Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rack of Lamb with Cheese Risotto

I'd like to share a very nice little trick I've learnt from my friend George. Instead of sprinkling parmesan cheese on top of the risotto before serving, try to grind up some dried porcini mushrooms and then powder them on top of your rice. The extra flavor is quite fantastic and really very simple to achieve.

for 2 people:


1 rack of lamb (could be replaced with a beef or pork filet)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
handful of dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon coarse seasalt
1 cup risotto rice (carnaroli or arborio)
1 large shallot, chopped
1 cup cheap white wine
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
4 tablespoons ground parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chicken stock
2 sage leaves
1 thyme or rosemary twig


Preheat the oven to 80 C. (175 F.)

Crush the peppercorns and salt with a mortar. This is my preferred method of grinding up salt and pepper because I like them to stay a bit coarse, but you can also use your regular peppermill and salt shaker.

Rub the salt and pepper mix all around your rack of lamb.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil at highest temperature in a skillet.

To sauté meat of any kind, I like to use a stainless steel skillet to get the highest temperature possible.

Sauté the rack of lamb about 3 minutes on each side until you get a nice and dark crust all around. Then immediately place it in the oven in an oven-proof dish.
The beauty of this low-temperature method is, that your meat can stay in the oven for 30 minutes or even 1 hour and it will still be very tender and juicy.

Depending on the size of your rack, I would count on leaving the meat in the oven for at least 30 minutes (for a small rack) or up to 1 hour (for a big one). But don't crank up the temperature. To guarantee the tenderness and juicyness, you'll have to keep the temperature at the low 80 C.

Since the temperature in the oven is quite low, you can also add your dinner plates to preheat them without worrying that they'll brake.

Start preparing the stock. Put 2 cups of water into a small pot, add chicken stock, sage leaves and the thyme or rosemary twig. Heat up the stock over medium heat.

Grind up your dried porcini mushrooms. A mortar works best, but use your fingers as well, to get the powder as fine as you can. Put aside.

In another pot (or my preferred way, a non-stick skillet), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, add the shallots and sauté them until they start to golden a bit. Add the rice and mix until all the grains are covered with some of the olive oil. Pour in the white wine and stir until all of it is absorbed.

As soon as your rice is running a bit dry in the skillet, add some of the stock but never too much at the time. Keep on stirring. This process takes about 15-20 minutes.

Keep on tasting the rice to see if you like the consistency. Shortly before the rice is done, add all the three cheeses and mix well.

Remove the meat from the oven, cut it up and arrange nicely on preheated dinner plates around your risotto.

The big thing last, sprinkle your ground up porcini mushrooms on top of the rice and decorate with a twig of thyme or rosemary or anything else you find beautiful.

I served one of my favorite wines with this dish, a full bodied Amarone from italy. Enjoy!

This recipe was also submitted to "Design Within Reach" for their summer call for entries.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snack Burgers

I might be repeating myself saying that I like to look into the fridge to see what else is left in there and use it up before it goes bad. That's how those little burgers turned out which I served as an appetizer.

I posted another type of snack a while ago while being in Pasadena. Check it out here.


eggplant slices
tomato slices
feta cheese slices
dried oregano
freshly ground salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
black olives, pitted


Preheat the oven to about 400 F. (200 C.)

Place the eggplant slices on a non-stick surface on a grid that will go into the oven. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt.

Put the feta cheese slices on top and add a few drops of olive oil. Next come the tomato slices, seasoned with oregano, salt and pepper.

Cut the olives in half and decorate the snack burgers with one olive each and once again, sprinkle with olive oil.

Place them into the preheated oven and bake until the tomatoes start to build a little crust.

Enjoy with some bread as an appetizer or a snack instead of chips.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Zucchini Flowers

Those might not be easy to find in your regular grocery store. I picked them up at Signora Nicoletta's 'Schrebergaertli'. Those blooming flowers are full of zucchini flavor and with their delicate shape, they're almost melting on your tongue.

There's many ways you could prepare them. The next time I will try to fill them with ricotta before frying. For this first time, I went for a simple beer batter and then deep-fried in peanut oil. Serve them as an appetizer or maybe even as a main dish if they're filled.

for 2 people as an appetizer:


about 10 zucchini flowers
60 g (2,5 oz) flour
1 egg
1,5 dl (5 oz) beer
salt and pepper
peanut oil


Don't wash the zucchini flowers if you know they were organically grown, otherwise, be very gentle when you wash them. Clean the stems by slightly peeling off the outer skin which is very rough and somewhat itchy.

