Friday, June 26, 2009
To celebrate a recent family birthday, we grilled sardines and anchovies on our new mini balcony grill, and I made a polenta ‘lasagna’ as an accompaniment. I had grilled sardines several times on my own, attempting, usually, to recreate the memory of an amazing simple meal of sardines and french fries I shared with my father once in Slovenia. I have made them at home, in a regular pan on the stovetop, and I have made them, and had them made for me, by my friend Cheryl, outside, on an outdoor grill, like this time. But anchovies on the grill I had never tried.
One summer, four years ago, I was teaching in Rome for a couple of weeks, and needing a little single girl alone time, took the middle weekend, and off I went to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and back to Naples by boat. Once I saw the sweeping views from the first stop in Positano, I jumped off the bus attempting to find a place to sleep, and viewed, and quickly paid for, a room overlooking the Italian coastline, and the colorful villas dotting the surrounding cliffs. After a refreshing swim in the pool, and washing off all the Pompeiian dust, I headed down the hill for a look at the sea and a bite to eat.
The Italians were often baffled that I was traveling alone, and eating alone was no different. Assuming they felt sorry for me, I got lots of free stuff. My gorgeous meal of Italian flag red cherry tomatoes, twelve butterflied and grilled anchovies from the water my feet could almost touch, and a substantial arugula salad enhanced with olive oil and acidified by a squeeze of the ubiquitous Amalfi lemon, was followed by a gift: a curvy glass of the local liquor with a wild strawberry floating in it. After that meal, the idea of grilling fresh anchovies became as dreamy as memories of my Mediterranean adventure.
I was worried they would stick on the grill if I butterflied them, so I cleaned them and grilled them whole, and left them for just a minute over the heat. These anchovies were an experiment, a little appetizer before the foolproof sardines, fragrant with fresh thyme sprigs, and imbued with smoky flavor. Now that I know I can do it, next time it’s twelve anchovies for each of us, and a small glass of limoncello, perhaps, for the strawberries.
Grilled Sardines and/or Anchovies Recipe
Clean the sardines and/or anchovies by cutting the head off on an angle behind the gills, and then make a small slit in the belly area. Remove the head and then the guts from the slit you just made, and rinse the inside with water. For a prettier presentation, you may leave the head on. Remove any scales on the sardines by running your knife gently the wrong way against them. Rinse again, and set the cleaned fish aside. There’s no need to do this with the anchovies, and there might even be debate about cleaning them at all; they are so small.
I bought my sardines already cleaned by the fish monger, and disappointingly, they removed the tail, too. The tail is my favorite part, not only because it gets nice and crispy on the grill, but also because you can use it to pull all the bones out with one fell swoop once the fish is cooked and on your plate. After you get over a little blood, it’s really easy to clean the fish yourself, and saves money, too!
Dry the sardines and anchovies well, and fill the belly of all the sardines with a thyme sprig. Rub the surface of the fish with plenty of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Make sure your grill is hot, and the coals are well distributed. Put the sardines and anchovies on the grill, being careful not to crowd them. Cook the sardines for a minute and a half to 2 minutes on each side, turning them carefully. Cook the anchovies for barely a minute on each side.
Remove from the grill and serve immediately with fresh lemon, and arugula salad, if you like.
Other recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Wilted Dandelion Greens with Dried Figs and Pine Nuts Recipe, Fresh Coriander, Ginger, and Chile Crepês Recipe (Rava Dosa), Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I have had a lot more cheese, here in Switzerland, than I have even written about. I have shared fondue, and cheese tarts, and for breakfast, I just cannot turn down the earthy gruyère on my toast with a little Swiss alpine butter. It’s great, but I needed a break. This is not my usual diet, and for some grounding, I made a favorite Turkish red lentil soup from my childhood. It is disappointingly chilly here, so instead of sunbathing at the bains de paquis, and then relishing the cooling effects of the clear lake, I bought a pair of shoes that aren’t sandals, and to warm us, I made soup.
One of the few inexpensive places to eat in Geneva are the Turkish and Kurdish kebab houses. While tasty, I’m sad that kebabs have become the quintessential Turkish food outside of Turkey, when there is enormous variety and sophistication to the country’s food left unrepresented. No matter, I’m happy to eat a good döner kebab when I can, so one day, caught without lunch, we stopped in for one. The Swiss are polite and kind, but the Turks are warm, welcoming, and once you’re friends, friends you are for life. In Turkish, there are even two words for the word friend, highlighting the spectrum of possible closeness. At first meeting, one may be referred to as an arkadaş, or usual friend, and if the relationship becomes longer-term, more like family, then one is called a dost, an intimate, or kindred spirit.
