Friday, December 25, 2009

There will be posts...

But probably in 2010.

We're going to Ukraine soon and and I'm so excited! This is because in Ukraine, New Year is a major holiday. It is like Christmas is in America. Except that it's sorta like Christmas+Halloween+Thanksgiving+New Year. Yeah. And my BF's mom is a really good cook, so I'm sure I'm going to get to learn lots of cool Russian, Tatar and Ukrainian recipes. Which I will then blog about!

I've been looking through my collection of "draft" posts, and there are a lot of recipes that I want to try. I just feel so much more motivated to cook when the really nice spring and summer produce starts to arrive. (And when I'm not sick, and when my apartment isn't messy...for some reason it's always messier in the winter?)

The most exciting food news lately was that we continued our fledgling tradition of going to a certain restaurant on Christmas Eve for meat fondue. Lots of meat, with 7 different sauces to dip it in, fresh tasty fries, bread and--of course--good red wine. I'm really glad we thought to start that one!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Geneva Restaurant Review: Palais du Saigon (Ferney)

This has very quickly become a favorite. An office mate introduced me and the BF to this place, oh, two weeks ago? Since we've been there twice for dinner and once for lunch.

The biggest reason why? It's cheap (for here). And still quite tasty.

First Impression: Nice looking, if quite typical, Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant. Not very big, but big enough. From the outside it's quite easy to miss. We drove by it several times before being introduced to it by someone else! They are always busy, which is a sign of it's popularity. Nice: they have their own parking lot, you don't have to look for a spot on the street. The only downside is that from where we live you have to take the car, not the bus.

Food: More than reasonably tasty. I think we've tried almost every single soup, and I like them all. They have pho, but it's not as good as in the states. Certainly hits the spot when you have a craving, though. Beef, chicken, scallops, pork and tofu dishes have all been delicious. I really loved the scallops. Portions on the main dishes are big enough to share with one other person if you get a side of rice/noodles and each get an appetizer/soup first.

Drink: Haven't tried the wine list. I always stick with H2O when it comes to Asian food. BF has had beer, Tsing Tao. He liked it.

Price: For this area, it is very, very reasonable. We're talking 20 euros a person for dinner, 10 euros a person with the lunch special! (I know my fellow Americans are probably fainting at that "cheap" dinner price, but here it is, especially for what you get.)

Interesting: They also seem to do a bustling to-go business. Will have to try that out!

Consensus: Love it! I really do like to go every week. We get to eat out without feeling guilty for blowing a ton of money.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


These are Russian hamburger patties/meatballs. They are simple, fast and extremely delicious, especially with mashed potatoes.

1 small onion
50 g bread, stale is ok
Milk enough to soak the bread (~1/3 c)
About 400 g ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying onions (just a little) and patties (a lot, enough for shallow frying)
Flour for dredging

Let the bread soak up all the milk. It should be soft enough to just be mush, like oatmeal consistency. While it's soaking, fry the onion, diced. I let the onion get a little brown. Mix the bread, onion and beef very well. You should be able to form balls, but they will be a little sticky. Dredge the balls in flour, shaking off excess. Fry in the oil a few minutes each side, till just almost cooked all the way through. Let them drain on a paper towel on a plate, they will finish cooking with carry-over heat.

Notes: I love these! The salting is tricky, I'd rather undersalt than oversalt. We've had a batch both ways, and well, you can always add, but you can't take away.

Seriving Suggestion: The best with mashed potatoes, also good with bread. They are tasty cold but I prefer them warm and juicy. I even chopped up leftovers and put it on top of a plain frozen pizza; that was delicious.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Too-Many-Vegetables Soup

Yesterday I realized that we had way too many vegetables around that were going to start being too old any day. So I decided to make a big pot of veggie soup using whatever we had around.

1/2 small red onion
1 large white onion
4 small carrots
2 leeks (bulb and lower leaf portion)
1 medium zucchini
2 big white mushrooms
1 c shredded cabbage
1/4 c parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 T balsamic vinegar
1.5 T olive oil
Salt to taste
A little soy sauce or fish sauce (about 1 t)
1 bay leaf
Water to fill the pot

Warm the oil in your soup pot. Slice the onions into half rings, add them to the pot and let them saute. Peel and grate the carrots, cut the leeks into half rings, and add them to the pot as well. Salt the vegetables and let them saute. Now add water to fill the pot almost full, and turn the heat up to bring the soup to a boil. Add chopped zucchini, chopped mushrooms, shredded cabbage and garlic. Put in the seasonings: bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, soy or fish sauce, salt and parsley. Add them to your taste. Let the soup simmer until the cabbage and zucchini are soft enough for you.

Notes: I was surprised how good this was. I mean, I was kind of begrudgingly making it, thinking I was basically cleaning out my fridge, and that it wasn't going to taste that great because there was just water, no meat based broth or long-cooking-full-of-goodness vegetable broth. But it turns out it doesn't take a lot of time for the veggies to flavor the water. It only took about 25 minutes or so total. Of course you can use whatever veggies you have around, but I think that the leeks and mushrooms made this especially tasty.

Serving Suggestion: Good with a piece of bread. My boyfriend put leftover roasted chicken meat in his bowl, and he liked it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spicy "Korean" Carrots

This was an attempt to recreate a dish that is sold in markets across the former Soviet Union. I had it in Ukraine, and got a craving for it in a bad way a few nights ago. But Switzerland is not the FSU, so if you want spicy "Korean" carrots here, you have to make them yourself. That is a problem, because it is a closely guarded secret. It's not an actual Korean dish, but those of Korean descent in the FSU who know how to make it don't tell anyone the recipe. There are, however, a lot of recipes on the internet, and I figured that they were all similar enough that the basic approach must be right.

The carrots in the market are sold in looong strips. I think they use one of these. Since I don't have one of those, I had to settle for attempting to julienne my carrots. Since I'm not a chef, and carrots are hard, I had to settle for thicker carrot sticks.

Spicy "Korean" Carrots

2 very large carrots, 1 small one
1 small white onion
1 big clove of garlic
1.5 T vegetable oil
1 T powdered coriander
1.5 T chili powder*
2 t sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Salt to taste

*Note: My chili powder is mixed with a few other spices (oregano?!) and is a bit weak. You can adjust this based on your ingredients and your taste.

Cut the carrots into as close to a julienne as you can, or use a vegetable slicer of some kind. They shouldn't be shredded though. Slice the onion into thin half rings, and chop the garlic. Warm the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, fry until translucent, soft and fragrant. Push the onions to one side, make sure there's enough oil pooled on the other side so you don't have to add more (we want to keep the fat down to some extent). This may mean tilting the pan slightly to get some on that other side. Once you have some warm oil on the opposite side of the onions, add the spices to it. Make sure that all the chili powder and coriander is immersed in the oil, let it fry for some seconds, it should smell really spicy. Add the garlic to the pan, and mix every thing together. Turn the heat down as low as it goes, add the carrots, the sugar, the lemon and the salt. Toss the carrots really well in the spice mix. Let them cook for a few minutes, you may need to keep tossing them so the spices don't burn and so they cook evenly. They should be still a bit crunchy when you serve them.

Notes: In recipes I've seen online they use vinegar, not lemon. But I had half a lemon, so guess what went in, and guess what tasted good? Also, in the real recipe the carrots aren't cooked. They sit in the marinade for a long time. But I cooked them because I was really hungry and couldn't wait. I think it especially worked out because I had thicker carrots. The flavor was close enough to the real thing to satisfy a craving. I think it would be even closer if I didn't cook the carrots and had really nice and thinly cut ones.

Serving suggestion: This was part of a dinner that included frozen and microwaved spinach souffle and perfectly boiled eggs (thank you, boyfriend!). I think they'd make a really good side dish to poultry or pork. Or even hamburgers, come to think of it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Geneva Restaurant Review: Auberge de Satigny

Went here with my advisor and office people a few nights ago.

First Impression: Looks nice. Big dining room, can seat a lot of people. Not so much a "date" place though, come with friends. There were quite a few groups of people here and some kids running around. View of the dining room is a soccer field.

Food: Of course, la chasse is on right now. They had a menu for 43 francs or so; squash soup with foie gras for entrée, roasted wild boar with traditional chasse sides, and some kind of egg custard I believe, for dessert. I decided to take this same soup that was on the menu (12 francs), the medallion of deer with sides (34 francs) and my boyfriend and I split a sundae for dessert (9 francs). My boyfriend got salade melée and the deer, others at the table took a terrine of hare and the deer.

The food was not bad. I really enjoyed my soup, I was told the terrine was wonderful and the salad was nice as well. The deer was disappointing. It was a bit tough and the cut was too thick. It is much nicer at Le Chaumaz, where they grill it in front of you, and then take it to the kitchen and slice it into bite-size pieces before putting it on the plate. Their sauce and sides are also better. Here the sauce was a tasty pepper sauce. There were some cranberries, brussels sprouts, candied chestnuts, red cabbage and spaetzle for sides. Dessert was very good; a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel sauces, meringues crumbled on top, and whipped cream. Oh, wine was nice too.

Honestly, I think it was a bit pricey, simply because the main part of the meal was not up to standards. If I had only taken the soup and dessert (or the terrine and dessert) I probably would've been extremely satisfied.

Interesting: They had a large selection of strange game: kangaroo, ostrich, springbuck, etc. But what I thought was weird is that most of the meat, including deer and lamb, was from New Zealand. I know we have both of those things in Switzerland! I also think it's strange they have so many kinds of meat, when I can tell from the way mine was done, this is not a meat place.

They also have a pizzeria here, you can get pizza in the restaurant or take it to go. From what I saw in the dining room, the pizza seemed to be a popular choice.

