It seems that the end of the music season has generated a sudden thunderclap of social activity...everyone has apparently been pretty busy for the last couple of months, and is now ready to blow off some steam. Unfortunately the weather has been generating some (ha HA!) thunderclaps of its own lately, so obvious summertime venues such as the Westerpark or our rooftop remain impractical at the moment. Hopefully (I think...maybe a little less hot than last year would be nice) that will change soon.
What this means immediately for me is that it's time to create another one of my semi-annual lists of vegetarian dishes that I will probably never actually cook. In order to fail less substantially, I'll only list something that I'm planning on "cooking" for a dinner on Tuesday. I got this recipe from somewhere embarrassing, but the reviews of it were unanimously excellent.
summer fruit and fire-roasted peppers with chimichurri.
1/4 cup diced pineapple
1/4 cup diced watermelon
1/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/4 cup diced cantaloupe
1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup EV olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped shallot
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Combine fruit and red peppers with chimichurri sauce to taste. Mix well to coat all fruit. Cover and set aside to allow to marinate for 10-30 minutes.
Optionally, serve over spinach:
2 cups chopped spinach
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup shredded young Goudse cheese
In a large bowl, combine spinach, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently to combine. Divide spinach between plates. Arrange fruit mixture on top of spinach and garnish with cheese.
File under Barely Relevant: my ever-more-occasional work venue OT301 has been awarded the 2007 Amsterdam Cultuurprijs, whatever that means (the opening moments of our June 16th AUXXX night are pictured above). Congratulations to all! Here's a pretty old YouTube compilation of OT301 events from 2005, back when I spent a lot of time there.
As the two regular readers of this blog are already aware, the building in which we live contains a restaurant, bar, art gallery, and performance spaces (among other things). The cooks and music programmers take the months of July and August off (as do most live music venues in town), so this week is the last of the season, and it always serves to remind us how easy it is to take the whole thing for granted. So, this week not only did I go to Tuesday night jazz/improv like I usually do (pictured: Oscar-Jan Hoogland, Ig Henneman, and Alan "Gunga" Purves, one of the most reliably outstanding drummers in town and a fantastic comedian as well):
But I also went to the vegetarian Wednesday night meal (3 courses for 4.60). Unfortunately, I didn't reserve, so I got the "backup food" instead of the real menu. But if it was the same cooks behind all of it I think I get the picture. Let's just say I got my money's worth. Still, a very convivial atmosphere and good music on the stereo makes for a nice social Wednesday's grubtime, followed by an evening of music from the Corrie van Binsbergen crew.
Of the music I only saw Andy Bruce's The Rigidly Righteous (pictured), a successful throwback to Bill Frisell's mid-90s Americana projects but drawing from Scottish melodies and the compositions of national poet Robert Burns; and a trio of Albert van Veenendaal, Corrie, and Esmée Olthuis, surprisingly really good as I've never been a fan of Corrie's playing and generally find it ruinously distracting. Albert was more fiery than I expected and Esmée sounds like someone slipped some tricky mushrooms into Gato Barbieri's vegetarian paté (ah, finally, a food connection!). But being Argentinian, I'm betting he's not touching the vegetarian paté.
I've been putting off an in-depth pom post for gee almost two years now because I just know it has the potential to be a time-consuming suckhole, but apparently it's Go Time because Surinamese food is somehow enjoying a bit of a surge in press coverage, more than just the annual Kwakoe reminders. Pom is everywheres all of the sudden. I could just spit.
I would say that maybe it's that the widespread explosion of food writing on the internet is just finally reaching us here, and many foodies in our little neck of the woods are interested in our local version of Caribbean food...but, there are two new Surinamese/Indische cookbooks out this year, just about doubling the number of readily available Suriname cookbooks on the market. So what I'm saying is...it's not just 'net writing.
I was pushed (and kicked, frankly) into starting this post last week when, while flipping channels during an idle moment of waiting for Mara's pain medicine to kick in, I bumbled across a Pom Cook-Off in Amsterdam on AT5 that I knew nothing about (it was on a cooking program called etenmetbianca, there should be a video from that episode up soon). That's seriously stupid, since pom is where my interest in Surinamese food began. It's as if someone dreamed up an ideal food event just for me and then didn't tell me about it.
