Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lightly-Fried Mackerel (serves 2)

fried mackerel
There are many ways to prepare mackerel or similar fish. Growing up this is one of the ways we ate the fish we caught. First, catch or buy the fish, preferably whole. Second, clean the fish (scale--if there is any and gut the fish), trim off the fins and hack the whole fish into roughly one-inch cross-sections. Third, sprinkle a little freshly ground pepper, salt on both sides and lightly fry in a small amount of oil until done. Sometimes we ate the fish with rice, a large platter of fresh herbs, lettuce, cucumber and tomato slices and hot chili pepper dipping sauce.  Sometimes we wrapped a piece of fish meat with herbs/vegetables and cooked rice noodles on a rice sheet and dipped in a sauce. However you eat the fish it will be delicious!

Lightly-Fried Mackerel (serves 2)

Ingredients:

1 whole fish, clean and cut through the bones into 1-inch cross-sections
Pinches of salt
Pinches of freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Method:

1) Dry the fish slices. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides.
2) Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
3) Once the pan is hot add the fish. Cover with a splatter guard if you have any.  Cook each side about 4-5 minutes or until the outside is slightly crisp and the inside is cooked thoroughly.

*If you are not used to eating fish with bones then you might as well skip this recipe. However, if you are willing to give it a try, be careful of the small bones!
*You can slice the fish head in half and then fry it. You can serve the head.  Remember the head does have some good meat so don't waste it! If you find that sharing a meal with mini-jaws at the dinner table unappetizing then discard the head.

"gone fishing" with one of my nephews
my brother teaching his son to fish (summer 2013)
Chocorua Lake (NH)
ice fishing on Chocorua lake
*Fishing is a hobby for some people...no matter the season or the temperature.  Here in the Northeast some of us fish even when we have to drill a hole in the ice (to get to the water)!

Aunt Marja's Maastrichts Zuurvelees (serves 5-6)


This is my first Dutch recipe for this blog.  A few years ago my husband and I visited relatives in the Netherlands.  His lovely aunt, Marja made us this unforgettable and delicious beef stew, known as Maastrichts zuurvelees on our last day.  I must say it was the best meal that I have ever had in Holland.  I remember the stew had a very flavorful thick gravy.  I could not pick out all the subtle flavors that day.  Recently she shared with me her recipe and I believe the key ingredients to her stew are apple syrup and gingerbread, to which she said give "a nostalgic old Dutch touch".  I also find incorporating the gingerbread helps this stew with not only the unique flavor but to thicken it.  I admit her stew was much better than mine!  Thank you Aunt Marja for a memorable dinner and your recipe!!

After making the stew and giving it a taste there is a hint of the Vietnamese beef stew called bo kho.  Although, this stew appears to have slightly more complex flavors than bo kho.  I especially like the thicker sauce.  

I made this special stew for my father-in-law's 80th birthday.  He left the Netherlands, his family, and friends when he was a young man to study and work in United States.  He rarely travels much these days and I hope this stew will transport him back to the Holland he left so many decades ago, even if it's just for one small meal.  Happy birthday to one extraordinary man whom my husband and I highly admire and adore!! 

Eet smakelijk as he would say!

Ingredients:

3-lbs beef, cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch cubes
About 1/2 C all-purpose flour (for dredging beef cubes), optional
Oil for browning meat
1 onion, peeled, chopped (about a cupful)
10-oz water
3 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces 
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
1/2 tsp dried or 2-3 fresh sprigs of thyme
1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (depending on your taste)
32-oz low-sodium, low-fat beef broth
2 Tbsps smooth mustard
2-3 slices of gingerbread (depending on how large the size of your slice)
3 Tbsps apple syrup
1/4 tsp salt (or according to taste), optional

Method:

1) Dredge the cubed meat in flour.
2) Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium high heat, once the pan is hot brown the meat. May use more oil as you continue to brown the rest of the meat.  May turn heat slightly lower if pan gets too hot.  Set browned meat aside in a large pot (use one that you will use later to cook the stew).
3) Add onion to the pan and sauté until the onion is translucent.  Place onion in the pot.
4) Add water to the pan and gently scrape up the brown residue stuck to the bottom of pan.  Once the residue has been lifted off the bottom, add this liquid to the pot.
5) Place carrots, bouillon cubes, bay leaves, cloves, thyme, black pepper, and broth to the pot.
5) Spread the mustard on the gingerbread slices and put them on top of the meat.  Drizzle the apple syrup on top.
6) Turn the heat to medium high.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Stir and scrap up the bottom about every 20 minutes during this step.
7) After about 2 hours of cooking, increase the heat slightly, uncover the pot and let the liquid cooks off for about 15 minutes.  This will reduce the gravy to a slightly thicker consistency.
8) Add salt if desired.


*You may use a bag, bowl or plate to dredge a little meat at a time.  However, it is not necessary to dredge the meat with flour.  The flour helps thicken the sauce slightly.  You may brown the plain meat as Aunt Marja does with her stew.  Browning the meat helps keep the moisture in the meat and also prevent each piece of meat from disintegrated into bits at the end of cooking.
*When browning the meat, place enough meat just to cover the surface of the pan; avoid overcrowding.  Once browned I place them in a large pot that I will use for stewing the meat later.  After all the meat is browned.  I use the same pan and sauté the onion.  I then add water to the pan to help lift the thick brown residue that stuck to the bottom of the pan--that has a lot of flavor so don't discard this!  Once all the residue is removed from the bottom I pour this into the pot.
*You can use any oil or butter to brown the meat.  I used olive oil since I have this available and it's healthier for consumption. 
*You may use any large pot you have available at home.  I like my cast iron pot.  I have a large one that I use regularly.  I find that my food cooks faster and it's more energy efficient.  If you use other types of pots the stew may take longer.  Aunt Marja said it normally cooks roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to get the meat tender.
*It's better to make your own beef broth from scratch.  However, if you don't have any on hand or the time, you can use store bought broth.  I prefer to use one that is low in sodium and fat; this way I can control the amount of salt that goes into in my food.  If you don't have beef broth you can also use water.  However, you may add a few more beef bouillon cubes if you are using water.
*You may purchase apple syrup in a market (if it's available for sale).  Aunt Marja mentioned you may substitute with pear syrup.  If you cannot find these items you may make some on your own.  See Home-made Apple Syrup or Aunt Marja's Appelstroop for the recipe. She also specifically said to use smooth mustard for this stew.   I had some honey mustard in my refrigerator so I used this.
*Use any gingerbread available or make one using your favorite recipe.  If you need a gingerbread recipe check out kingauthurflour.com.  This website has a very good gingerbread recipe.  In fact I used it for this stew!  I made the gingerbread a few weeks ago.  I saved a few slices, wrapped well in plastic and kept them in the freezer to be used in this stew.  It turned out well. 
*You may remove and discard the bay leaves, cloves, and thyme stems prior to serving.
*You can serve this stew with pretty much anything you want.  I like this stew over noodles with extra vegetables on the side or simply by itself with toasted baguette or crusty bread.

Maastricht, Holland
home-made gingerbread
home-made apple syrup

Aunt Marja's Appelstroop

After I made my simple apple syrup Aunt Marja sent me her appelstroop recipe.   Here is exactly how the syrup is made, the Dutch way!  You can use this syrup over pancakes, crepes, toast, making stew, or anything you find fitting.  Thank you Aunt Marja!!

Uncle Jan Willem & Aunt Marja with Beau (in Zutphen)




Ingredients:

2.5 kg sweet, ripe apples
250 mL water
250 g white or brown sugar

Method:

1) Wash the apples, cut them into pieces and then place them into a pan or pot with the peel and core.
2) Add water, cover the pan or pot and let them cook for 1 hour until soft.
3) Place a cloth inside a colander, place it over a pot, pour the cooked apples in the cloth lined colander.
4) Twist the cloth with your hands and squeeze to extract as much liquid out as you can.
5) Add sugar into the pot and cook over medium heat until the liquid becomes syrupy.  When a spoonful of liquid drips down like a thread then it is done.  Avoid cooking too long because after cooling the liquid will turn thicker.

*Be sure to use a piece of clean cloth that is larger than the area of your colander.  You may use a clean cotton cloth.  You will definitely get a good workout making this syrup!

windmills in Zaandam

Home-Made Apple Syrup (yields about 3 tablespoons)


This is my version of the Dutch apple syrup or appelstroop as my father-in-law tells me.  You can use a similar process to make syrup from other fruits.  However, making this particular syrup is time consuming, and it is available (somewhere in this world) for purchase if you can find it!  

My husband remembers eating appelstroop drizzled over toast as a child.  However, he said the  appelstroop was thick, dark, molasses-like and very sweet.

The process of making syrup provoked some thoughts of my own personal reasons for cooking.  I often heard people commenting that they cook for relaxation.  This week one of the doctors I work with shared with me that he cooks for this simple reason.  I believe I cook out of necessity, for the convenience, and creativity.  Looking at this recipe, I took two perfectly good apples and turned them into roughly 3 tablespoons of syrup.  I hardly find that relaxing knowing I put in an hour of my time and barely got much out of the apples! 

Ingredients:

2 apples (peeled, cored, finely sliced)
5 Tbsp sugar (or according to your taste)
3/4 C water

Method:

1) Heat a small pan or pot over medium high heat.
2) Add apple,sugar, and water.
3) Once the contents start to boil, turn heat down to low and cover the pot.
4) Let it cook for about 1/2 hour, stir a few times during the cooking process.
5) Remove pan/pot, cool and strain contents using cotton cloth.
6) Return the liquid to the pan/pot.
7) Let the liquid simmer to a reduction, another 1/2 hour or until sauce is thicken.

*Use any types of apples you prefer.  I used 1 golden delicious and 1 granny smith apple for this recipe.  I peeled and cored my apples so I can eat the pulp later.  However, it is not necessary to peel or core the apples for this recipe.
*Another idea is to put the fruit in a juicer then take the juice and reduce this afterwards.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chicken Teriyaki (serves 3-4 as a main meat dish or 6-8 as appetizers)


Sometimes when I stop by a food court either in a shopping mall or Quincy Market some of the vendors give out a piece of their chicken bourbon or chicken teriyaki on a toothpick.  For some reason I always find it to be too sweet but yet tasty with lots of plain steamed rice and steamed vegetable pieces.  Perhaps by the time I go searching for food I am nearly passing out from starvation!  Today I had some boneless chicken thighs left so I decided to make chicken teriyaki.  It's snowing and I am feeling lazy so I decided to pan fry the chicken instead of grilling.  It came out very moist and tasty with just the right balance of saltiness and sweetness.  Serve this with rice, noodles, toasted baguette or anything you prefer.  You can even make a sandwich with fresh herbs/vegetables with the leftovers!

marinade using a zip-lock bag
(convenient and mess free!)
Ingredients:

2 pounds chicken thigh, boneless, skinless, trimmed fat,cut into 1-inch by 2-inch pieces.
1/3 C teriyaki sauce (recipe to follow)
2 Tbsp chopped scallions or 2 scallions cut into 2-inch lengths
About 1 tbsp of oil for frying

Method:

1) In a zip-lock bag or glass container combine all ingredients.
2) Let it marinade at least one hour in the refrigerator.
3) Pan fry in a little oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each side or until the meat is cooked.
4) May sprinkle some chopped scallions on top before serving.

*The chicken will come out tender and moist despite removing all the skin and most of the fat.
*Normally I prefer to buy chicken with bone.  However, I made a mistake shopping the other day and bought 2 large packages with boneless chicken thighs.  I used 1 package for chicken curry and was not exactly sure what to do with this package until this morning.  Sometimes a mistake can turn into something positive!


This teriyaki sauce is made according to my taste.  You can certainly adjust the amount of sugar according to yours.  This simple sauce can be used to marinade chicken, duck, pork, fish, shrimp or even hearts, the imagination is yours!  Although if you are using duck make sure to save the duck fat and render it for cooking!!  If you have high cholesterol or borderline high you can disregard this last comment.

Teriyaki Sauce (makes about 2/3 cups)

Ingredients:

1/3 C soy sauce
1/3 C rice wine
1/4 C sugar
1 large garlic clove (grated)*
1 Tbsp of grated ginger*

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium high heat, cook in gently boiling heat for about 8-10 minutes until sugar has dissolved and the sauce is slightly reduced.

*May add more garlic and ginger if you prefer these flavors in the sauce.

Grilled Camel Steaks (serves 2)

camel tenderloin steak
When it comes to eating a camel, do you prefer one hump or two?  Either way I don't think I can ever distinguish from eating the meat.  My husband and I ate camel for the first time last summer but it was ground camel meat; we made camel-burgers.  I ate mine with a mixture of mayo-sriracha sauce and grilled baguette.  My husband ate his with horseradish.  Both ways were equally tasty!  Recently we came across camel steaks at the market so we decided to try them but in a different preparation. We bought one of each, tenderloin and sirloin steaks.

I usually like to grill my steaks with just a simple salt and fresh ground pepper rub, this keeps the flavor clean and let me actually taste the meat.  After a taste test we both agreed the tenderloin is a lot more tender than the sirloin...maybe this is the reason that it's called "tender" loin!  We also concluded that camel tastes very much like grass-fed beef.  

Grilled Camel Steak

Ingredients:

2 camel steaks (about 4 oz each)
Hawaiian sea salt (or any sea salt)
Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

1) Wash the steaks with water, dab with towel to dry.
2) Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of each steak.
3) Pre-heat the grill to about 350 degrees, grill each side for about 4 minutes (or according to your taste).

*The amount of time needed to grill depending on your grill, the atmosphere's temperature and the cut of the meat.  The temperature outside is 25 degrees F during the grilling so it took a little more time than normal.  Also, it's depending on how done you prefer your steaks.  We like our steaks medium done and these steaks were about 4 ounces each.  

Fresh Home-Made Spinach Pasta 

Preferably home-made but you can use any types of pasta.  Cook according to the instruction.  For the fresh home-made pasta it takes about 2 minutes (depending on the thickness of the pasta) to cook.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts-Peppers-Fennel

Ingredients:

18-20 baby brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
4 mini sweet peppers, ends trimmed, de-seeded, julienned
1/3 anise fennel, end trimmed, cored, julienned
1/2 C beef stock (low fat, low sodium)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 tsp Better Than Bouillon (beef base)
A pinch of sugar

Method:

1) In a small pan over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and beef stock.
2) Once the broth just come to a boil, add all the vegetables, stir a few times and let cook for about 8 minutes.  Turn heat slightly down let the broth cook off to a reduction.
3) Add Better Than Bouillon and sugar.  Stir.
4) Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Turn of heat once the butter has melted.  Give the contents a few tosses.

edible bouquet
*If you happen to reduce the sauce too much then you can always add a little more broth at the end.
*If you are in Massachusettes and have an interest in cooking camel or what some people may called "exotic" meat you may check out Savenor's Butcher & Market located in Boston and Cambridge.  I normally shop at the one in Boston and every time I look inside  I always find something I want to try. Once they had lion meat for sale and I heard that caused quite a stir on Beacon Hill!
*I have always been fascinated by fruit or vegetable carving.  Recently I came across Mutita EdibleArt.  She makes the art of carving effortless.  This is my first bouquet made from carrots and scallions.  If you would like to learn how to carve you can watch Mutita on the many lessons she has available for free on-line.  You may also contact her directly if you have questions: mutita.edibleart@gmail.com. Thank you Mutita for sharing your knowledge and talents with us!!

Home-Made Spinach Pasta (makes about 2 pounds)



Eating alone does not mean having to eat frozen dinners or take-out, at least not for me.  My husband is out of town and I am inspired to make pasta while listening to Vietnamese music!  Recently I saw two places that displayed their colorful pasta, reminding me to make some myself.  Making your own pasta is simple, cheap and delicious!  If you are on a food budget then this is a very inexpensive way to feed yourself and your loved ones.  Besides, this spinach pasta is so pretty making your next meal more exciting to eat!

