Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yotam Ottolenghi's Amazing Hummus

If you have not taken a look at Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook, I highly reccomend that you do. Ottolenghi is a Israeli chef who has several restaurants in London.  His gorgeous cookbook is full of beautiful vibrant salads, vegetables and other amazing dishes that I want to eat every day.  I have been making his hummus and it is by far the best hummus that I have ever tasted. It is silky smooth, light and fluffy, with a gorgeous balance of chickpea flavor and tahini, tempered by a bit of lemon juice and garlic.

I like to eat it on the day that I make it warm, topped with fried bits of lamb. The leftover hummus is great the next day, cold smeared onto bread or slices of cucumber, carrot and celery.

There are two tricks that make this hummus great.  The first is that the chickpeas are cooked with a bit of baking soda.  The baking soda allows the chickpeas to cook a bit faster, but more importantly breaks down the outside shell of the chickpea.   The second trick is slightly overcook the chickpeas until they mush easily between your two fingers. Doing this results in a super smooth, silky and almost fluffy texture.  Trust me, when I say that you have never had hummus this good!

This recipe is for a purist hummus with just garlic, tahini and lemon juice as a flavoring.  You can jazz it up by adding some cumin or adding more tahini to taste.

Ottolenghi's Hummus, as interpreted by me

250 grams dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 to 1 cup tahini
4 tablespoons lemon juice (about a half of a large juicy lemon)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons ice cold water

The night before you want to make the hummus, put the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with plenty of water and let the beans soak over night.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Put a large pot on the stove on high heat.  Pour in the drained chickpeas and the baking soda.  Stir for about 3 minutes.  You will see that skins of the chickpeas start to disintegrate a bit and a film will form on the bottom of the pot.  Pour in 1.5 liters water and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam periodically. Cook the chickpeas for 20 to 30 minutes until they are very tender and can be mushed easily between two fingers.  Drain the peas.

Pour the chickpeas into a food processor and process until the peas are smooth.  Add in the tahini, salt, lemon juice, and the garlic (pressed through a garlic press).  Process until combined.  Taste teh hummus and adjust the salt and tahini to your liking. With the motor on, add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time.

Serve warm or cold with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of zatar spice, which adds a lemony bite as well as a gorgeous red color.  Some toasted pine nuts also taste wonderful on top.

I like to serve it as dinner with bits of lamb on top to smear over pita or a flat bread:

500 grams boneless lamb chop
1 teaspoon cumin
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon peppar
chopped parsley
a sprinkle of zatar
olive oil for frying

Cut the lamb into small bite size pieces.  Sprinkle with the salt, cumin, peppar and lemon juice.

Put a frying pan on the stove, preferably cast iron, onto the hottest heat.  Add a generous dollop of olive oil.  Fry the lamb, in two or three batches, until it is nicely browned, a few minutes on each side.

To serve, smear a generous amount of hummus on a platter.  Heap the lamb in the center, sprinkle with parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and dust it with the zatar.

Serve with sliced cucumber and flat bread.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Quintessential Mac and Cheese

Gustaf and I decided to walk the perimeter of Sodermalm a couple of weeks ago, stopping at the Hornstull Marknad for sustenance along the way.  This market is a great place to try out the latest food trucks, including some of my favorites including burritos at The Good Gringo, sliders at Flippin Burgers, and crepes at Bon Coin. On this occassion, there was a lovely couple with a table set up serving macaroni and cheese.  It was such an unlikely thing to find at a Swedish market, we had to try it.  And it was wonderful.  Really wonderful.  Cheesy and creamy but not too rich.  It had a bread crumb topping and to top it all off, they drizzled it with some truffle oil and put some grated truffled cheese on top.  It made us very happy.  So happy, that I was a bit annoyed. OK, really annoyed. Up to this point, I had felt that I made a pretty good mac and cheese.  But this mac and cheese blew mine away.  Clearly I had to up my game.

On our walk, Gustaf and I discussed the qualities that made this mac and cheese wonderful. We decided that the following items were key:
1) The pasta needed to be cooked slightly past al dente.  Not mushy but yielding.
2) For crunch, buttery toasted bread crumbs for a topping
3) The cheese sauce needed to be silky and rich tasting but still mild with a good mouth feel. How would we achieve this?  I have always used a good quality aged cheddar for my sauce.  But in fact, cheddar is not a great melting cheese.  It has a grainy quality that keeps the sauce from being silky.  Finally, we decided that if we used a combination of aged cheddar, parmesan, and plain trashy American cheese, we might hit the right flavor and mouth feel.