After having eaten at this local place, and speaking briefly in my flawed Turkish with the server and with the owner, Turks from all over the neighborhood began to recognize me. Now, if my husband and I enter a different kebab house and ask, in French, for a savory yogurt beverage called ayran, I’ll hear someone sitting at a nearby table alert the owner, saying, “onlar Türkler”, meaning “they’re Turkish”, and they’ll switch from French to Turkish. “They” are Turkish, not “she” is Turkish. My husband, looking clearly western European, welcomed, too, into the warmth of the Turkish culture, even from Switzerland. Thank you, Turks, for helping make chilly Geneva feel more like home.
Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)
adapted from The Sultan's Kitchen, By Özcan Ozan
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted clarified butter (I don’t bother clarifying the butter, and you could use only olive oil if you wanted to leave out the dairy)
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato, peeled,
seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup) (or you may use 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or ground red pepper (you may use cayenne, or leave it out)
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup long-grain white rice (I sometimes use brown rice here)
6 cups chicken stock or water
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur (you may also use regular bulgur. I find the resulting textural contrast nice)
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain bread croutons (optional)
For the Topping:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil, but butter really makes it here)
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I also add spicy Turkish pepper to this mixture for a little heat)
In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they're softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato (or tomato sauce or diced tomatoes), the paprika, and Turkish pepper. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.
To make the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the mint and paprika, and stir the mixture until it sizzles. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and drizzle the butter mixture over each serving. Top with the croutons, if you're using them. Serve at once with lemon wedges.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Sorrel and Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe, Oven Baked Börek with Mustard Greens, Feta, and Walnuts Recipe, and Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Last week was a busy week: my father in law came to visit, and I was teaching dance every day in Lausanne, waking up early each morning to catch the train from Geneva in time to prepare for my 10 am class. When the weekend came, I slept in, and by the time I groggily padded into the kitchen, the household was hungry immediately for breakfast. I had some fresh ricotta in the fridge that I planned to dress up with the leftover mint from this quiche, and a clove or so from a head of beautiful purple garlic I couldn’t wait to try. I drizzled in a little olive oil, some salt and some pepper, and in five minutes, came up with an easy, inexpensive, and satisfying spread. I’d use this later in the day, too, on toast as an appetizer, but as a fairly mild breakfast spread I received compliments all around. The purple garlic was not as pungent as the garlic I’m used to, so I added one large clove, but if garlic’s not your thing, you may leave it out, or add less of it.
Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil
About a cup and a half fresh ricotta cheese
One large clove of purple garlic (or regular garlic), minced
About two tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Mix everything together in a small bowl. Spread on toast. Enjoy.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Almond and Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto Recipe and Home with Hummus Recipe.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The supermarkets in Geneva carry a great deal of local, organic ingredients, and this week I saw a plant I’d never seen before. Marked rare species on the label, arroche des jardins, or garden orache in English, is an unusual plant in the Chenopodium genus, and related to the plant I found at the market in Turkey last summer and used in börek. This orache has deep red, tender leaves, the color of radicchio, an association I made which led my thoughts to Italy, and then, to the Italian part of Switzerland, to Ticino.
A bike trip through Ticino for my 33rd birthday remains one of the highlights of all my travels. We cycled along the Lago Maggiore to Locarno, where, after exploring the old town by foot, we passed leisurely afternoons eating polenta and risotto, and sipping cappuccinos in the Piazza Grande. In the sunny, sub-tropical climate, the mildest in Switzerland, palm trees and magnolias are common, and a strange sight when brisk, generally overcast Geneva is your usual. We took a heart-stopping train ride through the Centovalli and, among the alpine streams waterfalling dramatically to valleys below, we chugged by little stone huts called grottos, restaurants serving typically Ticinese fare. I had fantasies, then, of moving to Locarno, learning Italian, spending my days hiking and biking these gorgeous valleys, stopping over from time to time for a meal in a grotto, or a swim in the lake, the mountainous views occasionally punctuated by the colorful mix of medieval and modernist architecture.
In the store, I ripped off a bit of one of the leaves of the arroche des jardins and tasted it. Lacking the bitterness and textural heft of radicchio, if my eyes had been closed, I would have guessed Swiss chard. How appropriate. The resulting delectable pasta dish can be made classically with that radicchio, but I might also try it with Swiss chard, or another green that won’t wilt dramatically under a little heat. Our primi piatti that evening, it was difficult to stop eating in order to make room for the seared lamb and lemony eggplant I made to break in our new grill. Ticino, on our little balcony.
