Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sour lamb

The sauce for this dish makes all the difference! It's somewhat exotic tasting, but quite exquisite by adding the sour, garlicy and salty seasoning at the end.

A simple polenta went along well with this dish.

for 2 people:


1 big lamb shank (or two smaller ones if you're hungry)
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper
a few twigs of fresh rosemary
1,5 cup (about 3,5 dl) beef or chicken stock
3.5 oz (about 1 dl) red wine vinegar
2 anchovies (instead, I just discovered anchovy paste in a tube at Bristol Farms)
2 cloves of garlic
optional: a few pearl onions, peeled
optional: butter lettuce salad for appetizer
1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1 teaspoon dried or fresh herb such as thyme
1 tablespoon butter


Prepare the polenta according to the description on the package. Cornmeal bought in a package requires only very little time (a few minutes) to prepare as opposed to cooking polenta the real way with dried corn (about 45 minutes). While stirring the cornmeal mixture, add some herbs such as thyme. Place the finished mixed polenta on a board, form it into a firm square shape, spread some butter over it and let it cool out.

Season the lamb shank with freshly ground salt and pepper all around. Be generous with the pepper, but a bit careful not too use too much salt as we'll be adding some anchovy paste (very salty!) to the sauce at the end.

Prepare the beef or chicken stock.

In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the lamb together with the rosemary twigs all around until browned. If you like, put a few pearl onions next to your shank as well. Add a ladle of stock, cover the skillet with a lid and reduce the temperature to low. Check that the lamb just slightly simmers in the skillet. Every 15 minutes or so, add some more of the stock up to a total cooking time of about 2 hours. Flip the meat about half way through.

In the meantime, pound garlic and anchovies into a paste using a mortar. If you don't have a mortar (I highly recommend getting one though), you can chop the garlic very fine and mix with the anchovies. Pour this mixture into the red wine vinegar and mix everything well together. Put aside.

About 10 minutes before the lamb is ready, cut the polenta into slices and heat them up in the oven or in another skillet using a bit of olive oil or butter. Give the polenta a nice crispyness outside and it should have a slightly golden color.

When the lamb is ready, move it into a preheated plate or bowl. Pour the vinegar-garlic-anchovy sauce into the skillet where your lamb was sitting in, stir well over high heat and pour over the lamb. Serve immediately with the polenta slices.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Marsala Pears

I served this as a dessert after the porcini risotto with mussels. When choosing your pears at the grocery store, try to find fairly soft ones or at least a smaller kind so they won't take as long to soften in the pan. Marsala is a fortified wine from italy that is both available as a dry and a sweet version. For the dessert, the sweet version is preferred.

for 2 people:


3 small to medium size soft pears
juice of 1/2 lemon
0.7 oz (about 2 dl) sweet marsala (available at Bevmo)
the peel of 1/4 orange
1-2 tablespoons sugar
optional: whipping cream


Peel the pears, cut them in half, carve out the center part, place in a pot and immediately sprinkle with lemon juice so they don't start getting a brown color. Mix the orange peel together with the marsala. Place the pears flat side down into a non-stick skillet, pour over the marsala and sprinkle the sugar over the pears.

Cover the skillet with a lid and cook the pears for about 10-15 minutes until they have softened. Test how soft they are by sticking a sharp knife inside. If all the liquid is absorbed, add a bit more marsala. Flip the pears and cook for another few minutes.

Place pears on dishes, let them cool out completely or eat them while still a bit warm. Serve with whipping cream if desired. You can also serve a bit of the sweet marsala with it.

Porcini Risotto with Mussels

This is another italian risotto recipe with a nice mixture of two strong flavors, porcini mushrooms and mussels. I've used eastern mussels for this dish, but you can replace them with any other mussels you like. Eastern mussels are quite cheap and perfect for pasta or rice dishes.

for 2 people:


ingredients for basic risotto
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
7 oz (about 200 g) tomatoes from a can (italian pelati or any cheaper brand)
0.5 oz (about 15 g) dried porcini mushrooms (soaked in warm water)
1 lb (about 500 g) mussels
a bit of parsley for decoration


Before starting to make the risotto, bring water to boil in a fairly large pot. Add the mussels and cook them until they all have opened (a few minutes). Take the mussels out of their shelves and put aside (or do that a bit later so you don't burn your fingers).

Heat butter and olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat (don't burn the garlic) until golden. Add the tomatoes, crush them if they weren't already in the can.

Drain the soaked porcini mushroom, add them to the tomato sauce and sauté for another 10-15 minutes until most liquid is absorbed. Put the sauce aside.