Here is how we did it:

Serves 4 to 6 persons

Bread crumb topping:
3 to 4 slices white bread
25 grams butter
1/4 teaspoon dried herbs (like rosemary or thyme) or 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh herb
a pinch of salt

Cheese Sauce:
50 grams butter
5 tablespoons flour
3/4 liters milk
250 grams grated cheddar
100 grams grated parmesan
5 slices American cheese
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and peppar to taste

500 grams pasta
Truffle oil, for an optional garnish

Make the toasted crumbs:
Prepare the crumbs by putting the bread in a food processor and blitzing until you have fine crumbs.  Mix the bread crumbs and herbs and salt together.  You can toast the crumbs in the oven or in a pan on the stove.
For on the stove:  Put the butter in the pan, with the heat turned up high.  When the butter is melted, add the breadcrumb mixture and toss until the crumbs are coated with butter.  Stir the bread crumbs in the pan until they are lightly browned and toasted.
In the oven:  Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove and toss the butter, breadcrumbs, salt, and herbs together until all the crumbs are coated in butter.  Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet and put in the oven at the highest heat or with the broiler/grill on.  Cook, stiring occasionally, until the crumbs are a golden brown, making sure you keep a close eye so that they don't work.
Set the crumbs aside to cool.

Cook the pasta:
Put a big pot of water to boil.  When the water comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt and the pasta.  Bring the water back to a boil and cook it for the time as directed on the pasta box.  Taste the pasta and cook it one to two minutes longer, so that it is slightly past the al dente stage.  Drain, the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water, in case you want to thin the pasta sauce.

Making the cheese sauce:
While the pasta is cooking, you can make the sauce.  First grate all the cheeses and set aside.

With a pot on medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the flour to the butter and stir until combined.  Continue stirring for a few minutes. Add the milk and stir quickly with a whisk to get out the lumps. As you add the milk, the sauce will thicken quickly.  Just keep stirring. Don't worry if the sauce seems a bit grainy.  As you continue to stir, the sauce will become smoother.  Continue stirring until the milk comes to a boil and thickens.  I alternate between a whisk to keep the sauce smooth and a spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan.

Once the sauce starts to boil, turn down the heat to low and add the cheeses, a pinch of salt and mustard.  Whisk until the cheeses are melted.  Taste and adjust the salt and add a bit of pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix until all the pasta is coated.  If the sauce seems to thick for your taste, then it with a bit of the preserved pasta water.

To serve, scoop out some of the mac and cheese into a bowl. Sprinkle with truffle oil, if desired.  Sprinkle on a generous portion of buttered crumbs.  Eat while hot.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Top 10 Summer Restaurants in Stockholm

It has been ages since I have posted.  I have not been cooking that much recently, but I am always inspired in the summer, especially with baking, so keep an eye out!

I thought I would share some of my favorite summer restaurants in Stockholm.  All of these places have a beautiful view, outdoor seating, or a otherwise summer feel.

1. Thai Boat (  This is a very fun restuarant on a boot moored in Södermalm.  They have a little beach where you can sit in the sand and sip their delicious cocktails.  The food is pretty good and the atmosphere fun and upbeat.

2. Malarpaviljongen (  This combination plant boutique and outdoor cafe in Kungsholmen is right on the water.  The food is light, salads and sandwiches, and the location is perfect.

3. Rosendalsträdgård Cafe (  This is my favorite place in Djurgården.  It doesn't getting better than having lunch in an apple orchard!  This gorgeous complex of cafe, gardens, and garden shop just keeps getting better.

4. Ulla Windblad (  A lovely spot for dinner in Djurgården on their outside patio, this restaurant features traditional Swedish cuisine and they do it very very well.  As they say on their
website, and I love them for it, they do not skimp on the cream and butter!

5. Milles Bakfika (  This little restaurant is right on Strandägen with the most gorgeous view in town, if you are lucky enough to get an outside table.  Their eggs benedict is very very good.

6. Hotel Lydmar Terrace Restaurant (  The outside bar facing the water is a scrumptious place to take a drink and watch the sunset.  However, they also have a little terrace restaurant upstairs on the second floor where you can sit under umbrellas, next to a fountain and enjoy lunch or dinner in elegant surroundings.  The main dining room is also delicious.

