Monday, April 27, 2009

White asparagus

For me white asparagus is more like another vegetable than a relative to the green asparagus. Or maybe is the other way around, I do not know. In any case they are very different in taste, green one being far superior in taste.
White asparagus grows under the soil so lack of sun makes it white and its skin needs to be peeled as well. It tastes the best when is boiled and served with pan fried new potatoes and smoked ham.

White asparagus
serves 2
500 gr white asparagus
pinch of salt and sugar
1 tbsp butter
10 small new potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
8 slices smoked ham

Start with peeling the asparagus, save the skin. Cut of the hard ends of the asparagus, save them as well. Put the asparagus skin and ends in a sauce pan, add pinch of salt and sugar, a tablespoon of butter, boil, turn of the heat end let sit for about 20 minutes.

Cut the young potatoes in half and pan fry in olive oil on low heat until cooked, 30-40 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Strain the asparagus liquid, discard the skins and ends, add the asparagus and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain and serve with potatoes and ham.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Green asparagus

Germans are mad about asparagus. And at this time of the year everything in this country is about asparagus (Spargelzeit).
Every year there are asparagus festivals that celebrate the "royal vegetable", as Germans call it.
I was watching on the news that at one of the festivals young beautiful woman was chosen to be "Asparagus Queen", and she got the honour of harvesting the first asparagus of the year.

A colleague of mine also told me that in her family asparagus is served every single Saturday during the season (April-June).

We all might be obsessed with something but here we got a whole nation being obsessed with a great vegetable like asparagus. It is wonderful to see this! Reminds me a bit of Swedish strawberry season.

White asparagus is the favourite asparagus of German. My favourite is green and I am firmly convinced that the best way to prepare green asparagus is when it is cooked with olive oil in a cast iron pan and when it is served with smoked salmon and sourdough bread.

Green asparagus
serves 2
500 gr green asparagus
3 tbsp olive oil
6 slices smoked salmon
2 slices sourdough bread
salt and pepper

If the asparagus is fresh-fresh (check the cut at the end) it does not need to be peeled. In other case, peel the asparagus, heat the olive oil in the cast iron pan (has to be cast iron) and cook the asparagus on low heat until soft to your liking, about 20 minutes. Keep on turning asparagus so that all sides get nicely cooked. When done, salt and pepper. Serve with smoked salmon and your favourite sourdough bread.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Slovenian buckwheat žganci

I have been to Slovenia couple of times and I love that country. People are amazing, the country is beautiful and it has everything you could ask for: Alps,valleys, lakes, rivers and sea.

When it comes to the cuisine, it is delicious, diverse and very Slovenian. The diversity comes with the influence from Austria, Italy and the Balkans and makes Slovenian cuisine quite unique.

The buckwheat is typical for the region, as well as it is for Italian and Austrian regions in the neighbourhood. I got interested in this dish because it is made with buckwheat flour only, without addition of any other flour, eggs, milk. In fact buckwheat flour is the only ingredient.

And the way this dish is prepared is the most insane way of cooking. Basically the dish is made by pouring buckwheat flour in salted boiling water. Sounds simple but it is not as it is a bit tricky to get the flour to form small lumps. But after couple of failures I finally got it right.

This dish is also made in Austria where is called Heidensterz, but it is prepared a bit differently. The flour is first roasted in a pan and then water is slowly added. I have not tried to make it this way but it sounds a bit more simple than the Slovenian version.

Traditionally žganci are served with sauerkraut, sausages or milk, here I added them to olive oil, garlic, parsley and red chili (aglio, olio and peperoncino). I believe žganci can be combined with any kind of sauce, so they will replace my usual wheat-pasta in many dishes.

Ajdovi žganci
serves 2
4 dl buckwheat flour

1,2 l water
1 tsp salt

aglio, olio e peperoncino
4 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves
2 red serrano chillies
4 tbsp parsley
some parmesan
black pepper

Boil the water in a saucepan, add salt and take off the heat. Add the flour, all at once. Shake the saucepan until all flour is covered with water. A big lump will form.

No matter how much tempted you feel to grab a spoon and blend everything, do not do it, as everything could turn into a smooth looking buckwheat-polenta. Part of the flour that does mixes completely with the water will sink to the bottom of the saucepan and get pretty much stuck to it. I have not find a way to avoid this.

Make a whole in the middle of the lump, it will brake in smaller lumps, shake again the saucepan until all flour is covered with water.
Put the saucepan back on the medium heat and cook for about 20 minutes. The liquid will become a bit thicker and lumps will soak some of the water.

Drain as much liquid as you can, and save it in a bowl. With help of a spoon cut through the lumps until you get smaller lumps.
If the mixture is to much dry add some of the drained liquid. Cover with a lid and let stand on a turned off cooker for about 15 minutes.

For the sauce chop finely garlic, chili and parsley. Heat the oil in a pan, add garlic and chili and cook until garlic is slightly golden. Add parsley and žganci, with a help of two spoons keep on ¨cutting¨ through žganci so that the lumps do not stick to each other. Cook for about 10 minutes on low heat. Serve with parmesan and black pepper.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Thyme chocolate

Chocolate and thyme, I never thought that this combination could be so delicious. And addition of flax seeds, which are rich in omega 3, makes this chocolate a nice new addition to the ever expanding world of chocolate.