Consensus: I really did enjoy my soup and dessert, but I don't think I'll probably be back. The soup was one of the best I've had in a restaurant, but I've already tried it now, you know? Maybe we'll end up back someday though, because it is very close to CERN.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


This is one of my favorites, but I've never made it till now (it's currently in the oven). It's Greek spinach and feta pie.

1 package of phyllo dough
1 small onion
1/4 c parsley (fresh)
1/2 c dill (fresh)
.25 kg of fresh spinach
100 g feta cheese
2 small eggs
Salt to taste
Copious amounts of olive oil

For the filling: boil the spinach, drain, squeeze and chop. Mix in a bowl with: the parsley, dill and onion (all chopped), feta cheese (crumbled), salt, and eggs (beaten).

Pie: My packet was divided into two equal sections separated by paper (one section for the top, one for the bottom). I think there were about 5 sheets in each layer. Grease a pan (I used a cookie sheet with some depth) with olive oil, and put down a layer of dough. Brush that layer with olive oil. Continue until you've done 5-6 layers. Now spread the filling over the dough. Continue the same dough laying procedure (5-6 sheets interspaced with olive oil). Bake at 180 C (350 F) till golden brown on top.

Notes: It certainly was easy to make, the hardest part being handling the dough (not that hard). However, I think I did something wrong. I don't know what. The pie was quite tasty, but did not look quite right. All the top layers were very separated. I know with phyllo they're supposed to be kind of separated, but we're talking completely. I think there are a few things I will do differently next time:

1) Let the pie sit a while before baking, so that the top layers have a chance to come together more ... maybe pat the thing down a little, too.
2) Much, much more spinach filling (it is only a thin layer, I would like it to be a thick one). This was limited today by what I had around.
3) I will take a tip from Baklava recipes I've read and cut into individual pieces before baking
4) Probably bake at a slightly lower temperature next time.

But it was good taste-wise. Even the flaking off phyllo is tasty; it got all goldeny and crunchy, it's like really thin crackers.

It occurred to me that the phyllo sheets are practically perfect for samosas. They're just like what my grandmother used to use.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Red Cabbage Sauté

In case you couldn't tell from last post, kasha + fried eggs + veggie saute = fast, tasty and nutritious dinner. Reasonably cheap, too.

200 g red cabbage sauerkraut
2 t oil (any kind)
1 small onion
1 small apple
Salt to taste
A splash of apple cider vinegar if you want extra tart flavor

Warm the oil in a pan. Peel the onion and slice into demi-rings. Saute them until golden with hints of brown caramelization. Turn heat to low, add the apple, cut into matchsticks (peeled if you prefer), the cabbage, salt to taste and the optional vinegar. If your sauerkraut is not very wet, add a tablespoon or two of water to keep things from burning. Saute till apples and cabbage are warm.

Notes: Satisfying and tasty on a fall evening. Also, light and healthy.

Serving Suggestion: We had this with kasha (roasted buckwheat groats) and fried eggs. I think a dollop of sour cream or thick Greek style yogurt would have been good on the cabbage.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Extremely Fast Dinner

This was made (and I'm sorry to say) eaten in less than 45 minutes. Yeah, I eat too fast.

This fast and yummy dinner consists of kasha with fried eggs and cress saute.

1 package cress (I think mine was garden cress, 75 g package)
1 small onion
1 T olive oil
1 big clove garlic
1.5 cups kasha, rinsed well
Eggs (however many you want)

Kasha: rinse well, put in a pot with 1.5 cups of water. Add some salt (as you would for rice), bring to a boil. You should also add some butter, but I don't have any right now, so I added a little bit of olive oil and a gruyere cheese rind for flavor. Allow to boil (not vigorously) till all water is evaporated, then remove from heat, cover and let steam for at least 5 minutes. You can cook it longer for softer kasha, this will need a bit more water.

Saute: Warm oil in a pan. Add chopped onion and saute until golden-brown. Add garlic, saute a couple of minutes. Just before serving, add cress and cook till wilted down.

Eggs: Fry them how you like them. (For me, over medium or sunny side up).

Serving Suggestion: Good eaten kind of all mixed up. Also good with bufala mozzarella cheese on the side.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vegetable Pancakes

Just made these, but we'll have dinner later tonight. I ate one though. It was tasty, but for dinner I'm going to serve them with sour cream mixed with garlic and dill (that'll be really good)!

1 small potato
1 small-medium zucchini
2 medium carrots
1 small onion
1/4 c flat leaf parsley
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
Salt and lots of ground black pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Grate all the vegetables except the onion. I only peeled the carrots. The onion slice very thinly, and the parsley chop. Add all to a mixing bowl. Crack in the eggs, well, add the rest of the ingredients (except oil) and mix very well. Warm oil to fry. Place dollops of the vegetable mix in the pan, smush them a little to make them more pancake shaped. I did 3 at a time in my pan. When done on one side (golden brown, a couple of minutes) flip and finish on the other side. Remove from pan and let drain on towels/paper towels.

Notes: I think a good step to do, which I was going to do and forgot, is to salt the vegetables, let them sit a few minutes, and then remove the liquid that comes out of them before you add the eggs and flour etc.

Serving Suggestion: Well, I intend to top them with sour cream or yogurt mixed with chopped dill and minced garlic. I'll probably either have them with leftover schi from yesterday, or some arugula. These could be a light meal or appetizer. Probably good for breakfast too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This is a traditional Russian cabbage and potato soup. It's not the fanciest, there are others that are more interesting. But it's hearty and warm and good anyway! Some versions are made with sauerkraut instead of plain cabbage, adding a sour/tangy taste. That's pretty common in Russian soups, to add pickled vegetables or a little vinegar and sugar for a special flavor. I haven't seen that in schi recipes using regular cabbage, but I add a little pickle brine to mine because I like it.

4 qts beef stock*
2 large potatoes
1/2 small head of cabbage
1 onion
1 T sunflower oil
2 medium carrots
1 medium tomato
Few T pickle brine
Salt to taste

Stock is very easy to make. In a large pot, place meat, an onion (halved), a carrot (halved), a few cloves of garlic (whole), couple of bay leaves, some peppercorns (I use a mix of black and white peppers and allspice). Bring to a boil, let simmer until meat is tender. This will depend on your cut of meat, but generally longer time = more tender meat + tastier stock. I let mine go for about 3 hours usually. Meat with a bone gives better stock.

Remove the meat from the stock and set aside. Bring the stock up to a boil and add the potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes). Chop the cabbage. I like to chop it thickly, instead of shredding it, for this soup. After the potatoes have been in about 15 minutes, add the cabbage. Warm the oil in a saucepan. Cut the onion into half-rings and saute in the oil. After a couple of minutes add the carrot (shredded). When it's all soft, add the chopped tomato. Once the tomato is cooked, remove the saucepan from heat. After the cabbage has been boiling about 30 minutes, add the contents of the saucepan to the soup. Add the brine to the soup and salt to taste. At this point you can also chop the meat and put in the soup, but I prefer to serve the boiled meat separately, on the side. Let flavors combine on a simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve.

Notes: This tastes better the next day, after the flavors have mixed even more. I have no idea why tomatoes are included in a traditionally winter time soup, but they are! I've seen recipes that use chicken and chicken broth, if you prefer. To make this vegetarian, I would just use a nice vegetable broth.

Serving Suggestion: My boyfriend claims that this is one of the few Russian soups that is not usually eaten with sour cream. He qualifies this by saying that "of course" a person CAN add it if they want. Put chopped greens (dill, parsley) on top of the soup just before serving.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Turkish Style Eggplant with Rice-Pasta Pilaf

Eggplant recipe just sort of made up with what I had around, especially some stuff from the freezer (one chopped eggplant, 2 whole tomatoes). Before we go on a trip, if there's any produce that we didn't finish I just pop it in the freezer. The eggplants I chopped, but tomatoes I freeze whole. When I want to use them, I run a tomato under hot water for a few seconds. The skin is really easy to peel off after doing that. The tomato is still rock-hard, it's really easy to chop up.

The pilaf is my attempt to recreate something I had at a Turkish co-worker's home.

Turkish Style Eggplant with Rice-Pasta Pilaf

For the eggplant:
1 eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
1 large or 2-3 small carrots
1 T olive oil
2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 lemon wedges
1/3 c of a tomato sauce (any kind you like)
1/3 c water
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste

For the pilaf:
1 small onion
1 T olive oil
1.5 c raw rice
.5 c small pasta (orzo, vermicilli, stars)
3.5 c water

Eggplant: Mine was frozen, so to remove the excess water I just had to thaw in the microwave and drain. If yours is fresh, chop it and put it in a bowl. Salt it a little and let it sit about 10 minutes, the salt will draw the liquid out. Drain. Warm the oil in a pan. Saute one onion, chopped. When soft, add the carrot(s), shredded and the minced garlic. When the carrot is soft, add the remaining ingredients: eggplant, chopped tomatoes, juice from the lemon wedges, tomato sauce, bay leaves, parsley, water, salt to taste. Let it simmer while you prepare the pilaf. You can let it cook just until the eggplant is soft, or keep it simmering as long as you want (may need to replenish liquid in that case).

Pilaf: rinse the rice. In a pot, warm the oil. Saute the chopped onion till soft. Add the rice, and saute it for a few minutes. Don't let it brown, but the grains will become more translucent, and shiny. Add the water, pasta and salt. Cook as normal. I let it boil gently till the water is all gone, then I remove it from the heat and cover it, letting it steam for about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Notes: My friend made her pilaf with orzo, which was really good. Mine was with vermicelli, which is what I had around. It was fine, but it was kind of like normal rice. Next time I will use orzo. The tomato sauce I used had peppers (not spicy ones) in it. You could use plain, or even just tomato paste. I think a spicy tomato sauce, like arrabiata, would be tasty in it. This meal was fast and easy to prepare.

