The Delightful Dutch Dish

How one can cook oneself back into local reality

Artichokes April 24, 2010

Filed under: book,cooking,main course,vegetable — orangepumpkin @ 21:49
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This week, my bike and myself went all the way to the asparagus place I would like to refer to as asparagus heaven. From afar I could see the white asparagus sign wasn’t up yet and I wondered: are there no asparagus to be had? And yes, there were no asparagus to be had. I was so disappointed I cried a little. I was wearing sunglasses so no one could see. You know, it hurt! I called my mum (or she called me, I don’t recall) and I told her there were still no asparagus at asparagus heaven. And she said that she hadn’t found any asparagus for sale near there, either. So we both cried a little. You know, she’d been driving around for ages, looking at suspicious looking humps where -for sure- asparagus were grown. But no one sold them. She asked at the supermarket for Dutch asparagus, and they didn’t have them. The supermarket guy told her that Dutch asparagus were awfully late this year. I also checked my supermarket. They have asparagus from Peru. But since that probably means they’re days old, instead of hours, I refuse to buy them. Otherwise I’d totally buy a bunch and cook them. I’m so asparagus-deprived that the whole Peru-thing seems like a tiny thing that can easily be overlooked. I’m easily persuaded, I know. Anyway, no Dutch asparagus. Anywhere.

Artichoke top cut off

The beauty of a thistle flower

So when I found myself in a greengrocer’s today and they had artichokes at €1.50 a piece (holy crap, that’s expensive) I didn’t check where they were from, I just bought one. Just one. Not five, which -on hindsight- would’ve been better. When I got home I realised that I actually had no idea how to prepare artichokes. I looked in my newest cookbook and they just had a recipe for artichoke hearts. Which actually means canned artichokes. You know, no matter how much I love my new cookbook, how on earth am I supposed to can my fresh artichoke? I don’t know these things! So I checked my ’50’s Dutch cookbook (revised version from the 2000’s). It had very little to say about artichokes. Seriously? Is this another joke? Doesn’t anyone eat these things anymore? Are they not cool enough for the general population? Are my fellow 20-something’s this deprived of all life that they don’t even buy fresh artichokes anymore? What kind of life am I living anyway? Should I abandon my €1.50 artichoke and see if McDonalds is willing to make me some french fries? Can I get American sauce with that? That’s what it’s called, I have no idea if it’s anything American, but whatever. I opened the kitchen cabinet that contains all my cookbooks. And I thought to myself: yes, this would be a perfect time for that! ‘That’ being my mum’s copy of ‘The Joy of Cooking‘ by Irma and Marion Rombauer. They’re American, you know. ‘That’ also referring to my mum’s advise when she gave me her copy ‘on loan’ (which is permanent, sorry mum, I’ll read the recipe’s to you when you need anything, but I can’t give it back, not anymore!). Her advice was this: ‘If you ever have anything that you’re not exactly sure about how to prepare, this book will provide the answer in a heartbeat.’ I listened intently while turning the ancient pages (this copy being printed in 1974, probably a wedding gift). ‘Remember that time I found a dead rabbit?’ (my mum saw it being hit by a car) Oh yes mum, I do! ‘Well, this book provided all the information on skinning and preparing rabbit!’ I remember that too! Dad with my siblings bent over the rabbit, cutting her (she had a uterus with babies inside) open, telling them what they were looking at. It was very much The Anatomy Lesson of dr. Nicolaes Tulp. My dad being that Tulp-guy, me being Rembrandt, because the picture is still very vivid and detailed when I think about it. Anyway, I took my mum’s copy home, and leafed through it some more, and I thought about making some of the recipes one day. Honestly, I wanted to be Julie & Julia. Unfortunately my name is nothing like Irma or Marion, and besides, they were together already. And besides that, I’m a horrible cook.

My copy of The Joy.