Now prepare the risotto as described here. Once your rice is almost ready, add the mussels and the tomato/porcini sauce. Mix well, serve on plates and decorate with a bit of parsley. For dessert, I served the marsala pears.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Emergency Salad

10pm, arriving at home, hungry, didn't go buy any groceries... i'm sure you know the scenario. For me, those are the times when some interesting things happen (sometimes). Looking into the fridge, I tried to think about what I could make, quickly, with whatever ingredients I had. This turned out really good! And it was ready within 10 minutes.


1 cup of pasta (I had two different kinds of small leftovers which I used)
a few lettuce leaves (torn into smaller pieces)
1-2 tablespoons pickled japanese ginger (beni shoga) (could be replaced with any other pickled ingredient, like pickled cucumber or onions, should be nice and sour though. Surfas carries something similar.)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (good quality, I had french imported one from Surfas)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1-2 tablespoons apple cider (depending how sour you like your dressing)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
freshly ground pepper


Boil the pasta in salted water until al-dente. Drain it and cool it in a strainer under cold water.

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Add lettuce leaves and pasta, stir well. Serve with a slice of bread. I had one more slice of pumpernickel leftover, which I used. Here's another recipe I used pumpernickel with.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Oven-baked fennel (vegetarian)

I have to admit, I made this dish as a side dish for lamb chops, but you could definitely serve this as a main dish or serve a risotto with it. If you're choosing to prepare it with lamb chops, season the lamb with freshly ground salt and pepper and sauté about 4 minutes on each side (for chops about 1,5" thick). Wait to do this until 8 minutes before the fennel is done.

for 2 people (as a side dish):


3 medium sized fennels
10 pecan nut halves (for filling)
6 pecan nut halves (for decoration)
30 g (1 oz) ground parmesan cheese
100 g (3.5 oz) mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons butter
freshly ground salt and pepper


Cut the fennel pieces so you only have the "bulb", or the root. Also remove all the thin, dark-green pieces from the stem and finely chop them. Slice the roots in half lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, carefully carve a hole into each root without damaging the bottom. Keep the carved out fennel pieces and put them aside.

From the outside, cut off a small piece at the bottom of each root so they can sit on a dish without tilting over. Steam those six pieces in a steamer (or a large pot with just a bit of water). The fennel should soften but not fall apart! Stick a knife in it to see how soft it got. Once softened, remove from the steamer and let it cool out.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 F (about 220 C). Since I'm living in this small apartment right now, I don't have a real oven. But I've been using a Black & Decker Toaster oven for years (Amazon sells a similar one, click here) and it works like a charm! Highly recommended, especially if you usually don't cook for more than 2 people.

Chop the carved out fennel pieces very fine. This works great with a
food chopper.
In a dry skillet (don't add any oil or fat), roast all the pecan halves until they're just starting to brown a bit. Put aside 6 of the pecans for decaration later, roughly chop the other 10 halves and put aside.

Put the butter into the skillet, heat it over medium-high heat, add the finely chopped fennel pieces and sauté until
softened (about 5-10 minutes). At the end, also add the finely chopped dark-green fennel twigs and stir.

In a bowl, combine this fennel mixture, parmesan, mascarpone and chopped pecan nuts. Season strongly with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Put the six fennel halves on a lightly buttered oven dish and fill the carved out holes with the fennel mixture.
Distribute all the mixture equally onto the six fennel halves. Put the dish into the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and decorate with the pecan halves.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


A few days ago, I posted a recipe for the tuscany style pork. Since the meat tends to stay more juicy when cooked as a bigger piece, there's obviously leftovers. And to have leftovers from that pork is very much worth it as it makes for delicious coldcuts. The following evening, I cut slices of the cold pork and spread some pumpernickel with sour cream and a few greens on top. This is something you can prepare within five minutes, and served with a good bottle of wine it's quite a treat!

You could, of course, use the pork coldcuts in a baguette sandwich as well with some good mustard and cressant.

Also worth pointing out, would be, that I originally paid about $ 16 at Whole Foods for the pork center cut. For two people, this was enough for the first tuscany style dinner, and there were plenty of leftovers for nice coldcuts. If Yoko wouldn't have eaten all of the leftovers, I could even have prepared some nice baguette sandwiches the following day ;-) In other words, this is quite a bargain for 16 dollars!

for 2 people:


Leftovers from the tuscany style pork, sliced
Pumpernickel bread (available at Surfas)
sour cream
chives, thinly sliced
watercressant, alfalfa sprouts or any other type of greens
lemon juice and lemon slices for decoration


Put some sour cream onto the pre-cut pumpernickel slices. You can make two versions, one with chives on top, the other one with alfalfa sprouts for example. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and decorate with a slice of lemon.
Serve the sliced pork coldcuts on a seperate plate.

