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Sous vide’ing an octopus

I didn’t take this photo today, but nevertheless, it gives the feeling you get when you walk out onto the balcony of our rental apartment. Quiet, peaceful, maybe you can’t tell, but also breezy. One thing I love about this place we’re living in is that you can open up 10 sky lights all at once and allow the sun and the wind to shine it. In the morning we get this amazing fresh breeze coming through. It’s possible to live on a top floor and not suffer, you just need to rent the apartment belonging to two architects. Hmmm…that’s actually what we did last time too. So maybe they have to be the right architects, willing to put enough money into the place.

Anyway, we can enjoy the fresh breeze for around 7 more weeks and then…it’s back to our apartment. Unfortunately, we will likely be living in chaos, as our place will still not be complete. We’re hoping it will only last a few further weeks. We’ll be eating a lot of take out food, I guess.

But…I do look forward to seeing my kitchen again, although it’ll take some time to get it back in. I can imagine unpacking all the boxes again and putting plates back into cupboards, silverware back into drawers. The kitchen here is not bad, however, and the space is beautiful. Thankfully it was more or less outfitted with most of the things I need to cook, and I brought over a bunch of things, and I received…way back at my birthday last year…a new device, which has been added to the ever-increasing roster of tools I cook with.

One of those fancy cooking wands called a “sous vide stick.” Looks like a giant…uh, well, use your imagination.

This is not the brand I have, but no matter, mine works the same. The idea is that you clamp the wand into a pot and use it to bring the water inside to an exact temperature and hold it there. Then you put your food into a plastic bag, lower it into the water and let it sit there for x number of hours until it has reached that temperature. I think most recipes take about 4 hours or so. Some of them take 3 days, but I will never be doing those.

I haven’t used this present as much as I would like, and last weekend I was determined to try something out. We just got back from Sicily a few weeks ago, so seafood was still on my mind. I found a recipe for octopus, which I love when it is cooked right. So I went out and gathered the ingredients on Saturday, prepped a bit (you need to blanch the octopus in a broth for a few seconds and then sous vide it), and on Sunday afternoon and evening, pulled everything together.

Blanching the octopus

cool it down in an ice bath briefly.

Vacuum it up into a plastic bag.

Cook for four hours at 81 degrees C.

While all this was happening, I made the bean salad that went with the octopus. Giant corona beans that I had soaked overnight and then also cooked for about two hours to get them creamy and soft. Tossed with a vinaigrette and some chorizo sausage and mini corn cobs. The octopus comes out of the bathtub and gets briefly cooked either on a grill or in a pan, to give the outside some texture and crunch.

Results? Good, but not great, unfortunately. The octopus was tender and tasty, but the salad maybe a bit too strong in flavor.

Next try…maybe this weekend…a sous vide steak. 🙂

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Green things for Spring

Spring is making her way to Munich ever so slowly this year. The slow crawl has us impatient on one hand, but right now we’re fighting the clock to September 14, so…all things relative, I’m happy to see time crawl.

It’s been awhile since I posted. I keep wanting to write something, but the last 6 months have been pretty devastating, so the “Bock” as we say in German, to cook nice things is there, but the energy to post about it, less so. Our move out date in our rental apartment, the one we stay in while our own is being fixed, is Sep 14. Fingers crossed and thumbs pressed that somehow we meet all the deadlines, the lawyers keep all the shit moving in the right direction, and the ridiculous man who built our place without the right knowledge, stays out of the effing way. We get angrier and angrier as each day passes.

But with the sun on your face, and the first asparagus showing up in the market and a vacation to sunny (hopefully!) Portugal tomorrow, it’s hard not to be a little happy about spring. I welcome the brief respite from life over here and the chance to see something new, even if I will, as always, desperately miss my little darlings.

Tom and Finn enjoying the sun

Tom and Finn enjoying the sun

Or no longer so little darlings.

I’ve stepped up my running again in the last few weeks, doing my best to hit somewhere between 45 and 50 km a week. Sometimes making it, but sometimes falling short. Yesterday morning I saw a recipe for a healthy looking veggie sushi made with brown rice and asparagus. It looked super tempting, so I picked up the ingredients yesterday and made it today for lunch.

I love all the greens.

I went off piste slightly on a few things, although not much. Instead of lettuce, I just went with some shiso leaves. And in order to make the rolls even more luscious, I added some thousand year old chinese eggs. (Yeah, those weird things in the middle there, which look like deadly poisonous something or other, but taste wonderful, and add a rich eggy creaminess.

To top it off, I added a sprinkle of a nice Japanese spice blend in addition to the tahini miso ginger dressing in the recipe.