Prepare the batter by mixing egg yolk, flour, beer, salt and pepper. Whip the egg white seperately first, then mix it into the batter.

Heat the peanut oil in a large pot and test the temperature by dropping a tiny bit of batter in it. If it starts bubbling right away, your oil is hot enough to start deep frying.

Dip one zucchini flower at a time into the batter and place into the hot oil. Flip the flower once after about 10 seconds. It should be slightly brown, but not too dark. You can probably deep fry up to three flowers at a time, depending on the size of your pot. Put the finished fried flowers aside onto a kitchen paper for the oil to drain a bit.

Sprinkly some extra salt and pepper on top if necessary and enjoy!

The preparation of this dish reminds somewhat of tempura, which is another fun and social dish.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Super Simple #4 - Spicy Pasta with Sage

Pasta is always among my favorites and there's so many types of sauces you can come up with if you don't want to go for a sauce using tomatoes.

Dried chilies, especially those scary thai chilies, are great to spicen up the olive oil. Depending on how spicy you like it, you can cut open the chilies, revealing the seeds, or leave them whole for less spicyness.

for 2 people:


pasta of your choice
6-8 table spoons extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed
red, dried chilies (amount depends on how spicy you like it)
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
10 sage leaves, cut into stripes
freshly ground parmesan cheese


In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add salt.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chilies. Leave the chilies whole if you'd like to keep it not too spicy, cut them open to reveal the seeds if you're into a spicy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium and add sage and the crushed garlic cloves. Easiest to crush a clove of garlic is to press on it with the flat side of a knife.

If the garlic starts to brown too quick, remove the pan from the heat to not burn the garlic, then reduce the heat. This sauce should simmer for at least 10-15 minutes for all the flavors to mix. Basically, the olive oil will be flavored with the sage, the garlic and the chilies. Cook your pasta accordingly to have them al-dente by the time your sauce is ready.

It's nice if the garlic becomes a bit crispy, same goes for the sage. Crispy is good, burnt is bad.

I like to stir the cooked, drained pasta directly in the skillet with the sauce. That way, you're not wasting any of the wonderfully flavored olive oil.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top. You can choose to eat the crushed garlic pieces or not. I usually eat a bit of it and leave some aside to not smell like garlic for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Leg of Lamb (Gigot) on the Fire

For the Swiss National Holiday, we went up into the mountains to our good friend, Graziano's cottage at about 1800 m height. Electricity not being available up there, living and cooking work a bit differently. A lot of herbs, like the thyme we've used to fill the lamb with, grows just around the corner at the edge of the forest.

Graziano has been our family's friend for years and he's always been famous for preparing a wonderful leg of lamb roast on the fire. This time was no exception and the fresh air in the alps and the fantastic view over the mountains made this dinner an unforgettable one!

The fridge in the alps! The water, directly from a mountain water stream has about the same temperature (6 C. / 43 F.) as the inside of a state-of-the-art fridge and works great for storing food.

Graziano opening the lid of the 'fridge' and removing a water melon.

Since our leg of lamb was a bit uneven in thickness, Graziano chopped a few sticks to tie together the lamb roast.

Sharpening the sticks.

Pushing the sticks through the marinated leg of lamb was holding it together nicely.

The chef holding his marinated, tied together leg of lamb, ready to put it on the fire.

A wide grilling place works great to have a fire burning on one side while being able to move the hot embers to the other side underneath a grill.

Graziano's fantastic leg of lamb roast, filled with a garlicy thyme marinade!

The kitchen inside the cottage works without elecricity as well! At night, candles are used to light the place and a fire is burning underneath the stove top. The stove is a swiss made Tiba.

Opening the door to the stove reveals a beautiful fire burning and heating up the stove top for cooking. We've prepared a few potatoes, diced and seasoned with fresh rosemary, salt and pepper as a side dish for the lamb. For dessert the stove came in action again for a calory bomb dessert, a chocolate cream made out of dark swiss chocolate, melted with some heavy whipping cream and then served with some more whipped cream! Very heavy but great!