7. Urban Deli ( Both the locations have pleasant outdoor seating on the sidewalk in the summer, but the killer location is the rooftop bar at the Sveavägen location.  It has a gritty modern urban feel with all the stylishness that one expects from Swedes.  The space is suprisingly big and the view spectacular.  They even have blankets if you get a bit chilly.

8. Vaxholms Bygdsgards Cafe (  This charming cafe is only open in the summer and you can sit in the garden overlooking the water.  The highlight is the lavish cake buffet, but they also serve standard lunch fare.  Beware that the place can be very crowded.

9. Restaurant J (  This light and airy restaurant is located right on the dock in Nacka and is the perfect spot for a weekend brunch.

10. Oaxen Slip ( Yet another gorgeous restaurant in Djurgården, the slip is a bistro style restaurant on the backside of the island near Skansen overlooking the docks. The modern and airy interior overlooks the water and in the summer you can enjoy dining on the lovely deck outside.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Salmon with Creamed Leeks and Cabbage

Leeks and cabbage are the unsung heros of the vegetable world. Cabbage normally gets lumped into the smelly and disgusting vegetable category, and leeks are known mainly for the elegant vichysoisse cold soup and ignored the rest of the time.  This is a shame because both vegetables are really tasty.  Leeks have a lovely sweet flavor.  I often just saute them quickly in a bit of butter and then add a tiny bit of water and cook until the leeks is tender.  The leeks make a lovely side dish to chicken or fish. Cabbage can be mild and sweet or slightly spicy, depending on the type.  A quickly sauted cabbage also makes a great side dish, and just needs salt and pepper as a seasoning.

In this dish I combine the two, and add a bit of cream for lusciousness.  It is quick and easy to make and makes a tempting base for a piece of fish. A little chopped almonds gives a bit of crunch and textural contrast.

I have chosen salmon but any fish would taste good here, or even chicken.  Cod would be especially delicious and I probably would have chosen it, but they didn't have any at the store yesterday!  A fresh fillet of salmon is a delicious thing but if it is not fresh, it can have a strong "fishy" flavor that I do not like.  I always ask when I buy the fish if it was delivered that day.  If it was not, then I don't buy it.  However, you never know if they are telling you the truth, so what I really recomend is finding a fishmonger that you like and going to them often.  If you are a good customer, they will let you know what is really fresh. Here in Sweden, I often buy Salmalax, which is a brand that advertises that they process the fish within 4 hours from catching.  You can find it in many of the regular grocery stores. It is a bit more expensive, but it does give perfect results, every time.

Serves 4
4 skinless fillets of salmon
3 medium to large leeks
1/2 head of a smallish cabbage
3/4 cup cream
handful of roasted and salted almonds
salt and pepper
a bit of butter for frying the fish

First prepare your vegetables.  Cut the cabbage into quarters.  Cut out the core.  Slice thinly crosswise.  Cut off the ends of the leeks. Cut in half lengthwise.  Wash the leaves carefully to remove any dirt and grit that might have lodged there.  Slice crosswise.Take the almonds and roughly chop.  Set aside.

Put a pot on the stove on high heat and pour in 1/2 cup of cream. Add in the leeks and cabbage, a half teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper.  Put the lid on the pot and bring the cream to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low, give the vegetables a good stir, and put the heat back on.  Let cook for a few minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Pour in the remaining 1/4 cup cream and give a good stir.  Put the lid back on and take off the stove.  It can sit while you cook the salmon.

While you are waiting for the leeks and cabbage to get tender, prepare the fish.  Salt and pepper each fillet.  Heat a frying pan on high, with a knob of butter.  Put the fish into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until it is nicely golden brown.  Flip the fish over and cook on the other side, until that side is nicely golden brown.  The fish is cooked through when you see it begin to "break" in the middle of the fillet where the spine of the fish was.

Give the creamed cabbage and leeks a stir, then spoon a nice helping onto each plate.  Top with a salmon fillet and sprinkle with some of the roasted almonds.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Chinese Cold Sesame Noodles

I am not sure how Chinese these noodles are but they serve them at every hole in the wall Chinese take-away place in New York city. 

These should be eaten from a paper cartoon, in your pajamas, with your best friend, watching TV or perhaps having a good gossip.  Shoebox-sized, cockroach infested apartment, optional.

