Cooking in summer…

It’s hot! It’s summer! Veggy abundance and cold soups and let’s not heat up the kitchen too much summer. Here are a couple of tips for easy and tasty meals that filled me with the joy of the season and maybe will do the same for you!

Here’s the simple recipe for the soup. Know that is is not strict in any way. Cook it longer, shorter, use any veggies. I used what I had on hand and suggest you do the same. It’s a twist on Vichyssoise, so I think as long as you add a couple of potatoes and some form of onions, you’ll be fine.

In order to keep the kitchen as cool as possible, if you want to cook something else, try steaming it over the soup or what I did, cooking it in the soup. About halfway through cooking my soup I put two ears of corn into the soup and simmered them until done, about 15 minutes. I took them out and then added the next two ears. A little sweetness and flavor for the soup, but more importantly, I didn’t heat up another burner. It’s helpful on these hot summer days!

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Here’s what I put in my Silky Summer Soup (enough for 4 for a meal, 8 for small starter)

1 zucchini
2 medium potatoes
2 carrots
2 small leeks
2 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic
bit of olive oil
splash of sherry
salt, pepper & freshly ground coriander*seeds to taste
vegetable stock or water, 1.5 liters or enough to cover vegetables

To begin, roughly chop all your veggies, chopping the potatoes into a bit smaller chunks so they cook along with the other veggies. Preheat your pan just a bit on medium high. Then drizzle some olive oil into the pan and add all the veggies except the garlic. Add a little salt to bring out the juices. Cook until just softened, stirring often, maybe 10 minutes or a bit longer. Add in the garlic, a bit of salt, pepper and ground coriander seeds, and cook another five minutes, making sure to stir so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the splash of sherry and stir, deglaze any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Next add your veggie stock or water, enough to cover all the vegetables and cook for 45 minutes to an hour (Steam other foods now or simmer directly in soup). When all the veggies are soft, get out your immersion blender and blend the soup together. Add about 1/2 liter of crème fraîche, more or less to taste. Adjust the seasonings and then put in the fridge to chill. If you put it into several smaller containers it will chill much faster.

That’s it. Serve and enjoy the bounty of summer.

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Speaking of the bounty of summer, here’s another delicious and simple meal or side salad to go with the soup. This tastes of summer to me. And it’s super easy to put together.

Tuna & Nectarine Salad

Tuna Nectarine Salad (serves 2 for light lunch)

3 nectarines, ripe and ready, sliced into bite sized bits (I used 4 white donut nectarines – beautiful!)
1 small can tuna
chopped green onions
8-10 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
splash of light vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar today)
bigger splash of grape seed (or other lightly flavored oil, not olive)
1 teaspoon coriander* seeds, ground in pepper grinder or smashed-mortar and pestle style
salt and peper to taste.

 

Put the vinegar, oil, coriander seeds, salt and pepper in the salad bowl and stir. Add the tuna and the nectarines and toss, leaving while you clean the lettuce and chop the onions. Add the lettuce and onions (and anything else that sounds good) and toss together for a yummy taste of summer.

There are some beautiful canned tunas available to us here in Europe. I used smoked tuna for the salad above and the combination with the sweet nectarines was incredible!

Happy summer – stay cool and enjoy!

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*I love freshly ground coriander always, but especially in the summer. It’s slightly lemony flavor goes great with most veggies. Just put the whole seeds into a spice grinder or crunch them with a mortar and pestle. I re-use spice mix grinders like these and just put my coriander, cumin & other spices in them.

A warm kitchen on a cold December day…

The Italian men...

The Italian men…

Above is a scene from our Italian cooking event with our friends Giovanni & Stefania in December. Fabulous people, fabulous food, creative cooking. We began the morning with coffee and a quick hello, then jumped right into cooking together. Giovanni and Stefania made beautiful gnocchi with three sauces, a playful salad, and then the custard tart that I had no room for, but was so light that I somehow, managed the whole piece without feeling more full! How’d they do that???
That’s Giovanni in the photo rolling out the tender Gnocchi, and Giuseppe – the olive oil man – in the background. (Speaking of Giuseppe, we had hoped to do an olive oil tasting in early 2015, but it wasn’t a good year for Giuseppe’s olives in 2014, so we are holding off on that. However we are planning another event – Trinidadian cooking anyone??) 

