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HOMEMADE RICOTTA CHEESE

As I understand it, real ricotta cheese is made from whey left over from other cheese making.  But since I didn’t have any whey, leftover or otherwise, I made this ersatz version. This is from Ina Garten (AKA The Barefoot Contessa) and is incredibly simple. Since ricotta cheese purchased at the supermarket costs $4-and-up, I will be making this instead of buying it from now on.  Thanks to Lynn M. Kennedy for pointing me in the right direction.

RICOTTA CHEESE

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Thoroughly wet two layers of cheesecloth or a clean dish towel (not terry cloth unless you like little bits of fabric in your cheese) and wring out. Lay cloth over a mesh strainer placed over a deep bowl or pot.

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Combine milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Do not attempt to speed this up by turning the heat up – milk scorches easily.

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Bring mixture to a rolling boil. When it starts to boil, it will froth up and boil over fast and makes a really awful mess, so remove it from the heat right away.

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Pour in three tablespoons white wine vinegar, stir, and let sit until curds form. Might take one minute, might take 20. If it doesn’t start to separate, stir in another tablespoon of vinegar.

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Pour mixture into the damp cloth and let drain.

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It will slowly start to sink in the middle.

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When cheese is as creamy as you like, scoop into a container, cover, and refrigerate four or five days.

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You will be left with whey. I have read that this can be added to soups, bread dough, mashed potatoes, and so forth. I have also read it can possibly be made into cheese. Right now I have it in my refrigerator and I will investigate further.

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A few notes:

I made this with an additional two cups of half-and-half along with the cream and milk.  The addition of vinegar is what causes the curds to form, so any combination of milk/cream/half-and-half ought to work nicely to make ricotta. Play around.

Ultrapasturized dairy products may take more vinegar to clabber up.

This can drain as little as 25 minutes or you can let it drain a few hours for a really creamy cheese.

 

 

REAL HOT CHOCOLATE

We seem to have quite a few chocolate bars. Not the crappy American ones, but decent ones we bought in Amsterdam at the grocery store for cheap- Swiss, Dutch, Belgian. Minimum 55% cacao. The good stuff.

Except even when you get to the better stuff, you get picky. The 70% cacao dark chocolate rules.

hot chocolate

I opened a bar of Frey from Switzerland and had a bite, then a bite of a Dutch chocolate bar from Ikea. The Frey – meh. What to do? Hot chocolate.  This really isn’t even a recipe. It’s just what I did. Kicks the ass of Swiss Miss.

REAL HOT CHOCOLATE

  • 2 cups whole milk, more or less
  • 2 ounces really good chocolate (about half of one of those good-sized bars, more or less)

Break up the chocolate. Mix with milk and heat in a pan over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Serves 2 or 3.

Try adding a little bit of espresso powder for a mocha chocolate, or a tot of whatever your particular poison is.

ADVOCAAT: DUTCH EGGNOG

“So it doesn’t have any dairy in it?” a friend asked.

“No, just eggs.”

“Then…. it’s not eggnog. There’s no nog.” I agreed, though I wasn’t actually sure about the etymology of the term and wasn’t in a position to look it up at that moment.

Since then, I looked it up. It appears that nog may come from noggin (a wooden cup) which comes from nog, ale from Norfolk, England. Hence: eggnog = eggs + booze = delicious.

I didn’t like eggnog for most of my life. Every year or two I’d buy a carton at Christmas and round it out with some brandy or rum or both, and be unable to finish it. It was just… gummy, weird-tasting, and nasty. I decided I was an eggnog Philistine and that I would probably get along just fine the rest of my life without it.  I now know that I was buying cheap-ass eggnog that wasn’t worthy of the name.  I don’t remember just how we discovered Clover-Stornetta brand eggnog – dear knows at the price it wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment extravagance – but it’s become our Christmas heroin. Eggnog is one of those things that you get what you pay for. It’s a good thing it’s only available about seven weeks a year because it would kill us to drink this stuff year-round.

