Thursday, March 29, 2012

Best Bread I Ever Made (So Far)

I wanted to bake my own bread for quite some time now. I go through phases like that. I start making my own yogurt. I experiment with making my own skin care products. I get obsessed with some sort of plant or animal. Most of the time, our relation stays superficial. I can tell you a lot about how to set up a fitness routine, but after a few months of consistently running three times a week, I just got tired of it. I took best care of my orchid for quite some time, now it doesn't exactly thrive. I am known to order books in the libary to learn something new, and once they arrive, I'm already interested in something else.
But bread baking and I, we entered into a different phase in our relationship. At least that is what I hope. I feel too old for this short affairs, I need something longer lasting.
I can't remember our first date, but I can certainly recall that our relationship did not have a completely smooth start. There were some hard loaves, too much whole grains, but we've come to a place where it just feels right.
This loaf feels right. He's doesn't raise false expectations with a sparkly exterior (although I think it looks really appealing), isn't all dressed up in fancy seeds or perfumed with garlic, butter, or herbs, but I'd say he is the right loaf to share the rest of your life with.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Légumes d'Hiver au Vin

When I am in France, looking at le menu, I usually chuckle a bit when reading le menu. Everything has really fancy names, the meat is served avec sa sauce de, or sur son lit de. And often the time spent crafting those fancy sounding titles would have been better spent working on the dishes they serve. Lesson learned: Not everything that sounds fancy, is fancy.

That seems to be the theme for many situations in life. What looks great at first glance may not be so great when looked at closer. Like the first course of studies I started that turned out to be wrong for me. Like the ex who turned out to be not right for me. Like the nice shoes that ended up killing my feet.

Sometimes though, things turn out well when you don't really expect them to. Like when we found this Ethiopian restaurant and now love this cuisine and keep going back for more. Like when I met my boyfriend at university, studying what turned out the wrong path, but the right man. Or when you cook something out of humble ingredients and it turns out beautifully.

This weeks Food Matter Project recipe was Vegetables au Vin with Coq. I actually did not really look at the recipe before I decided what I wanted to do. I was also influence by an article about René Redzepi, the chef of Noma (the famous restaurant) and his idea of cooking vegetables like meat. So for this dish, I started cutting all the vegetables in rather large pieces, searing them in a cast-iron skillet until browned and only then braising them in the oven with white wine. You could use any combination of vegetables you want as long as they keep up well enough for searing and braising. Winter vegetables are suited best though, I'd say. In the recipe I list the vegetables I used, but feel free to use anything you have in your fridge (like I did).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Black Bean Burgers

For these burgers, I made the buns myself, the burgers, and even he pickled radishes you can see in this picture. The radishes and the salad came from a local farmer, who brings his organic produce to my door every Tuesday.
And I feels really good to know that I made this. The whole thing.
And I guess it made the hamburgers taste a lot better, knowing the connection I have with the food I am about to eat.
I know that what I eat matters on a global level, but I also came to realize that putting more thought and time into what I eat, makes me appreciate the food a lot more. In a time when lots of people want and do spend less time preparing and eating real food, I feel connected and complete when I stand in the kitchen, preparing food. It almost feels like a rebellious act. 
So I shared my hamburger buns in the last post, and these are the burgers that went into the buns that night. I had never made buns before, mostly because we don't eat to many burgers around here. Considering that they were rather easy to make, I don't think I'd ever buy the packaged stuff again.

Then there were the burgers. They were only the second vegetarian burger I ever made from scratch. (If I remember correctly). They were rather quick to throw together, baked quickly in the oven and made for a really tasty burger.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Soft Pretzel Hamburger Buns

I'm a bit reluctant when it comes to talking about weight and calories etc on this blog. I rarely think about these things when I think about eating. And reading about little girls already being on a diet because they think that they are too fat makes my heart ache. Because losing weight should not be one of the things that matter most to anyone, life is way better than that.

I want to be healthy and moderately fit. This also means that I don't want to weigh a ton, or that I really should not be sitting in front of the computer all day. It also means that at some point I have to stop baking muffins and cookies and more muffins so often. Because, as you might have seen, I have been baking a lot. I still want to bake, to enjoy sweets as part of a balanced diet, but for a while I want to stop baking with flour and sugar. Because I know they do nothing for my body, and when I eat too much of them nothing for my soul. Because a treat is only a treat when it is occasional, but lately muffins were part of my daily diet.
Well, this means that I am back to posting about real meals more often now.