Conchiglie (Pasta Shells) with Gorgonzola and Garden Orache (or Radicchio) Recipe
1 pound conchiglie pasta (pasta shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 pound gorgonzola cheese
2/3 cup heavy cream
approximately 1 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
one bunch garden orache (who knows; perhaps some of you grow it?), radicchio, Swiss chard, or other sturdy green, torn into medium-sized pieces
Heat a large, salted, pot of water until boiling. Add the pasta shells and cook according to package directions, being careful not to over cook.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion, and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, and stir a couple of times, being careful not to burn it. Lower the heat a bit, add the gorgonzola cheese, and let it melt completely, stirring constantly. When the cheese is melted, you may add the cream and the milk (pour slowly, you don’t want your sauce to be too thick or too thin), and heat the sauce gently, until it reaches the desired consistency. If your sauce is too thick, add a little of the pasta’s cooking water, or more milk. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, add the arroche des jardins, or the Swiss chard, and stir until the leaves are just wilted. Incorporate the pasta with the sauce, and serve immediately.
Note: If you are using radicchio, I might cook it a bit on it's own before adding it to the onion mixture and the cheese and cream. Since it is a bit sturdy, cooking it lightly will soften it just enough.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli, with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon Recipe
Friday, June 12, 2009
The flea market in Geneva is one of the only places to find a bargain. When ingredients for a simple meal for two and a little breakfast cost nearly $100 in the grocery store, it's surprising to find early 20th century furniture and antique lace at reasonable prices. After making the rounds, I came away with a small enough table to fit on our balcony, two chairs to match, a portable 1940s wooden foosball table, and the inspiration for this quiche.
At the far end of the market is a magical little camping car. It has been converted into a moving cafe, and the chefs inside serve reliable, inventive food like zucchini-mint quiche, and hazelnut-chestnut torte, offering free, barely sweetened lemon water for refreshment. Perfect for munching on while perusing the wares, that quiche begat this one, and an approximation of the torte will make a definite appearance in the near future.
For the quiche crust, I used a recipe by Estelle Broyer, a French food blogger living in California. I don't bake regularly, so every time I pull out the flour there's concern on my part that whatever pastry I make will either fall apart, or be so tough and tasteless that my culinary degree will be called into question. I experimented this time with whole wheat flour, augmented by some spelt and rye, and ended up with two hard little balls, almost the weight and density of the steel ones old pastis-drunk men hurl toward a smaller one while playing a game here called boules. I was worried.
I rolled out the hard ball, draped it into the not-quite-a-quiche pan that is part of my second home's imperfect kitchen set up, baked it, and voilà, the most flaky, flavorful quiche crust ever to pass through the hands of this reluctant pastry maker. Baking just might be my second calling. Or third calling. Or maybe it's not a calling at all, but more like a whisper accompanied by a weak hand gesture, vaguely signaling me toward the flour and the butter and the alchemy.
From our new balcony chairs and table we can see the edge of Switzerland, and the Jura mountains, in France. A few days ago, while eating this quiche, a rainbow appeared, shining up the rainy sky. Fantastic food makes fantastic scenery more vivid, don't you think?
Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust
Prepare the quiche crust according to the recipe from Estelle Broyer here. I used whole wheat pastry flour with ten percent each spelt flour and rye flour, but you may use her recipe exactly, if you like. Instead of crème fraîche, I used thick and sweet double crème de la Gruyères. However, this move is risky; I may have eaten most of the amount called for from the container before it ever approached the other ingredients.
For the quiche filling:
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, chopped (or one medium onion)
3 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup black olives, pitted, and roughly chopped (I used oil-cured olives from Greece)
the leaves from 5 medium mint sprigs, finely chopped
6 eggs, beaten (I added a seventh egg, because my pan was too large. If you have a normal quiche pan, six should be plenty.
3 large tablespoons crème de la Gruyères, or crème fraîche, or sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chopped cauliflower, and cook it until it is tender, but not mushy. There should still be a little bite to it. Drain it, and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.
In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil, and sauté the onions until translucent. Don't let them brown. Add the garlic, and stir a couple of times. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool.
In a separate bowl, combine the cauliflower with the olives and the mint. Add the cooled onion and garlic mixture, and mix well. Stir in the beaten eggs, and the cream, and season with a little salt and pepper.
Roll out the ball of dough for the quiche crust, and drape it over your rolling pin to transfer it easily to the quiche pan. Make gentle flutes around the edge of the pan with your thumb and forefinger.
