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.