½ pound (250 grams) dried egg noodles
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cucumbers, peeled, and cut into fine strips
1 carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips
A few cabbage leaves, cut into fine strips
2 scallions, trimmed and minced

¼ cup minced cilantro
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 cup chicken broth 
(or water with one chicken bouillon cube)
2 teaspoon soysauce
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet your peanut butter is
Black pepper to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste

Boil the noodles in a large pot of salted water until tender. Drain, and fill the pot of noodles with cold water, and then drain again.  Toss the noodles with sesame oil.  Cover and put in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, combine the tahini, peanut butter, rice vinegar,
 chicken broth, sugar, black pepper and red chili flakes.  Whisk until smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  You can add a teaspoon more soy sauce if it needs more salt.

Add the cold noodles and toss until well coated.  Add the cucumbers, carrot, scallions, cabbage and cilantro.  Toss well and serve cold.

If you are planning to make this ahead of time, toss the noodles with a quarter of the sauce, so that it can soak in and flavor the noodles.  Save the rest of the sauce and the vegetables and toss together right before serving.  If you toss it all together, then the noodles will soak up much of the sauce and the dish will be a bit dry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Apple and Blackberry Cake

Autum has decidedly arrived here in Stockholm.  I love these cold crisp days, particularly when the sun is out as it has been this past week.  This last weekend, Oscar and I went over to Farfar's house and picked the last of his blackberries and filled a basket with glorious red apples.

The Swedes use the word mysig to describe the feeling of coming into a warm house, after a fresh day outdoors, curling up on the sofa in front of a warm fire. Clearly a cake enhances the mysig feeling!

This is a homely cake with a rich buttery crumb, covered in spiced apples interspersed with a tart spurt from the blackberries. The edges are a bit browned and crispy, while the inside is tender. The batter is a cinch to whip up.  The only fiddly bit is peeling and cutting the apples and arranging them neatly over the batter.  You can certainly make this cake with only apples, which I do often.  It would also taste lovely with pears and raspberries.

About 8 to 9 slices

8 tablespoons butter (225 grams), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 apples, preferably of a sour cooking variety
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup golden granulated sugar
1 cup blackberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190C).  Generously butter an 8 inch square baking dish. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat until well incorporated.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt
and vanilla.  Beat until all ingredients are mixed in.  The batter will very thick. Spread the batter into the baking dish, making sure that the corners are filled.

Peel the apples, slice into
quarters and take out the cores.  Slice each apple quarter into three or four slices, depending on how large your apple is.  Put the apple pieces into a bowl and add the cinnamon, cardamom and golden sugar.  Mix so that each
slice of apple is coated.

Press the apple slices into the cake batter in an overlapping patter in 3 to 4 rows.  Sprinkle the blackberries over the top.   If the blackberries are very sour, you can sprinkle a tablespoon more golden sugar on top of them. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, darker at the edges and a knife pressed into the batter comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Gild the lily with a dollop of whipped cream or a drizzle of custard sauce.

P.S. Sorry about the terrible format!  The editor on blogspot seems to get worse and worse.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Swedish Cabbage Pudding (Kålpudding)

The other day, I was was at the absolutely lovely Ulriksdal slottsträdgården which is a huge kitchen garden where you can pick your own vegetables and herbs, as well as apples and berries.  As well as the gardens, they have a beautiful set of greenhouses where they sell plants and garden accesseries. Last but certainly not least, they have a great cafe where they have a vegetarian brunch which is cooked with the vegetables they grow in their own garden.  It is a very happy place.  I had my eye on some beautiful artichokes but they were all gone!  So, I settled for some corn and a beautiful cabbage.

With the weather here in Stockholm becoming colder and the rains starting, classic Swedish dishes start sounding very tempting.  So, I used my cabbage in a classic, very-old fashioned dish, Kålpudding. If you are a fan of cabbage rolls, then you will have an idea of how this tastes, since it is basically like a big huge cabbage roll.

In Sweden, cabbage rolls are called kåldolmar, after the Turkish dolmar using grape leaves.  The earliest Swedish recipe for dolmar is in a famous cookbook by Cajsa Warg in 1765 version, which I just happened to receive a few weeks ago in a suprise gift from my husband.  I really love kåldolmar, but it is a lot of work making all those little bundles, so imagine my joy when I came across this recipe from my favorite Leif Mannerström in "The Art of Home Cooking."