It all comes together as sushi does, nothing out of the ordinary:

Sticky brown rice on nori, slices of aspargus, green onion, blanched asparagus, cut up cress, wedges of egg, the tahini dressing, the sprinkle of a Japanese hot pepper blend. Cucumber would have been great too.

Note: eat immediately. I couldn’t eat them all for lunch and later in the afternoon, they weren’t nearly as good.

Will riff on this one for awhile. I especially liked the sticky brown rice, a healthy alternative, which would be great as a base of a poke bowl. Ummmm…

See you from Porto next week! (At least via Instagram).

 

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Introducing the Monsters

They may look adorable, innocent, harmless, but beware. Those are the monsters, Tom and Finn, who come and wake us every single morning at 5 am, if not a little before. Truthfully, I’m not complaining. They are adorable.

A face like that sticks his little face in your face and you can’t help but smile. Even that early.

They have been around now for just over two weeks, driving poor Sophie a little up the wall. We keep thinking she’s handling them a bit better, but I’m not sure. I hope she chills out a bit more in the next couple weeks.

They are certainly chilled.

My day pattern has changed a bit now. Very early in the morning we’re up, running around with the monsters, trying to keep them away from Sophie while she eats her breakfast. And then we eat, go to work, and I try to get home early, to feed everyone, run them around some more, and then collapse into bed.

Weekends are easier. And I am enjoying spring-time food. This was an inspiring recipe a week back. An easy lemon ricotta asparagus ravioli. In the end, it turned out to be more work than anticipated because I also made the dough – the recipe calls for simply using Chinese dumpling wrappers. But I’m not a fan of them. I find them too thin and flimsy most of the time.

In essence, you make your filling – a sort of pesto, blanched asparagus, and cheese mixture that you wiz in the blender.

Then either use pre-purchased dough, or make your own. I did mine – a rye and white flour mixture with some herbs mixed in – with my manual pasta machine.

I remembered only after starting to roll what a pain whole grain flours are. I find them harder to work with. They crack easily. Maybe I need to work on my water, egg, flour ratios. And resting time.

But they came together finally.

And I made enough to freeze about half of them for another time.

To serve, I blanched a few more asparagus and then did a butter/herb/wine sauce.

Tom and Finn did not partake. They stuck to their favorite chicken pate. 🙂

 

 

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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Cats, Cooking at home, Pasta, Vegetarian

 

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Life after Death

I thought I had at least 3-5 more years with Sam. He was 14, or almost, when we got back from California about three weeks ago. And had a terrible cold, or so I thought. And 6 days later he was dead. And I was totally floored. Absolutely nailed to the ground with grief because I loved this cat so much. Far more than his cute, but asocial sister. In the past 17 days I have been sad and mad and incredulous and…the list goes on. I suppose the five stages of grief. I am beginning to come to terms with his loss, and doing what I can to stay positive.

His sister, Sophie, needs to stay healthy now. I am on a mission to get her to shed a little weight, get some more exercise, and try to convince her to snuggle with me more. (A lost cause). And to fill the gaps in my heart, which are huge, we are getting two new cats, crazy people that we are. In two weeks.

Yeah, those two lovebugs. :-))) We figure that Sophie …regardless of my success with her weight loss, might not be around for many more years. So we are easing the transition. May 4 or 5…here they come.

I stayed home today from work – although worked from here – every chance I get I try to hang out with Sophie. She seems to miss Sam, although who can really interpret her, certainly not I. I don’t seem to have cat whisperer skills when it comes to her.

Lunch time came and went and I wasn’t really hungry but wanted…something.

I could only look at so much bread and cheese combinations for lunch, so I decided to throw together a dish I haven’t had for ages: Indian Poha. More or less an Indian breakfast dish from Maharashta that I repurposed for mid-day. It’s rehydrated rice, plus an assortment of veggies, nuts, spices, herbs. It’s sort of like…Indian fried rice but fast and easy. On a day like today, when Winter has returned to Germany (damn it), something warm and fragrant and spicy like poha is great comfort food.

You can customize as you like.

The basic recipe is here (and many other places).

Soak your poha (dehydrated rice), and chop up whatever you’re putting in. Fry your mustard seeds and then your onions and potatoes, put in your ginger and tumeric and chili and carrots and peas, your nuts and coconut shreds, toss in your shrimp if you have a few (perfectly good as a veggie dish too), and then the poha, the herbs, season with salt…tossing the whole while as each element cooks in.

And then squeeze a slice of lemon over it, just before serving.

Enjoy the comfort and ease.

Think of kittens.

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Chop Salad – Japanese/California Style

It’s past 9 pm and I am still awake! No, this is progress, even if you don’t think so. We got back from a 10-day trip to California on Monday night and I promptly fell into jet-lag hell. Today is the first day close to normal – three days later. This is good.