Let's backtrack for the uninitiated or previously uninterested. As detailed here in earlier posts, pom is a well-known oven casserole party dish from Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana), made from chicken parts, citrus juices, and a root vegetable called pomtajer in Dutch, or malanga or new cocoyam in English. It has its roots in the cooking of slaves on Jewish sugar plantations in Suriname. According to at least Debra from Culiblog (and who knows where she stole this information from)(i'm totally kidding), Pom is "reminiscent of an Ashkenazic potato kugel". The slaves, not having access to their own potatoes, grew tubers on the sly, most successfully when it was a tuber their owners had no interest in, such as....the pomtajer.
The most remarkable thing about the overall sensation of eating pom is that, for such a simple homestyle dish, it has a complex flavor that doesn't really remind you of any one thing. The first impression is an intriguing mixture of sour/tart citrus with a rich, sweet buttery note from the, well, butter...combined with a bit of earthy smokiness from the zoutvlees or spek. And the pomtajer itself is terrific, with a texture kind of something like soft polenta and a taste that's hard to pin down. When I first had it, it was on a toasted baguette with pickles and a swipe of scotch bonnet sambal...the much-maligned broodje pom. Anyway, I was smitten from the first bite.
When I first became a pom stalker, I scoured the internet for information, and folks let me tell you it was slim pickins. Maybe 10 pages total. That was back in 2003 or so. Cut to veritable pom press explosion in progress: Culiblog's post on pom was the first time I realized that there was "new pom work" afoot. Which led me to Karin Vaneker's Pom op het menu. Which led me to Pom in Nederland. Which is leading me to all kinds of other places. Eventually, though, I hope that all of this will lead me down to the Bijlmer during my eGullet foodblog week, where I can visit Imagine IC and the Pom op het menu exhibition in person.
Top Thai, the takeout/delivery restaurant across the street from me, just served me the best Thai food I've had in maybe 5 years: every bite I thought would be my last wasn't. The secret was careful prep and excellent wok technique: each vegetable was cut and cooked nearly perfectly, mushrooms bursting with...whatever would be inside mushrooms (water?), red peppers and green beans still proudly crisp, and my favorite little bitter green eggplants in there doin' they thing as well. The kaffir, basil, and cilantro were fresh, the fish sauce was very strong in all the right places, and the fresh red chiles were thrown in by the tiny Asian fistful. Top Thai's always been good, but tonight was like a different kitchen altogether. Yay me.
UPDATE: We've now eaten there twice more since this post, and...it appears that this night was a fluke. It's been fine every time, but more like the same level of quality it's always been, with none of the subtlety of this first night.
Lazy sonofabitch though I am, somehow I'd never made this mistake before: mashed potatoes using an immersion blender. I really had no idea not to do this, I guess mostly because I've made mashed potatoes start-to-finish about 5 times in my entire life...usually I let someone else do the mashing.
Last night, I was very pleased to be making some lovely roasted garlic mash for the Elephant Moop since she hasn't eaten much hot food lately, and well I just thought I'd save some time with the old Braun stick blender. The resulting food item was very interesting and possessed many unexpected qualities but ultimately, eating it could not really be considered "time well spent".
What a weekend. Mara developed an abscessed tooth on Friday night, just in time for it to be impossible for us to find anyone who could/would treat her for it: oral surgeons don't work on weekends in Nederland, or if they do they're real secretive about it. Finally we saw somebody yesterday (Monday, yes, that's 48 hours' worth of severe dental pain later) who could do something about it, but the swelling is still (actually even more) gigantic and my little mooperbird looks like she's been cruelly Photoshopped into the Elephant Moop.
Dus, there has been no eating of anything other than yoghurt, mashed potatoes, and pindasoep (Surinamese peanut soup) for the past couple of days. I'm trying to get more creative with it now that the crushing stress has been lessened.
UPDATE: There is one bit of food-related news here: the only thing that helped Mara's pain on Sunday was the blisteringly extra-super hot Surinaamse sambal mentioned here. She would soak a Q-Tip in the oil on top of the sambal and then rub the Q-Tip on her tooth/gum area. Good ol' capsaicin to the rescue. We were obviously totally desperate for relief, but it did actually help a bit, plus it was the best-smelling dental treatment ever.
Click, click, click? One fewer click and you've got yourself a Wu-Tang puzzler, featuring the immortal verse:
These are the bones, bones from the grave of Houdini G-Dini, Ronzoni noodles sprinkled on your embry' Climb like the deficit, profits, death threatsto Israel slid through Bethlehem bong on one wheel Syringes, rubber bands, needles, the 60's Grandaddy Caddy was coppin 6 Gs Be-gosh all that Osh Kosh jumpers Pink Champale, brown paper bags, wall-to-wall bumpers
Thank you, Ghostface Killah.