In the Netherlands they make this thing called advocaat, which is sort of a Dutch eggnog.  The name may or may not have come from a drink of Suriname made with avocados (the Dutch ruled Suriname for 300 years and there are quite a few Surinamese in the Netherlands). Personally, I can’t get too enthused about the idea of an avocado-based drink, but maybe you had to take what you could get in Suriname.

You can buy advocaat in liquor stores here in the liqueur section and apparently it’s pretty good, but I decided to make it. I found a number of recipes online and they all followed pretty much the same format, varying only by a few ingredients.  This is what I came up with. This cannot be considered healthy, but it is delicious.

ADVOCAAT

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brandy (use good-but-not-great stuff)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

Break all the eggs into a sturdy pan. You can use only the egg yolks if you want, but then you’re stuck with a dozen egg whites. Unless you have plans to make angel food cake and divinity, it might take a while to use all of them.

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Add the sugar, brandy, and salt. Place pan over medium heat, whisk to combine, and keep stirring constantly.

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If you run into problems with the eggs cooking too fast – i.e. you see bits of scrambled egg – remove pan from heat and employ the stick blender, or pour the mixture into a blender and blitz it.

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The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but don’t sweat it if it isn’t quite that thick.

Add the vanilla and store in covered jars in the refrigerator.

005To serve, shake or stir, then pour into liqueur glasses or small cocktail glasses. Top with whipped cream if you like. If your advocaat turns out very thick, eat it with a spoon (as is done in the Netherlands).

You can substitute rum for the brandy. I suppose other liquors like bourbon or  Amaretto would be quite tasty also.

This will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

 

EATING OUT IN AMSTERDAM

We didn’t  cook all the time in Amsterdam. Even though Dutch food isn’t really well-regarded, we had no problem finding delicious food everywhere we  went.

“American breakfast” at La Grotte on Haarlemmerstraat.

american breakfast

“English breakfast” at La Grotte.

english breakfast la grotte

The Dutch word for shop is winkel.  Around the corner from our apartment is a shop named Winkel, so it’s a winkel called Winkel. Anyway, they are famous for having the best apple pie in Amsterdam. Dutch apple pie is more cake-like than American, with a sort of streusel-type filling.

appel pie winkel

At De Blaffende Vis, we always have one of their salads. It’s a pile of greens with roasted vegetables and a enormous scoop of fresh goat cheese. This time they had warmed the cheese and put it atop a big slice of black bread.  I know that looks like a steak, but it’s bread. The warm cheese melted all over the salad like some creamy dressing from heaven.

barking fish salad

 

barking fish menu

 

barking fish flowers

Amstel beer, named for the Amstel river.

amstel beer

Salads at Burgermeester – a cole slaw with fresh fennel and an arugula salad with roasted vegetables and shaved Parmesan cheese.

burgermeester salads

An egg and truffle burger at Burgermeester. When the menu said egg, I thought that meant, you know, an egg. I didn’t realize they meant egg salad with bacon, and I would never have thought of putting egg salad on a burger, but it worked rather well.

egg and truffle burger

The regular burger at Burgermeester with grilled onions.

gary's lunch burgermeester

Herring is a very big thing in the Netherlands. It looks raw but it’s been brined so it stays fresh.

haring stand

There are several ways to eat it. This is the authentic way:

For  Americans, they cut it into little pieces, cover it with minced onions, throw some sweet pickles on the side, and stick Dutch flag toothpicks into it. By the time I remembered to take a picture, we’d eaten most of it.

herrings

It is imperative that you follow the herring with a beer.

beer at rembrandtplein

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I’d like to take a moment now to remember the single worst thing I have ever been served on an airplane.

We flew on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) and overall the food was pretty good, especially if you are really hungry, as I was on the flight from Chicago to Copenhagen, when we were served some pot roast that was rather good. I mean, it’s not great, but you don’t fly for the food. You hope the food won’t give you salmonella and that it’ll be recognizable and reasonably edible.

