Category Archives: Cook

Freak a Leek: (Redux) Time to get your LEEK on!

Okay okay, Ill stop trying to make leeks sound sexier then they are, but right now is the season to ‘get your leek on’ (okay last one). I know these guys can be a bit of a pain to store in your kitchen (size does matter in this case) and cleaning takes a careful eye, but my oh my leeks really punch up a simple dish. It is hearty enough to withstand long cooking but its flavors do not over power dishes like onion or garlic. What a charmer.

 

Ready to get my Leek on

Cooked in any style with potatoes alone is enough. Toss in with a white cream sauce and some pasta and you’re on the road to midweek mischief. I for one absolutely love green onion/scallion/salladlök , but I rely on leeks to give me that green onion freshness during the winter/early spring as it can stand up to simmering in stews and other dishes.

I really suggest making a nice rustic take on Vichyssoise, (yes, I just threw in some fancy talk for good measure) AKA what I like to call ‘Creamy Potato Soup with leeks’ top with some bacon (plus chive and cheddar) and enjoy.

Potato & Leek Soup w/ Bacon, Chive and Cheddar

 

I will (probably) never buy Thai Red Curry Take-Out again!

Thai Red Curry with Chicken (Röd curry)

Thai Red Curry with Chicken (Röd curry)

 

Thai red curry might be the easiest and fastest dish I’ve ever cooked. Seriously. I was furious I never tried to do this before, and instead thought I needed secret wok skills to pull this off with ease- I was wrong. You don’t even need salt and pepper to finish it! All you need is Thai red curry paste (in supermarket as well as Asian market) and a can of coconut milk. The dish you see above includes:

Chicken breast meat

Green beans (haricot verts)

Coconut milk

Thai red curry paste

Some cilantro (or coriander- see my blog header!)

That’s it my friends. Just stir-fry your meat of choice until done, add about 2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste, then stir in a can of coconut milk. Boil down then add a vegetable or two you like. Prepare some rice for the side while you do that, and BOOM dinner for two is served.

Coconut Milk (Kokos Mjölk)

Coconut Milk (Kokos Mjölk)

Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai Red Curry Paste

Happy Birthday Mac and Cheese! (Big-Kid-friendly recipe)

This kid loves mac and cheese

This kid loves Mac and Cheese! photo: Claes Helander

This is a special post for my little brother, who is now officially a teenager! Unfortunately I can’t be in the US to celebrate with him, but I figured, since he is now of age, I’d share a starter recipe with him to learn to make an easy version of my mac and cheese: as you can see above he is a big fan.

This mac and cheese recipe is written to be a kid friendly version of my homemade baked mac and cheese: no powder cheese packets allowed! And  it can be adjusted to what you have… the ingredients are:

Cheese: around 1 cup (2 dl.) shredded or chopped (Any you like! I would go for any mix of Cheddar/Jack/Parmesan… add a little Feta for some bite if you have it!)

Macaroni: see box for 2 servings (Any macaroni pasta will do: Classic elbows/Shells/Cavatappi/Ziti) If you are unsure how much to cook, take a hand and grab 4 handfuls of pasta.

Butter: about 2 tablespoons (You can use a real tablespoon to measure)

Flour: about 1 tablespoon

Milk: about 1 cup (2 dl.) (just water will work too, but go for the milk)

GET ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS OUT AND READY BEFORE YOU START!

 

Little Brother’s Birthday Mac and Cheese:

Phase I: Make your pasta (in a BIG pot)

Follow the instructions on the box for 2 people/servings.

Tips:

Use a larger pot then you need… should fill the pot with water only a little more then halfway. The pasta should have a lot of space and water above it. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons full of salt to the water (doesn’t have to be exact).

Let the water come to a boil before adding the pasta. The pasta will become bigger when it cooks, so you will end up with more pasta then it looks like at the start.

Set your colander/strainer in a clean sink to be ready.

Wait for the number of minutes it says on the box. To know if it is done, take a piece out, blow on it to cool it off, and eat it. If it’s easy to chew, then its done. Don’t wait until its mushy… it will cook more after you take it out. Turn off the stove.

Take the pot carefully with a dish towel or pot holders to the sink and pour SLOWLY into the strainer. Don’t forget the water is HOT and you can get burned. Use both hands to pour, then set the pot back onto the stove (The pot will also be very hot, even without stuff inside).

Shake the water out of the pasta in the strainer, and set aside somewhere near the sink that is okay to get wet. Don’t worry about the pasta getting cold.

