Friday, February 7, 2014

How to: Screw up Tea

It certainly is pretty to look at, but not so easy to drink.  The glass is too hot to hold seeing as it's served in what is meant for cold drinks and the "forest" does attack you while drinking.  The flavor however of fresh herb tea is it's only savior.

I know some things in a kitchen are a bit more difficult to make than others but quick question, "Who on earth screws up tea?" 

I'm not asking you to grow the leaves yourself, pick them (with or without the help of some monk-trained monkeys) dry them and whatever else for magic is done once they have left the plant or plantation.  I am simply asking you to put the tea bag, tea ball or even fresh herbs if you are feeling a bit of a frisky foodie today in some boiling water and let it steep in a proper glass.  Sounds pretty easy right?  So how come the Dutch often get this wrong?

First rule of thumb; tea is hot, it can burn you so the right cup should be chosen.  Second, the ratio of water to tea hasn't been an issue since the creation of the tea cup since I last checked, but it's importance is still high so it's number 2.   Third, you're going to place your face very close to the cup so if you are going to put fresh herbs inside, please don't have an exploding forest coming out of said cup to stab me in my eye.

Holland is a coffee country so maybe they care more about making coffee and tea is an insult to them to have to even make, but if I have to get on a bike and ride in this crappy weather and speak your language while you laugh and make fun of me for how I pronounce it, I hope you can at least put a tea bag in some boiling water and serve it in the right glass and possibly with a smile.

Monday, January 20, 2014

To Pair or Not to Pair Your Tupperware?

Holland and I are like tupperware; only after you have filled the container with your leftover mashed potatoes do you realize the lid and bottom are not a match.  Some people will then find a "proper" pairing and repeat the job, throwing the unmatched set in the sink to get a wash, where hopefully it will be reunited with it's original fitting partner at some point in the tupperware drawer.  While others may out of dismay grab the plastic wrap or aluminum foil and make a lid to the best of their abilities but it never fits like it should.  The plastic wrap never sticks and the aluminum foil either molds incorrectly teeter tottering from corner to corner or flat out breaks.  It's often a disaster.  But, regardless of your chosen method of treatment my question to all of you is still simple, Do those rogue lids and bottoms really ever find a home?

To say my relationship with Holland has been "a little slow on the uptake" would be an understatement.  I will have lived here for 2 years at the end of February and I haven't written a blog in about a year and a half, not to mention the indoor rather NON-Californian (or Parisian for that matter) lifestyle I have adopted based on many factors which will potentially pop up in the future of this blog with a genuine food twist.  It's just difficult living your life feeling like your lid is missing or your contents are in the wrong bottom.  So how does one cope?  That is the question, and THAT is what I hope to explore...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Lot of Ingredients

Delicious Pad Thai with chicken I had the other night.

Pad Thai is definitely on my top 3 list of Thai dishes I like to eat.  If I'm being honest, it's really more like top 2 because I always go back and forth between that and a Thai curry and I usually pick the curry but sometimes wish I had gotten the Pad instead.  Thai food has quickly risen as one of my favorite Asian cuisines in recent years because is based on balance.  Each recipe, if done correctly is supposed to have a balance between the 5 taste buds; sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter.  And I was reminded of this all over again after returning home from a simple day and a half holiday, where we decided to grab some quick Thai food in Haarlem and then go home and unpack.

Because of this concept of balance a lot of recipes in Thai cuisine have more than just a few ingredients.  In fact, Pad Thai alone can have between 15-20 different ingredients to make it taste just right!  My life has a lot of ingredients, how can I always keep the same balance Thai food does? Is is possible?  We all know the changes my life has recently encountered but a lot of people don't know that I am also basically a step mom and that is definitely a whole lot more ingredients than anyone could ever be expected to balance.....on top of my already constant juggling skills.  Part of this juggling is that I am not their mother, I never will be their mother, I will simply be their friend when they get into trouble or better said when they call me cause they need help getting out of said trouble.  But nobody really pulls you aside in gym class to tell you how hard being a step parent are constantly walking on eggshells for them, for your partner and their other real parent.  So how you do you keep the spiciness in balance with the sweetness and the bitterness in line with the salty and the sour?  I'm learning through cooking these kinds of Asian dishes just how it's possible if you keep everything in check because the last thing I ever want is to be the evil and wicked step mother.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recipe: Salmon & Herb-Rice Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Spaghetti

A quick snapshot from the table as they were being passed around during my first cooking class the other day.

Recipe: Salmon & Herb-Rice Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Spaghetti
Serves 4
16 zucchini flowers
125 g. (2/3 cup) basmati white rice
250 ml (1 1/3 cup) hot water
1 filet salmon baked and crumbled
5 tablespoons basil chopped
½ tablespoon parsley chopped
½ tablespoon dill chopped
5 tablespoons butter
¼ cup grated zucchini
1 lemon juiced
¾ cup parmesan cheese grated
4 servings spaghetti (or other pasta of your choice, but I like spaghetti for this.)

First turn on the oven to 175 C (350 F) and once hot, place the salmon in to cook with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil.  Cook until just pink inside, about 10-15 minutes, depending on size. For whenever you have a dish with pasta always have the water for the pasta on the stove simmering and ready for an instant boil.