The wine i opened was a Malbec, which is a nice, full-bodied type from argentina. Available at Trader Joe's for a great price!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tuscany Style Pork with Pinto Beans

Here's a recipe that almost only requires waiting! Sounds good, no? And it also tastes very nice.

Again, I have to stress that the secret lies in high quality ingredients, in this case especially the quality of the salt and the pepper. You don't want to use any pre-ground powdery pepper from a plastic container with little holes on top.

What you want to use are whole pepper corns (black or a combination of black, red and green corns), then coarsely ground with a mortar.

I prefer that way even over using a good pepper mill because the mill will still grind the corns pretty fine and i like them to stay more coarse.

for 2 people (with leftovers for cold-cuts the next day):


Pork center-cut in one piece (about 4 ribs)
handful of fresh rosemary, finely cut
handful of fresh sage leaves, finely
freshly ground salt and pepper (se
e comments above)
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and cut

1 cup dried pinto beans, washed and rinsed
10 whole sage leaves
a total of about 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


For the filling of the pork, place finely cut sage, rosemary, garlic cloves, salt and pepper into a bowl and put aside.

Also turn on your oven and pre-heat it to 475 F.

Using a wooden spoon, dig a hole through the center of the whole piece of pork. Twist and turn the spoon, dig again, making a bigger hole. Really make that hole big enough so you can generously stuff the filling inside.

Starting with small amounts, using your fingers, stuff the filling inside the pork. Begin from one side, add more from the other side. Go back and forth. Make sure you press the filling all way into the center of the pork as well. Really stuff it! It's fun!

Rub some olive oil all around the pork and season it well on the outside with freshly ground salt and pepper. Be generous with your seasoning! It will create a nicely browned, somewhat salty and peppery crust in the oven.

Put the pork bone-side down into the pre-heated oven. Set your alarm clock to 30 minutes. If you don't have a kitchen timer, i'm sure you have a cell phone ;-) After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 F. and give it another hour in the oven. If you have a food thermometer to measure the temperature of the meat, stick it in there and it should read about 160 F. (This should really be the case after that one hour at 350 F.)

In the meantime, put the washed pinto beans into a medium size pot, cover with water and add about 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Also add the sage leaves. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the temperature to simmer. Keep the beans simmering at low temperature.

The overall simmering time depends a bit on how you like your beans. I like them to be still somewhat crispy (not like at your average school cafeteria where they're being boiled over night it seems!). I simmered them for about 30 minutes. Just keep on trying them until you like the texture, i guess all way up to one hour.

Most likely, your beans will be done before the pork. Just turn off the heat if that's the case and heat them up again 5 minutes before your pork is ready. Drain the beans, put them back into the pan and add the rest of the olive oil (about 1/4 cup), seasing with salt and pepper to taste, mix well and serve together with a pork rib.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mini Poll #2 Results

Here are the numbers for the poll we had on this site during the last week.

Click on the image to enlarge to view the results.

Nobody seems to like complicated cooking! Maybe i should really try the chocolate scallops ;-)

I will for sure start adding more vegetarian dishes since a few people already specifically asked me about this. Concerning cheap cooking, for now, I'd like you to check out this recipe if you haven't already. More to follow...

Thank you all for voting again!

Coffee with Vanilla Ice Cream

Finally the apartment is moved and finally, you can expect more frequent posts here again. This is just a quickie here but a delicious version of a coffee drink good for afternoon coffee and cake, or as it was in this case, a 1:00 am coffee to get some more energy to finish up cleaning the house. I recommend the afternoon coffee and cake version though ;-)

Some people started calling me the "Espresso Police" so i'll be sure to be posting more coffee drinks here in the future.



hot coffee (or a long espresso)
vanilla ice cream (i'm a fan of the Haagen Dazs vanilla)
optional tablespoon of brandy or cognac


Prepare coffee the way you always do. I don't drink filter coffee but if that's what you like, go for it. I'd recommend a long single or double espresso for each person.

If you're choosing to add some brandy or cognac, do that before adding the ice cream, and stir. I don't add sugar to this type of coffee because the ice cream will sweeten it enough.

One big scoop of vanilla ice cream per coffee would be about right.

Click here for another recipe using the Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream.