continue reading

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