Serving Suggestion: Very good served with yogurt. You could add the parsley at the end instead, if you want, sprinkling it over the dish just before serving

Monday, October 26, 2009

Geneva Restaurant Review: Kwai Foods

This is an Asian restaurant near the main train station. I'm not exactly sure which kind of Asian food it specializes in. From the menu I think it's a Thai-Chinese Fusion thing.

Verdict: I may give it one more shot, but in general I'm not inclined to go back. Nothing special, and there are a lot of other places in town.

What was eaten: Tom yom koong (hot and sour thai soup with shrimp), tom kha gai (sweet/sour coconut milk thai soup with chciken), duck in red curry sauce, beef in panang curry.

The tom kha was tasty, the tom yom wasn't as good. A little bit of soy sauce made it better. The beef in the panang was really nice, but the curry itself was absolutely nothing special. I didn't like the duck, as for me duck is only good with a crispy skin. The red curry and panang curry sauce tasted identical. The best part of the meal for me was the lightly pickled cabbage salad that is served with the main dishes.

Price: Just under 50 CHF, not including beverages. About as cheap as you can do it in this town, but I like certain kebab places, like L'Etoile de Beyrouth, better for that price.

The one reason I may go back? The table next to us got a really good looking plate of fried noodles with chicken just as we were leaving. I may have to try that.

If you live in this area, you may be familiar with Mike Wong. This place is a similar quality, and price. If you want to sit and eat, the atmosphere is nicer here, but if you want to go I think Mike's has a larger menu, maybe.

Insane Lemon Saffron Cake

I found this recipe here, while looking for a recipe for a cake using fromage blanc. (That will come later, I hope.) The horoshaya kukhniya (good cook) site is one of my favorites, and the recipe sounded cool, so I thought I'd give it a try. The site is in Russian.

Oh, and I'm calling it "insane" because 1) the lemon flavor is really strong, 2) it is very sweet. You'll need a cup of tea with this. It's not bad, but for my personal taste it was too sweet. My BF must have liked it though, because he ate a bunch of it. So nice to have someone other than myself to test these things on!

Insane Lemon Cake
Adapted from the "Simple Lemon Cake" at horoshaya kukhniya

For cake:
3 eggs (the ones I have are small)
1/2 glass of sugar
2/3 glass of flour
1.5 tea spoons baking powder
lemon zest to taste
a generous pinch of saffron

For syrup:
3/4 cup of sugar
juice of 4 lemons
1 t honey

*A note about measurements: in Russian recipes it's quite common to see units of a "glass", a "tea spoon" and a "soup spoon" or "big spoon". The glass corresponds roughly to 1 cup. The tea spoon and soup/big spoon correspond roughly to a standard teaspoon and tablespoon, respectively. Perhaps the Russian spoon measurements are slightly bigger, in my opinion. I'm not sure if it's true, but I think that this comes from a time when there was considerably less variety amongst people's belongings--like silverware and glassware. Under those circumstances, saying "a glass of sugar" works just fine.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (roughly 350 Fahrenheit). In a bowl, beat the eggs with the 1/2 glass (cup) of sugar. When well combined, stir in (carefully) the zest, saffron, flour and baking powder. When everything is incorporated, pour the batter (which will be thick) into a cake pan. It's better to use a deep pan if you have one. When the cake is firm and golden brown on the top, take it out. This will probably be about 40 minutes. Let the cake cool, and meanwhile prepare the syrup. I cheated and stuck my cake in the freezer while I made the syrup, so I didn't have to wait for it to cool very long. For the syrup, combine the lemon juice, sugar and honey. Heat on low until sugar is dissolved and a syrup is formed. This syrup should be poured over the cake. I cut off a bit of the top of the cake (so it was flat) to expose a more porous surface before pouring the syrup on top. This was because I didn't have a deep pan, and if I had done otherwise the syrup would've gone everywhere. Once the syrup has soaked into the cake, serve.

Notes: The original recipe called for tumeric, but I thought that sounded strange, so I added saffron instead. This made it smell great. This cake is really sweet and rich with the syrup. Without it is a bit hard, dry and not very sweet. So, it needs to soak in something, but I think this syrup is too much. What sounds good to me, coming from an Indian background, is some sort of lightly sweetened milk. The original recipe's syrup calls just for lemon and sugar. I added a bit of honey because I thought it was too sour, but then I tasted it and realized that it was already on the verge of too sweet, so to mellow things out I added some water instead of more honey. Adding water is what the original recipe suggests.

Next time I make this I'm going to try to soak it in something else, and maybe leave the lemon flavor out entirely. My idea is to basically make the saffron cake, but add some pistachios. Then, instead of syrup, I will mix some cold milk with Rooh Afza and pour that over the cake instead. Hmm, why didn't I think of that an hour ago?

Serving Suggestion: You must have tea with this. Otherwise it's impossible.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Whipped this up tonight. It was really good, fast and super simple.

10 small button mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 T boursin cheese
2 t creme fraiche
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter and oil together in a saucepan. Saute chopped onion till soft and slightly golden. Add chopped garlic, saute a minute or so more. Add sliced mushrooms, and saute until soft. Remove from heat. Stir in boursin cheese, creme and parsley until boursin is melted and everything is well mixed. Salt to taste.

Notes: It was really good. My BF liked it too. He ate it on top of noodles. I had it on top of a bed of spinach with a fried egg on top. I think his way sounds tastier, but I'm trying to watch the calories. Can't argue with spinach when it comes to calories.

Serving Suggestion: On top of a bed of spinach (maybe slightly wilted and salted), noodles, rice or (sounds really good) boiled potatoes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Onion Soup Gratin

I made this really tasty onion soup recently. It was very delicious! Not as dark brown as the kind I see in restaurants, but very flavorful and slightly sweet. This is the time of year when we can find 5 kg bags of onions for about one euro. So of course I made this soup!

1 qt beef broth
20 onions
4 T butter
300 mL cider
100 mL white wine
a little dried thyme

Make a beef broth. I made it in a 5 quart pot. After it's done (or about half an our before it'll be ready), caramelize 20 onions (type doesn't matter) in a soup pot. Go slow, to make sure they don't burn. Deglaze with 1/2 the cider. Keep caramelizing. When liquid evaporates, deglaze again with 1/2 the wine (I used white). Repeat once for each. Add some dried thyme and fill your soup pot with the stock (no meat or bones). I ended up having quite a bit of stock left over for another day. Allow the flavors of the soup to combine for 5-10 minutes on a simmer. Serve.

Notes: This was very time-intensive but so worth it. I don't know how this would taste using a vegetable broth; probably just fine, as most of the flavor is from the onions and the alcohol (and the ton of butter)! It may be a little too sweet though. In the case that you want to use vegetable broth, maybe cut back on the onions by one or two. This becomes much faster if you already have broth ready, but it still isn't exactly fast. The caramelizing and deglazing took about ... 45 minutes maybe? I saved it for a weekend because it was not fast.

Serving Suggestion: To serve, ladle into bowls. Cover bowl with a thin slice of baguette bread (or chunks), and grated Gruyere or Comté cheese. Place under broiler till cheese melts and is golden brown. Alternatively, it is very tasty just ladled into bowls, and eaten with some bread on the side. You could just sprinkle grated cheese on top of the hot soup.

Orecchiette a la Funghi

Very simple and tasty meal. Again, made at a time we didn't have a lot of different ingredients around. I basically looked in the fridge and used what was there.


Orecchiette--I had about 6-7 cups cooked
Quite a bit of butter (maybe 2 T?)
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, diced
Splash of white wine
1 cup frozen mushrooms*
1/4 c shredded Gruyere cheese
Small bunch of fresh basil** chopped

*Ours is a mix of chopped wild mushrooms--of course if you have fresh mushrooms, go for it!
**Actually mine was frozen, as this was again done right after a trip. I always freeze whatever fresh before I go away on a trip.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. When it comes to a rolling boil, you'll add the pasta. While the water is coming to a boil, start the sauce: in a saucepan, melt the butter with the oil. When heated, add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, saute a minute or two more. Add the mushrooms and the wine, and about 1/2 c of the pasta cooking water. Allow to simmer on the lowest heat while waiting for the pasta to finish. Season with salt to taste. As soon as the pasta is finished, drain it, add to the saucepan. Add the basil and the Gruyere at this point as well. Toss everything together well, and serve!

Notes: I thought maybe some cream would be good, but we didn't have any. It was very nice with just the butter and the cheese, though, still tasted creamy. I think the key was A LOT of butter.

Serving Suggestion: White wine?

Orecchiette a la Vodka

Vodka really brings out the taste of tomato sauces. I especially like tomato-vodka sauces with peas. Traditionally, cream and bacon are also added. (Disclaimer: When I say "traditionally", I mean I've seen it done this way in many restaurants.) We just got back from a week-long conference and had almost no food around, especially no fresh food. This is what I made in that situation.

Orecchiette pasta--I think I had about 6 or 7 cups cooked
2 small onions, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, diced
3 canned roma tomatoes + a bit of the juice from the can
1 T tomato paste
A splash of vodka
1 t of sugar
1 c of frozen peas
About 2 T olive oil
A generous pat of butter*

*The butter is optional. Leave it out for a vegan meal. Maybe add a little more olive oil in that case.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. When it comes to a rolling boil, you'll add the pasta. While the water is coming to a boil, start the sauce: in a saucepan, melt the butter with the oil. When heated, add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, saute a minute or two more. Add the tomatoes and juice, chopped, the tomato paste, the sugar and the vodka. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. The pasta's probably almost done (you don't want to over cook it). Add about 1/2 c of the pasta water to the sauce, and the peas. Let it simmer on the lowest heat while you wait for the pasta to finish. Season with salt to taste. As soon as the pasta is finished, drain it, add to the saucepan and toss well with the sauce. Serve!