My heartfelt thanks to all that made this possible – Sarah for your beautiful home, Idit for being photographer, and of course Giovanni and Stefania for coming all the way from Tuscany to share their wonderful cooking expertise and more importantly, their warm and open spirit. And thanks to all that joined in. We had a wonderful variety of people who were helpful as well as patient and understanding. After arriving at 9am, we still hadn’t eaten at 1pm, but I tell you, it was worth the wait! Oh…and the wine was lovely. From Denner – a Chianti and a couple of Brunellos di Montalcino…it was a fine meal!
More pix from this event coming soon – keep an eye out. Also should you find yourself in Tuscany and want to find a warm and wonderful place to stay…check out Giove’s Way - their terrific bed and breakfast in Montalcino – complete with amazing hosts. Go and see for yourself. Cooking classes, hiking, wine tasting…and spectacular views of the rolling hills of Tuscany. Nice to think about on a winter’s day in Basel…
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Tuscan view

Tuscan view

Cooking Giove’s Way

A year and a half ago I was visiting Montalcino and met my good friend Giovanni. He needed a prep cook for a class he was giving for Sadie Nardini’s yoga retreat,  and I happily volunteered. It was one of those “pinch me” moments, as we chopped veggies, spoke of food and life, and looked out upon this view. We became fast friends, and this year we attended his beautiful wedding. Another pinch me moment – he and Stefania, the party, the people, the food and wine…WOW!

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And now they are both coming here for our American Thanksgiving celebration. Yay!!!

Then, the following week, Giovanni will offer a cooking class for Expat Kochen! Here’s a preview…   ;-) Film isn’t so great – when I took this video had no idea I would end up using it like this, but anyway, sure had fun putting this together. Hope you enjoy and are intrigued to join the class!

We will hold the class on Tuesday morning, December 2nd. We’ll meet in the morning, cook together, then wine and dine for lunch. My apologies to all who cannot come at this time – work schedules and all. Expat Kochen events happen because of the generosity of people who donate their kitchens, and we are so appreciative! Sometimes we have daytime events, sometimes evening. (If you are interested in hosting an event, just send me an email and let’s brainstorm about it.)

We have a spectacularly beautiful kitchen for this class in Klein Basel, and the class will be limited to about 10 people total – so if you are interested please email me immediately. We are working on the menu – he’ll definitely teach us how to make his homemade pasta, and oh, I forgot to mention Giovanni is a professional pastry chef, so know we’ll do some kind of fabulous dessert! I am not sure about the rest of the menu – but know it will be wonderful. Cost will cover food – once I have the menu sorted will have those details for you via email. Think 40 Chf or less…

Looking forward! Email me here.

 

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Makin’ it easy…

Hello – it has been too long! No excuses – just lots happening and me not making EK a priority. However, I am back and committed to posting more often, even short posts like this one!

By the way, I am planning an Italian Cooking Class with Giovanni in the next 3 weeks or so. More info soon – email us if you are interested! 

When I am cooking I want to make it easy and fun. And the fact is sometimes I feel quite lazy, ;-) like today when I was making soup. I started out thinking I would make veggie stock out of the left over cabbage in the fridge along with some onion, carrots, and who knows what else. So I threw the cabbage in the pot. Then I realized there was more there than I had realized and decided to make cabbage soup. Only the cabbage was already in the pot and was whole – you know – big leaves. It needed to be chopped. The answer?

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Yup, my trusty kitchen shears. I chop everything with them. The cabbage in this soup as well as the carrots. Thick carrots even! And then as I poured the canned tomatoes into the soup I realized they were whole, not chopped, and so I cut them in the can, and a bit more after they were in the soup.

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And that is my tip for makin’ it easy today. Keep on cooking!

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The “it just tastes like a candy bar” dessert!

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Ok these are so easy and so tasty – my family loves them and guests too. Have your treats without the guilt! These are sweet and caloric but they are good calories – far from the empty calories of most candy bars (More info on dates here). 

Almond Butter Dates with Dark Chocolate

Ingredients:

Dried Dates
Almond Butter*
Dark Chocolate

*I make my own almond butter by just taking almond meal (easily available in Switzerland at Coop and Migros) and blending it with a non flavored oil, (grape seed works well) a bit of honey and salt to taste.  Delish and easy!

Just cut the dates in half and take out the pit.  Fill with almond butter and add two small pieces of dark chocolate to the top.  That’s it!  Oh, freeze if you like. I love them frozen.  These are not only good for dessert, but also just as a snack when you are craving something sweet.