Next heat up 250 ml water in another small pot for the rice.  Once boiling, add salt and then the rice.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Then immediately when done and still warm add 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon butter, ½ of a tablespoon of each of the herbs (saving the remaining basil for the sauce), 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and a few good turns of fresh black pepper.  Mix together and set aside.  Once the salmon is done break it up into small pieces in your hands and add to the rice gently mixing it in.

Next to make sure your flowers aren’t filled with dirt, you can wash them but be very careful.  You must dip them in water gently in a large sink or bowl filled with cold water….BUT if the water is too warm or it splashes too hard it will break them and they will wilt, making them hard to stuff.  Once they are ready and dry, lay them all out on a foil lined baking sheet and with a small spoon fill the flowers as full as possible without them spilling over or out.  Then lay them on the baking sheet in 2 rows.  Once they are all stuffed, drizzle a little more olive oil, about a handful of the parmesan cheese and some salt & pepper over the top and then bake for about 15 minutes. 

While that is in the oven turn your simmering water up to a boil and drop in the pasta.  Spaghetti usually takes around 12 minutes so it’s perfect for the time the flowers will be in the oven.  But read your package of pasta to see what is recommended.  While that is cooking melt the rest of the butter (4 tablespoons) on low adding the rest of the basil leaves to infuse the butter. When the pasta is done add it to the pan with the butter seasoning it very liberally.  Then add the lemon juice and the remaining parmesan cheese, mix gently but well and serve with the zucchini flowers on top, of course with more cheese if you wish OR a couple spoonfuls of red marinara sauce to brighten the dish as well.  Yum!

*Sometimes when I make a dish like this I make it without the pasta and I make zucchini "spaghetti" instead to keep it even more healthy and texturally interesting......if you are interested in that additional recipe let me know people!

Monday, September 3, 2012

My "Perfect Recipe for Writing"

How is it that I used to be busier as a chef in Paris than I am now, yet I always managed to post blogs everyday?  In fact, I even had a backlog of posts ready to be up and running and now I struggle with writing even one.  In the beginning when my life changed I was still in Paris and it was an amazing feeling that inspired me all day long.  Then other people who didn't approve of it kind of broke or stole my mojo and ever since I haven't been able to be consistent or even write like before.  When this happened I had already decided to move to Holland where I fell into a rather substantial depression from loneliness and I still couldn't write even though I was so in love and inspired by cooking all the time, which was and still is my "perfect recipe for writing".  It just hasn't ever been like it once was.  So why?  And can I fix it like you fix any bad recipe?

I used to see food and while simultaneously being in love, I rather simply found a link or something inspiring within the both of them, then I would write about it (or vise versa).  Now I cannot seem to "bridge that gap" anymore.  It feels forced when I do.  But then the other day when teaching my first official cooking class at Landje van De Boer I realized that I may be teaching new things to people in these classes but ironically I am learning all over again from scratch just like some of my "students" how to do something so simple.  Cook easy, stress-free meals.  That was my problem, my meals.....better yet, my life wasn't stress-free so I was blinded by it and unable to see the links I once saw everywhere.  I can see them peeking at me around corners and it's beginning to feel normal again and when I look back and see it's only been 6 months, I feel more at ease knowing this is all normal when you move to a country where you have no friends, family, work, don't speak the language, had the stress I had from the choice I made and the list goes on. 

SO........I am taking this moment to be proud of myself for achieving something in the amount of time I had and now I write to you from Holland with friends, family, work, speaking beginning level Dutch from an awesome 3 1/2 year old teacher, and though the stress from my choice will never go away, it can be covered up by a happy house filled with great food, laughter, music, friends and most of all love.

*Recipes to's a photo preview

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lunch in Amsterdam

We walked about the city today and found ourselves standing in front of a tapas bar on the Haarlemmerstraat in Amsterdam. Naturally I said to my father, "Tapas?" He said,"Yea, why not?". It was an interesting mix of 2 different platters, one cold and one hot.  There was a feta salad, proper Spanish tortilla, bruschetta, olive & sun dries tomato tapenades, bread, braised chicken wings, spicy beef, mushrooms, chorizo, calamari and gambas!!!  It was yummy for an afternoon lunch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Things I Ate in France

Wel, I didn't have much cell reception while staying in a beautiful villa just outside Bergerac, France...but while it was certainly hot as can be, the food was yummy and just what I expected!  Here are a few photos of our food adventures.....

an apéro of foie gras with caramelized shallots, sea salt & pepper! YUM.
Roasted potatoes tossed in a grlic aïoli sauce.

Beet salad with young fresh goat cheese, red onions & basil in a balsamic vinaigrette.

Iceberg salad with heirloom zebra tomatoes in a herb cheese vinaigrette.

Roasted veggies

Peach tart with almond powder.
Breaded-baked goat cheese salad with tomatoes and sliced potatoes in simple honey-vinaigrette.

Sorry it's a bit fuzzy, but it was a pan fried shrimp, bay scallops & Rouget (fish) with fresh linguini in an herb butter sauce.
Côte de boeuf with roasted veggies and fried potato croquettes.