This was on the flight from Copenhagen to San Francisco. I wish now that I had thought to take a photo of what we were handed, but I didn’t. However, I found this photo via Google search, and it looks much like what we had.  The brand is Polarklamma and the wrapper has a cute little silhouette of a reindeer on it,  and you might think that’s a charming translation of “delicious Norwegian sandwich wrap.” Apparently they do make a “delicious Norwegian sandwich wrap” with reindeer meat, but we didn’t get those.

worst airline food ever

Imagine, if you will, a maxi-pad, the kind with little dots all over it. Imagine this maxi-pad is wrapped around a thin slice of something you believe to be cheese. Imagine the maxi-pad and cheese are very, very cold. Not frozen, but very, very cold.

worst ever

I took a bite, and then another bite. I chewed thoughtfully for some time – this was one tough maxi-pad – and finally asked my husband, “Do you think if we told the flight attendant that we promise to behave ourselves, that maybe we could have some real food?” I had the feeling the flight attendant was punishing us for something we’d said about price of everything in the Copenhagen airport.

I thought about what the people in business class might be eating. I was pretty sure it was not maxi-pad wraps.

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We had lunch at a place called Deksels!  on Haarlemmerdijk one day. That’s Deksels! with an exclamation point, for no apparent reason. Deksels! also operates a couple of very spendy kitchen shops.

I loved this presentation of very good bread with a salt and pepper cellar and some extremely good olive oil, all on an olivewood board.

deksels bread 2

deksels cutlery

The menu said creamy roasted parsnip soup. I think there was some pumpkin in there as well, with toasted cumin seeds and cilantro. This was one of the best soups I have ever had.

roasted parsnip soup

Buacatini carbonara. It was good but a bit salty, and I thought I could probably make a good version back in our apartment, which I did.

carbonara deksels

One day we took the metro to the Amsterdam Ikea, which is located quite some distance from the city center. It’s ENORMOUS. We had an excellent lunch including some of the best chicken soup ever. I was getting a cold at that point and it was so soothing to have a hot soup when I was not feeling great.

ikea lunch

At one of the street markets there was a vendor selling Surinamese food, about which I know zero. But I ordered this chicken sandwich – it doesn’t look like much but it was flavored with a HOT curry.

surinam chicken sandwich

About the fries: Amsterdam and Belgium make the best fries in the entire world.  The place considered the best in Amsterdam is called Vlaamse Friteshuis and they have twenty kinds of toppings for fries. Mayonnaise is the normal sauce – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – but there are lots of other choices.

Fries with Hannibal sauce:

fries hannibalsaus

Piccalilli sauce

fries pillalilli

Regulier saus assortiment
(Regular sauces)    

1.   Mayo (frietsaus 35 %)
2.   Zaanse Mayonaise (mustard mayonnaise)
3.   Ketchup
4.   Curry
5.   Satesaus (Indonesian peanut sauce)
6.   Sambal (indonesian hot chili sauce)
7.   Joppiesaus (a Dutch curry mayonnaise)
8.   Piccalilly (a sweet mustard & pickle sauce)
9.   Appelmoes (applesauce)
10. Speciaal ketchup
(dubbel portie saus)
11. Speciaal curry
(dubbel portie saus)
12. Oorlog (mayo, raw onions and Indonesian sate sauce)
(dubbel portie saus)
Belgisch saus assortiment
(Begian sauces)   

1.  Belgische mayonaise
2.  Citroen mayonaise (lemon mayonnaise)
3.  Samuraisaus (sambal and mayonnaise)
4.  Americainesaus (tomatoes, garlic, cayenne)
5.  Tartaarsaus (tartar sauce)
6.  Andalousesaus (mayonnaise with tomato paste and peppers)
7.  Hannibalsaus (spicy tomato & mayonnaise)
8.  Hawaisaus (curry and pineapple)
9.  Coctailsaus (cocktail sauce)
10. Pickles
11. Groene pepersaus (green pepper sauce)
12. Knoflooksaus (garlic sauce)
13. Mosterd (mustard)
14. Hotshotsaus (hot sauce)
15. Barbecuesaus
16. Gele curry (yellow curry)

There’s a chain of coffee purveyors called Bagel and Beans. Their coffee is delicious – actually, all the coffee I’ve ever had in Amsterdam was far more delicious than anything I’ve ever had in the US. But we’d never tried their bagels.  This was an “oatie” oat bagel with hummus and sundried tomatoes. It was sublime.

