Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer House Salad

I finally visited a Summer House in Denmark on the Northern Shore of Zealand and I had a wonderful time.  We made a lovely barbecue and I helped make two salads, both loosely based on Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes as we had to adapt to what was available in the local market.  This one is made with asparagus, peapods, spinach and red onion in a light lemony dressing. It looked so beautiful and tasted so fresh that I had to share the adapted recipe with you. The asparagus and the peapods were blanched quickly so they are still a bit crunchy. 

Summer House Salad

1 bunch Asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into 3 - 4 pieces on the angle 
1 handful of Peapods (also called Mangetout), ends snipped off and strings pulled off
2 big handfuls of washed spinach leaves
1 small red onion, trimmed, peeled, halved and cut very thinly
1 red Jalapeno, trimmed, seeded and cut into little pieces
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon toasted Sesame Seeds

Bring a small pot of water to boil and put int he asparagus and peapods and cook for 2 - 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.In a small bowl, mix together the Olive Oil, Lemon Juice and Salt and add in the red Jalapeno pieces and onions to marinate. When ready to serve, put spinach leaves down on the platter, then place the Asparagus and Pea Pods on top. Then put the marinated onions all over and drizzle the dressing on.  Sprinkle with Sesame Seeds and toss right before serving.

Five Element Analysis

With such a lot of green in this salad, you know it has to be full of the Wood Element and the olive and lemon juice add even more!The red onion contributes the Metal Element and the Sesame Seeds bring in the Water Element. The little bit of Red Jalapeno adds a bit of the Fire Element.  So this is a really good salad to serve when you need more of the Wood Element in your diet.

Grilled Hamburger Taco Meat

I love to find uses for leftovers, as I hate to waste food.  At the same barbecue I mentioned in the last post, we also had leftover hamburgers that took a little more creativity for me to repurpose.  I had a bunch of teenagers coming over as Antonie graduated from high school and here in Denmark the kids ride around on open buses visiting all the houses to eat and drink to celebrate.  I was preparing food for 25 kids and decided to make make your own nachos. I spread out the tortilla chips, sprinkled them with cheese and put them in the oven right before the kids got here. I served them with salsa, fresh tomatoes, cubed avocado and hamburger taco filling that I made from the leftover hamburgers.  The kids piled everything on their chips and they loved it. I discovered that making taco filling from previously grilled burgers gave it a delightfully smoky taste that I like even better than using fresh hamburger!  So, next time we do burgers on the grill, I am going to through some extras on to make this taco filling again.  There is no doubt that this will become a family favorite!

Grilled Hamburger Taco Meat

1 pound leftover hamburger patties (in this case 3 large or 4 small patties already grilled) cut into small pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion chopped fine
1 small garlic clove minced
2 Tablespoon Chili Powder
¼ teaspoon dried Mexican Oregano
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Optional: ½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 cup diluted beef broth (can also use chicken)
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water

Put the vegetable oil in a skillet with high sides on medium heat.  Cook until wilted.  Then add in the hamburger pieces, spices and broth.  Cook until the meat has become soft. Then add in the cornstarch and cook until thickened. Use for tacos, nachos or taco salad.

Five Element Analysis

Ground Beef belongs to the Earth Element and all the spices contribute Metal Element.  The Fire Element is represented with the tomatoes served cut up or in salsa and the fresh and dried chilis.  Avocados represent both the Water and Wood Elements and the Lime Juice in the salsa adds a bit more Wood.  Only Water needs some support, so be sure to serve these tacos with another Watery food like a flan as the eggs will contribute that element for balance.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

German Style Sausage and New Potato Salad

We had a barbecue the other night and cooked way too much for the number of people there.  There were a lot of grilled sausages left over  And, here in Denmark, people are crazy about their new potatoes. They eat them very simply - they boil them and add butter and salt.  Anyway, we ended up with a lot of those left over too.  So, the next day, I decided to pull up my German ancestry and created a Sausage and Potato Salad that I brought for lunch to the class I was teaching. It was a big hit!  It's a simple salad that tastes strongly of mustard, which works so well with the sausages.  It's also such a great hearty salad for a filling lunch. I served mine with a baby lettuce salad with lots of fresh tomatoes and a light vinaigrette. I love finding ways to use leftovers, but if you like this salad, you can also make it from scratch by boiling the potatoes first and cutting up sausages and browning them in a frying pan before mixing them into a salad.  It tastes better after sitting for a few hours as it brings the flavors together and I think it is even better the next day.

German Style Sausage and New Potato Salad

1 pound already boiled new potatoes, cut into half or quarters depending on the size
1 pound sausages already cooked and sliced ¼ inch thick – mixed (Polish Sausages, German Bratwurst, German Veal Sausages)
4 – 6 green onions (if large, use two)
3/4 cup Mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellmans if possible)
2 heaping Tablespoons German Lowensenf Mustard or Dijon Mustard
2 teaspoons White Vinegar
2 teaspoons Sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Adjust seasonings to taste - it should taste strongly of mustard.