Oh, and the trip was full of all the California goodness I crave when I am away. Wild turkeys waddling down the street, completely oblivious to cars that might spatchcock them a good 8 months too early….

Amazing views, which I just took for granted in the past over the bay – showcasing in one breathtaking sweep the bay bridge, the golden gate bridge, Lawrence Hall of Sciences, Alcatraz Island, and the Berkeley campus. …

The botanical gardens, where we wandered, carefree, for two hours, enjoying the sun, the climate, the super secret highly-controversial conversations with the local physicists, who delivered information in person, out of the hearing of the NSA and other prying USA governmental agencies. We hope. Just saying.

The redwood forests. Ah.

Trying out new fruits – who ever heard of a SUMO orange? Tastes like a mandarin, only…bigger.

Getting new recipes for gin cocktails from friends. Still have to make this, reads like a future addiction.

And hanging with the nephews and the sisters and the parents and aunts and cousins, etc. who make us do dangerous things on two-wheeled vehicles inside the house.

We survived. And now we are back.

Making Japanese chopped salad.

This is a little bit like… a sushi salad. But takes the classic chop salad as its inspiration.

Lots of chopped veggies, cut very small, plenty of protein in there, some fat as well, mixed with a super yummy dressing.

In this case, this dressing. Simple easy fast.

And this mix of veggies and protein:

salmon – raw, cabbage, avocado, romaine lettuce, soy beans, re hydrated wakame seaweed, hard boiled eggs, green onion, cucumber

And I added in a bit of yuzu mayo – collected in Oakland during the trip.

And a few sprinkles of bonito flakes.

some crispy bacon…would probably not be bad in this.

Dressing adds a brilliant orange glow. But MOM! No chilies! NOT SPICY. (I almost killed my mother with a not so unsimilar salad while at home.)

Actually, if you ask me, I would put in some chili oil.

Nice light salad, low carb, full of protein and energy. Lots of antioxidants.

Can you tell I am starting to think about running a marathon again?

 

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Bootstrapping Mexican Posole

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Oh yeah, Klaus and Florian singing up there to stay warm in the FREEZING Zurich weather. These days I am doing a lot of commuting back and forth to Switzerland for the latest project. Thankfully it’s just a couple days a week, but often it really limits my ability to leisurely shop over the course of the week for random, hard to find ingredients. Not that there are SOOOO many of them, but sometimes, you have a recipe that requires you to go to three shops in town to find what you need.

That happened last Saturday evening when I had 8 people over for dinner. It’s still quite cold here in MUC as well, although warming up, thankfully, and I thought that a perfect foil for the weather would be some nice warm SOUP. Soup sounds boring. Like a first course, no? Well, not this soup. It’s Mexican Posole, a celebratory dish I think I’ve even blogged about here on this blog before. But it’s such a lovely perfect winter soup, that you can’t help but make it every winter a couple times.

It’s great because it’s a soup you can PERSONALIZE. You take the basic soup – a rich blend of charred and pureed peppers and garlic and onions, studded with chunks of chicken and hominy (dried and reconstituted corn) and perhaps some cabbage or zucchini. And you top it with what you want: cheese, cabbage, cilantro, lime squeezes, tortilla strips, slices of avocado, generous dashes of hot habanero salsa.

So what starts out looking like this:

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In the end looks like this:

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A delicious meal in a bowl. As a basis for the recipe I made, I used this recipe. And during the dinner, my guests asked me to send them the recipe.

Which I did the next day. Along with some notes. After I lectured them, I had to laugh a bit and realized that what I wrote made the recipe sound way too daunting. But it’s really really not. The substitutions below make things much easier to cook in a country that doesn’t frequently stock things like tomatillos and poblanos.

From my notes to my guests:

“A couple notes: 1) I substituted green tomatoes for the tomatillos. I looked for them, but they are HARD to find in MUC. Green tomatoes approximate the flavor. 2) I substituted green peppers for Poblanos. You can find poblanos in Muc in a can at a Mexican market. But I wanted a fresher taste. Poblanos are spicier in flavor, and green peppers are much bigger, so you will need to adjust a bit on the amount and the spicy factor. 3) I substituted cabbage for zucchini. I like cabbage in this soup better. 4) I left the fresh corn out and instead used double the amount of hominy called for (the dry corn). 5) I substituted feta cheese for the Mexican cotija cheese…because (yes, it’s like a broken record)…I can’t find cotija cheese in MUC. Feta is much sharper in flavor, and there are better substitutions – also available in MUC, but I didn’t have time to source them yesterday.