Phase II: The sauce

In the same pot, put in about 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon flour (it doesn’t have to be exact). Then turn on the stove to medium/low. Don’t leave. Wait until the butter starts to melt, then use a whisk to mix the butter and flour until it is all melted and mixed in.(Trivia: This is called a roux and is the first step to many sauces) Try to use a plastic whisk so you don’t scratch the pot, if you have one.

Once that is bubbling, slowly pour in 1 cup (or 2 dl.) of milk or water. Turn up the heat a little to medium and stir with the whisk. You want to get everything mixed together, and cooking with a slow bubble bubble gentle boil, Stir until the mixture is thicker. It should take about 1 min. Then turn down the heat to low.

Add your cheese… this is the fun part! I recommend about 1 cup (2 dl.) of cheese, but its up to you! Use a little less or a little more if you want. Mix in the cheese slowly with a big spoon until it melts. Turn off the stove.

Add in your cooked macaroni and mix together with a big spoon.

And then your done! You will never want to eat mac and cheese from a box again!

Happy Birthday Brother! A subscription to Popular Science magazine is on it’s way :)

Green Olive: How’d you get that pimento?

This week, to my disappointment, I accidentally came home with a jar of green olives WITHOUT pimento… but why was I disappointed? The pimento barely does anything for the taste in average quality olives… was it the color? The feel? And actually, how the hell did they even get the pimento into the olive? It doesn’t give enough to the general experience to be worth a lot of trouble. Not in the supermarket olive variety.

Obviously, I could conjecture that the pimento was stuffed into the olive- I’m not that dense. But how? The pimento tends to be the perfect size in each olive, fitting like a plug- not like a little piece of pepper placed inside.

So, naturally, I looked it up…

The story is, although pimento (mild red cherry pepper) was stuffed by hand into olives back in the day, as of  1962 The Sadrym company of Seville, Spain introduced the first automatic olive-stuffing machine. Modern day machines usually make a mixture of minced pimento and gelatin, that is formed into long thin strips which are fed into the stuffer.

As each olive is pitted (with a x- shaped punch… so that’s where the X mark comes from!) a tiny bit of the pimento gelatin is pushed inside of the olive, fitting snug into it’s new little home.  I tried to find a video of this, but instead came across a sea of ‘hand stuffed olive’ demonstrations from artisan food makers trying to strut their ‘stuff’ (pun intended, as always.)

One VERY interesting tidbit: Most pimento-stuffing machines are still made in Spain to this day, even though the favorite olive insert in Spain is actually anchovy… I can attest to this from experience: There’s a taste-bud surprise every time I eat a green olive in Spain.

If you’d like an idea for making an impressive little stuffed olive treat at home, check out this recipe for Fried Green Olives Stuffed with Blue Cheese, from Bon Appetite magazine.

The Bookstore of my Dreams: Omnivore Books on Food

 

Kendra checking out the selection

Right now, I’m in the throws of working on an exciting children’s book project… yes that’s right! True to form, the book has a cooking theme and hopefully will be the beginning of a great adventure, combining all things I love: Cooking, kids, and media.  A few recent remarks from my illustrator reminded me of my great pilgrimage a couple years ago to the foodie capital of the world: San Francisco. I was sent there to research food and entrepreneurship, and one of the highlights of my stay was visiting the extraordinary bookstore: Omnivore Books on Food.

Photo: Claes Helander

Omnivore Books is a bookstore located in the mission district (The best part of S.F, period) tucked away on the corner’s of Cesar Chavez and Church Street. The bookstore offers “centuries of knowledge on growing, raising, and cooking food” both new and vintage and is the first bookstore of it’s kind I have ever had the pleasure of visiting: And to date, the last.

As soon as I stepped into this little shop, I knew I would be awhile… on my right there was a stack of Alice Water’s “The Art of Simple Food” all SIGNED and ready to take home. This being S.F, I’m sure many a food lover has snagged Waters’ (the Queen of California cuisine) autograph, but for a me this was amazing.

 

 

I perused the shelves and shelves of cookbookery (just seems like the right term), and suddenly saw this little vintage treasure: “Modern Swedish Cookbook” by Anna Olsson Coombs printed in 1947! It’s a Swedish woman who moved to the U.S and decided to write a Swedish cookbook adapted for “American women.”

Photo: Claes Helander

 

Me, being an American woman living in Sweden, thought is was just the right kind of quirky addition to my random cookbook collection. The recipes themselves weren’t the highlight for me, but rather her snappy commentary. I put back the Water’s cookbook and took this book instead (A move I hope not to regret!) Even though it was priced $37.50 more then it was originally priced ($2.50) I still thought it was a good buy.