We had a barbecue on the roof last night, really our first since we've lived here. Sure, we've eaten on the roof before, but we've never actually cooked on the roof before...Mara bought me a little Weber grill for our anniversary, and I broke it in this week. Unfortunately no pictures of the food, things got out of control at the last minute and I was lucky to get the fish off the grill in one piece (I had sticking trouble...I'm out of practice!).
We had a beautiful piece of salmon (thank you mister fish), cut into portions and rubbed with lots of ground coriander seed, brown sugar, a little garlic powder and salt and pepper. Super good, and no time at all to prepare. The only thing you have to remember is that coriander has to be cooked at very high heat to mellow and caramelize it, at least that's what I've been told.
Klary has a nice post today about the frequent impossibility of recreating on a whim ephemeral taste experiences from your past. And, unlikelihood of unlikelihoods, she illustrates this with (among other things) a quesadilla I made for her last month or so, and the process of trying to (on a whim) recreate that quesadilla. And by reminding me of that first quesadilla with her second quesadilla, her post reminded me of a third quesadilla from my own past that I myself cannot currently recreate.
Flashback to Miami, 5 months ago. In our little beach apartment we ate quesadillas for breakfast every morning (pictured above) for two weeks, because we could: the tiny, packed-to-the-gills Cuban grocery store around the corner had very fresh corn tortillas and excellent queso fresco. In the pan with a little butter, add to that a squirt of lime and a dollop of salsa verde and that's all you needed. No spices, no caramelization, no duck....no nothing, save for quesa and dilla (actually, the quesadilla pictured above also contains some leftover Argentinian steak from Big Pink, a one-time-only modification...).
And yes, it's impossible for me to make it this morning: no queso fresco, my corn tortillas are frozen and a bit old, etc. And plus, this negro ain't even supposed to be digging on cheese seeing as we're on some serious health food shit these days (sorry, Pulp Fiction was on TV last week [unsurprisingly uncensored, yay Nederland], reminding me just how much more acceptable it became for white people to adopt non-rap-derived African-American speech patterns after Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega hit the screen. Or at least it became more acceptable for thisparticular white person). So, instead, here's the recipe for the not-so-impossible duck confit quesadillas.
Komijnekaas is young Gouda with lots of whole cumin seeds in it. It's a great shortcut for Mexican cooking in general, except that you don't get to toast the cumin seeds like you would if you were using them separately.
Also, this recipe probably makes more onions than you'll use, but you'll find a use for the leftovers, trust me. An omelet with chorizo is a good place to start.
Photo by Klary:
duck confit quesadilla with caramelized onions, komijnekaas, and salsa verde.
onions 2 sweet onions, diced 1-2 tbsp butter 1 tsp. maple syrup pinch ground cumin pinch ground cinnamon pinch salt 1-2 tsp adobo from a can of chipotles
corn tortillas sliced or grated komijnekaas walnut oil for frying (hazelnut oil also does nicely here, but yes they both smoke a bit. duck fat also works if you don't give a shit about cholesterol...butter for once doesn't really work with this quesadilla...too rich.) ground cinnamon mild chile powder
Caramelize the onions: melt butter in sautepan, add onions, adobo, and maple syrup, stir to coat, add spices, stir again, turn pan as low as possible and cook for 20-40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until onions are dark but not burned. Salt to taste and set aside.
Make duck filling: turn a sautepan on high, when hot add duck and spices. Saute for 5-10 minutes until duck is crisped and browned to your liking.
Assemble quesadillas: put a splash of walnut oil in the pan, then a tortilla, spread a thin layer of onions across it, then some cheese, then some duck (all thinnish layers so that your quesadilla is still rather light and flippable) and close. After my tortilla is closed, I like to sprinkle the outside with a very light dusting of cinnamon and chile powder. I'm not sure if this significantly contributes to the taste of the finished product, but this step definitely fills the kitchen with a most excellent scent-waft.
Serve with your favorite homemade salsa, or whatever reasonable store-bought salsa you were able to locate in Amsterdam. I tend to like green salsa with this for some extra acidity, but Mara prefers red, and it's worth trying both.
Another great variation on this is to use goat cheese instead of komijnekaas. I don't mean the soft stuff: they sell sliced goat cheese here that is perfect for this.