So I grabbed the book off the shelve and I looked for ‘artichoke’ in the index. And boy oh boy, did these ladies do artichokes! My other cookbooks didn’t have that many references to ‘artichoke’, but this one did. Page 256 is the first hit, and I stayed there. I cooked the artichokes just like that. Exactly like that. (I’m not sure if I would be violating copyright if I would list the recipe here, so I’m not going to, I will just tell you how good it is) And since I was quite bored, and the cooking of artichokes apparently takes 45 minutes, I started tweeting about it, also here, here, and here. I would never have thought of cooking the artichokes with other vegetables. I just wouldn’t. I’m probably too stupid. I was worried there was no salt in the recipe (I mean, every recipe has salt. I left some out, once, and it just totally ruined it. ‘It’ was bread. I threw it out. Saltless bread is inedible.) But I stuck to it. I persevered. Who am I to judge my new BFF’s Irma and Marion? (they’re long dead, but still, man, they live with me now, they’re my soulmates! Plus, they know how to cook, man.) I did not add salt.

The cut off artichoke stem.

In The Joy they advise you to serve the artichokes with Béchamel sauce. I know how to make Béchamel. My mother taught me when I was 8. It’s easy. Fry onions and garlic, add flour, add water or milk, season with whatever you can find (I usually empty my entire stash of herbs), and that’s it. Oh no no! Not Irma and Marion! They put flour in butter, then add milk, than add onions and garlic and only then do they season the sauce. They don’t tell you how to season it, exactly, but after tasting the superb sauce I had just created (see, they need to be my BFF’s, they could tell me 50 years before I was born how to make Béchamel sauce, I mean, they’re saints!), I knew it was so nearly perfect that my overly enthusiastic seasoning would kill it stone dead. And I didn’t want that. I wanted the sauce to live. And talk to the artichokes. And make a beautiful artichoke sauce. And make me happy. So I could die in peace someday, because I had, once in my life, made the perfect Béchamel. It was tough, you know, but I added salt. Lots. I added pepper. A little. And I added chives. (See, I have this chives plant in a pot, and it’s dying, so I think that by cutting it, it might stand a chance. And otherwise it will be dead anyway.) And a little marjoram. And that was it.

The Béchamel, prior to seasoning.

And then the whole thing was done. I ate the artichoke with an abundance of Béchamel, because I love a lot of sauce. On anything really. And it was great! Everything was great about it. So I do think that I can die in peace now. Even though I’m not sure the Béchamel was perfect, it was better than anything I’d ever hoped to achieve. And that is kind of perfect, right?

In the end, buying Irma and Marion Rombauer’s The Joy Of Cooking would be a fine investment, even today. I would like to get my hands on Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ too, then my life will be complete and I can do whatever I want. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

BTW: this is my first post with photo’s, I should do that more often, I like it! If only uploading pictures to my computer were more easy…

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Pizza Perfect

Filed under: cooking,main course — orangepumpkin @ 19:51
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I promised that I would post something about my pizza frenzy. Now I will.

It all happened a few years ago. I was in the supermarket and I discovered a mix for pizza dough. Curious little creature that I am, I bought it and it ended up on my shelf for some time. Until one day I couldn’t make up my mind what to make for dinner, and I stumbled upon the pizza mix. On the back there were a few suggestions on what to put on your pizza. I honestly don’t remember what it was. I set off to the supermarket (this was before my whole local produce gamble came into play), I bought what I thought had been suggested on the back of the package and I went home again. I made the pizza and I was delighted. It was some seriously great pizza! The crust was quite brilliant, and the toppings were quite great too. From then on I almost always had a bit of that mix in my cupboard, because you never know when you feel like pizza.

The following, on how the pizza-saga evolved, might be quite familiar, since this happened to me before (well, I think the pizza came first, but on this blog they come second). It has everything to do with my untempered enthusiasm, moderation, and measurements and proportions. You can guess it: it went wrong. It went hilariously wrong. It simply had to. One day I simply forgot all the pizza making lessons I had learnt in the previous months. Someone unplugged my memory and it was drained. I planned on making a pizza, so I went and bought the ingredients. While I was in the supermarket I remembered what I had put on my pizzas before and what had been really great, and then I bought it. I bought everything that I had liked on a pizza at some point in my past life. That we shall call mistake number one. It’s a huge one. I did have some moderation in mind, I didn’t buy three leeks, five carrots, two onions and an extra big pack of mushrooms. I only bought small amounts. But I did buy everything. I might have gone easy on the meat, remembering that there are barely any pizzas that have five types of meat on them. But I did get leek, mushrooms, carrots, olives, mozzarella, salami, tomatoes and probably a bunch of other stuff that I don’t even remember anymore.

