The bird on my balcony has decided it is time to find a mate and is chirping its little heart out. An elderly man on a motorized tricycle takes a corner on two wheels, giving a little “woohoo” when he lands. An even more elderly man in a red mini-car honks at me and then winks. At nine on a Sunday morning, an eighteen year-old invites me to party with him “cuz I just don’t want to sleep yet”.
There is something in the air, and I am thinking it is spring. (Although, given my hairdo, my outfit and my age, I suspect the eighteen year-old was under the influence of more than just spring.)
However, spring is not yet in the shops. There’ll be at least a few more weeks of carrots, cabbage and onions before spring vegetables are here again. Goody. To tide us over, I put together a round-up of food that has gotten me through the winter so far. If the coming weeks look like this, I think we’ll be okay. (All recipes serve at least two, probably with left-overs.)
Coconut cabbage with cashews
When my man cooks, we usually have large chunks of boiled vegetable with undercooked fish. A few months ago, he got daring and we had this. Not too shabby, I have to say.
Shred half a conical cabbage (minus the hard core) and cut shreds into bite-sized pieces. Heat a wok and toast a large handful of cashews and two tablespoons of desiccated coconut until golden. Remove from wok. Add a glug of oil to the wok, then some diced onion, a few shakes of curry powder, a dab of sambal (or more to taste) and the cabbage and stir fry until tender. Remove from heat, and stir in toasted cashews and coconuts. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.
If tomatoes in a can did not exist, about half our weekly dinners would not exist. Well, I exaggerate, but not that much. At least once a week, and usually more, we have a meal based on canned tomatoes. Pasta puttanesca (which I discovered through Amateur Gourmet) is one of my favorites.
In a heavy bottomed pan, pour some olive oil (no need for extra virgin here, and about 2 tbsp should do it) and add three or more cloves of crushed garlic, a large pinch of pepper flakes and five anchovy fillets from a can. Now heat the pan gently, and wait for the garlic to color pale yellow and the anchovies to disintegrate. Add two tablespoons of capers and let them sizzle for a moment. Then pour in two tins of tomatoes in tomato juice, stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for twenty minutes or so, until it has thickened. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve over pasta, garnished with lots of freshly grated parmesan.
Brussels sprouts with almonds
Since I learned how to roast them, Brussels sprouts have become one of my favorite vegetables. I love them with lemon zest and garlic, but cheese is also a fine accompaniment. (Then again, which savory dish isn’t improved by adding some kind of cheese?). As are slivered almonds. Here’s the method of roasting I learned from 101Cookbooks:
Take 500 gr small Brussels sprouts, cut off the bottom bits and remove any wilted leaves. Cut in half and toss with a glug of olive oil. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the sprouts in one layer, cut side down. Sprinkle with some salt, cover and cook for about five minutes. Test whether they’re tender through and through. If not, cook in covered skillet a little longer. Once tender, uncover and turn up the heat to caramelize the bottoms. Toss once or twice with a spatula to get some brown bits on the rounded sides as well. Taste, adjust seasoning. Dust with cheese (parmesan, gruyere, Gouda, whichever you like) or scatter over toasted, slivered almonds. (I overdid the almonds in the picture. Tasty, but unnecessary.) Serve.
Late December, my man and I went for a walk in the snow. We came across a stall selling smoked sausage sandwiches with sauerkraut. He got one and bit in with gusto, but I declined, wanting to keep my promise of only buying free-range meat. I was jealous of the delicious-smelling roll, though, so made a similar sandwich for dinner that evening.
Slice a small onion into half moons, and fry them in some butter over medium heat, until soft and pale golden. Rinse about 300gr of sauerkraut and add to the onions. Mix well. Cover the pan and warm through. When the sauerkraut is lukewarm, add 100 gr of ham, cut into sticks (I used slices, which I stacked before cutting them into sticks) to the top. Cover the pan again and heat until sauerkraut is hot and ham is warm. Serve on crusty rolls, with mayonnaise and mustard.
Sunchoke and leek galette with goat’s cheese
Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes, aardperen or topinamboer in Dutch), make me happy. I love the gnarly roots that taste like a sturdy version of artichokes, and can be blended into soup, sautéed as a side dish or baked into a galette filling. If only more shops stocked them. (Try the Natuurwinkel or Turkish grocer’s, if you’re in Holland.)
For the galette, make pastry according to SmittenKitchen instructions (easier than you’d think, and the results will make you proud). For the filling, thoroughly clean about 500gr of sunchokes (no need to peel them) and slice into thin disks. Clean and slice into thin half moons about 500 gr of leeks. Take the biggest skillet you have and heat a generous glug of olive oil. Add the leek and cook for a minute or two. Then add the sunchokes and mix thoroughly. Add a splash of water and cover the pan. Cook for five minutes, or until almost tender (don’t overcook). Remove from heat and add the leaves of three sprigs of thyme and about 60gr of fresh goat’s cheese. I use the kind with a rind, which I remove before cutting the cheese into small chunks. Stir cheese and thyme into the vegetables until the cheese has completely melted.
Roll the chilled galette pastry into a disk, about 3mm thick. Pile the cheesy vegetables onto the dough, leaving the outer 5 cm uncovered. Fold the uncovered dough up onto the edges of the vegetables. A rustic look is what you want, so be as sloppy as you like. Cut another piece of fresh goat’s cheese into slices (I leave the rind on mine in this step) and scatter over the vegetables. Bake the galette for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius, until golden brown. Serve.