Ingredients:

6-oz spinach, stems removed, washed well, sliced thinly or chopped finely
3 1/4 C all-purpose flour (plus about 1/4 C more for kneading and dusting)
5 large eggs, room temperature

Method:

1) Cook the spinach in about a cup gently boiling water for about 2 minutes, stir until all the greens are just wilted.
2) Remove from heat, drain, and let spinach cool naturally.  Once cooled squeeze as much water out with your hands and set aside.
3) Pour the flour in the work area.  Make a well in the center and add all the egg yolks and white in the center of the well.
4) Stir the eggs with a fork and then slowly incorporate the eggs into the flour. Then with your hand (s) mix until the eggs are well blended into the flour.  Add the spinach.  Knead with your palm (s) until everything is well blended (about 8-10 minutes).  May add more flour for dusting and kneading. Wrap the dough loosely or put it in a plastic bag and let it rest about 30 minutes to 1 hour before using.  The dough may be kept overnight in the refrigerator; before using let the dough return to room temperature.
5) Cut the dough into manageable pieces (about 6 to 8).  Keep one dough out to work and the rest in a bag, plastic wrap or container to prevent them from drying out.
6) Take one piece of dough, sprinkle with flour as needed, roll it into a log shape, and flatten it slightly with a rolling pin or your palm.  Then feed the dough (using the widest setting on the pasta machine) through a few times.  Sprinkle more flour if needed.  After this, run it through a thinner setting 2-3 times.  Sprinkle some extra flour and pat the pasta sheet down.
7) Run the final sheet of pasta to the desired final cut or fold the pasta sheet and cut with a knife.  Separate each strip individually by hand, dust with a little flour and store them in a container with a cover.
8) Once all the cutting is complete either cook the pasta in gently boiling water for about 2-5 minutes (depending on the thickness of your pasta) or keep them in a sealed container in the refrigerator to be used later.

blanched and squeezed spinach
loosely wrapped pasta, let it rest
30 minutes to 1 hour before using
hand cut pasta to desire shape and size
*The humidity level is extremely low where I am and I did not have to add much more flour during the pasta making process. 
*If the dough has been kept in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day take the dough out and let it return to room temperature before manipulating it.  The dough may be a little damp once removed.  If this happens to your dough, sprinkle a little flour to make it less sticky and damp.  
*What I find is that this recipe is best eaten fresh.  Once completed the pasta may be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week in a tightly sealed container.  I noticed the completely dried pasta strands do not taste as good but tend to break easily during cooking.  
*Many cookbooks will tell you to cook the pasta in salted water and some will instruct you to add both salt and oil.  I can safely say it is ok to cook without either one or both.  I prefer not to cook the pasta with the extra salt.  What I do add is a drizzle of olive oil after the pasta has been drained, give it a little toss to prevent the pasta from clumping or sticking together.
*If you do not have a pasta machine you can roll the dough out with a rolling pin and use a knife to cut the pasta to the desired shape.  The machine makes the job much easier and faster.  However, hand cut the pasta will make it more interesting looking.  I have made the pasta using machine cut and hand cut.  I prefer the hand cut.
*If you want to have greener pasta (see below) then use 8 ounces finely sliced spinach, 3 cups flour and 3 eggs.  The dough will be a bit difficult to work with but the result will be very green and as tasty.
*Even though the spinach may say "pre-washed" I prefer to wash my spinach a few more times before using.  Discard any bruised leaves.  
*If you are short on time as many of us are these days you can buy fresh pasta in a market.  However, I think they are a bit pricey.  Recently I saw fresh pasta priced at $6.49 per pound at a neighborhood market.   With that price I can purchase 2 dozen eggs and 5-pound bag of flour.

my pasta machine
(I think this gadget costs
about $20 or 30 USD)
pasta sheet speckled with spinach
*After passing the sheet through the pasta machine it looks a little "frayed" (see above photo) so I sprinkled a little flour and patted the "frayed" area down with my palm to smooth it out.  I only noticed this fraying look with the spinach pasta. This does not seem to happen with just flour and egg pasta.

grilled camel steak with
home-made spinach pasta
and sauteed vegetables
braised rabbit  and peanuts in olive oil and white wine
with home-made spinach pasta and
5-minute sauteed asparagus and baby bellas