Monday, February 27, 2006

Chocolate Truffles

A few weeks ago I went to see a demo at Surfas how to make chocolate truffles. The basic recipe is very simple, the whole procedure a bit time consuming though. I'm not much of a patissier, but they came out pretty well so I thought I'd share my first experience.

for about 20 truffles:


8 oz bittersweet chocolate (Valrhona is a very good and expensive brand for truffles, you can buy smaller portions if you visit the store)
4 oz heavy cream (as heavy as you can find it)
1 oz high quality unsalted butter (President brand or any other European style butter)
anything you feel like for flavoring (I used fresh ginger and allspice for half of the chocolate, lavender for the other half)


Before we begin, the most important rule: Chocolate and water are worst enemies! Always make sure that no water touches the chocolate at any time.

Chop the chocolate into small chunks, put it into a bowl (split into two bowls if you're making two different flavors for the truffles). In a saucepan, heat the cream and butter and add your flavors. Taste the cream to see if you like the flavor. If you use something like lavender, you want to filter your cream to not have any lavender pieces in the ganache. After filtering, make sure you still have 4 oz of liquid, otherwise fill up with more cream. Pour the hot liquid over the chocolate and stir until smooth. A rubber spatula (Le Creuset are the best) works great for this.

Once melted, pour the liquid into an airtight container and let it sit for about 2-4 hours until it has firmed. I used a portion disher from Surfas to form the ganache into little balls. Size #100 worked great for that. I would also suggest that you wear plastic gloves to do this. It will get pretty messy and the gloves will also prevent the warmth of your hands to melt the chocolate too much.

You can decorate the truffles as you wish. I got some special molding chocolate from Surfas (that type of chocolate is supposed to make it a lot easier for melting in a double boiler). Dip your truffles into liquid chocolate and move them around with a plastic fork until covered all around. Instead of covering them with liquid chocolate, you could also sprinkle some very high quality cocoa powder over your truffles.

I made some candied ginger for decoration which turned out very nicely. Cut fresh ginger into small pieces, put about same amount of water and sugar in a skillet and add the ginger. Bring to a boil until the ginger caramelizes with the sugar. Remove the mass from the skillet, let it cool and cut into small pieces. Pestle and mortar worked great for me to get nicely shaped ginger crystals.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Traditional Cheese Fondue

With temperatures being pretty cold around here recently, we've decided to do another fondue before the summer comes back. In Switzerland, we usually only do this dish in the winter, preferrably in the mountains, with snow falling outside and a fire crackling in the fireplace. It's a wonderful dish for several people gathering around the table. It's best served with either a dry white wine or tea.

It is most romantic in a spec
ial fondue set, but you could also serve it in a regular pan on any hotplate you can place on your table. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about what kind of fondue set you should get.

Ingredients per person:

150 g (about 5.5 oz) gruyère cheese (from Trader Joe's, make sure it's not cave aged otherwise your fondue will get too salty)
75 ml (2.5 oz) white wine (cheap one like Charles Shaw from Trader Joe's is fine)
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
1 shotglass of Kirsch (Bristol Farms usually sells it, any brand is fine)
1 big clove of garlic
pepper and freshly ground nutmeg
bread (baguette, not sourdough) cut into about 1 inch cubes


Before you start, make sure you have a hotplate arranged on the table where you'll be eating your fondue. Basically, you'll need to start eating immediately after it's ready, so make sure your guests are all ready to eat by the time you'll serve the fondue.

Peel the garlic, cut it in half lengthwise and thoroughly rub it all over the inside
of your fondue dish or pan. Leave the garlic in the dish.

Mix the corn starch with th
e kirsch in a cup until it's completely dissolved.

Grind the cheese in a food processor or manually. Put it into the fondue dish, pour in the wine and start heating it up over medium-high heat. From now on, until the end, constantly stir the cheese. You might want to have a second person around to assist you with stirring, while you add the rest of the ingredients.

