30. April 2007

a mexican kick!

wasser aufsetzen für die polenta
hey there! it has been a while, hasn't it? just to give you a quick update: i am still alive and i still cook!

i told you about the texmex/austrian food swap with the lovely kate in america, right? well, the other day her parcel arrived at my doorstep and i almost hugged my postman, though it was only 6.30 in the morning and i am usually pretty grumpy when he wakes me up like that on a day i could sleep in ... i totally forgave him - can you imagine a more cheerful wakeup call than with a parcel full of goodies?

original mexikanisch (thank you kate!)
so for a few days now i have the salsas, the seasonings, the sweets, the beans and that chili covered pineapple that looks like a lolipop (how weird/interesting is that!) lined up on my kitchen counter with me going all *sigh* when i pass by! i figured it is time to stop gazing at the goodies and at least crack open one of the salsa cans to prepare a texmex-inspired dish!

how about polentaschnitten (roughly translated to "a slice of polenta")? though i never made them myself i've enjoyed them various times on my visits to styria and carinthia. polenta is not very common north of the alps, but they are definitely a staple in the southern regions of austria.

  1. in a saucepan, bring 500 ml of vegetable stock to a boil. whisk in 100 g of cornmeal (polenta) and immediately turn off the heat. stir in a handful of chopped basil, season with salt and pepper and set the saucepan aside for about 20 minutes (until the polenta is thick)
  2. spread the polenta evenly in a casserole (or a baking tray) and refrigerate until totally cold
  3. prehead oven to 220 °c
  4. cut the cold polenta into 4 large pieces, put them on a baking sheet and bake at 220 °c for 10 minutes
  5. spread a thin layer of your favorite salsa over the polenta (and this is where i used the mexican salsa kate sent), put two roughly chopped tomatoes, 125 g of diced goats cheese and another handfull of the chopped basil on top
  6. put in the oven again and bake for another 30 minutes.
  7. season with pepper, spoon over some more salsa and serve immediately!
polentaschnitten, ein bissi mexikanisch
whooooo, i tell you, that dish is hot! all the salsa spices up the rather subtle taste of the polenta a notch or two!

22. April 2007

think globally, act locally


the austrian public service broadcaster finally figures out what "foodies" are! you can not really call us austrians "early adopters", we have the image to be rather cranky, stubborn and a little backwards ... too bad, because i myself like to dive into every new online trend and i like to keep informed about every new digital gadget on the market. hell, i even hop aboard a fashion trend every once in a while (though i am not a girly-girly) which might have my peers raise an eyebrow or two, but sooner or later they all chime in ... i sometimes can not hold back that proud "i told you so!" - feeling ...

you see, the austrian broadcaster is a little like me. when i tell my friends about brand new online things (like flickr back then or twitter now) they shake their head in disbelief, worry about my sanity ... and open an account on these services about two years later. am i really this ahead of my time, folks? because in the digital age two years seems like forever!

man, i should really work for the ORF. they get loads and loads of money from us austrians (about 20 euros per month) in fees and you better not get caught with an unlicensed tv-set - as far as internet phenomena or trendy hightech news they seem not to use that money for the most competent people in their online research. sure, they need to be neutral and they don't want to confuse their old fashioned and backwards readers / viewers (please don't quote me on that) with spooky new trends.

yes, they do say some nice things about foodblog-celebrities in the usa in their article (bravo! good work guys! did you google the word "foodblog" or what?!? too bad they once again concentrated on the international scene and their foodblog-celebrities and did not even bother to check out the few austrian foodies ...).

and yes, the also highlight the lively debates that go on in foodblogs regarding controversial gourmet topics like foie gras.

but they also say in their article that most foodbloggers are merely hobby-gourmets with the power to put a small or medium sized restaurant out of business with one bad review (does this really happen?). to them, (american) foodies (in new york and los angeles) (*sigh*) that concentrate on reviewing new restaurants are critics without morals.

yes, i am a hobby gourmet, there is nothing wrong with that! i actually really like that expression. man, but check out my statistics: would i really have the power to put a restaurant in linz out of business? i highly doubt that ... hardly anybody in austria even reads this thing!! no austrian foodie could ever put a restaurant out of business, believe you me! because nobody in austria reads our austrian foodblogs (don't quote me on that either)! there is a reason why i don't write in german.

what am i saying with this rant? the austrian public service broadcaster, this teeny-tiny broadcaster in this teeny-tiny country in the heart of europe definitely should focus on a trend/hype and get their clientele acquainted with international topics! nothing wrong with that! but they definitely need to think globally and act more locally ... sometimes they really seem like globetrotting wannabes, that lost touch with their real crowd ...

now let me get back to my morning coffee.

aaaaaahhh!
that's
what they mean! foodies are impulsive brats that blog before they think!
now i get it!