I look forward to once again visiting my beloved bookstore… and dream of one day having the honor of inviting little food lovers to grab a copy of my book from the shelves. What dreams may come…

Its a New Year…

… and with that I have been prompted to think long and hard about my work, and consequently what it is I feel has been lacking in this blog. It has increasingly been difficult for me to really zero in on what content I should make, and it wasn’t because I lacked ideas or experiences but because I didn’t really explicitly connect my blog with the greater principles I champion in my life to make it more fulfilling and not to mention more frequent.

So I took a cue from my former entrepreneurship school professor @GVanourek (Twitter) and co-author of “Triple Crown Leadership” and decided to set forth my values for all to see.

 

  1. This is not a recipe blog: Sure I might write some up but in real life I don’t like recipes very much. I love cookbooks- but for inspiration. You need to know the techniques so you have room to innovate. If you don’t know why each step of a recipe exists then you should take a moment, dial it back, and learn why. Robots follow instructions without question.
  2. Waste not, want not: I learned this as a kid, and really it was more annoying then anything since it usually coincided with a bunch of cold brussel sprouts on my plate that I didn’t want to eat. But really, we throw away so much food because we don’t think to ourselves “is there anything I could possibly do with this _____?” Being a real cook means creating and “creativity loves constraints.” So fing try harder.
  3. No unitaskers: I got this one from Alton Brown years ago and have probably applied it far more liberally then it was intended. I avoid buying anything I can only use for one purpose. Whether it’s an appliance or a sauce.

 

 

 

 

For example, salad dressing…

Pumpkin Pulp… to use or not to use? That is the question…

The best pumkin ever!

Okay, I’m a little too excited about the pumpkin but it was perfect!

It’s Halloween time!

This year my wonderful boyfriend came home with the best looking pumpkin I have ever had the opportunity to gut! I almost didn’t want to cut it. Even though Halloween seems to be a confusing holiday to the Swedes, who haven’t decided to stick to a single day to trick or treat (so kids can pop up any weekend night around Halloween… random) I wanted to keep it classic with a good old fashioned Jack ‘O Latern.

My Halloween jack ‘o latern pumpkin after carving

When it was all said and done I was left with a lot of pulp and seeds. Just as my mom used to do when I was growing up, I salted and toasted the pumpkin seeds, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out that stringy pulp. It is food afterall and I like a challenge. So, the plan is to make a puree using the pulp (removing as much of the stringy part as I can), and to make a cheesecake with it using and extra egg. Hopefully the egg will help set the cheesecake, since the pumpkin puree will likely make it a bit more loose then a cheesecake need be. Any other tips are welcome!

Toasted pumpkin seeds right out the oven

HowDo: Toothpick Flags!

You can make any food cute with these:


Make cute toothpick flags a micro guide by Kendra Williams-Valentine on HowDo

End of Summer Tomato Save: Tomato rubbed Bread #Spain

"Pa amb tomàquet" or Catalan tomato on bread photo by Claes Helander

 

I recently returned from a week in Barcelona, with a new trick up my sleeve, just in time for the last of my garden tomatoes: Pa amb tomàquet or bread with tomato. A regular in Catalonian cuisine, we came across it at nearly all of our meals in Barcelona, especially  with tapas, as it helps you to temper all those lovely bits of seafood culinaria preserved in olive oil, as well as salty chorizo and other sausages.

Pa amb tomàquet is simply bread with ripe tomato rubbed onto it and then seasoned with a bit of olive oil and salt. Sometimes you can even through in a clove of garlic to add to the mix. Now, when I first got wind of this, I was not overly enthused… it was actually  bit hard to imagine fresh tomato flavor on bread. But, after trying it I was surprised that it gave bread new and fresh edge without being something you had to thin about too much. It does not sound like it had much merit to it, and really it is quite simple, but after mixing this bread into my meal set for a week I realized its a really good option to bring home with me, especially since I can savor the essence of my fresh tomatoes before the winter steals them away!

Although I like the idea of jarring all my summer tomatoes to keep into winter: its just not happening this year. So, for our over ripe picks, I really like the tomato bread option to use them before they go bad. This strategy is working pretty well thus far.

Easy Strawberry Shortcake!

Homemade strawberry shortcake

This year, we had a lot of Strawberries in our garden get ripe at the same time, so I had to come up with a good way to use them all before they went bad- enter Strawberry Shortcake! This is truly one of the best desserts ever invented in my opinion. As we have established, I am not big on baking, but the biscuit/scones that need to be made for this dessert is simple and can withstand a little experimentation. I adapted this easy recipe from good ‘ol Martha. Don’t worry if you end up with more “shortcake” then strawberries, just wrap them up and eat them as scones in the morning- so good…