Once the cheese started to melt a bit, add the kirsch with the dissolved corn starch and stir strongly. Bring it to a quick boil, then reduce the temperature to keep simmering the fondue until it has reached a creamy thickness. To test if it's ready, stir and lift your tool to see how liquid the cheese is. Season with pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Move the fondue onto your medium-low heat hotplate (or fondue gas burner) on the table and start eating immediately by stirring bread pieces with your fondue forks. Make sure the fondue always slightly simmers while you're eating, but it shouldn't boil.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Super Simple #1 - Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Salad

How often does it happen that you're at home, hungry, with no mood to go to the grocery store?

On a night like that, I often check what's in the fridge and try to come up with some quick and simple dish. I had some leftovers of oven roasted, marinated tomatoes which i bought for appetizers a few days ago at Whole Foods. If you're ever in the area, the Beverly Hills Cheese Store has really fantastic roasted/marinated tomatoes, but the ones from Whole Foods aren't bad either.

Then i had a bit of fresh spinach left, a handful of the herb salad mix from Trader Joe's and a few cherry tomatoes, the perfect ingredients for a nice salad.

I always make sure I have some basic ingredients like spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and in no time, you can create a wonderful tasting dish that's fast enough to prepare so you won't starve while cooking.

Especially when it comes to those simple dishes, I can't stress enough how important it is that you're using good quality ingredients! It just simply makes a big difference.

for 2 people:


about 100-125 g (3,5-4 oz) spaghetti per person
about 10-20 oven roasted/marinated tomatoes
2 big cloves of garlic, crushed
1 hot chili (if you received one of my spice boxes, that's the time to use one of those thai chilies!)
4-6 tablespoons good quality olive oil
pinch of dried marjoram or oregano
parmesan cheese, (freshly) ground
salad, any type you might have in your fridge
freshly ground salt and pepper


Start by making the sauce. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the
whole chili and the crushed garlic (crush garlic by pressing on it with the flat side of a knife), reduce the heat to medium and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the roasted tomatoes. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn, otherwise it will get bitter. At this point, you can also add some dried herbs you might have on your shelf. Marjoram or oregano go well with the roasted tomatoes.

The longer you sauté, the more flavor you will have in your sauce. The more hungry you are, the shorter you will probably simmer your sauce! But i would recommend to simmer it for at least 15-20 minutes total over low heat.

In the meantime, heat water in a big pan, once it's boiling, add a bit of salt and oil. Add the spaghetti and stir to make sure they don't stick together.

Prepare the salad, mix
together all the different kinds of leaves and tomatoes you might have. I like to make a simple italian dressing by just adding a good balsamic vinegar, olive oil, freshly ground pepper and maybe a few pinches of dried herbs, like an italian seasoning mix.

Remove the spaghetti from the water when they're al-dente or slightly before! That's one of the most important things about this dish, do not overcook spaghetti, it will ruin the dish.

Pour the sauce over your spaghetti on the plates, sprinkle with parmesan cheese (freshly ground would be best) and serve with the salad on the side. The Ripasso wine from Trader Joe's would go well with this and only costs $6.99.

Another dish has been added to the "super simple" series of dishes. Check out the Röschti.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Ravioli Experience

I'm not going to get into details about this, the pictures should speak on their own. It was fun! But I'm not going to do it again! Boy, that was a lot of work and it reminded me to stick to what I think I'm best at: simple dishes!

But all of us (at least i hope so!) had a fun time going through this together. Well, Mizue had to roll out a lot of dough, so I'm not sure how much she enjoyed it. And Wakako was going to move things into her new apartment, but was instead filling little pieces of dough with crab filling. And didn't I tell Daveed we were going to an art exhibition and he ended up disassembling crab legs? And not to forget about kitty, who would rather have jumped onto the table instead of just smelling the dungeness crab from underneath!

Check out the pictures to see this historic event! ;-)

I feel the urge to just fix some eggs with toast now! For those of you w
ho have seen the movie Big Night, you know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't, go ahead and watch it. It's my favorite food movie!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mushroom Quiche

I made this on a Sunday morning for breakfast. You can use this recipe as well for other types of quiches. The basics are all the same, but you could use ham and spinach, or different kinds of cheeses or anything else you feel like.