15. April 2007

巻き寿司

yes, i admit it, i looked that up on wikipedia.

i walked by that japanese restaurant in my neighbourhood the other day (who knew there even was one this far away from the city center? i certainly didn't!). i desperately wanted to go in and order their food up and down the menue, but i didn't want to go have dinner in a restaurant alone.

i am working on including more fish in my diet, so i figured buying all the utensils for making sushi myself was the solution! the beautiful pictures of hero on tv the other day further inspired me to try myself in the art of rolling the perfect japanese sushi ...

shopping for 太巻き - futo-maki, a combination of fish and vegetables
but honestly, i have no idea what i am doing here, i ate sushi only once in my life before. but i am relying on all the sushi fridge magnets i've seen to get my homemade version just right.

what am i making? wikipedia tells me that apparently i want to make 太巻き - futo-maki, a combination of fish and vegetables.

巻き寿司: 太巻き

salmon filet
cucumber
avocado
wasabi
yaki nori
rice

soy sauce
pickled ginger
巻き寿司: 太巻き
巻き寿司: 太巻き
looks about right, hm? and it certainly tasted really good with soy sauce and pickled ginger ... one thing though: my little futo-maki might not be the "mostest prettiest" sushi ever, and this is mainly because rolling the sushi felt so ... so darn awkward! i could never really press it together propperly, it always felt a bit loose while i was rolling. and opening the roll up again and starting all over was out of the question once i started. i made 5 rolls and my rolling skills did not improve at all ... in fact, i thought that my first attempt was the best and all the other rolls got more and more loose ..

am i doing something wrong here? and more importantly: is there a trick to rolling the perfect shushi roll?

and another thing: i ate only half of my produce. how long can i leave it in the fridge? can i maybe just freeze one roll and cut it up upon defrosting?

well, i hope somebody can help me out with all my rookie sushi questions ... so long, and thanks for all the fish!

12. April 2007

apfelstrudel

i have made a couple of strudel's here, but i never managed to make a decent apfelstrudel before. finally i have an excuse for making one: i am currently collecting austrian goodies to send of a parcel to the lovely kate in america. she kindly offered to swapp food and i could not be more thrilled about that. kate, if you read this: i know you sent off the parcel already and i should have mine ready over the next couple of days. just in case you want to make an apfelstrudel when the austrian parcel finally lands on your porch ... here's a recipe! i just phoned my mama to get the recipe for my grandmothers strudel dough.

strudel dough
250 g flour
salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
150 ml lukewarm water

these measurements actually yield one large or two small strudels. i divided the large ball in two small balls, using one for my apfelstrudel. i store the second one in my fridge (wrapping it in plastic wrap) and make a savory strudel tomorrow

filling
400 g peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples
4 tbsp of sugar
2 teaspoon of cinnamon
a hand full of raisins (my mama never uses rasins, she hates them!)
  • sift the flour into a large bowl
  • add a pinch of salt
  • pour in the oil and lightly scramble with a fork.
  • slowly add the lukewarm water (you might need less or more than 150 ml, it depends on your flour)

    strudelteig
  • knead until soft and smooth

    strudelteig
  • brush with a little oil
  • cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for at least one hour
my mama always lets the strudel dough rest for a couple of hours. i think that does the trick, because elasticity is developed by all the gluten, and that takes a little time! she often makes the dough in the evening and prepares the strudel the next day.

when you stretch your strudel by hand it should be paper thin! my grandmother always said "you should be able to read a newspaper through it". the best way to stretch it is if you put a large towel or an old table cloth on your table and you should be able to easily move around the table to stretch it evenly on each side

apparently stretching strudel is an art of it's own. don't worry, mine always has some holes in it on the edges ... only my mama can do that propperly (and my grandmother could, of course), i am just not that experienced yet :D my sister is also mastering this art quite nicely. she made a strudel the other day when i visited, check out the pictures i made that day:


  • brush the stretched strudel dough with melted butter
  • add the filling but leave some space on the edges
  • sprinkle apples with sugar, cinnamon and raisins
  • some recipes also require toasted breadcrumbs. if you want to add that, just toast 50 g of breadcrumbs in a little butter and sprinkle them over the filling too
  • lift up the table cloth to roll the strudel

    apfelstrudel
  • make sure that you roll the first layer pretty tightly, otherwise it will get bent out of shape
  • put your strudel in buttered a casserole, the seam should be on the bottom
  • brush with melted butter again

    apfelstrudel
    this one looks a bit like a catterpillar, don't you think?

