Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10 things I want to create this year.

I am moving to another continent soon. Permanently. And therefore it is the perfect opportunity to tackle some items on my list of: Things I want to make but have so far avoided for reasons.

10 Things I want to create this year:

1. Make jam: smooth apricot jam and prickly pear from the garden. In the summer we have an abundance of four kinds of fruits: Concord grapes, prickly pears, apricots and figs. I want to roast figs, juice the grapes and preserve the apricots and prickly pears. There is something about having your own canned goods at home. You know what went in it. 

2. Salted Caramels. Chewy and Sweet with a little sprinkle of Fleur de Sel on top or Espresso mixed with in. Candy has scared me, I want to overcome this fear.

3. I want to make a Sunday Roast from beef. Something big for lots and lots of people. And serve yorkshire pudding with it, something my husband holds fond memories for (and which I didn't even know until a couple of weeks ago. Here is a hint.)

4. Nut butters. I didn't grow up with Peanut butter. It just wasn't available and when it was, I wasn't crazy about it. That changed some years ago when a friend had me try almond butter. I tried mixed nut butter shortly after. And I have found a way to make my own. Because I will be in a country that doesn't have (yet) organic or health food store popping up like mushrooms. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A tale of broccoli.

Whenever I mention the word "broccoli" in my mother's presence, her immediate response is: "For soup?" Same answer when I put some into the shopping cart or when I look at broccoli related recipes in one of my cookbooks.
I don't know why but for my mother broccoli always translates into soup - the one with cream that is pureed until smooth. She made some a couple of weeks ago. I heard her in the kitchen. She killed that poor vegetable by boiling it for a good half an hour before blending it to the consistency of baby food.
Don't get me wrong, my mother can cook - fresh vegetables are just a little out of her comfort zone.

Broccoli Close up.

Anyway, what I wanted to make that last time I put broccoli into the shopping cart at the supermarket: Roasted Broccoli. Did you know that you can pretty much roast any vegetable?
And that it transforms said vegetables? They become crispy on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside and the whole thing takes pretty much no time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Comfort food. This time: Soup.

I declare this the end of the search for good tomato soup. Because I have found it. 
The original recipe is by Martha Stewart and Joy has posted it here.
The flavors of this soup are: Bright and fresh, a little acidic (as if you were making it with fresh tomatoes in the summer) but also sweet the way tomatoes naturally are.

Tomato Soup

My execution, however, was quite different than Joy's version. 
First of all, I didn't know where my mother keeps her bay leaves so I skipped that. Than I decided to change the proportions of the whole thing up because I knew I would be the only one eating said soup and with the amount of stock and tomatoes that was supposed to go into it, I would have had enough soup for the next weeks.
I basically halved the liquid ingredients and omitted the cream. 
I also realized when I sat down to devour my food - this could easily be a vegan soup (if you serve it without the grilled cheese, duh!).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oat Soda Bread.

I consider baking bread to be one of the essentials of baking.
And there really isn't much more satisfying than pulling your own loaves out of the oven. Well, maybe slicing it up, smearing butter on top and sprinkling it with good salt.

At the same time, bread intimidates me. The yeast makes it a somehow unpredictable and with all the rising and proofing, it's not a quick task. There isn't much to do actively, and yet you are committing longer stretches of time for a single loaf of bread.
In case you are wondering: I am not really impatient, I can work for hours on something. It's the checking on the rising repeatedly and the unpredictability of yeast that puts me off.
Another reason why I haven't done more bread baking: I live (still) in Germany, the country of the sourdough bread and, though they are slowly being replaced by the commercial bakeries, one can still find exceptional good bread around town without much trouble - why make it at home?!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recent books. One.

For the past six months I haven't been reading anything for pleasure. I had work to do which included reading, writing and, mostly, starring at my laptop screen and when I wanted to read for pleasure (which, really, rarely happened because once I reached home all I wanted to do was veg out in front of the TV) I read blogs (my very neglected blogroll accounts for that). I will tell you of my favorite ones some other time.

Because right now, it's about a book I rewarded myself with when the end of my learning and "Not-for-pleasure"-reading was over:

Nightstand reading.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.

I am not big on eating muffins. Or cupcakes for that matter. 
I love cake. Sometimes cookies but I am being particular about the texture but rarely muffins because the commercial muffins resemble cake too much but without the frosting. 
They are often huge, dense and dry. Same with cupcakes which often drown in a sea of overly sweet frosting. It's all about balance at the end of the day.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.

And yet, when I had the chance to bake - for the first time in weeks - I set out to make muffins. 
I had thought of this particular combination for weeks after I cleaned out the pantry and found a bag of poppy seeds. 
We had buttermilk in the fridge and a lemon in the fruit bowl. Everything fell into place and the muffins took no time to be ready.