Maria Wilson, who introduced me to this lovely recipe, says they taste like frozen SNICKERS® to her – to me they just taste amazing!  Try them for yourself and please let me know what you think!!!

THANKS MARIA!!!!

Happy snacking!

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Mushroom mess? Oh yes!

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What you see there are most of the ingredients for last night’s dinner.  I was inspired when visiting my sister Urmi recently.  She took portobello mushrooms and grilled them for a main meal.  Add grilled veggies and voilà!  I began by roasting some onions, red bell peppers, and tomatoes.  Tossed them in a vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic, salt, and pepper.  Had hoped to grill, but the weather wasn’t cooperating so, roasted the in the oven (190 C, 375 F) till they were browned and lovely.  Then I continued with these…IMG_3759Not portobellos but beautiful!  Any mushrooms will do.  Also tossed in the vinaigrette.  Had some avocados on hand so made a “mediterranean” style guacamole, which consisted of smashed avocados, chopped onion, garlic, and tomatoes along with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Once the veggies were all roasted, slices some fresh mozzarella and put it on top of the mushrooms until melted.

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Serve it all on a bed of lettuce with a rustic baguette.  Such a satisfying meal – and very filling.  Can’t wait to do it again on the grill!

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Here’s to rustic cooking – my specialty!  Thanks Urmi – what a feast!

 

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Bean Inspiration

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Recently I was making Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew) with my friend from São Paulo.  My first job was to sort through the beans for stones, foreign matter.  When I did, I saw 2 red beans and asked her, “What do you think, shall we keep those in or take them out?”  She quickly replied, “Keep them in.  They are like us, the expats, the foreigners.  They add flavor!”

Here’s to us adding flavor to wherever it is we are living.  Sorry we have been away from Expat Kochen for a while – much going on – I know you understand.  More soon, including some events!

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Cook & Dine – Restaurant Sonne, Bottmingen

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Schedules are busy, so we have postponed this event till next fall.   In September, join Chef Philippe Bamas of Restaurant & Bistro Sonne in Bottmingen for a morning of cooking and an evening of finest dining.  Originally from Provence, this innovative French chef now delights diners in Basel lucky enough to find him.  Find him I did, and after happily eating there on several occasions, I met the owner and chef, and well, here we are!

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10 of us will cook together with Mr. Bamas on Saturday morning for several hours.  Then we get to go home, rest and tidy up (hey let’s make it a DUGO night – Dress Up, Go Out!) and go back to the restaurant with the guest of our choice to enjoy together what we have prepared.

Cook & Dine Package

–Cook with Chef Bamas for 4 -5 hours on Saturday morning/afternoon (Get ready to work.)
–Prepare and enjoy this hand selected menu that was especially designed for Expat Kochen!
–Kickstart your cooking abilities by learning amazing techniques from this innovative & passionate chef.
–Learn from a master – ask questions – be inspired!
–Indulge in a feast for 2, including a trio of starters, fish as a main course, and a decadent chocolate dessert.
–Enjoy an aperitif and wine as part of the menu, along with water and coffee.
–Take home recipes, life long skills, and amazing memories.

philippe_bamas food

Just eating for two at this fine restaurant would cost around 300 Chf.  For only 100 Chf more, you can learn from and cook with the master and have an incredible meal for 2 including a glass of wine with each course – all for 400 Chf.

The philosophy of Sonne Bottmingen:

“If you want to treat your guests to food of the highest possible standard, then using fresh, high-quality ingredients goes without saying. However, freshness alone will not bring that happy smile to people’s faces that tells the chef he has got it right.

Philippe Bamas’ roots lie in picturesque Provence. His cooking style has also been inspired by his travels all over the world. The result is light, delicate dishes that never cease to surprise: they are unmistakeable and sophisticated. At the Sonne Bottmingen, Philippe Bamas looks forward to delighting you with his passion for the very best.”

And now, to further inspire you and whet your appetite, here’s a link for the menu…Cook&Dine-menu.  (Note it includes foie gras, tuna and more, fish as the main course and a decadent chocolate dessert!)

And to learn more about Philippe Bamas another link…Philippe Bamas info.

This is an incredible opportunity to work with an up and coming chef who happens to live in our own back yard.  Don’t miss your chance to join this unique class.  If you are interested please contact me as soon as possible to hold your place with a 100 Chf deposit.  