  • put in the oven and bake at 200 °c until the surface is golden brown. the apples will be tender then
i let the studel cool down completely because i had to leave for work while the strudel was still in the oven. and coming home to a nice plate of this delicious treat is indeed very lovely!

apfelstrudel

06. April 2007

a sparse meal on a holy day

topfensterz
it might be a catholic guilt thing or i might not be as agnostic as i like to believe, but on high catholic holidays like today i celebrate a day of abstinence. i even avoid to eat meat, mainly because this dogma has been rammed down my throat all my life. i have to admit that i bought and ate a turkey bacon sandwich today before i remembered it was good friday. and i felt a tiny bit guilty because of that too. again, this must be my catholic upbringing :D

i was not allowed to eat meat on good friday growing up and i was always pretty upset about this. as i might have mentioned before i only know the bare necessities of my faith. apart from an extensive interest around the time of my confirmation i just never was a very religious person, i was not raised that way. but i highly admire people with a strong faith, whatever faith that is. and i am really interested in various different religions.

so while we where not raised particularly religious i found it always pretty strange that my mother was so strict about those specific days of abstinence.

over the years i found my own meaning in those days: serenity. i try to reflect and recollect. and i try to reinforce my state of mind with traditional food i know from my childhood, a very sparse meal of topfensterz for example.

it is hard to really describe topfensterz. a sterz is similar to polenta, it is a very simple dish, very rural and very austrian. it has probably been eaten by farmers and servants out on their fields for a few centuries. many variations exist, it is mainly made of buckwheat in styria, made of cornmeal in carinthia and known by the name of frika in slovenia. it can also be made of potatoes.

topfensterz
our family sterz is made of curd cheese though. i have never seen anyone prepare this sterz just like we do, but apparently it is heavily influenced by bohemian cuisine. it seems that up to this day my family is deep-rooted in rural history, and i really like that idea.

topfensterz

500 g curd cheese
500 g flour
1 egg
salt
3 tbsp of butter - usually 5 tbsp of lard are used here, but i don't have that in my kitchen and 5 tablespoons would be way to much for my taste ...
  1. melt the butter in a casserole - put it in the oven while you preheat it to 200°c
  2. crumb together the curd cheese, the flour and the egg

    topfensterz
  3. add a pinch of salt
  4. make sure that the mixture stays crumbly
  5. pour it in the casserole and give it a quick stir
  6. put the mixture in the oven and bake until the top starts to get brown
  7. turn off the oven. tear up the crust and stir the sterz
  8. leave in the oven for another few minutes
  9. serve with a glass of milk - the sterz tastes best (in my opinion) if you dip a spoon full of sterz in the milk and then eat it .... mhhhh!
topfensterz
topfensterz
my sterz looks a bit different from the sterz my mother makes.
but still, it tastes the same

05. April 2007

the 5th day

gründonnerstag!! yeah!!
this has been my traditional maudy thursday meal for the last 30 years ... well, this is how i remember it anyway. and i think everybody in austria is eating this today. you see, in german maudy thursday is "green thursday". and though i am not particularly religious in a roman catholic way the holy week leading to easter has always been one of my favorite catholic holidays. to me, it still is even more special than christmas. maybe it is because of all the spring awakening and nature getting back in bloom ... i always especially liked that all the bells of a church are rung for a last time on maudy thursday and they then remain silent until easter sunday.

because what i really liked about those few days was that there is this very rural tradition of "ratschen" where i was brought up. it pretty much translates to "rattle". a ratsche is a very noisy (not quite musical) instrument and it is used during christian processions from maudy thursday to easter sunday. little kids make as much noise as possible with this instrument in order to replace the bells that have flown to rome. as a child, i always thought that was literally true. but how could bells fly themselves, i wondered ... i think i was a naive child :D (or maybe i was just plain dumb back then!)

up to this day i really like the rememrance of us kids running around the village where my grandparents lived and being as noisy as we could. most of the time we where told to be quiet and behave well ... around easter we where told to run around and be noisy - how fun is that, huh??! very often we even got easter eggs and chocolate from the neighbours ... it was a bit like going trick or treat-ing, now that i think of it ...