Kålpudding eptimizes what I love about Swedish cooking; taking humble ingredients, in this case mainly cabbage, potato and minced meat and turning it into something delicious.  As is often the case with these old-fashioned recipes, cooking with love can be time consuming.  So, while there is nothing difficult about this recipe, preparing the cabbage is time consuming.  But still, puttering around in the kitchen for an hour or two on a weekend is a small price to pay for deliciousness.

Here is my recipe, slightly adapted from Mannerströms:

Serves 4 to 6 persons

800 grams to 1 kilo of mixed beef and pork ground meat (blandfärs)
1cabbage head (white or Savoy)
1 large onion
1 medium sized boiled potato
2 dl milk
1 dl dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs
6 tablespoons soysauce
2 tablespoons syrup (ljus sirap, light corn syrup, or golden syrup)
2 tablespoons concentrated veal stock (kalvfond)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
butter for frying and garnishing
salt and pepper to taste

First put a big pot of water to boil that will fit your cabbage.  Core the cabbage by taking a narrow knife and carving out the car at the bottom.  Some of the outer leaves will fall out as you do this, and that is fine.  Add some salt to your boiling water and put in the cabbage head, including the outer leaves.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes (closer to 15 if it is a white cabbage) until the cabbage has softened.  (If you do not have a leftover cooked potato, then you can add a peeled potato to the water.  Depending on the size, it may take about 20 minutes to cook) Take out the cabbage and let it drain and cool slightly. Remove each leaf carefully and cut out the hard central core.  Set the leaves aside, saving the core bit and the tiny leaves at the center.
Coring the cabbage.  It is not a precise art.

After boiling, separate each leaf, and cut out the thickest part of the vein.

A nice pile of leaves when you are done.
In a large bowl, put in the boiled potato and mash it with a fork.Add the breadcrumbs and the milk.  Stir and set aside to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the milk.
Not very pretty but it will taste good.
Chop your onion finely and chop up the leftover cabbage bits.  Fry the onion and the cabbage in a blob of butter until it is soft and the mixture is just starting to get some color.
Onion and leftover cabbage bits frying.
In your bowl with the breadcrumb mixture, add the meat, the soysauce, the kalvfond, the syrup, the two eggs, and the onion mixture.  Add a generous grinding of pepper. Mix it well with a spoon.  In the frying pan, take a small blob of the meat mixture, fry it up and taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Mixing the meat mixture with all the ingredients.
Get out a springform pan, if you want it to look elegant.  Otherwise you can use any kind of caserole dish.

In the frying pan, add a blob more butter.  Fry each cabbage leaf quickly on both sides.  They are done when they just start to wilt a bit more and get a tiny bit of color.  This is a fiddly job and takes a bit of time to fry all the leaves, but don't skip this step.  If you don't do it, the cabbage will not cook sufficiently and you will have hard cabbage not melt-in-your-mouth cabbage.
Fry each cabbage leaf on both sides until there is a slight big of color.
Put a layer of cabbage leaves at the bottom of your baking dish, roughly a third of the leaves.  Add half of the meat mixture and smooth it down, pressing it to make sure it is level and covering the whole dish.  Put in another layer of cabbage leaves and then the rest of the meat.  Put in a final layer of cabbage, saving some nice large leaves for the top.  Smear a bit of butter on the top and give it a nice grinding of pepper.  Then sprinkle some brown sugar on top. This may feel strange, but believe me that the sweetness goes beautifully with the cabbage.
Add the cabbage and meat in layers.

Ready to cook after a smear of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Put in the oven at 200 degrees C (400F) and cook for about 40 to 45 minutes in the lower half of the oven.  If you are using the springform pan, set it in another pan, just in case some of the juices leak out.  Check the pudding half way through to make sure that it is not burning on the top since the sugar will carmelize.  If you feel it is browning too fast on the top, you can put a piece of foil over it. It should be beautifully browned on top from the carmelized sugar.
The finished pudding! It looks a bit funny because I had some dark green leaves mixed with some light yellow leaves.
Let it sit for 10 minutes or so, and then remove the rim and serve it in wedges, hot.  Traditionally, Swedes would serve lingon jam with it and boiled potatoes.

This dish can be made in advance and then re-heated before serving.
Eat it with lingon if you are Swedish!