When I got home my salivating glands were in overdrive, my mind was quickly wandering off to the perfect pizza place and I cut up all my toppings, kneaded the dough, etc. Once I was putting all the topping on the pizza I started to realise something: there is no way in pizza that that will fit. It dawned on me that I had bought too much. I said dawned, because it never really set in. Enter: mistake number two, it’s even bigger than mistake number one. I quickly quit putting more stuff on there. I did squeeze in some tomatoes, and the mozzarella, but the rest of it I stored in the refrigerator. Then I put the pizza in the oven. I was convinced that the vegetables would shrink and settle, that the moist from the tomatoes would help that process and that my pizza would be perfectly fine.

Of course, it wasn’t. My carried away mind had resided on Mt. Vesuvius this time, forgetting all about my dear friends ‘Measurements & Proportions‘. The vegetables didn’t shrink and settle. The pizza didn’t work the way I had planned at all. It wasn’t cooked. The crust was ok, but the rest of it just simply sucked.I don’t remember if and how I salvaged it. I do remember that I realised later on that I should’ve made a quiche instead. Quiche is good, and in case you’re throwing on too much stuff, it’s definitely better than pizza!

I learnt a terribly important lesson that day: don’t overdo your pizza. Keep it simple. After that I’ve made quite a few nice pizzas that were quite perfect. I didn’t put on everything I knew would be good on pizza. Because I do know that it will, but not on one small pizza. Everything put together won’t work on pizza. Though obviously I haven’t learnt my final lesson in moderation. I keep getting carried away. It’s in my nature I guess.

Oh, typing this up just reminds me so much of the great pizzas I used to make. God, I wish this was Italy and I could eat pizza all day. I guess it’s time to make some again. Of course I’ll share the recipe! Hope I’ll remember the ‘less is more’-motto that definitely applies to pizza!

 

Super Sandwich April 3, 2010

Filed under: lunch — orangepumpkin @ 18:06
Tags: , ,

I make and eat this sandwich probably 5 days a week during summer. It just never gets boring! And it beats actual cooking and waiting for your dish to be done. You make the sandwich, and you eat it. Simply brilliant!

The main reason why I love this sandwich is not because it’s so easy, it’s because it’s so freaking awesome that even if you forget an ingredient, it’s still great! I’ve forgotten the cress, it was great. I’ve forgotten the pesto, it was great. I’ve had to eat it without ham, it was great. I’ve forgotten the rucola, and it was great. The only three things you cannot forget are creamcheese, bread and a type of salad.

Ingredients

Fresh bread, 2 slices per sandwich

Smoked ham, 1 slice per sandwich

Cream cheese (I use Philadelphia, and not the light version)

Pesto Rosso (I use Bertolli)

Rucola salad mix (rucola, Swiss chard, lollo rossa)

Garden cress

salt & my fave spice mix

I use cream cheese to butter both slices of bread, one with a thick layer, the other with a thin layer. The thick layered sandwich is the one I use to build my heavenly sandwich on. Next I put the salt and spices on. Then a slice of ham, as long as it’s smoked it’s good, in my opinion. I put a thin layer of pesto rosso on the ham. It has to be pesto rosso, because it barely tastes of pesto, and because it has tomatoes in. I know I’ve denied some secret love affair with tomatoes, but in all honesty: I couldn’t live without them. They have to be in my stomach every now and then. Because there’s no shortage on tomatoes and because I don’t truly feel guilty for eating them (Ha! There you go, Spanish tomatoes!), I don’t feel deprived, like I do when it concerns avocado. Hence my deeprooted love for avocado’s is a bit more hysterical. Anyway, the pesto rosso is the coolest thing to use. I only use Bertolli because I’m a very spoilt little brat and there’s no messing with my fondness of Italian food, but there probably is an alternative around. After that, I get on with the cress. Don’t go Dutch on the cress, and by that I mean: don’t be ‘zuinig’ (my dictionary translates that into ‘economical’ or ‘sparing’ or ‘thrifty’, but trust me, those are understatements for what ‘hollandse zuinigheid’ is, because it’s radical!). The sole reason not to go easy or slim on the cress is that if you do, you won’t taste it. There’s a lot of competing tastes going into this sandwich, and to keep it subtly tasting of cress, you need a relative truckload. I put on an even layer until it’s green and not much of the pesto rosso and ham underneath it can be seen. As a finishing touch: put on a big handful of salad mix. Really do. Don’t go easy on those either. Use the second slice of bread to smash the big sandwich into a size that might just fit your mouth. It’s absolutely wonderful!