Notes: The pasta water part really is important. It makes the sauce stick to the pasta. I saw it on an old-school Italian cooking show on PBS when I was about 16, and have always remembered it since then. Orecchiette is probably my favorite pasta. I've heard it's traditionally served with broccoli, but I like it with anything. My BF thought it wasn't the best for this dish, he thinks that orecchiette needs a creamier sauce. I think it would go nicely with many different types of pasta, for some reason I think that short ones would be better than long ones (linguine, spaghetti...).

Serving Suggestion: Maybe garnish with a little parsley? I thought it was a very tasty dinner. Since we visited Italy I've been inspired to try and do more interesting things with pasta lately.

Tasty (and very Swiss-French) White Pizza

This is my attempt at imitating a pizza I've seen on to go menus here. It's not anything like pizzas I've seen on American menus, but it's really good! The real Swiss-French version of course includes lardons, i.e. bacon. But I don't eat a lot of meat, and I especially try to avoid pork (paranoid about tapeworms).

Ready made pizza dough or pizza shell
Creme fraiche or sour cream (about 1/4 c)
2 medium mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 medium potato, baked
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c shredded Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven according to instructions for your dough/shell. You can certainly use home-made dough if you want. Place the dough on whatever you'll cook it on. Cover with the creme fraiche, leaving the amount of crust you prefer along the border. Sprinkle with the garlic. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cheese on top. Arrange on the pizza: onion slices, mushroom slices and slices of the baked potato. Now sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere. Bake until crust is done, it will be enough time for the cheese to get melty and parts of the pizza to be golden brown.

Notes: I can't tell you how tasty this was! Of course you can add more garlic or mushrooms. That's never a bad thing. I also think it would be tasty with wild mushrooms, but I just used champignons de paris (standard button type).

Serving Suggestion: This was eaten for dinner, but I want to try it for a dinner party as an appetizer, cut into small squares.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Really fast/easy dinner for 4

So tonight we had 2 friends over (another couple) for dinner ... I had like 30 minutes notice to make something, with no help (my bf had to go get them from the airport). But it turned out pretty well, thank god for pasta. :-)

And this tasty herb butter I had made in advance also helped. A few weeks ago when I was chopping a bunch of herbs to season some fish, I chopped way too much. So I mixed them with softened butter and diced garlic, then spread the butter into a thin stick on some parchment paper and froze it.

Today I was able to make a tasty main course by thawing some chicken legs, seasoning with salt and pepper, then putting a generous piece of the butter under the skin of each leg. I put the legs in a glass baking dish, dumped some frozen wild mushrooms on them, added a little white wine and just baked them for an hour.

We also had spaghetti noodles, a simple tomato-feta-red onion salad, krakowska sausage (from Poland, traded for some Ukrainian kvass), Gruyere cheese, and pickles. Dessert was chasselas and muscat grapes, store bought butter cookies, and store bought Gateau St. Amour. With tea, of course.

I really adore the grapes in this area. The chasselas are commonly used for making wine. They're small, perfectly round, and range in color from bright, pale green to golden brown. They're transparent, which is so cool! The muscat grapes are heavenly. They remind me of Concord grapes, but they're better. I'm not even sure how to describe them, they have a strong, distinct taste that I love. This variety is dark purple. They both have seeds, which I don't mind. Crunchy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Geneva Restaurant Review: Cafe de Paris

Cafe de Paris is a Geneva institution, absolutely famous for it's sauce, which many people love. We decided to go there last night, because after being here a long time we hadn't actually tried it yet.

Service: Not great, even by Geneva standards. Not bad either, but definitely nothing remarkable.

Wine: We had a Gamay de Geneve. I don't know any more about it as it was served in a pichet, not in a bottle, but I'm sorry I didn't ask to see the bottle because it was a very nice wine! For 50 cL we paid 16.50 CHF, which I thought was a pretty good price considering how much I enjoyed it.

Dinner: This began with a green salad. The greens were nice, not limp and lifeless like in some places (although I encounter yummy salad greens more often here than in American restaurants, anyway). The dressing was not like the typical French-restaurant-dressing, which is kind of creamy in consistency and very mustardy tasting. This was much more like an oil and vinegar kind of dressing. I liked it. The bread they brought us was normal, rolls that were crisp on the outside, soft inside. They were served at room temperature. Next came the entrecote. We had both ordered it cooked saignant (rare) as we do at all restaurants. When it came it was instead quite bleu. It was served on a heated trivet, sitting on top of the famous sauce, and we were given plates of frites. Before trying the meat, I first dipped a little bread in the sauce, really excited to try it. Hm, I thought. It tasted strange. Right away, I remembered the first bite I took of the brownies that I made a year ago, inadvertently with butter that had gone rancid. Yes, that's right, I thought that the renowned sauce tasted like it was made with rancid butter. That can't be right, I thought. It must be some weirdness, I'll try it with the meat and the fries instead and then it will taste like it's supposed to. I tried it with the (very undercooked, and just a little tough) meat and the fries. Still tasted rancid to me.

It wasn't just me. I asked my BF how he liked it, and his response was, "It's ... interesting." We both agreed we didn't like it. I am hoping that that isn't how it's supposed to taste. He said that he didn't think it tasted like the butter had gone bad, that it was probably just some strange ingredient we didn't like, but I don't think he's every tasted butter like that before. I certainly hadn't until the brownie incident.

Additionally, the sauce was VERY salty, and had a little bit of a fishy taste, but not in a pleasant way. I consider "a pleasant way" to be as in the subtle taste of anchovies in a nice Caesar salad dressing.

The fries were quite standard. They give you more if you still have meat left but have finished your first portion.

The whole salad + fries + steak combo is 41 francs. I would say it's about 200 grams of meat per person.

We declined to take dessert. They were pricey. 10 francs for a coupe of fresh raspberries. Ice cream more expensive than you can get at Movenpick two blocks away. The people next to us got creme brulee and it looked pretty normal, nothing special.

Overall impression: Very disappointing! I will not go back. The salad and the wine were quite enjoyable, but the steak and sauce, just bad. I can understand they undercook it because it "cooks" some more on the hot trivet, but then you just end up with raw on top and well-done on bottom. If you want steak frites in the Geneva area, much, MUCH better to visit Cafe de l'Aviation in Vernier. Their sauce is spectacular (if also a little salty). It's served on a plate, and so it stays at just the "doneness" it's supposed to. There they give you endless refills on frites AND sauce. And the price is the same or cheaper. They also have excellent wine!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kvass-Okroshka Update

The Wasa kvass I blogged about turned out alright. When I shook my Snapware container, there was a little, well, not explosion, but leakage. Violent leakage, I guess you could call it. It wasn't unpleasant to drink, but it wasn't something I'd elect to drink if I had other options. It was more like beer than kvass, actually. Homemade kvass isn't as sweet as the store bought stuff, but this was not sweet at all. I think I added too much yeast, and that they ate all the sugar.

However, the kvass was perfectly fine for making Okroshka, which I did do.

And then I made kvass again, using Vollkornbrot, a dense German rye bread that is (very important) sold presliced. Remember, I'm lazy. Oh, and I also bought a 1.5 L glass jar with a screw-top lid to avoid leakage.

I baked the slices of bread, and this time followed directions a bit more closely. I still think there was too much yeast though, because even though this one was better, it still wasn't quite sweet enough. Oh, and I left out the mint, I prefer the taste without it.

So then, I made Okroshka again, using the new kvass. VERY DELICIOUS. We also drank the new kvass, but I dissolved a little sugar in a little water first and we sweetened it with that before drinking.

I also have made Okroshka several times using elben, which is the closest we have here to kefir. It's kind of like a thin kefir. Very similar to ayran, but no salt added. That was very good too.

So, why no Okroshka recipe?

I've been waiting till I take a picture of the stuff, but I just keep eating it as soon as it's served. Seriously, I haven't remembered till after the fact!

Ok, next time, I WILL take a picture. Next time meaning, the next heat wave we get around here (probably around July).


I wanted to make Massur Palao, which is an Indian dish with rice, ground meat, and massur lentils. Sometimes potatoes can be added. It is similar to Biriyani, which more people have heard of, except Biriyani is made usually with chunks of meat and saffron is added. My grandmother was fantastic at making Massur Palao, and she used to make it every week for my sister. Seriously, it was for my sister, the rest of us were told, "You can't eat any ... well, maybe just a little, but only if she says you can!" My sister was her favorite and my grandmother was an interesting woman. :-)

It was never my favorite dish, but we had some ground beef and suddenly I wanted to make it. But alas, no lentils. So, here you have a Massur Palao-Biriyani hybrid. But I forgot to add potatoes (sad).

Big, heavy bottomed pot (I think mine was like 5 quart size) with lid
Wooden spoon
Cutting board

1/2 c oil
2 small onions, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bird's eye chilis (or whatever small hot chilis you have), minced
2 T minced ginger (fresh)
3 T gharam masala
375 g ground beef
3 c raw basmati rice
2 pods black cardamom
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
pinch of saffron


First, wash the rice very well, and then leave it in fresh water to soak for 30 minutes.

Warm the oil in the pot. When it's hot (shimmery) add the onion, let it saute until soft, then add the carrot, sautee a couple of minutes. Now, add the chilis, garlic and ginger, let them sautee a couple minutes till nice and fragrant. Push all this stuff to one side, pooling the oil on the other side of the pot. Dump the gharam masala into the oil and make sure it is all touching the oil. Let it fry for a minute, but you don't want it to burn. I have my electric stove on "7" (out of 9) during this process, if that helps. Stir everything together, and add the ground meat, stirring well, making sure that no large lumps form and making sure that no spices are burning. Add some salt. You may need to add a cup of water (deduct it from your 5 cups) to facilitate non-burning.