One of the most famous ones is quiche lorraine with bacon and cheese.

Remember that you will have to store the dough for about 2 hours before rolling it out. Give yourself enough time if you intend to serve this for breakfast.

a quiche big enough for about 3-4 people:

the pastry:
2 oz (65 g) gruyère cheese, diced into small cubes

3/4 cup (120 g) all purpose plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 oz (65 g) unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
2 tablespoons cold water

the mushroom mixture:
8 oz (215 ml) whole milk
1/2 oz (15 g) dried porcini (soaked in milk)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
6.5 oz (190 g) different kinds of mushrooms (e.g. white, portobello, shitake, chanterelle), stems trimmed and cleaned, then sliced
1 large leek thinly sliced (white parts only)
1 tablespoon tarragon (fresh or dried)
freshly ground salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons dijon (or colemans) mustard
3 oz (90 ml) heavy cream
2 eggs
1 egg yolk


Let's start by making the pastry first. Use a food processor to mix cheese, flour and salt. Mix until crumbled. Add the butter and keep mixing until it looks like bread crumbs. Add the egg, mix quickly, then add the water. If the dough sticks to the edges of the mixer, scrape it down. Keep on mixing until you have a solid, rough dough. Let it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours and give it another 15 minutes outside the fridge before rolling the dough.

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

Roll the dough until it's big enough to fit your baking dish. Rub out the dish with butter before putting your dough in it. If you have some special pie weights, use them to weigh down the dough so it doesn't bubble up in the oven. I don't really care if it bubbles up, I don't use any weights.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it cool a bit. In the meantime, heat half of the butter and half of the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Move the mushrooms to a bowl. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375 F (190 C).

Use the same pan to heat up the rest of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks. Cover the pan and cook them until they're softened, about 10-12 minutes. Season with tarragon, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Now spread the mustard evenly onto the bottom of the pastry to cover all the spots. Add mushrooms and leek mixture evenly. Whisk together milk, cream, eggs and egg yolk with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over your quiche. Bake the quiche until the dough is slightly browned, about 25-30 minutes.

When you remove the quiche from the oven, it will be a bit too soft to cut. Let it cool down for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Orange Roughy with Gobo

This might be one of the simplest recipes I've done in a while. There's almost no cooking involved but it tastes fantastic! The decoration with the thinly sliced zucchini makes for a good "ahhhhhh, beautiful!". Instead of the Gobo, which is somewhat exotic and hard to find, you could serve a simple white rice.

for 2 people:

the fish:
2 pieces of Orange Roughy
1 shallot, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 can of tomatoes (about 15 oz)
1 handful of fresh dill, chopped

freshly ground salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 zucchini, very thinly sliced
extra dill sprig and lemon slices for garnish

the gobo dish:
about 8-12 gobo roots (burdock), peal scraped off and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup cheap white wine

juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
extra dill sprig and lemon slices for garnish


Start by heating up half of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes without burning them. Stir in the garlic and sauté for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes (for this dish, I prefer canned tomatoes over fresh ones), add the sugar and mix well. Simmer the tomato sauce for about 5-10 minutes to blend the flavors, then stir in the dill.

Move the whol
e sauce into an oven-proof dish that is also big enough to hold your two Orange Roughys next to each other. Spread the sauce evenly in the dish and let it cool out a bit.

Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C)

Lay the Orange Roughy onto the tomato sauce, season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Arrange the sliced zucchini on top of it to make it look like fish scales. Or be creative and do your own decoratio
n here!

Put the whole dish into the preheated oven and bake it for about 20 minutes, depending on how thick your fish is. In the meantime, prepare rice in a rice cookeror do the gobo dish.

There's many ways to prepare gobo. For this particular dish, I went for a
simple stir-fried version in the wok.