And finally: all of the above reminded me of one of the fundamental reasons why this webpage even exists: to try and capture the ephemera of cooking and eating, and to facilitate future nostalgia over meals past (and not just the food component). I said to Klary after her post that it reminded me of why we like being cooked for, and one of the reasons travel can generate such powerfully nostalgic memories: because in many ways the whole experience is impossible to recreate, and that's what makes us nostalgic for it. Thank you, I'll be signing autographs after I get done punching my own pompous-yet-barely-coherent lights out.
Though Miss Mara and I'se been friends for, um...25 years or so, Thursday was officially our official 10-year anniversary. Luckily, not 200m away from our front door, someone was throwing a party with free food and drinks and we were invited!
Above: cucumber and lobster shooters, serrano ham/pine nut/pesto and smoked salmon/caper crostini. Below: Hollandse Nieuwe (the first herring of the season)...this was in fact the second day of the season, and these were just really perfect at the moment...I am now at last finally a convert to Hollandse Nieuwe...I guess it was only a matter of time, really.
Above: ice-cold korenwijn. Below: the face it makes you make when you taste it for the first time. It's a version of jeneverthat has a higher-than-usual percentage of malt wine added to it. Speaking of jenever, this subject contains one of my favorite Dutch colloquialisms: a jenever with a beer chaser is called a kopstoot, or headbutt. Without a beer chaser it's just called another one of my favorite (fake) colloquialisms, harshrealm:
Then, after she stopped making this face, we came home and had a petite steak and garlic mashed potatoes. Cool! And I have been on the wagon for 16 days now. Woot.
So, for real, healthy eating has started again this week. No recipes or pictures, but tonight was salmon with a crust of pistachio and cornmeal, tamarind-raisin chutney, yoghurt, and zucchini with lemon and mint. In a word, eh...boring, but it's my fault...I was in a hurry and didn't have much time to sexify things as I went. And I was trying to err on the side of extreme healthiness. We'll try this again.
There's an eGullet thread about trying to cook your way through a single cookbook front to back.
Part of what I like about cooking in general is that it's a very immediate way to be spontaneously creative which other people can enjoy very tangibly. A further part of the allure is that it seems like there are very few rules about what's possible...you're only limited by imagination, skill, time, and cost. OK, and the human palate. OK, so that's a lot of limitations actually.
My point: the idea of cooking solely, monogamously from a single cookbook goes against the perceived freewheelingness of improvisational cooking and surely threatens to suck the joy out of the creative process faster than you can say "introductory paragraph closing witticism/hook", right?
Sorta, but after thinking about it a wee bit, I decided that I might like to try it as a way of escaping from my recently acquired bad habit of looking for new things to cook on the ol' Web. Now yes, I do realize that the internet is designed for this kind of research, but there comes a point where one's "research time" begins supplanting one's "actual life", and this is probably not what the internet was designed for. And if it was, well...that's just plain mean.
I'd like to just start at the beginning and go, but the chapters are organized along the lines of "Cheese and Eggs", "Potatoes", "Mushrooms", et cetera, and I don't think that either I or my dining companions can sit through 8 egg dishes in a row. So, I'll be jumping around. Today's entry will be either Escarola con sanguina, queso de cabra, almendras y vinagreta de ajo tostado (endive with oranges, goat cheese, almonds, and toasted garlic vinaigrette), or Pisto Manchego (zucchini with peppers, eggplant, and tomato). Or both.
Last year back when Head and Body were still living in Amstrodam, we had a series of dinners together with Andy and other assorted special guests very loosely based on an extremely fictional cooking show called Smell and Learn. For example, there was a risotto episode, a pot roast episode, etc. I cooked the Spanish episode, mostly out of the Tapas book above. Here's what I put together:
bread with Garcia olive oil and membrillo.
chorizo al sidra.
tortilla route 11 with brava sauce.
marinated sheep's cheese ("We say 'you can taste the farmer in this cheese'" is what the Spanish girl who sold it to me said)
Asturian-style salmon with apples, Cabrales, and chives.
mushrooms in escabeche with serrano ham.
Catalan-style spinach with apples and pine nuts.
garlic shrimp with aioli and romesco.
90% of this was great, the rest was at least good. Another shrimp letdown, not enough garlic. But everything else on this list has become A-list material, and hopefully the whole-book approach will add to this list. It's very careful cooking, because the recipes are so simple...your goal is to extract maximum flavor from each element blah blah blah without letting your maximal tendencies complicate things, a good lesson to smell and learn.
UPDATE: Soon after this post was completed, I realized that there is no fucking way my attention span will support this endeavor. It was nice while it lasted though, wasn't it.