What/Where Cook & Dine Experience for 1 cook, 2 diners at Restaurant Sonne, Bottmingen
When: Saturday morning and evening, 1st of February, May 17th, 2014
Cost: 400 Chf for entire experience, cooking for 1, dining for 2
Register: Email expatkochen@gmail.com by Jan. 24th.  Limit 8 people. We’ll send payment info and details via email.

What a way to start 2014 celebrate spring – I am so happily anticipating this event and so looking forward to sharing it with you!

Warmest regards,

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Foie Gras Field Trip – Alsace

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As the holidays approach I am looking forward to sharing my handmade, by my own hands, foie gras!  What a treat it was to go and spend time with Monsieur Marcel Metzler of La Boutique Canoie in Gueberschwihr.  He and his family welcomed us with open arms and incredible food!

On Friday evening we had a sumptuous meal at his restaurant, Le Goldert, complete with three types of foie gras; duck, goose, and a combination of the two. Amazing. And a perfect way to prepare us for the morning class.

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After stuffing ourselves with incredible food and wine we wandered (or did we roll?  It was downhill!) to our lovely apartments.  The next morning we had a bit of coffee and treats together and then we were ready!

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We headed upstairs from the Boutique and began with a history of foie gras, including details of how the geese and duck are fed (FYI They are not force fed, in fact, Monsieur Metzler says that only makes sick animals, not good foie gras), and then how the livers are harvested and delivered to him ultra-fresh.

(Just recently I heard a great story on This American Life about foie gras and the way it is made, and indeed how it doesn’t work to force feed the birds, but instead to care for them tenderly.  I invite you to listen to this story and leave a comment here after listening. This story goes right along with everything that we learned from Monsieur Metzler.)

After that things moved pretty quickly as you can see…

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 We listened, we learned, we cleaned and prepared our foie gras. Wanna learn yourself?  Get yourself to La Boutique Canoie or join us for the Expat Kochen class next year.  I am so looking forward to it!

Next Candy was bestowed with the “top chef” crown.  Way to go Candy!

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After that we went to a wine tasting at Domaine Bernard Humbrecht for more deliciousness while our foie gras was cooking.  No fun at all, can you tell? ;-)

Gathered our things from the apartments and then headed back to La Boutique Canoie so we each could bring home our homemade, handmade foie gras…along with big smiles!What a wonderful 24 hours in Alsace.  (I must admit that I liked it so much I stayed till over so I got 48 hours or so – glorious!) Thanks to all the participants.  And here’s to doing it again next year!

With that I wish you all happy holidays and a fabulous start to 2014.  Cook with love, eat well, take time to enjoy your food and your loved ones.  See you next year!

Warmly,

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Sautéed Salad?

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Why not?

Recently when wanting a “different” salad, I saw that I had some baby romaine lettuce and thought of grilling it, but the weather wasn’t cooperating.  Have you heard of or tried grilling lettuce?  I know, sounds kind of odd, and perhaps it is, but then isn’t anything that is new odd, at least for a while?  Anyway, I have grilled lettuce and loved the slightly roasted flavor that results for the whole salad.

However, as I said the weather wasn’t cooperating.  So plan B (I often end up liking plan B much better than plan A.  You?) it was.  I began by caramelizing lots of onions in olive oil and  a sprinkle or two of salt.  I had bought a huge bag and they weren’t lasting so I needed to use them, and caramelizing is always such a great solution.  Not only do you end up with an onion jam that is a great accompaniment for so many things, you also get to enjoy the smell as you cook them – marvelous!

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Once the onions were nicely yellowing I put half of them into a jar for later use, and then added some dried chopped figs to the mix.  (In Basel is the season for those lovely ones from Spain, available at Coop and Migros)

IMG_2959After sautéeing them for about 7 minutes, I deglazed the pan with some sherry, and took the onions and figs out of the pan and set them aside.  Then I added a bit more olive oil (about a tablespoon) and put the cut romaine lettuce, cut side down, into the pan and left for about 5 minutes, until the cut side was just beginning to brown.

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 I flipped them over and moved them around so that all the lettuce could get those lovely browned bits on the bottom.

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And that was about it.  I did slice and add some avocado to the mix.  You can do the same, adding whatever you have on hand that sounds good.  Plate the salad individually with the onion fig jam on top, and then drizzle with balsamic or balsamic crema (buy or make).  This salad was a big hit, and other than taking the time to caramelize the onions (which should never be rushed, but can be done ahead of time), was quick.

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This is a very satisfying salad, especially as the weather turns cold.  Let me know if you try it.

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