Pour the quiche mixture into the pan. Bake the quiche for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the eggs are cooked through.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Here's one way to fight jet-lag: shop at flea markets all day for dinner plates with silly French sayings, watch the country's hero qualify for the French Open final (which he later won), and stop for a mid-afternoon treat of tartes au citron, mini éclairs, and choux pastries coated with crackling sugar and filled with glorious cream. Once you've devoured all that, rev up with a grand café, and savor a handmade bar of Swiss dark chocolate studded with almonds. For dessert, naturally.
Even thinking about Switzerland makes me feel fat. When I'm here I can't stop with the chocolate and the cheese (particularly the cheese), and this time, I'm going to buy or rent a bike, so that I can pedal along the lake, and up in the hills near the working cows, near the foothills of the alps, and after, eat all I want for dinner. It would be a shame to skimp on all the fatty goodness that makes this country great, and I do not intend to let those cows down. In preparation for the dairy I plan to eat, I've already overdone it here in a healthy way: two days ago I made a textural mix of organic barley, wild rice and spelt berries, made even earthier with dried porcini mushrooms that I added directly to the cooking grains. I stewed together a tomato, green bean, and tofu 'ragu' to top the grains, and we had fruit for dessert, loquats and physalis and red raspberries. As Tuesday is market day, I haven't even purchased any cheese. I am waiting for the real stuff; I am waiting to buy it from the people who make it.
With nutritious meals in my belly, some tough hikes and bike rides planned, I am feeling just fine about indulging in a little cheese and chocolate. Bring it on, Switzerland. I'm ready for you.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
It had been an intense few weeks. School was ending at Juilliard; I was rehearsing a duet for a recent show; there were performances I had to attend, and cookies to make for my students' graduation, so I was very much looking forward to a present I gave to my husband and myself: a two-day trip to Las Vegas to celebrate our 40th birthdays.
I wanted to make some food for ourselves for the long flight, and had no time to do it. The day before leaving was spent at an early morning acupuncture appointment, taking class, rehearsal, and at my students' final performance and after party. Returning home at nearly 2 am, and knowing I'd only have a couple of hours to sleep in order to catch our 7 am flight, I set the alarm for 4 am to get up and cook that gorgeous asparagus with those peas. Local farmers spent a lot of time nurturing those plants for our consumption, and I did not want to disrespect their efforts by letting them wilt and mold in my NYC fridge while I was lounging decadently by the pool, cocktail in hand.
By 4:40 am, delirious and dizzy, I had managed to make, and package into tupperware, one of the best flight meals ever. Creamy and garlicky, the colors of the bright green peas complementing the deep purple asparagus, this pasta was rich, fresh tasting, and beautiful to look at, too. A classic spring combination, I would have used pancetta here, but bacon was around, and a fine substitute.
The guy eating five pretzels for lunch in the seat next to me was a little envious when we pulled this pasta of our bag. I would have shared, but the flight attendant only offered us one fork for the two of us. After a little nap and some Jet Blue TV, we arrived, sated and rested, rested enough to enjoy a full day of Vegas insanity. If you make this meal for your next flight, you will 1) make your seatmates jealous, 2) feed your belly and your traveling companion's belly with springtime deliciousness, 3) support local farmers, and 4) save money by not buying crap airport food. All this, and even a sleepwalker can do it.
Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon
Fusilli pasta, cooked. Keep some of the pasta's cooking water on the side, for addition to the sauce later. You may use penne, or another substantial pasta, if you like, instead of the fusilli.
6 bacon slices, cut into medium-sized bits
1 red onion, chopped
approximately 8 large asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
approximately 2 cups of green peas (I shelled mine from fresh pods, and didn't measure. Use an amount that looks complementary to the amount of asparagus you have)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
fresh thyme (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock or pasta water (or you may cut the amount of cream with more chicken stock or pasta water)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Saute the bacon in a large pot until beginning to brown. Remove the bacon and set aside. Pour off some of the fat, leaving enough in the pan to saute the onions, which you will add now. Cook the onions in the bacon fat until soft. Add the sliced asparagus and cook a minute or so. Add the peas and the garlic and thyme. Add the cooked bacon back to the pot. Stir until the asparagus and peas begin to cook. Don't let them turn mushy; they should be a little al dente. Add the cream, and the chicken stock or pasta water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss with the pasta. Adjust the thickness of the sauce with more pasta water, if needed.
Similar recipes on A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Conchiglie with Gorgonzola and Garden Orache Recipe