When meat is reasonably browned (so it is out of the "danger zone" as far as clumping goes) Add the rice and 4 cups of water (3 cups, if you have already added one cup). Salt. Don't stir. You want the meat to stay on the bottom, rice on the top. Once the liquid starts to bubble slightly (NOT a rolling boil), put the lid on and turn the stove as low as it will go. The remaining cup of water should be a warm one. The warmest that comes out of your tap is fine. Put this cup of water in a glass, or your cup measurer, and place the saffron in it. It will start to slowly color the water yellow.

Go do something else for like 10 minutes.

Check to see how the rice is doing. Poke your spoon in along the side of the pot, not disturbing the layers, but enough to check if the liquid is just about all gone. If it isn't, replace the lid and wait a bit longer. If it is, add the saffron water but again, don't stir.

Go do something else for like 10 minutes.

Again, check the rice. If the liquid has all been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat, leaving the lid on, and let it sit that way for you guessed it, 10 minutes. If the liquid HASN'T been absorbed, then let it stay on the heat until that happens, but keep an eye on it. A little moisture is ok, but it should NOT be liquidy.

Now it's done. The top rice should be light and fluffy, the rice that's touching the meat is more moist. Scoop it onto a plate and eat it, adding salt to your taste. You can eat it with yogurt (especially good on the meat part).

Notes and Serving Suggestions: You could add some dried fruit (raisins, sour cherries) when you add the rice, or some chopped herbs of your choice. I think that whole cumin seeds (add them when you fry the gharam masala) would also be good.

About the gharam masala: traditionally, this is not fried. That's because traditionally it contains things like cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, clove need to be "warmed" (hence the name), but that aren't oil soluble so they don't need to be fried. However, most commercially prepared gharam masala contains cumin and coriander, which DOES need to be fried. My homemade gharam masala also contains cumin and coriander because I'm lazy and so that's two less jars I have to fish around for in the cupboard. The point is, for most people, fry it. But, if you have a gharam masala that doesn't contain cumin and coriander, then: instead of frying 3 T gharam masala, fry 1 T ground cumin, 1 T ground coriander. When you add the liquid, add 1 T gharam masala.

This is REALLY UNHEALTHY. It's fat and carb city. 1/4 of the pot, which you can easily eat, believe me, has like 1/2 a day's calories. The whole recipe is 3687 calories.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Kvass is a fermented beverage from rye bread. It's tasty, carbonated, refreshing, and just very slightly alcoholic (not enough to be sold as an alcoholic beverage). As I write, I am making kvass from Wasa bread. Am I brilliant, or just insane? We don't know (my boyfriend chastises me every time I try to open the container to taste, "It's not ready yet!"). I have snuck a few tastes and so far I am going with brilliant. It isn't exactly the best kvass for drinking, but I really don't care about that because the only reason I made it is so I can have some Okroshka. Which I have been craving for almost a year. It's a cold Russian soup, and now that it's getting quite warm here, I really want some.

And thus, we are making kvass from Wasa. Because it takes several days, and several days ago we didn't have rye bread. Here's what I did (notes on possible improvements at the end):

Wasa Bread Kvass


Container that is airtight (mine is like 3-4 cups in volume)
2 Wasa toasts (make sure they are the original rye kind, not sesame or anything like that)
Boiling water
Couple tablespoons dry yeast
Few tablespoons of sugar (my boyfriend at first forgot that when getting the instructions from his mom, remembered a day later. You won't have carbonated or correct tasting kvass without it)
Few mint leaves
Few raisins


Let's start with the disclaimer that since I was already doing something very unorthodox, i.e. kvass from Wasa, I didn't follow the directions I was given precisely. I am lazy.

Break up the Wasa into chunks in your container. Pour boiling water to cover. Let sit for a while, and when the temperature has reached body temperature, remove a bit of the warm liquid to a glass. Stir the yeast (and the sugar, which we originally forgot and had to add later) into this, and then add back to the container. Seal container tightly, shake, and let sit for 24 hours, shaking every so often. Then add mint leaves and raisins, let sit another 12-24 hours. Before using, strain well.

What you're supposed to do (my boyfriend's mom's instructions):

First of all, you are not supposed to use Wasa. You are supposed to use nice, dense Russian rye bread, which you cut into slices and dry in the oven. That is work, people. Not a lot of work, but work. I will do it at some point, because it really does result in better kvass, but I really wanted to see if lazy-Wasa-kvass could work. You put the bread in a better air-tight container than I have. )A wide-mouthed jar is ideal. I have a Snapware container, which is great for lunch, but is not completely air-tight when it comes to shaking a carbonated beverage.) Now, you pour the boiling water as directed above. Let it sit until the liquid reaches body temperature. Strain out the bread. Take a bit of the liquid into a glass, add the yeast and sugar. Shake, let sit for like a day, shaking periodically. Add the mint, let sit for another 12 or so hours, shaking periodically. Strain well, then pour into bottles for refrigeration or canning. Add a few raisins to each bottle first.

My boyfriend's mom gave no quantities. I love her for that, she cooks like I do. :-)

I've heard kvass lasts for a week in the fridge, mine is not going to be around long enough to test that. I am making Okroshka for dinner tonight!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rhubarb-Apple Compote

We got some nice rhubarb in the store, and we still have a bunch of apples that aren't the best for eating (a little mealy/soft) but are good for cooking. I threw this together and surprisingly it was delicious.

Rhubarb-Apple Compote


4-5 stalks of rhubarb
3 small apples
1/4 c dried sour cherries
30 roasted peanuts (unsalted)
A squeeze of lemon
Cinnamon stick (1"-2")
A piece of ginger root (1/2")
3/4 c of sugar


Wash and peel rhubarb stalks, also removing any leaves (they are poisonous). Chop. Core and chop the apples. Peel the ginger and slice into matchsticks. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly, and then let simmer until fruits are soft and the mixture is not liquid.

Notes and Serving Suggestion:

We at this with crepes (blini). I use Yulinka's recipe, but with sour milk (is it the same as buttermilk?) and a bit more sugar. I especially liked the peanuts! It's kind of a breakfast dish (especially for week end) or dessert, but we had it for dinner.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The move to Switzerland

We got a new apartment in Switzerland. It's more expensive, but let's just say that the standard of living between France and Switzerland makes it worth it.

I have two colleagues who lived in Switzerland while we were in France, and one in particular was always complaining about how much more expensive it is in the Swiss grocery stores. He's a bit of a complainer in general, but I still found myself a bit worried yesterday as we made our first grocery shopping in Switzerland.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost everything was cheaper. I think this is because the Swiss very much like to keep it local, especially with fresh things (meat, dairy, produce). Onions and potatoes were more expensive, but lettuces, strawberries, fresh herbs, fresh yeast and peppers were all much cheaper. The strawberries were an especially good deal, and I bought 1.5 kilos. (See Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinegar)

I also bought some more seeds for my future garden. I already have herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro, dill and chives. I bought peas and tomatoes yesterday. The seeds were cheaper, too!

I think I'm also going to grow lettuces, but then that's it. It's my first garden, so I don't want to get overwhelmed.

Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinegar

I've been so, so busy. My cousin came to visit us, I've been swamped with work and we moved to Switzerland. All those were/are good things (even about the work), but the result has been that I have had NO spare time.

Also, I have not felt like cooking at all. I don't understand why, but for some reason I'm just loathing the thought of making anything more complicated than a salad.

So, here is the salad that I made today, with the lovely strawberries that are just starting to arrive.

Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinegar


3 c mâche or baby spinach
6-10 strawberries, washed, tops removed, hulled and halved
1.5 oz fresh soft goat's cheese (chevre)
1 scallion
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 t olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste


Wash the mâche/spinach and dry well. I like to use a salad spinner. They're cheap and fun (mine was $2 from Target), and effective. Arrange the strawberries and goat cheese on top. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the chopped scallion. Top with oil and vinegar.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I know it is extremely basic, but that's pretty much how I've been cooking recently. I'm really looking forward to summer ingredients, and lots of simple but flavorful salads like this one. After winter, I am officially sick of soups (didn't think it could even happen)!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Vote for McCain!

Not for president, but for pizza. I guess it's a Canadian brand, but they sell this delicious frozen pizza here, we simply call it "Pizza McCain." Although there are many flavors, it goes without saying that we are talking about the Supremania pizza with jambon et legumes.

Although BF wasn't fond of it, I also liked the Cheesymania with bleau cheese. Yummy!

We get it occasionally, though we've also started making our own pizzas using the same dough as for pirozhki. I've changed the recipe I use a bit, the proportions are pretty similar but there's less fat and I use buttermilk instead of water. I made a BBQ pizza which I thought was very tasty, and BF made one with Gruyere cheese and a really tasty cream sauce. I'll post recipes later.

I'm going to have a VERY busy next few days. My cousin is coming for a visit from Paris this weekend, so we will probably have lots of yummy French and Swiss-French food in restaurants. We'll be out of the office Friday to show them around. But, I have a big presentation on Monday. So, I have essentially tomorrow and half of Monday to finish it. Yikes!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Root Vegetable Soup

This soup was light but tasty, with flavors of spring and late winter.