oatie bagel hummus 1

At Noordermarkt, there are two brothers  who sell impossibly delicious sandwiches, cassoulet, and split pea soup every Saturday. They’re kind of goofy and sing half-remembered songs – we refer to them as The Rocky Raccoon Brothers. This is probably not the place to describe how we almost got on their bad side by making a joke, so I won’t mention it. We patched it all up before we left.

sandwich guys

They heat the ham, sausage, and sauerkraut together in a giant frying pan.

ham sandwich

I call this the Naughty Sausage Sandwich.

naughty sausage

 

split pea soup

Did you read, “Eat, Pray, Love”? I know a lot of people hated it, but I love it, and I really love this description of when Liz Gilbert and her friend Sofie go to Naples to eat pizza.

“… these pies we have just ordered – one for each of us – are making us lose our minds… I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?…

“Holy of holies!… On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance….Sofie and I each order another pie – another whole pizza each – and Sofie tries to pull herself togethre, but really, the pizza is so good we can barely cope.”

So.  La Perla. This place has THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD. When we first started going there a few years ago, it was a very tiny space with a few chairs and a couple of long bars across the wall that you might be able to grab a spot at so you could eat your pizza on them, but more likely you’d have to sit outside on the curb or take the pizza with you. When you see people sitting on the sidewalk eating pizza and there’s a line out the door, you just know it’s got to be amazingly fabulous.

Now they’ve bought the old cafe across the street and turned it into a high-tech but earthy dining room. The pizza is still made across the street in a wood-fired oven. Somehow they have worked out a great system to get the pizza over to the dining room.

We ate there three times – once at the bar; twice we made reservations (you HAVE to have a reservation) for a table.

la perla

The olives they bring you when  you sit down – the green ones taste like butter. Yes.

olives la perla

Carciofo – tomato, buffalo mozzarella, artichokes, olives, capers and garlic

artichoke pizza

Calabrese di Spilinga· tomato, buffalo mozzarella, ‘nduja (a powerful Salami), origano and spicy oil

calabrese pizza

prosciutto san daniele  · tomato, buffalo mozzarella, san daniele ham, rocket, parmigiano reggiano DOP

fennel sausage pizza

Porchetta di Ariccia – from Lazio · tomato, buffalo mozzarella, rocket and brick oven roasted pig from Ariccia

pig pizza 2

Puttanesca – tomato, buffalo mozzarella, tender anchovies, olives, capers and garlic

pizza puttanesca

Quattro formaggi – tomato, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, taleggio, parmigiano reggiano DOP

quattro formaggio la perla

I  missed taking a photo of the margherita pizza – that was our first night in Amsterdam and I had left my camera in the car back in California and hadn’t yet bought a replacement . But after all these pizzas, we agreed the best two were the puttanesca and the margherita (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil olive oil). Basic stuff. So amazing.

I also missed photos of the great Turkish food we ate.  But I think there may be another Amsterdam food post coming soon….

 

 

 

 

 

POTATO ROLLS

This is another recipe I have not tried, but a friend gave it to me and it looks too good to pass up. She says it’s a must at Thanksgiving.

SweetPotatoRolls

Potato Refrigerator Rolls

1-1/2 cups warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup lukewarm mashed potatoes (I double this)
7 to 7-1/2 cups flour

In bowl, dissolve yeast in water.  Stir in sugar, salt, shortening,eggs, and potatoes.  Mis in flour with hand until dough is easy to handle.  Turn onto lightly floured board.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place grease-side-up in greased bowl.  Cover with cloth and place in refrigerator.  (I do all this the night before.)  About 2 hours before baking, punch dough down, shape dough into rolls, cover and let rise until double, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen medium rolls.  I use cupcake pans and roll three little balls of dough for each roll.  I also have to triple this recipe.  To get them to rise I place the pans on my bed, cover them with waxed paper and a towel, and let them sit with the electric blanket on medium.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS SALAD

I haven’t actually tried this, but a friend posted it on Facebook and I need to keep this around somewhere so I can find it again.

