Above: De Prael on Sunday, featuring completely reasonable non-cheesy piano jazz. Might be a good appetizer for the slightly later and historically more raucous session at the Engelbewaarder if you're into that kind of thing.
Our own kitchen is still not a hotbed of thrilling cooking these days, but what with the Super Bowl lumbering into view this weekend you kind of can't go anywhere on the internet without running into somebody's idea of what appropriate food would be.
So let me completely unnecessarily add our diminutive quack to the fracas. Something on Saveur led me down the ol' bunny hole into a bunch of Dale Talde recipes that we're going to try and steal.
This is kind of an attempt to recreate my first taste of duck confit, at the formerly rather more French Place Pigalle in Seattle, probably 1997 or so (it changed owners in 2007). If there's a secret to this salad it's to dress your cabbage with the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, salt, and sugar at least two hours before you want to serve it. By then the cabbage has wilted a little and released some water, making it easier to gauge the overall seasoning. The confit will be salty too remember so don't over doooooo it on the cabbage.
duck confit salad with red cabbage, arugula and chestnuts.
1/2 red cabbage, sliced thinly
two big fistfuls of arugula
12 roasted chestnuts, shelled and quartered
12 walnuts, toasted and halved
juice of a lemon
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tbsp walnut oil
1 tsp to 1 tbsp duck fat from the confit
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 or 2 legs duck confit, depending on their size and how duck-centric you want this to be
The rain relented long enough for everyone to learn how to ride a bike this morning, it literally took about 20 minutes, the advantage of waiting until you're 8 to learn how. Nobody fell once.
Below, jalapeños waiting for pickling.
Further below, a rare successful recreation of a simple Italian salad. This is something I had in Milan a couple of years ago, and though I made to be served as a contorno for the pasta, it was really much better suited to the next morning's breakfast of chicken, smoked mozzarella and artichoke sausage, kind of surprisingly classic.
celery and mushroom salad with parmesan.
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly with a mandoline
5 celery hearts, shaved crosswise with a mandoline
2 tbsp Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp scallions, chopped fine
freshly cracked pepper
juice of 2 lemons, zest of one lemon
1/8 cup to 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
This was designed to be a big healthy breakfast for a busy day of physical and mental activity, or at least what passes for those two things in my life, and it was so tasty and satisfying AND healthy-seeming that I would love to do it on a more frequent basis. Look at how excited I sound.
It does however have a couple semi-luxury items, smoked salmon (€2.99/100g) and watercress (€1.89/100g). Obviously those prices aren't breaking the bank, but breakfast-wise it's more of a budget hit than say an egg and toast. I should start looking into how much cheaper smoked salmon snippets are (these are the non-beautiful offcuts that are a by-product of slicing smoked salmon beautifully). Calorically speaking this was 410 calories as written below minus the shallot.
soft-boiled eggs with smoked salmon and watercress.
100g watercress, washed, spin-dried, and chopped rather fine so you don't have to discard the thickest stems. If you were serving this to someone you could separate the leaves from the stems and just finely chop the stems...I didn't care how it looked really, I was just trying to not waste any of my 100g of watercress.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp potent coarse-grain mustard
1 small shallot, minced, if you don't really have to worry about your breath
100g smoked salmon
2 tbsp chives, minced, if you don't really have to worry about your breath
no salt necessary
cracked pepper possibly, I didn't use any.
I've decided that I like my watercress slightly wilted, so I dressed my salad quite early in the process. Basically, put your eggs in a pot with cold water to cover and bring to a boil. While this is happening, make your dressing by combining the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallot. Once the eggs are boiling, set a timer for 3 minutes and put a bowl of cold or icy water in the sink. Dress the watercress with the vinaigrette. When the timer goes off, gently remove the eggs from the pan and put them in the bowl of cold water. Plate the salmon on top of the dressed cress, then peel your eggs, add them to the bowl and do the green scatter on top with the chives.
Today on the treadmill, after dragging myself swiftly uphill for 45 minutes, I looked down through my tears and sweat at the Accuradar or whatever thingie that demands your age and weight and then tries to make you feel a little better throughout your ordeal by telling you that you're actually burning calories, and it blinkingly announced: 740 calories burned.
Hmm, I thought to myself, gracefully skipping off the treadmill and crashing woozily into the stationary bike adjacent, that's pretty much (pausing to run some calculations) 740 extra calories to play with. I mean, this put me well into negative calories for the day so far. I high-fived myself, and then juuuust before I lost consciouness, I decided I would roast a couple of duck legs, something I haven't ever done before I don't think.
What, you say. And I say yes, that's right: I only really ever buy confit because I'm lazy and it's barely more expensive, or very very occasionally I buy a €9.99 whole frozen duck from the toko, because I don't know how to prepare duck any other way than roasting the whole thing.
I really thought this was a total disappointment at first. I mean I was doing the as-healthy-as-possible version which didn't involve using any juices from the roasting pan in the salad dressing for example, but it was just unexpectedly...tart yet flat. So I made some brief raspberry noise with my mouth and turned away from it, letting it sit there not being eaten while I did something else, but every time I kept going back to give it one more chance to redeem itself, it got better.
What was happening: most crucially, the watercress was wilting in the citrus juices. But also the two citruses were blending into each other, the duck was soaking up the citrus, the saltiness of the duck was meandering its way through everything else, etc.
So just by letting this sit for 10 or 15 minutes it went from bleh to me eventually pouring the last remnants of the bowl into my mouth (I'm home alone). I'm still not totally sure I'd make it again as written, but it had something going on. I think it probably needed a little sweetness and a little chile. Anyway, it was my first time ever using watercress, I liked it a lot after it wilted.
2 duck legs
more five-spice than you think you should use
We went to Ikea today, which I shamefully continue to love because it's so cheap and because it all seems so smartly done.
Home improvement goes hand in hand with sustenance, or some other better segue, and one of the things I like about Ottolenghi's Plenty is that it's full of things you've never tasted before. I've probably mentioned this before, but whenever we have a "home improvement day" around Apartment 100M, I typically end up shopping and cooking because I have very few other practical skills unless (joke to be inserted here).
So today while Mara assembled budget-friendly Ikea shelving, I assembled Ottolenghi's reasonably budget-friendly du puy lentil salad (with gorgonzola and oven-dried tomatoes). It was budget-friendly because we had the lentils already and there was a pile of tomatoes sitting around that was about to head south. All we really needed was a sliver of gorgonzola (€1.79/100gr at De Avondmarkt).
As idiosyncratic and interesting as Plenty is, you still have to keep an eye on it sometimes: this recipe called for a bunch of herbs, including lots of dill, and frankly I think Mr. Lenghi sometimes tries to push dill into a couple of places it doesn't really need to be (with equally assertive flavors like gorgonzola for example). So we added the chives the recipe called for and withheld the dill to be served on the side so we could taste it just to make sure we were right in omitting it, and why yes, yes we were.
Above: yesterday's Vietnamese basil rolls, concocted by Moop, foto by Moop.
Hmm, I wanted to say something, forgot what it was, totally distracted by trying to determine the gender of my androgynous neighbor across the street who I've never seen before but is totally acting like (OK I've reached a tentative conclusion) she lives there.
My evidence to support this theory (that she lives there) is that she just came to the open window (hers, not mine) carrying a plate of food and a chair, looking very "at home" and is now enjoying the early evening sun while dangling her legs over the windowsill and having dinner.
I'm not normally much of a voyeur really, but at the moment I happen to be sitting at the "dining room" table facing the window and so she is directly in my line of sight. So I can't help noticing that whatever she is eating is posing a real challenge to traditional table manners (although since she's not at a table maybe this is moot): after she sat down, the first time I happened to look up again, she had something roughly the size and shape of a tennis shoe precariously balanced on her fork and was semi-frantically nibbling at the edges of it (I imagine the idea was to reduce its size and thus increase its manageability).
Then when I looked up again two minutes later she was (I'm not kidding) literally putting the plate up to her face and bulldozing the mystery something into her mouth with her fork, for like a minute straight, with not the slightest hint of acknowledgement or awareness that she was in a very visible place. The whole thing was kind of an anti-voyeurism PSA actually.
In the absence of anything else to say, here's a better version of the classic Japanese-American steakhouse salad dressing. Better than this one I mean.
benihana salad dressing #2.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar or 1/4 cup apple vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
iceberg lettuce, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces, for serving
Above: Drew's Pub Quiz at The Tara(no longer anything resembling the Irish bar it used to be), our first night there, fun even though we came in dead last (we were the only two-person team). Drinkable-yet-affordable wine by the glass; pleasant people; moderately hard questions, etc. I'm sure we'll be back.
I decided in bed this morning that the answer to the question "when is the best time to visit Amsterdam" is either June or December. I'm basing this strictly on cheap and unusual entertainment options: this month has been so full of potential shit to do we have been thoroughly spoiled for choice. And December is the winter version of June, this-wise.
So between season closings (English for this? it's when a regularly occurring concert series has their last night of the season before closing in July and August...the Dutch for this is seizoensafsluiting), overdue socializing, friends from out of town, and especially special shows for unfortunately recently dead people, tonight is our last quiet night at home for the next several days.
And thus we are trying to have something light and healthy, so I'll be trying to do something Japanese.
Less healthily: I'm also reminding myself to try and eat at The General Muir next time I'm in the ATL. Also the next time I'm celebrating some weight-loss milestone, I should make this sandwich with mortadella, smoked mozzarella and pistachio pesto.
3 tbsp miso
1 and 1/2 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sake (I replaced the mirin and sake with 2 tbsp shao xing and a little extra sugar)
2 tbsp dashi
These are not my directions yet: wrap tofu with paper towels and place it on a flat tray. Put a cutting board or a plate on top the tofu and let sit for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix dashi, sake, mirin, sugar, and miso in a sauce pan. Simmer it on low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Set aside. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch thick rectangles and dry with paper towels. Lightly oil a baking tray for a toaster oven. Place tofu pieces on the tray. Cook tofu on high heat in the toaster oven for about 8 minutes, or until the surface is firm. Spread miso sauce on the tofu pieces and cook until sauce is warm.
benihana salad dressing.
1/4 cup sweet onion
1 tbsp peanut or other neutral oil
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp minced celery
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Process everything pretty thoroughly. This was really good.
I think I suddenly went elderly. This is my new favorite place to hang out. A bench. It's not totally new, I've been visiting for a year or so, it's just a minute's walk past our Dirk. It's one of those places that all winter long is colder than everywhere else b/c of the wind, but now, as summer begins to think about showing up and temperatures approach 70F for the first time....suddenly my obscure and breezy bench is a great place to do old people activities like read or look at birds.
El Carote Negro is taking a break from meat, so I'll be cooking out of Ottolenghi's Plenty for the next little while. We're also entering a period of serious financial crackdown so yes, there's a weekly grocery budget and I'm even going to try and stick to it this time.
Tonight's first adventure features two items that were on sale at Dirk last week: witlof (Belgian endive) and Gouda, subbing for Gruyere (I'd actually have used taleggio or raclette if either of them had been on sale anywhere).
REVIEW: This could really only happen in this country because Gouda is the default cost-cutting cheese around here: substituting it into this caramelized endive recipe made the results taste pretty much exactly like cheap Amsterdam snackbar pizza (with a finishing note of just-bitter endive), not a totally bad thing.
Finally got a scale today. Thus, we have a new MFSDxiv recipe.
I haven't mentioned it here yet b/c I wanted to see how things went, but now it seems like I'm going to be taking this for a while, so it's worth talking about The Big Side Effect: weight gain. If you Google (when can we stop capitalizing that) "mirtazapine and weight gain" you'll find pages and pages of stories about people who gained like 25-50% of their body weight after starting this. It's unclear how much of it has to do with physiological changes and how much is a result of this medication's secondary classification as an appetite stimulant.
For me personally: let me just say that the last several years of dieting while using marijuana combined with generally being cooking-obsessed has all been awesome training for mirtazapine. Now that the first week of colossal cravings has passed, it's just kind of back to low-level munchies with regular fake low blood sugar hunger spikes. I'm so used to ignoring these brain messages during daylight hours that it's really no effort at all to eat correctly.
Also interesting: pre-medication my normal bad eating times would be between say 10pm and 6am. Not being awake during those hours has made a big difference. But also, I mean, really, after you (or I) take this stuff, within 20 minutes you are not capable of snacking or anything else.
But I do feel really bad for people who aren't ready for it in terms of craving resistance and good nutrition habits, they're most likely fucked.
sardines with lemon and tarragon.