Root Vegetable Soup


Water (I probably used about 6 cups)
1.5 cups lamb's lettuce or baby spinach
1/2 large turnip, cleaned, chopped into 1" cubes
1 small rutabaga, cleaned, chopped into 1" cubes
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped oyster mushrooms (can use any kind)
2 medium-large onions, sliced into pieces 1/4"-1/2" thick
2 T oil
1 T butter
1 Bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste
Soy sauce to taste (about 1 T)
1 small bunch dill, chopped
1 T dried parsley


Warm the oil and the butter together in a large pot. I use my 3 Qt. pot for all soups. Add the onions, sauteeing them. It helps if you sprinkle some salt over them. I let mine get just slightly caramelized. Add the mushrooms, celery and garlic. Sautee until the celery is really bright green, a couple of minutes. Add the water, rutabaga and turnip. Season to taste with salt, pepper, herbs and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and allow to cook till turnip and rutabaga are soft to your liking (I prefer them not absolutely soft). Just before serving, stir in lamb's lettuce or baby spinach.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I think the soup may also benefit from a little acidity, like some balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. It's tasty as is, but it's a subtle sort of tasty. The soup doesn't really take long to cook, either. Rutabagas and turnips take less time than potatoes, but if you want this to be more substantial you could add those too. I'm putting this in the "French" section because this just sort of came about from all the great French produce in (one of) my grocery store(s) yesterday. Everything in the soup was from France! It's not that common, we get a lot of produce from Africa and Spain. I try to buy as local as I can, though. *Edit* I just remembered that I put in parsley and dill as well. The dill was from Morocco, so I guess it wasn't a 100% French soup.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Celery and Apple Salad

We had this tonight with boiled potatoes and baked trout. (I'm trying to eat less meat, but it's mostly for health reasons, and fish are pretty good for you.) It's an attempt of mine to make a salad similar to one from the CERN cafeteria. The food there can be highly questionable, but some of it is surprisingly tasty.

Celery and Apple Salad


2 T nice mayonnaise
2 t nice mustard (I used a mild Dijon)
1 T apple cider vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 small bunch mint, chopped
1 T dried parsley

1 small apple, cored, quartered and sliced thinly
1/4 c cashew halves & wholes, crumbled
2 ribs of celery, chopped
4-5 cups lettuce, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste


In a salad bowl, mix the ingredients for dressing together well. Add the celery, apples and cashews. Mix well, season with salt and pepper. Add lettuce, and toss before serving.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: It had nice, understated flavors. Really springtime-like. I think the kind of mayo you use is important, and mustard too. We get insanely wonderful ones here, nothing like the mayo I remember in the States. Actually, I never ate mayo when I lived in the States, because I didn't like it. This recipe makes enough for about 5 side salad portions, or 3 large meal-type portions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Becoming Too Carnivorous

We've been eating a LOT of meat lately, I noticed. I guess it's because it's winter time and there isn't much variety of produce around, but I've decided I should take that as a challenge and try to get back into a more or less vegetarian lifestyle.

I like being semi-vegetarian for health and ethical reasons. Ethically, I don't believe that a meat based or meat-heavy diet is sustainable, and I don't believe that animals can be treated with dignity in a society that practices factory farming. From a health perspective, I just feel better when I don't eat a lot of meat.

I also want to start cooking more Indian food, and learn how to cook things that my grandmother used to. My mom cooked several Indian dishes regularly when I was growing up, but the major source of the variety in the Indian food we ate was my grandmother. She's gone now, but I hope I can rediscover some of the things she used to make.

Last night we went to an Indian restaurant right next to CERN. It was awful. My boyfriend thought it was "ok," but I was only willing to call it "edible" and even that was just because I was hungry. It was also grossly overpriced. I knew I could make better at home, so I'm going to start trying.

There's a Russian restaurant we've heard about in Geneva that's also extremely overpriced, but they have a cheaper lunch time buffet. We're going to try that out, and I'm really curious if my boyfriend will think it's bad, and if I'll think it's good.

Tonight I let him bring kebabs from the local Turkish restaurant. By "let" I mean I let him bring one for me, too, he's of course free to eat whatever he wants. Now I feel awful; too stuffed and guilty. We were at CERN working late, and I was lazy at the thought of cooking, and unhappy at the idea of eating the cafeteria's food. I think I'll post about the CERN cafeteria later, I'm sure that some people may be curious to know how the physicists at arguably the world's most famous lab eat.

I'm finding it really difficult to eat healthily; I don't know if it's the season. I feel like I should have found some sort of healthy-eating-routine by now, like I was able to find the last time I moved. But it's been almost a year, and I still haven't found a groove that works.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stuffed Tomatoes and Mushrooms

I made these last night for dinner. We needed to eat, and so I just sort of made this up on the spot. It turned out well, though I undersalted the filling (I always end up undersalting things).

Stuffed Tomatoes and Mushrooms


3 medium round tomatoes
3 large mushrooms
325 g ground beef
1/2 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 T dried parsley
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
1 egg
1 c tomato juice (something tasty enough you'd drink it)
60 g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced/shredded


Wash the mushrooms and the tomatoes. Slice their tops off and remove the insides of the tomatoes (a grapefruit spoon is awesome for this) and reserve for some other application (soup, salads, whatever). Remove the mushroom stems, chop them (just the stems) and place the pieces in a bowl. Arrange the tomatoes and mushrooms in a shallow baking pan or dish. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In the bowl with the mushroom pieces, prepare the filling. Add to the mushrooms the ground beef, garlic, onion, egg (beaten), herbs and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Stuff an equal amount of the mixture into each tomato and mushroom cap. You can stuff them with less and make more mushrooms/tomatoes if you want. Pour the tomato juice over everything. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cover each tomato/mushroom with cheese (you can use a different kind if you like) and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Notes and Serving Suggestions: I cooked mine for 10 minutes more than is listed here, and they were just the tiniest bit dry. I think that the times I've written here are better. We ate this with a big green salad (romaine, olives stuffed with garlic, onion, apple cider vinegar dressing) and spaghetti. You could use bell peppers, too, or some other vegetable. If you want to use less meat, add some rice to the mixture. For a vegetarian stuffing, I'd use rice, mushrooms, onion and maybe some kidney beans.

I know that tomatoes with spaghetti sounds very Italian, but I've never seen Italian stuffed tomatoes. I have seen them in Russian and Balkan cuisine, and in French, too. However, I have seen Italian stuffed mushrooms. I dunno. I'm putting them in the "Russian", "Italian", and "French" categories.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Pelmeni are basically Russian tortellini. But different. Does that make sense? The shape is essentially the same, and they are basically pasta, but the filling is different and they are served differently.

The standard pelmeni filling is ground meat (it can be a mix of beef, pork, lamb, my BF's mom even puts ground chicken in sometimes), onion, salt and pepper. I've never seen a different filling, and my BF looked at me like I was from another planet when I innocently asked, "Does anyone ever make pelmeni with minced fish inside?"

We made a bunch of them last night, it was a really satisfying meal.



2.5 glasses* of flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
water as needed (approximately 1/2 a glass)

1/4 medium onion
325 g ground meat (I used beef, 20% fat)
salt and pepper

*A "glass" is a measurement used in many Russian recipes. I believe it comes from the time when most household items were very standardized; everyone had glasses of pretty much the same size and design. The glass I used was a cup in volume, and it's very close to the size of the magic glass referred to in Russian recipes.


First prepare the dough. Place the flour and salt in a bowl, or if you're very awesome (which I'm not), on a clean dry surface, like a big wooden cutting board. Make a well in the center and add the egg. Start to mix, and add the water slowly, mixing as you go. You need to add enough such that you have a smooth, soft dough, but not too much or it will be sticky. If it gets a little too sticky, you can add extra flour, a little bit at a time. Knead the dough for a bit so it's supple and smooth.

Now prepare the filling. Mix the ground meat with chopped onion, add plenty of salt and pepper.

Roll out the dough very thinly on a floured large surface. Cut it into squares that are about 1.5" on each side. You can just use a "grid" method to do this, it's fast and efficient: make lines 1.5" apart going one direction, and then make them again in the direction 90 degrees away. Any pieces that are too small can be mixed together and re-rolled out.

Place a thimbleful of filling (about a teaspoon) on each square in the center. Now comes the tricky part, if you haven't done it before; the folding.


Above is my incredibly nerdy rendition of an unfolded pelmen. To fold one, first make a triangular pocket, bringing point D to point A, and pinching well to seal sides A/DB and A/DC.


Once you have a triangular pocket (poorly rendered above), bring points C and B together. You now have a finished pelmen. Repeat for the probably close to 100 squares you have!

This site has non-keyboard-generated pictures of the finished product, and of the preparation steps. They cut the dough into circles, which is also an option.

To cook them, bring lightly salted water or broth to a boil, and place them in the boiling water. Once they float, you can check the filling of one to see if it's ready. But I just let them all cook for a couple more minutes after they start to float, and then serve them.

Notes and Serving Suggestion: It's tedious. That's why this is usually a family activity, and I strongly encourage you to enlist help where you can. You can serve them in the water/broth they were cooked in, kind of as a soup. Otherwise, they can be eaten with butter, sour cream, vinegar, soy sauce, chopped greens on top, ketchup, whatever you want! My favorite is to put sour cream and chopped dill and parsely on them, eat them with the broth, or to eat them with soy sauce and apple cider vinegar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Last Night's Dinner 2.0

The Tomatoes Stuffed with Eggs that I tried to make last night came out really nicely. They were a little crunchy on top, and nice and liquidy in the yolk, which is how I like my eggs. I think next time I'll try putting something more flavorful in the bottom, maybe a nice pesto.

In other news, I'm seriously starting to consider kidnapping my boyfriend to Hawaii, where I will force him to cook that delicious roasted chicken and we will sell it to tourists for serious $$$. Ok, maybe not $$$. More like $. Sounds soooo much better than being a physicist, doesn't it? I think so, too.

Why Hawaii, you may ask? There are a couple of reasons. The first is that it's awesome, which should honestly be reason enough. The second is that I have a very fond memory involving Hawaii and chicken. I was like seven years old, and my family (mom, dad, sister, grandmother, grandfather) went on a vacation to Hawaii. I don't remember which island, because I was seven. I was pretty focused on being wary of the active volcano my parents thought it would be just fascinating to visit. Well, it was cool, but I was seven and it kinda freaked me out. Anyway, when we were driving around this island, I got to sit in the front seat and be the navigator while my dad was the pilot. Don't ask me how I scored that gig, but that's what happened. After lots of driving and not reaching our destination and reaching the end of the road, it was discovered that I had led us down the right road, but was holding the map upside down and we had gone completely the wrong way.