A few more notes: I don’t like chicken breast in this soup. I feel like it dries out much faster and gets stringy, because you are cooking it a long time. In a crock pot, that might be different, but for a regular pot – I ended up cooking the soup for about 2 hours in total – I would really recommend chicken thighs. After about an hour and a half of cooking, you take them out and remove all the skin and bone and put the meat back in the soup.

Fresh oregano rather than dried would also be very good, but you won’t need much of it. I added one more spice, a bit of chili chipotle. Chipotle IS find-able in MUC, or just ask me for a few teaspoons, you don’t need much. Go to any good spice store and you’ll find it right away. Chipotle is spicy, although not killer, but adds a really nice smoky zing to Mexican food, so I like it in this in moderation. I put in perhaps a teaspoon. (for the quantity in the recipe.)

Don’t skip the step of charring the peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onions. The tomatoes will be done first, then the garlic (just wait till they are soft, not black), then onion and peppers. The charring step brings in depth of flavor as well.

Lastly, the tortillas we ate are corn tortillas, quite hard to find here. But…if you go to the taco shop, Condesa, in Münchener Freiheit, they sell homemade corn tortillas – 5 euros for 30 of them – a great deal! You can buy a package, use what you need and freeze the rest. They freeze beautifully.

It sounds like a pain in the ass if I describe all this, but the nice thing about this soup is that it’s flexible in a way. You can add and subtract vegetables and still get something quite tasty. Except for a couple ingredients, everything is standard in your grocery store. I will look for a source for the hominy here in MUC. In the meantime, fresh corn will also be great. You can put in white beans as a substitute for the hominy too – the texture is about the same as the hominy – soft and mealy – but you will lose the “perfume” of the hominy, which Itzik pointed out last night. Fresh corn will bring a lot of perfume back in, however.

Oh, and frozen corn is MUCH BETTER than the shit corn they sell wrapped up in plastic in the vegetable section. Do not buy that. And no canned corn. Please.”

Off to Zurich in the morning for the rest of the week. Might have to just go with a spaghetti this weekend. 😉

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Work in Progress

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I’m very much in catch-up mode these days with shuttling back and forth from one city to the next. It seems like I have barely been home since late December. Black Forest-Munich-Paris-Normandy (region)-Zurich-Munich-Cologne-Zurich-Munich. Ugh. My team is in Cologne these days and the client in Zurich, so there is a lot of shuttling around. This week I have the luxury of being home ALL WEEK. So nice. Next week is the shuttle goes back to Zurich, but I have at least 9 uninterrupted days here. I ran yesterday afternoon, forcing myself out into the -10 degree cold, which I must admit, I really hate. But the view from the bridge I usually stop on on the Isar was beautiful. It looks like sunset, but it was around 3:30 or so…the sun was slowly beginning to go down, but there was a good 90 minutes to go to sunset.

Next weekend Chinese New Year begins. Do you know Meitu? It’s *the* popular photo app in China at the moment. Just upload your photo and it will change your photo into a New Year’s vision. Pretty funny. Where’s the rooster, though? It does a variety of images and montages.

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Thankfully, it also just does a nice brush up of a regular photo too. All wrinkles, freckles, blemishes completely wiped away.

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I have lots of cravings for Asian (chinese, japanese, korean) food these days. My fridge is finally full of Asian herbs and vegetables because of my 9-day stay here. But…I’m anxious to cook from my new cookbook as well. I got this one for Christmas/Hanukah at my request.

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Most people are a bit surprised, thinking that the book must be full of heavy meat dishes, a cliché for Eastern Europe. But it’s instead full of beautiful variety, from noodles and dumplings, to surprising salads and soups. I was reminded again that I had it at home and it needs cooking out of when I was in Cologne last week. I stayed in an airbnb place (definitely recommended: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/16564430) owned by a Russian woman. Her kitchen was full of Russian and Bulgarian cookbooks, which I couldn’t help but flip through.

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Pages were bent down and little note cards stuck between pages. They immediately reminded me of my mother’s old cookbooks full of her notes and scribbles. I desperately wished I could read Russian. One of my teammates is Russian, although he grew up in Germany. But he can read it and I sent him a few pages. He looked through and told me that the language in the cookbooks is incredibly old fashioned. He can understand it, but just barely.

I saw this photo and immediately remembered a similar one in my Mamushka cookbook at home.

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It must really be the same thing/recipe.

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But now I have the recipe, in English. A Moldavian giant cheese twist.

Ummm.

It’s coming out of my oven in the next few days for sure.

Anyway, looking forward to a restful, non-traveling week before the havoc begins again. The havoc this week is merely in reading the news as Trump takes his place in office and begins to destroy what he can quickly. Very proud of my mother and my sisters who all marched on January 21, the day after the inauguration,  in Washington DC and Oakland, California.

Have a great week. More progress to be reported when I have a chance to cook a few new things.

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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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