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Pan Seared Brussels Sprout Salad

 

1 pound brussels sprouts, remove stems and cut in half
½ cup fresh cranberries
⅓ cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
½ cup pecans
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

1.Heat brussels sprouts, cranberries, and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
2.Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
3.Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to coat and remove from heat.
4.Toss sprouts, cranberries, and pecans in a large bowl. Top with gorgonzola.

IT’S ONCE A YEAR. SUCK IT UP, PEOPLE.

 

annual-tradition-observing-people-thanksgiving-ecard-someecards

Anyone who knows me personally knows that (putting it mildly) I can be churlish and snappish and unforgiving. I’m a cranky old broad and don’t see that changing anytime soon. There are certain things that are set in stone for me and I won’t budge on them. I’m willing to discuss the merits (or lack of same) on many issues, but Thanksgiving isn’t one of those issues.

Many years ago I was living an unhappy existence 3000 miles from home – a life of my own choosing, but miserable and sad – with a man who was surly and unhappy and blaming. Thanksgiving of 1979 – I was 23 –  found us driving through New Jersey ( I don’t remember why) and we did not celebrate the day at all.  I found out later we had an invitation from his sister to come over for dinner, but he decided it was a “pity” invitation and declined to attend on behalf of us both. I was desperate to be part of something, anything, on that day, but was instead very, very alone. I was unable to articulate what I wanted and needed.

The next year I was back at home with my family. I vowed to never not celebrate Thanksgiving again, and to have a place at my table for those who were alone.

The New York Times ran an article about famous chefs and what they would prefer to serve on Thanksgiving other than turkey. They were uniformly scornful of turkey and dressing; they’d rather be eating Korean food or fried fish and pickles.  I took a kind of personal offense at it. Sure, you can have whatever you want on that day –  Helen Nearing wrote of one Thanksgiving where she rejected the entire day and its meaning, and instead consumed nothing but orange juice -and if that floats your boat, go for it. But that’s anathema for me. Thanksgiving, as I have said before, is my favorite holiday.  It’s a day in autumn – my favorite season – devoted to those close to you, to being grateful and thankful, to eating together the same meal you had last year.

You can read the article here. (The NYT limits non-subscribers to 15 articles every 30 days.)

Someone named M. L. Chadwick from Maine commented thusly:

You can eat foods from Africa, Asia the Caribbean, and elsewhere 364 days of the year. Why get into a tizzy because some hosts (perhaps parents or grandparents?) invite you to share a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving?

The menu is predictable, so if you can’t bear to eat turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and/or pumpkin pie for important reasons (dietary prohibitions, mortal loathing), simply explain when invited: “I’m so sorry! I would love to celebrate with you, but that just doesn’t work for me.” Then offer either to host THEM for a meal at your place or a restaurant, or to bring a meal to their home in the near future.

If these are relatives, they’re already well-aware that you loathe what they serve and will be relieved not to hear your gripes yet once again.

If you can’t bear the distress that your declining their invitation would cause them, eat before you go, push the turkey around on your plate, try to forget–just today–how very, very special you are, and ask about your hosts and the other guests with whatever interest you can muster.

And my comment replied to theirs:

B Rice

Northern California 

Exactly this. Even in my small town I can eat Korean, Ethiopian, or whatever other cuisine I choose any day of the year. It is the ritual, the predictability, the stability of Thanksgiving and its menu that makes it so appealing to me and my family.

As the hostess & chief cook, I know my part is to turn ordinary ingredients – a bland turkey, stale bread, sour cranberries – into delicious foods, replicas of what we had one year before. The guests know their part is to bring side dishes and wine, and stand around in the kitchen yakking and bumping into each other until I shoo them out. The grandparents ask the same old questions and we yell the answers at them because they won’t wear their hearing aids. We discuss who isn’t there and what we’ll do for Christmas and it certainly looks like it might snow, doesn’t it?

After dinner but before it gets dark, we take a walk to the cemetery (just down the road) to visit those sleeping there, who are not physically with us any more but who still sit around the table as surely as any of the living.

The next day people can go to a restaurant and eat Szechuan lamb or kim chee or whatever they want. But on Thanksgiving we gather together in my tiny house, stuff our resentments and petty squabbles into our pockets for a few hours, and eat turkey.

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