What's the point? The point is that at this end of the road was a stand selling the most delicious chicken ever. It was called "Huli Huli Chicken" and they had the things roasting over a spit and covered with some wonderful sauce. Needless to say, all was forgiven and I was branded the best navigator in our family.

Oven Dies at Inopportune Moment, or Tomatoes Stuffed with Eggs

Actually, "Gas runs out at inopportune moment" is more correct. So no oven or stove. And we don't have a microwave. All we have is an electric teapot and a toaster. AND it happens as we have two things in the oven: My Boyfriend's Roasted Chicken, and a new recipe I'm trying, Tomatoes Stuffed with Eggs (Russian site). We noticed just shortly after putting them in, so no food-safety issues, simply disappointing. We put the things in the fridge to prepare tomorrow. We were going to ask our colleague/friend/neighbor upstairs if we could use her oven, but she was out rock climbing. She lives a more exciting life than we do. :-D

I'll post the recipe for the tomatoes here, for any who don't speak Russian. I made a couple of small additions, but unfortunately I can't yet tell you how this recipe tastes! I'll update it tomorrow, after we buy a new gas bottle from the store. Of course, as of 7:45, every place selling these things was closed. That's France for you.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Eggs
original recipe at:

X medium-large tomatoes (where X is the number of tomatoes you want to make)
X smallish eggs (I buy large eggs, so I just picked the smallest ones from the carton)
X tablespoons ricotta cheese
X tablespoons chopped onion
X raw eggs in their shells
Salt and pepper

It's the first ingredient list that looks like a high-school algebra lesson! Yay! As for the tomatoes, you don't need like beefsteak tomato large ones, just a normal round tomato will do quite nicely.

Wash tomatoes and slice a thin slice off the top. Take out the seeds and inner flesh of each tomato. Using a grapefruit spoon works great. Don't discard the insides, use them in soup, a salad, eat them, whatever. Place tomatoes in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Place the chopped onion and ricotta cheese at the bottom of each tomato, then crack a whole egg into each tomato. You can salt and pepper again, and then pop into the oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). From the picture on the site, the yolks will be runny and the whites set.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: To serve, plate and sprinkle over with chopped green herbs of your choice. I'm going to do dill and parsley, but basil, green onion, maybe coriander and mint, would all work beautifully. About egg size: assuming you use normally sized tomatoes, if you make a lot of these it may be worth it to buy a carton of small/medium eggs. I used large, and there was a little spillage over the edge, but since I only made 4 and since it was the first time trying it, I didn't buy any special eggs. I think this would be a good addition to a dinner (main course, with pasta, rice, or a big salad in the summer) or a nice little appetizer. Or even a breakfast.

The Original Recipe: What a great site! I look forward to trying many more from there. I spent a good hour and a half today just reading recipes on that site. I counted it as "practicing Russian" and not "shamelessly ogling tasty food." The recipe is for two tomatoes, but I don't think cooking time will change much. It also notes that you can add the greens before baking, to make them softer, and that you can add things other than eggs (as I did). It suggests ham, sausage or fried mushrooms (yummy!).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The CbG idea + food rut + Diet (Carrot and Feta Salad)

So, I think that the Cheap but Good thing was a good idea, but I'm getting a little burned out on it. Maybe it's because for a while there, it was so essential to us to find the cheapest way to do things, but now that the euro isn't doing so well, we've relaxed a little. Anyway, my standard "bag of tricks" is getting exhausted. I'm going to continue the idea, but not hold myself to a once a week post; when I find something good, be it a recipe or an idea, I'll post. I'd rather post when I have an idea that I really want to share, than post just for the sake of posting.

We're kind of in a food rut here ... my boyfriend actually got sick of soups, and lately we're eating a lot of salads. Part of it is that I don't have the time at the moment for a lot of more complicated cooking. At least the salads are healthy, and easy to vary.

Bringing me to the last part, "me on a diet." Since I moved to France, about 7 kilograms (that's about 15 POUNDS) has mysteriously affixed itself to my body. Ok, so it's not so mysterious. I think it's mostly due to living with a man; he eats more and more often than I should, and I've fallen into the habit of eating when he does. (And eating what he does, not always a good thing). I've decided that I'd really like to get back to my old self again, if only for the reason that I'll once more be able to wear a good half of my wardrobe. So, food is probably going to get a lot more vegetable-y around here, for one thing. And that's not bad.

I made a salad last night that was really good. It was simple, but for some reason I found it really tasty. It was bright, slightly sweet, filling and satisfying.

Carrot and Feta Salad


2 T apple cider vinegar
2 t honey
1 T olive oil
1 T dried parsley
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 small tart apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
50 g of feta cheese (I used full-fat sheeps milk feta)
4-5 c of lettuce, roughly chopped (I used Batavia lettuce, I think it's a butterhead variety)


In a large salad bowl, assemble the dressing: first the vinegar, then whisk in the honey, then whisk in the oil. Stir in the parsley (I crumble it slightly) and the garlic clove. Add the grated carrot and the apple, toss well in the dressing till it's all covered. Add the cheese, and mix. Now add the lettuce. You could toss it, or do what I did and just serve it at this point.

Notes and Serving Suggestions: I didn't toss the salad, it was nice to scoop it out and see the layers. I got a bunch of lettuce and the tasty apple-carrot-cheese mix on top. This makes enough for about 4 generous side/appetizer portions. I had 1/3 of it, with a boiled potato that had just a little sour cream on top. It was a pretty satisfying meal.

Calorie Count: In the entire salad, there are 461 calories.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CbG: Whole Chickens

Have I mentioned before that my boyfriend can cook? I have? Well, I'll say it again: he knows his way around a kitchen, and there are some things he does better than I do. Not saying that I should be inherently better at it or anything, but I do get a LOT more practice.

Anyway, we are now adding "roasted chicken" to the list of things that BF is responsible for cooking. We've been buying a whole chicken for the past couple of weekends, and I've been using them to make a simple but delicious chicken broth. But this weekend, he wanted to take charge of the bird's lower half, while I made the broth with the breast as usual. The result was soooo good!

My Boyfriend's Roasted Chicken


Lower portion of a chicken (the back, thighs and legs), reserve the upper (breast, wings) for soup
About 1/4 c mayonnaise
1 t garlic salt
1 t crushed black peppercorns
1 T dried parsley, or 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle the seasonings all over the chicken, separating the skin from the flesh. Make sure that you get both the skin and the flesh. Now, spread the mayo all over, especially between skin and flesh. Roast, loosely covered with foil, until juices run clear.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: This was so good. When it finished, we had already eaten something else for dinner (this was intended to be for the next day). It smelled so great when it came out of the oven, that I told myself, "I'll just take a taste." A taste turned into half a chicken!

Simple Chicken Broth


1 bunch of fresh dill
1 handful of fresh parsley
4 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
1/4 t celery salt
Upper portion of 1 chicken
Water to cover
Salt to taste


Peel and halve the carrot. Halve the onion and garlic cloves. Wash the fresh herbs, and I like to use a long sprig of dill to tie them into a bunch, to keep them all in one place. Sprinkle the celery salt over the chicken. Place all the ingredients in a large pot, cover with water. Allow it to come to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours, skimming any foamy stuff off the surface. Remove chicken and vegetables. Salt to taste.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: My favorite way to eat homemade chicken broth is simple. Place chopped fresh dill, parsley and onion in a serving bowl, and add steaming hot broth. Cooked rice and some of the chopped chicken is another nice addition.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Amy's Knock-Off

I made the filling tonight for another round of pirozhki. As I said before, I was going for a knock-off version of the Amy's Roasted Vegetable Pizza topping. I think it was pretty successful!

"Amy's" Roasted Vegetable Pizza Topping


8 small onions (I did 7 yellow, 1 red)
2-3 T oil (I used sunflower)
1/4 c nice balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
2 roasted red peppers (make your own if you like, I used jarred ones)
About 4 artichoke hearts (frozen, canned, bottled, fresh cooked)*
1 1/2 cups of shiitake or oyster mushrooms (I used oyster)

*I didn't read the can on mine that carefully, turns out I actually bought artichoke bottoms. Also tasty, and much less expensive.


Caramelize the onions. When done caramelizing, deglaze the pan/pot with balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat. Chop the mushrooms, stir them into the onions. At this point: if you're going to use this for pizza, I suggest spreading this mix over your pizza crust, and then topping with strips of pepper and whole artichoke hearts (you may want to use more of them in this case). If you're going to use it to stuff a sandwich/pirozhki, or even to mix with pasta: chop the artichokes and the peppers slightly larger than the mushrooms and stir it all together. It's ready to go!

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I think this would be really nice on a pizza, or stuffed into a baguette for a quick sandwich. You could also easily use it as a dip at a party. It was tasty and easy! The most time consuming thing is slicing so many onions (and I sliced them pretty fine), and taking the time to caramelize them nicely. But, it is a great thing to make ahead and have around. You could even put it into small containers and freeze for fast use. As far as whether or not this tastes like Amy's version, well, I think it is very similar, but I think hers uses less red pepper. In my version, the red pepper over-dominated a bit. This may also be because her version uses tomatoes and a little lemon juice ... maybe the acidity balances out the pepper and the sweetness of the onions and balsamic vinegar.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Food in France

In general, the food in France is of much better quality than what I usually had access to in America. The produce in grocery stores is more varied, generally of higher quality and often more "local." The cheeses are bountiful and exude flavors, smells and textures I have never experienced in their American counterparts. And the eggs. My god, the cheapest eggs here are better than the organic free-range ones I used to buy back home. Let's not even get started on the restaurants, which simply are not comparable in most cases.