1 can of good sardines in oil, drained (my go-to brand is Tagine, available at your local Turk/Moroccan)
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of one lemon (I know, inconvenient...maybe a whole lemon's juice would also be ok)
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, or more, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp capers, chopped
1/2 sweet or red onion, chopped, or if you're worried about your breath/digestion, 1 stalk of celery, chopped
Just combine everything. Good for 3 days in the fridge.
Yes, we still eat. We had an amazing smorgasbord of comfort food last Thursday, this is the pre-appetizer, Shrimp D'Jo3n above...a taste of the homeland. And this was just the beginning.
Then Friday was, sorry, steak night. Below is Mara's perfectly-done steak and roasted potatoes plus my pretty-well-executed
zhoug and maple-cayenne sweet potatoes (2 sweet potatoes, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 or 2 tsp cayenne, 1 or 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 or 2 tbsp butter, salt to taste). Also making an appearance was this southwestern Caesar salad we been diggin on a bunch lately, I put the recipe up here soon.
OK, the above is a pretty badly color-corrected and giantly smashed falafel (with zhoug, garlic yogurt and beet-pickled red onions with mint), but for testing purposes our teeth were still able to chomp on it very successfully.
We always loves us a good falafel, and lately it seems like the little guys are showing up more and more often around our pad. Thing is, they're not so so cheap if someone else makes them for you, so we decided to give it another go ourselves.
Like any superpopular and time-honored traditional dish, there are scads of regional evolutions and passionate opinions about how to do it "right": favas or chickpeas; cooked or uncooked; what kinds/ratios of herbs, ect ect ect.
We tried it once a long time ago, and then we used uncooked chickpeas, soaked instead of cooked, as is the general tradition. Something must've not gone quite right with the whole soaking process, I remember an inedible, undercooked result that might have even gone unserved: Mara doesn't remember it.
So in the interest of ending up with something that could jump in our bellies tonight, I went with chickpeas that I had cooked from scratch yesterday (unsalted). This recipe was quite specific about barely grinding the beans, I guess so that we wouldn't end up with a gummy, overstarched mess (thanks to Zora for asking about this in the Comments).
And...more data is required. I don't think these are exactly gummy, I've enjoyed falafel like these before...but the test batch was a bit..."moist" inside, not sure if it was my cooking technique or the recipe, we'll see tomorrow when I do a real batch of real-sized balletjes. In any event, the seasoning proportions below are almost perfectly perfect.
UPDATE: I have eaten so much falafel in the past few days that I must smell like a cliché. You know, that addled old Greek or Italian (or some other onion-and-garlic-eating cuisine) chef who tries to make perverted advances on a young female protagonist working as a waitress or hostess in a crappy diner in one of those 80s kind of pre-hipster-irony I-can-make-it-in-the-big-city-if-I-try novels of which I cannot think of a single example. But you know what I mean...she's ending her shift, I'm drunk in the kitchen, screaming at the dishwashers, wearing a blood-and-grease-stained wife-beater with "my breath reeking of stale onions, garlic and cooking wine", when she tries to squeeze by me to get to the walk-in I ect ect ect.
The falafel: it's not like most falafel I know, so I assume it's the uncooked vs. cooked thing. These falafel are totally delicious, and they hold their form well enough to be flipped, but you could never, for example, throw one at someone and have them catch it and pop it in their mouth (this was the first example that popped into my head, which gives you some idea of my home environment). The last falafel I had like these were at Falafel Dan down by the Tuschinski, which I think is out of business now, probably because no one could play catch with their falafel balls.
2 cups roughly chopped white onion
6 garlic cloves
2 cups cooked, unsalted chickpeas, drained
2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves
slightly less than 1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seed, whole
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup chickpea flour or all-purpose flour
The instructions are important, and forthcoming.
I also made another nice new fish salad, as unappetizing as that sounds...but you know we dig on some mfkn fish salad up in this bitch. Tonight's was noteworthy in that it was my first time cooking successfully with Moroccan preserved lemon, I really liked it.
north african fish salad with potatoes and preserved lemon.