In a large bowl, place the potatoes, green onion and sausages.  Pour over the sauce and toss to coat.  Refrigerate to let the flavors meld for several hours or overnight for the best flavor.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes are an Earthy Food so that element is fully represented. The sausages, being made of pork, contribute the Water Element. The Mayonnaise, Mustard and Green Onions contribute the Metal Element and also the Wood Element because the Mustard and Green Onions also have Wood food properties.  The vinegar adds even more wood.  Only the Fire Element is missing so serve this with a big lettuce salad with tomatoes like I did to create a Five Element balance.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Danish Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle

I am learning to make Danish classic recipes since I am spending so much time in Copenhagen and also due to my desire to cook Martin's favorite foods. Tonight I made Danish Rhubarb Trifle but I added in strawberries to make it more like one of my favorite American dessert classics - Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.  Rhubarb is one of those wonderful signs of spring and has a lovely tart taste. 

Rhubarb has a long history in Chinese Medicine and has been used to support the kidneys, the heart and the lungs.  It is considered cathartic, laxative and has been shown to lower blood glucose and cholesterol. More recently, studies have found that it may be effective for some types of cancer as well. But, the studies used powdered rhubarb and the ancient Chinese were most fond of treating with rhubarb root. I prefer to eat my medicine and for me, it's only good for me if it tastes good and rhubarb tastes great!  In America, it has long been known as the pie plant.

The Rhubarb I bought was very tart and even though the strawberries were very sweet, I ended up using more sugar than I expected. I know that some of you like your desserts a little sweeter, so taste as you go.   also only lightly sweeten the whipped cream as the Macaroon Cookies are quite sweet too.  Most parts of this dessert can be made ahead and then the dessert can be assembled quickly before serving. That makes this the perfect dessert for a dinner party!

Danish Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:

5 cups Rhubarb, cut into small pieces - all leaves completely cut off
3 cups Strawberries, stemmed and cut into pieces
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Vanilla Sugar or 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Place water and sugar in a  medium saucepan and heat to boiling. Add in fruit and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium - low and cook for 20 minutes.  Take off heat and add the vanilla. Cool and then refrigerate. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.

Serve with:

2 cups lightly whipped cream (2 cups heavy cream with 2 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar)
Almond Macaroons (recipe below) or store bought, broken into small pieces

Almond Macaroons

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup ground almonds
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar a little at a time until incorporated.  Drop Tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet covered with a Silpat baking sheet or parchment paper.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and break into small pieces.

To assemble:

Put 2 Tablespoons of the crumbled Almond Macaroons in the bottom of a glass serving cup. Then put in 3 Tablespoons of the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote. On top of that, spoon in 2 heaping Tablespoons of Whipped Cream. Repeat the layers and dust the top with some Macaroon Crumbs.  

Five Element Analysis

Rhubarb belongs to both the Wood Element as it grows in stalks and is ready to eat in the spring and also the Fire Element because it is red.  So both those elements are naturally present and the strawberries add even more Fire.  As this is a dessert and sweetened with sugar and Almond Macaroons, the Earth Element is also fully represented. The Whipped Cream and Vanilla contribute the Metal Element. The egg whites in the Macaroons bring in just a bit of the Water Element, but not much.  So this dessert would be really good served after a dinner featuring a Water Element main dish. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Moroccan Flavors

I've been traveling so much that I haven't had time to cook hardly at all, which for me is nearly a tragedy!  And, when I have been cooking, it's been a bit rushed so I make my old standbys - most of which are already posted on this blog.  Tonight I had a lovely time creating something new and it was so much fun.  It was one of those cases where I had several things in the fridge that really needed using and I was in the mood for some spice. So, I cooked up a semi-Moroccan meal with beef meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce, some rice pilaf and this lovely roasted Eggplant Salad.  It is full of caramelized chunks of eggplant, red pepper, red onions and garlic cloves tossed in olive oil, cumin, turmeric and coriander. After it has finished cooking in the oven, you drizzle lemon juice on top and that's it - you have a delicious salad with minimal fuss full of those exotic spices that take you far away from your own kitchen!

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Moroccan Flavors

2 Small Eggplants, top and bottom cut off and cut into big chunks
2 Red Peppers, stems removed, deseeded and cut into big pieces
2 small Red Onions, ends removed, peeled and cut into big wedges
6 garlic cloves peeled (cut in half if large)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Cumin Seed
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon Salt
Juice of one small Lemon or 1/2 of a big Lemon

Heat oven to 400 degrees,  In a large bow, mix together the Olive Oil, Cumin Seed, Turmeric, Ground Coriander and Salt.  Toss in Eggplant, Peppers, Onions and Garlic to coat evenly with the spiced oil.  Pour onto a baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes, turning about every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and put into a serving bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice, toss and serve warm.  Can also be served cold.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplants belong to the Water Element and they are also a mucilaginous food so they are very good for your intestines.  The Red Pepper adds the Fire Element. The Red Onions bring in the Metal Element and so do the spices. The Cumin and Turmeric also reduce inflammation in the body. The Olive Oil and Lemon Juice contribute the Wood Element. Only the Earth Element is missing, which is why I served this salad with some beef meatballs but a sweet dessert is also a good idea to create a Five Element balance.