However, this foodie paradise comes with one caveat, which is good, or bad, or just plainly a fact of life, depending on your point of view. That is simply this: food here is variable. This may be a difficult concept for many of my fellow Americans to understand, as it initially was for me. It may in fact be so foreign that you have no idea what I mean. Allow me to explain as best I can.

When I walk into either of the three supermarkets that I frequent, I do not see strawberries in the month of January. Why? Because strawberries are not in season, and people would not dream of eating them in January. Sure, they are in season in other countries, and you could conceivably ship them to said grocery store, in hopes of selling them. But I doubt you'd be very successful. And the reason for that is--brace yourself here--to the French, eating strawberries in January is equally as weird as the idea of strawberries not being available at any time of year is to you.

But when I say that food here is variable, I mean more than that. I mean that when I walk into the grocery store with "oyster mushrooms" or "plain oatmeal" on my shopping list, I may not be able to find it, even if I found the very same product on the shelves of the very same store only a few days earlier.

Then there is the question of "Why is it even necessary to go to three different supermarkets?" (Not on the same day, of course.) That would be because they sell different things, despite the fact that they are, theoretically, competitors. Realistically, that isn't the way it works here. People aren't turned off by the idea of doing their shopping in more than one place; they're used to it, as that is the way it's traditionally done. Even if all the supermarkets did carry identical stock, it's likely that shoppers would subconsciously not trust this, and visit more than one anyway.

When food on French grocery shelves runs out, it is not instantly replenished. If you want bread, you should shop right after work, or it will be gone. Likewise for the popular mushroom variety, Champignon de Paris. Show up at seven o'clock in the evening, and you will be left with a few damp, mushy and misshapen specimens to choose from.

Holiday marketing does exist here, but is a smaller scale operation, both in terms of the quantity of goods and the duration for which they are available. In the largest store I habitually visit, there are presently three aisles devoted to Asian products for the Chinese New Year. Or, I should say, there were, last week. Today, half an aisle remains. When that stock sells out, more will not be ordered until next year. This is likely true for even the very popular items. I estimate that the total time holiday-centric goods remain available is a month, but, like most other food related things here, I wouldn't count on that as a constant.

In addition to food here being variable, it is, of course, simply different in ways. This is due, in some part, to geographical constraints--species that thrive in Texas are not ideally suited to grow in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, after all. However, I am certain that cultural preference plays its role. Take two plant species, for example: malus domestica (the apple), and solanum tuberosum (the potato). While both of these plants, and the bounty from them that we ultimately consume, are readily available in both France and America, there are noticeable differences in the varieties one would actually encounter during a routine grocery shopping expedition.

In America, arguably the most popular incarnations of these products are the Red Delicious apple and the Russet potato. They do not exist here. This in itself means nothing. Far more telling is the fact that nothing comparable to them exists here. There are no apples, at least not for sale in stores, that exhibit the almost candy-like utter sweetness and flat one-dimensionality of the Red Delicious. As for potatoes, they are overwhelmingly of the waxy variety. I occasionally see floury types, comparable to the Russet, but I would not by any means say that they are widely available. And they are much, much smaller than the Russet. I can only conclude that this is simply due to a widespread difference in what is considered "good food," both in terms of what is tasty and what is visually appealing.

All these aspects of the local food culture--coupled with the fact that the concept of 24/7 does not exist here--were initially frustrating. But, now I think that these circumstances have shaped me into a better, more frugal and more daring cook. When things are not conveniently available, you learn to make them yourself. When items you usually use are nowhere to be found, you must learn which substitutes work and which don't. Perhaps most importantly, you learn to lighten up, and just enjoy cooking and eating that miraculous stuff we put in our mouths--food!--because, after all, what you're eating now may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weekend Cooking Project: Healthy Pirozhki

I'm going to make pirozhki again, mostly because I'm crazy in love with that beautiful, yeasty dough, and also because I just plain like bread pockets with stuff inside.

In that vein, my mission is going to be to "duplicate" a certain Amy's product that I've loved for years, but that I think has now been discontinued (not that I get Amy's products here, anyway). That would be the pocket sandwich stuffed with the topping from the Roasted Vegetable Pizza. I don't have shitakes, which are on the ingredient list, and I'm not especially inclined to go out and find them. But I'll work something out.

Mainly, I plan on making the dough itself healthier by using 50% whole wheat flour, 50% white flour and slightly less vegetable oil. I also plan on not relenting to the sad face my BF will put on when he finds out I intend to bake these ones.

So, I'm going to have some that have the "Amy's" filling, some with the carrot and onion stuffing I loved so much last week, and lastly, some dessert ones. The chief reason for making dessert ones is to clean out the jam jars and some of the frozen fruit in my refrigerator. I kind of plan on mixing them all together, and possibly adding some ricotta cheese to the filling, too. We'll see how it turns out. If I'm successful with the "Amy's" one, it'll be a major victory, since those products are so good but very expensive.

I may also try to make paneer, but I'm a bit lazy to do so, since ricotta serves as a fine replacement for the unpressed version.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cheap but Good: Explore your pantry, freezer and fridge

I don't know about you, but I somehow always end up with half used quantities of food in my freezer and fridge. Usually this happens when I buy a food item, planning to use it to make a certain dish, and I don't end up using all of it. It also happens that sometimes I stock my pantry too well, and forget just what canned or dried foods I have in there. I got to thinking about this, and came to the conclusion that I would probably save a lot of money if I tried more often to cook from what I already have in my kitchen. To test how well this could work out, I examined my pantry, freezer and fridge with the goal of creating something delicious without making a trip to the store for anything.

Here's what happened:

Today I had a few mushrooms and 200 g of ground beef left from pirozhki making. I definitely wanted to use the beef, because there wasn't room in the (tiny French) freezer to freeze it. And I'm always a fan of mushrooms, so I decided to use those too. Besides, if I didn't they'd get mushy soon. So I put the beef and the mushrooms on my kitchen table. Looked around some more, but it seemed that everything else would keep pretty well (random cheese, cabbage, pickles) or was already assigned to be eaten for lunch (lettuce, green onions). Ok, moving on to the freezer.

There I found a bag of chopped frozen spinach left from making palaak paneer. It had started out as a 1 kilo bag and there was only 250 g left or so. The lump of spinach was taking up precious freezer space, especially due to the awkward shape. I put it on the table to use. Things were interesting in the freezer. That's because my BF is a total carnivore and buys random meat when there's a good deal. Or when he thinks it just looks tasty. Which brings me to the 500 g of Italian sausage that was sitting in there. I took it out, placed it on the table, and examined my ingredients.

Beef, sausage, mushrooms, spinach. I thought I'd go with something Italian due to the sausage, which I planned on taking out of it's casing and mixing with the beef. Ok, if we're going Italian, let's look in the pantry and see what's available in the way of pasta.

The pantry expedition was the deciding factor in what I'd make. There I spotted, shoved towards the back, a box of never-opened no-pre-cooking-needed lasagna noodles. Interesting. I didn't remember buying them. I asked BF, "Did you buy these?" It turns out he did ... before we even started dating (we're going on two years). :-D But I checked the expiration date, and it was fine. Besides, they'd never been opened.

Fine, it looked like I was gonna make lasagna. Beef, sausage, mushrooms, spinach, noodles. Well, can't really have a lasagna without cheese (or tofu), so I went back to the fridge to see what was available. There was an unopened tub of ricotta. Aw, I had wanted to eat that with canned peaches (I love ricotta with fruit)! But, now I was kind of set on lasagna, so I put it on the table too. But what about mozzarella to go on top? We didn't have any. But I did spot nearly 250 g of chaource cheese. I thought to myself, "If they can put reblachon on pizza, I can use that to top a lasagna." I also grabbed an egg to mix with the ricotta, 2 cloves of garlic and got a 800 g can of peeled Roma tomatoes from the pantry (we always have a few cans of those around).



500 g Italian sausage, removed from casing
200 g ground beef
1 800 g can peeled Roma tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
250 g frozen chopped spinach
3 medium white mushrooms, chopped
1 egg
1 250 g tub of ricotta cheese
20 no-cooking-needed lasagna noodles
Salt to taste
1 T dried parsley
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried basil
About 250 g chaource cheese


Mix the beef and the sausage. Brown, then mix in the tomatoes (chopped), with their juice. Reserve a bit of the juice (about 1/2 cup). Salt the mixture to taste. In a saucepan, warm the spinach and the mushrooms until the spinach is completely thawed. Cool slightly, and mix with ricotta cheese and chopped garlic. Salt to taste, then mix with beaten egg. Spread the bottom of a large baking dish with the reserved tomato juice. Place a layer of 4 noodles over this. Cover noodles with 1/3 meat mixture. Layer 4 noodles again. Cover noodles with 1/2 spinach mixture. Repeat: noodles, meat, noodles, spinach, noodles, meat. Sprinkle top meat layer with the dried herbs. Cut chaource into 8 even wedges; reserve for later. Place lasagna into oven preheated to 350 degrees F (gas mark 6 in France). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and top with chaource wedges arranged in a 2x4 matrix. Put lasagna back into oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Notes: Placing sauce/juice before the first layer of noodles is important if you don't want the lasagna to stick. When you remove it from the oven, there will be a lot of liquid around the lasagna. If you let it rest, that won't be a problem. This will form sort of a sauce (just the right amount). For vegetarian lasagna, make a marinara sauce and cut zucchini or eggplant into slices. Instead of the meat layer, put a little sauce, then arrange the veg slices, then top with some more sauce.

Serving Suggestion: Technically I'm going to say that this makes 8 servings, although they are large servings. I think that 1/16 of the lasagna with a nice green salad would be enough for me on most days!

UPDATE: I just did a calorie calculation for this dish, and it is NOT a light-weight. One eighth of it has 575 calories. Yikes!