How local?

I don’t care, I’d eat it with a polar bear on Antarctica if need be. And I’d travel to the North Pole to pick up the poor bastard! *picturing myself with icicle on my nose, sitting at a nicely set table, red & white checkered napkin around the polar bear’s neck, and sipping some wine*

 

The astonishing avocado November 28, 2009

Filed under: fruit,side dish — orangepumpkin @ 11:00
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This is not local. I don’t know where avocados are grown, but all I know is, that it isn’t here. When I was a very little girl my mother already used avocados. And because it’s a fun thing to do, we would use the seed to grow an avocado plant. I had it in my room for a considerable time, years really. I even took a picture of it with my camera when I was 11. I was really fond of my view with avocado plant. It was one lanky plant. It tried to be very tall, but it couldn’t, because it was in a pot, which was too small. It had a few leaves, but it never showed any intention to something you might call ‘flower’. But I loved it anyway. And secretly I hoped that one day I would have my own personal stash of avocados, from that very plant.

Alas, it was not to be. After years of struggling with our horrible climate, it died. We buried it among the branches and leaves of local trees. Covered it with manure and that was the end of Mr. Avocado. But not to my addiction to avocados. It only got worse. I love avocado in salad. The whole salad can be as Dutch as anything, but it just isn’t complete without the brilliant buttery flavour of at least one avocado. It has to be in there, or you might as well not eat the salad. But I have also been known to wolf down one whole avocado straight from the skin. You don’t need anything else in life.

I will tell you how I found out that avocados don’t grow in The Netherlands. Well, they grow, but they don’t bearfruit. And that last bit is essential, at least in my life. A while after my avocado plant died, we visited the botanical gardens. They have a huge greenhouse in which they grow all kinds of tropical plants. Fruit bearing banana’s. No, really. They even give you a banana when it’s in season. And I know that banana’s don’t grow in the Netherlands. Well, they do, certain sub species, but I haven’t seen any fruit. And the banana died when there were more than three consecutive days of frost (well, it was three weeks, but who’s counting). But in the greenhouse there was also this big lanky sad looking tree, and I asked what it was. Because it really looked like it was suicidal. Proudly the man said it was an avocado and that it was a big miracle that they had one this big. Unfortunately the greenhouse wasn’t really big enough and no one expected the avocado ever to bear fruit. It was a very hard little plant to grow. All I knew was that it was a good thing my avocado died, he would’ve been so very sad when he found out.

It took me years to finally admit to myself that I would not have one of these great avocado trees in my backyard that would allow me to eat avocados all day. Maybe if I move to some tropical place. But that’s probably not happening either. So, I buy avocados in the supermarket. And I eat them. And I do not feel guilty. At all. Ever.

Well, I do, but only a tad. Because I know that avocados probably come from South America. I’ve only been to South America once. I didn’t see avocado trees, but that might have to do with the fact that I went to an island. A Dutch island.

Anyway, the other day I found avocados in the shop of my local supplier of very local vegetables. They grow them in their own garden. Which is great. But I know that those avocados didn’t come from their garden. They came from South America, or maybe, just maybe, from Spain. But not any closer than that. Despite that knowledge, I bought two avocados. And I will wait until they’re ripe and then, I’ll eat them. Just like that, or maybe I’ll take some time to squeeze some juice from a lemon, grind some pepper and salt and then eat them. But I probably won’t take the time to do much more.

Ingredients:
1 avocado (a nicely ripe one)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
juice of half a lemon

Cut the avocado in half, use a spoon to remove the delicious fruit from its skin. Use a big kitchen knife to remove the seed as follows: get the tip of the knife in the seed (another piece of the blade will also work just fine). Not too shallow, but not too deep either. Hold the avocado in one hand, wriggle the seed out with the knife. Removing the seed from the knife can be tricky, because the seed can be slippery, hence ‘not too deep’.
Add lemon juice, pepper and salt and serve it just like that.

How local?
Not local at all. I don’t live in Mexico. Only the sea salt could be local, the rest is definitely from someplace else.