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.