Heat the other half of the olive oil in a wok or big skillet over high heat. Add the gobo and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the white wine and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. I like it when the gobo is still crunchy inside. This simple side-dish should be done within about 5-8 minutes. Make sure you don't burn the gobo, otherwise it will get bitter. If you want to, you could also add a bit of soy sauce for extra flavor.

Serve the fish directly from the oven-proof dish because it will look nice with the zucchini slices on top! Garnish with some extra dill sprigs and lemon slices. Enjoy!

Mini Poll Results

Here are the results from the little poll I had running during the last 2 weeks.
Click on the image to enlarge.

Do you have any suggestions what other things would be interesting to hear from people? Please let me know and I'll start another poll.

Thank you all for voting!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rolled Chicken with Potato Gratin

Chicken doesn't have to taste simple! This is a very unique way of making chicken taste quite gorgeous. The horseraddish with the prosciutto merged with the sherry/cream sauce gives this dish a very intriguing fragrance. As a sidedish, I prepared a potato gratin, a favorite side in my home country.

for 2 people:

the chicken rolls:

1 big, thick chicken breast (or 2 thinner ones)
4 big teaspoons horseraddish cream

4 very thin slices prosciutto (ask for the least salty one)
4 sage leaves
freshly ground salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 woodsticks (toothpicks) to attach sage to chicken

the potato gratin:
300 g (0.7 lb) potatoes (1 week old are perfect!)
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
freshly ground salt, pepper and nutmeg
butter to rub ovenproof dish
1-2 tablespoons prosciutto or speck, cut into small cubes (optional)
50 g (0.1 lb) gruyère cheese, roughly ground


Let's start by doing some preparation for both dishes. Wash the potatoes or peel the skin, cut into thin slices.

Cut the chicken breast lengthwise in half (use a very sharp knife to make this an easy task). Cut both halves one more time lengthwise in half, resulting in 4 thin chicken steaks. If you're breast is not thick enough to cut into 4 slices, you could use 2 breasts and cut them only once each.

Spoon 1 big teaspoon of the horseraddish onto each of the 4 chicken slices and spread evenly. Lay a slice of prosciutto on top. Tightly roll the chicken, put a sage leave on top and attach it to the chicken rolls and simultaneously close the rolls so they won't roll open.

Depending on how salty your prosciutto is, season your chicken only very lightly with salt or skip the salt completely. Sprinkle the chicken with freshly ground pepper.

Now that the chicken is ready to be cooked, start working on the potato gratin. Heat the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the thinly sliced potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are softened but don't fall apart. Also preheat the oven to 450 F (220 C).

Rub some butter in an ovenproof dish to lightly cover the whole dish. Once the potatoes are softened, pour them together with the milk/cream into the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the prosciutto cubes (optional) and the gruyère cheese.

Put the gratin into the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until it got a nice, lightly brown color.

As soon as your gratin is in the oven, heat butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Grill your chicken rolls on all sides for about 4 minutes total. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the dry sherry and cook until half of it is absorbed. If the heat is too high, it will absorb too quickly and you'll have to add more sherry. Add the cream as well and mix with the sherry. Cover the chicken rolls and let them simmer for about 15 minutes until done. The chicken and the potato gratin should be ready at about the same time. Taste the sherry/cream sauce and season with more pepper if desired.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Spice Box - Free Samples

Since some of those recipes I'm posting here require a few special ingredients which might not be sitting on the shelf in some kitchens, I thought I'd provide a few free samples because I'd like you to try those dishes as well.

With the content in this box, you'll be equipped with the spices for the Indian Lamb Curry and the Pork Tenderloin.

Most of you who tried my Buddha's Hand Jam enjoyed it quite a bit, some of you even got inspired to create your own jam! I hope those exotique spices will also start a fire in you and you'll begin experimenting with some new and foreign seasonings.

If you're interested, email me (info under my profile) and i'll ship a box to you.

Thanks for reading! And if you haven't voted in my little poll in the right sidebar yet, please do so!