though this tradition is not practiced where i live today (after all, this is a city and not a village or a small town) i fondly remember it and i can't wait to get home this weekend and admire the noisy children all around town ...

on the more culinary subject of gründonnerstag i think i am going to eat what has been on my plate for 30 years on that green day: spinach, fried egg (sunny side up) and fried potatoes. it is a lovely culinary tradition, so why break with it? one exception though: instead of a frozen cube of creamspinach i am going to use fresh spinach this time. i have some lovely spinach in my farmbox this week, so i just go ahead and use that to make the cream spinach myself.

gründonnerstag!! yeah!!
gründonnerstag!! yeah!!

i blanched 300 g of spinach and let the water drip off completely
i put the blanced leaves in a food processor and mashed them up
i made a roux / bechamel sauce:
  1. i melted 50 g of butter
  2. i added 2 tbsp of flour
  3. i poured in 250 ml of cremefine
    (the sauce will thicken as you bring it to a boil, just like a bechamel sauce)
i added the minced spinach and i was bringing it to a boil again
i seasoned it with a clove of garlic and some nutmeg

gründonnerstag!! yeah!!
voila, home made cream spinach!
nothing on earth is better than that.
gründonnerstag!! yeah!!

01. April 2007

hello sweetie!

chocolate truffle cheesecake
boy oh boy, i feel like the energizer bunny today!

i did tons of laundry (ooooohh, i am so looking forward to "clean sheets night" !!!). i cleaned my fridge and defrosted the ice compartment and currently i am in the middle of re-organizing the shelves in my living room. i will also totally tidy up the bedroom today!

i think i deserve a little reward in the middle of all this spring cleaning mania ... so i sit down for a minute and browse through those amazing cheesecakes from HHDD#10 because some of those recipes (actually, *all* of them) caught my attention and are on my "to do" list ...

but you see, i bought this fabulous cake tin the other day and while a cake from this silicone thingy would look really cute ... stupid me! did not realize at all that i'd have to fill this mould upside down, which is kind of a handicap if you prepare a cheesecake ... how on earth should i prepare a cracker crust that way?

so what now? i really like the soft / crumbly combination of most cheesecakes, but i have not found an "upside-down"-version of the cracker crust yet ... so should i just ditch the crust? i think i should! because i need something cute today - and my pretty mould will give me a cute little cake anyway!

all the pictures are really stunning! they all make my mouth water ... instead of flipping a coin i guess i should just go check if i have the ingredients for one of these gorgeous cakes in my fridge!

... i swear, i shrieked when i saw this one over at "the garlic press" - and i am oh so happy that i actually have what it takes to reproduce it (ingredients, that is!).

so here's my twist on the recipe! as always, i took the original recipe as an inspiration rather than something i must religiously obey. especially because the capacity of my mould is only 3 cups, so i need to do some scaling as well as higher mathematics ... you know by now that all these ounces, gramms, cups and what not always have me confused ... (though i have some nifty online tools by now!)

chocolate truffle cheesecake
(would you stop taking pictures?!? lick that bowl already, you fool!!)

chocolate truffle cheesecake
inspired by this one by sarah at "the garlic press"

200 g 4,5% cottage cheese
200 g cream cheese (philadelphia)
100 g sugar
50 g unsweetened cocoa powder
25 g starch
2 large eggs
30 g chocolate, melted
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water

chocolate truffle cheesecake
(these ingredients yield exactly 3 cups)
  1. preheat oven to 200 °c
  2. puree cottage cheese in a food processor until very smooth
  3. add cream cheese and blend
  4. pour into a bowl and whisk in sugar, cocoa and starch
  5. add the eggs, the coffee, the pinch of salt and the melted chocolate

    chocolate truffle cheesecake
  6. pour in a little silicone baking mould

    chocolate truffle cheesecake
  7. bake the cheesecake until the edges are set (about 45 minutes)
  8. let cool and garnish with chocolate drizzle ...
actually, i have no idea how to get this cheesecake out of the mould! so far it looks really stuck ... i thought you don't have to grease a silicone pan! i might have to scrape it out with a spoon! but hey ... if i really have to destroy a lovely little cake because i can't get it out of the mould i can finally host that "kitchen disasters" - foodblog event i am dreaming about ...

chocolate truffle cheesecake
update: look how pretty!! it slipped out of the mould just like that!

chocolate truffle cheesecake
... and it is soooo good!

ps: thanks for the tip, zorra!!
Blog-Event XXII - fou de chocolat