And I'm starting today with homemade hamburger buns. Soft pretzel hamburger buns. Because we can. And Michael Pollan says: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself. And because I made black bean burgers to go with them that I would not consider junk food. More on them later in the week, though.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Curried Tomato Stew

I talked about kitchen failures, and about insecurities. And still, I'd like to continue thinking out loud here.
You see, I really love to cook, I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, I talk about food - a lot (just ask my boyfriend), and still, I can get really insecure when it comes to cooking. So often I find myself thinking: "I couldn't do that. This must be really difficult. How does s/he do that? The thought of making x scares me."
I really need to stop doing that, because, you know, these insecurities do not only show up in the kitchen, but also in the rest of my life.
I sometimes nurture my insecurities, tell them that they have a reason to be there, where really, there is nothing to fear.
I have been trying to challenge myself these past weeks, because really, that is the only thing that can take away my fears. Your fears, too. I will continue to challenge myself, and think I want to share some of the things I try as I go on exploring.
But today, I want to share my adaptation of this weeks recipe for the Food Matters Project. It is a really easy recipe, quick to make, but still delicious. And it is great for the days between the challenges,  something that can't really go wrong and warms you from within.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cappuccino Muffins

It seems that half of the food blogosphere is moving, and I am, too. Soon I'm going to leave this little apartment I lived in for two and a half years.

After thinking and talking about it for some time, I decided to move in with my boyfriend. It's exciting, I'm a bit nervous, but so looking forward to it. The new apartment will be less dark, with beautiful hardwood floor in the two bedrooms, a bigger kitchen, an even smaller fridge.

To celebrate, I brought you these Cappuccino Muffins. They could also be called Irish Coffee Muffins, if you decide to pour some whisky over the tops of the muffins. Then they would be totally appropriate to eat today, St. Patrick's Day. But really, make them any day of the year, not just today, and celebrate love with me. Because I am really happy today. (And so close to crying right now, I don't know what happens with me, I'm becoming more and more sentimental it seems)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hummus Feta Soufflé

All I could think of the last days was soufflé. I never made one before, and I think I only had one once, and can't remember how it was. But I just love the idea of a soufflé, what it stands for in my imagination. I imagine that only really fancy people make soufflés, the ones who also have tea parties and wear hats. Or something like that. And while I thought it was a bit over the top to make a soufflé out of humble hummus, I just could not stop thinking about it.

I was a bit afraid to make a soufflé, though. I was afraid of failure, having heard that they are a bit difficult to get right. It felt a bit uncomfortable, moving into new territory. I'd love to think of myself as being a fearless cook, but I'm not. I have many insecurities in the kitchen. I don't know how many times in the past weeks I have said that I would love to try this or that, but don't because I am afraid of it. Afraid of failure. As if the cooking gods would come down to punish me if I end up making an imperfect soufflé.

I think the result was worth the risk, the nervousness, the sweaty hands I had as I stood in front of the oven, waiting for the magic to happen. And it happened, the soufflé rose nicely, but I guess I took it out a minute or two too early. It lost some of it's height. No cooking god came down to punish me, and the soufflé really tasted great. I think I can safely say that it was one of the best things I cooked so far. But perhaps that is just the feeling everyone has after conquering a fear. The hummus flavour did not come through much, but all the flavours combined with the lemon zest, and the light texture made me want to sing. I have that urge when I'm excited about something.
A picture of the not perfectly risen soufflé. I think it is pretty, anyway.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Black Sesame and Pear Muffins

They are delicious, what is in them? - my boyfriend asked?
I always make him guess - I love this little game, it almost makes me feel like a child, at the same time hoping that he finds out and that he doesn't.
Poppy seeds, he said. I knew he would say that and that made me even happier. No poppy seeds in these muffins.
Apples, his second guess. Wrong again. I have a big smile on my face. I want to tell him, but at the same time I want him to find out. But he doesn't. I tell him, happy to have made something unusual, excited about all the possibilities in baking and cooking.

The Surprise Ingredients were Black Sesame and Pear, mixed in with some butter, brown sugar and the other suspects. They are really good, but what I love even more about them is that they make people pause and ask questions.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Seared Bean Sprouts with Tofu and Sesame Orange Sauce

It always makes me a bit sad when people tell me that they can't cook. They are often people who love to eat, but are intimidated by the kitchen and the contents of their fridge. 
We often seem to think that some people are just born with it - it being a talent for drawing, painting, writing, photography, or cooking. I used to think that way, too. I tried many things, always looking for the one thing I was inherently good at. Oh well, what a waste of time it was. 
I learnt a lot in the last year of blogging and cooking and living. I learnt how to cook tofu, because you really can't just treat it like it is meat. I learnt that I can live with less pasta in my life. I learnt that I can change things up in recipes for baked goods, too. I learnt that pistachio seed oil makes everything heavenly (if only it wasn't that expensive). And I still have so much to learn and to explore. Wonderful.
I really hope the Food Matters Project can show some people how easy it is to adapt a recipe. Make it yours.
This weeks recipe,  Seared Bean Sprouts with Beef and Sesame Orange Sauce, was chosen by Dominica from Wine Food Love. Go over to her post to check out the original recipe, and to the Food Matters Project homepage to find all the other takes on this recipe. It is a really easy recipe, but the way I prepare the tofu takes a bit more time than the original version with beef. You could omit the additional step and just marinate the tofu in a bit of the sesame orange sauce for some time in the fridge.