600g firm white fish, original suggests monkfish, I used earth-destroying panga
200g cubed, cooked potato, I kind of poached mine in olive oil and used 2 tbsp of that oil as the 2 tbsp listed below
juice of a lemon
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp EV olive oil
2 tbsp capers
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 or possibly up to 1/2 of a preserved lemon, flesh scooped out, rind (not zest, whole rind) diced small or minced
Still no writing happening, but yes cooking. Tonight:
quesadilla with roasted butternut squash, sauteed kale, roquefort, smoked paprika (below). Quesadilla with seared steak, smoked camembert, scallion, cilantro (not pictured). "Salad" of shrimp and haricot verts with bacon, almonds, parmesan, basil vinaigrette (above), served with a piece of warm cornbread. Yes.
Sooooooooo, yeah. That's pretty fucked up looking. My breath is fucked up as well. I did end up making that amazing Maoz-centric idea I had last night, but didn't take a picture til today, that's it above looking like this awful Dr. Oetker cookbook someone gave us 15 years ago, or we possibly stole, or found, it was called Modern German Cooking I think. Unbelievably hideous food photography, like everything was photographed in a morgue with fluorescent lights.
But I swear those mint leaves just landed like that. They didddddd!!!
What we're looking at is minus last night's pickled beets and cucumbers, it's: those supergarlicky Tunisian carrots with cumin, ginger and olives (the orange stuff), plus the garlicky Yemeni zhoug (the green stuff), which is outrageously good, plus a slightly thicker version of that garlicky Turkish tahinli tarator (the beige stuff), plus I swear randomly scattered mint, plus "the spicy-ass red stuff", which is this:
Last night I had all of the above with a little shoarma-seasoned steak and it RAAWWWWWKED, but: today, no steak, add the missing beets and cukes and this is possibly the best vegan thing I've ever smashed into my face (no yogurt). It's Maoz at home. And, coolly, it combines contributions from three continents, but I guess that's how the Ottoman/Arab world rolls. More details after accomplishing something(s).
After today's family lunch, a salad seemed appropriate, and it seemed especially appropriate to assemble it from the abundant leftovers. Leftovers or "surplus food" in this house is/are not what I'm used to. At any given moment there are challenging amounts of excellent foodstuffs approaching uselessness, so it's pretty easy to throw something together that rocks relatively well.
+++ shrimp, spinach, misc leftovers.
cooked shrimp designed for shrimp cocktail
fresh spinach on its last legs
ripe nectarines, cut
almonds, toasted and coarsely crushed
manchego, shaved thin
red onion, sliced wafer-thin
texas pete's honey-mustard sauce
small batch chipotle-infused olive oil
When planning last month's beach trip, I ended up using TripAdvisor for a lot of things. Just now I ended up out there again and realized I'd hadn't really used it to research Amsterdam restaurants in a while.
Some surprising results for "Best-Ranked Restaurant in Amsterdam" included #1 (out of 1,528 restaurants) Zaza's, which I'd just never heard of. Situated in De Pijp, it looks like an affordable, semi-interesting American brasserie menu, though the owner is Irish. If they have seats at a bar, this might be worth looking at.
Also #2 Vlaming, which is right down the street. Mara's suggested this a few times and I've always talked her out of it because I'd never heard anything good about it and the menu looked pretty boring. It's possible I suck though. Plus the owners seem very interested in making sure people have good experiences there. How strange (UPDATE: Mara and KK went last week and had a great time, so yes I suck)
Others: we've been looking for places with decent wine lately, #157 Graves has been a due for a revisit for a while now (I don't remember my last visit's food at all, which as you can imagine is super unusual), but also #66 Cote Ouest just popped up on the radar now too, a real and affordable French place with galettes and cidre and duck and all my other favorite things, plus this looks like a good mussels/frites spot for the wintertime.
CRON going OK. But I need some salads that can be mostly pre-made and ready to go. And they should have some protein. For example: all of these ideas are based on the lunch menu from a Chicago restaurant called Moderno.
egg, cucumber, pumpernickel crumbs, blue cheese, tarragon
fried catfish, peanuts, field greens, creme fraiche/ginger dressing
arugula, crispy ham, pine nuts, pickled red onion, hirtenkase
beets, raspberries, pistachio, mascarpone, red wine vinegar
This is an occasionally NSFW, mostly gluten-free kitchen notebook that also occasionally threatens to turn into something else and fails, thus remaining its same old cryptic and superficial self. These posts begin to fail to explain (start at the bottom).