Monday, June 25, 2007

Taking Off

The Quark menagerie is heading off to summer pastures for a few weeks, so the blog will be going radio silent for a while. I can't even promise a backlog of fabulous things when I return as both groceries and cooking facilities are kind of incredibly basic. Oh well, at least the view is very nice:

gone to the island...

Enjoy your summer!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Do you remember the first time you had peanut butter? Peanut butter wasn't much of a thing in Finland when I was growing up (understatement), so I do. I was a slow convert to the peanut butter straight up, not mixed with anything school (and I still don't get the PBJ sandwich, but then I don't want jelly anywhere near my sandwiches anyway), but used in spicy sauces (and peanut butter cookies, but that's a bit different) it has a more instant appeal, adding this smooth and creamy depth to, er, whatever you're mixing it with.

Noodle Salad

A noodle salad with carrots, bell pepper and scallions, in this case. The sauce is really the star of this thing, fabulously spicy and satisfying, so obviously you could, and should, play around with the amount and type of vegetables. (I did make it again later on with chicken, and that was lovely too, and for a more nutritionally balanced vegetarian option, mung sprouts would be lovely.) I chose to mix in just half of the dressing before serving, so everyone could add more to their plates according to taste.

Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
adapted from Bon Appétit, Oct 2004, serves 3

75 ml (1/3 cup) peanut butter
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 fresh red chili pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1½ tbsp ginger, minced
about 50 ml vegetable (or chicken) stock, or enough to make the above a fairly runny sauce

150 g rice noodles
3 medium carrots, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 bunch scallions, julienned

(I find julienning things therapeutic. If you don't, this dish is going to be a lot less fun to prepare.)

Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor and blend until smooth. (I find that you need to chop the chili really finely for this to work at all, but your mileage may vary.)

Bring a pot of water to the boil and throw in the carrots and bell pepper. Add the rice noodles, take off the heat and let stand for however long it says on the package. (3 minutes in this case, which was just perfect for the veggies.) Drain and run under cold water, then drain well again. Mix in the scallions and enough sauce to make it nice and slick. Serve as is or cold, with more sauce on the side.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grilled Mustard & Dill Salmon

First of all, I'm thrilled (and a little bit amazed) to have won the most recent installation of the Swedish food event Cyberkocken. A huge thank you to Anne for hosting, the judges for, um, voting for me, and most of all to the mussles for not giving us food poisoning in spite of the less-than-stellar treatment they got on the way home. Tack!

Mustard Grilled Salmon

Now that's out of the way, this was one of the things I thought about entering to the Finnish food blog challenge, the theme of which is grilled/barbecued food. I've only recently started enjoying cooking fish - I've always liked eating it - but this was one of my first times ever grilling fish. A big fillet of salmon lends itself really well to this purpose, as it's not going to overcook and turn dry in a matter of minutes the way smaller white fish would, and the ease of preparation was a major plus. The minus being... the taste of the topping. The mustard was a bit overpowering, and I was using bought mayo which was just a bit too sharp here. With some tweaking (maybe some yogurt or soft cheese replacing part of the mayo?) it'll be wonderful - you just slap the fish on the grill and top with the seasoning and leave it for about 20 minutes and it's done! - but it's not exactly a challenge entry yet. Good thing we got an extension due to our general summer laziness...

Speaking of laziness, I'm just going to link you to the recipe.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lemon & Chili Ice Cream

Here's a newsflash: ice cream is hard to photograph. It melts. (Cloudberry Quark - bringing you the very latest in physics. Since, um, February.) Also our ice cream scoop is not made for scooping, I think.

Lemon Chili Ice Cream

One of the problems with having a food blog, I've discovered, is that I rarely repeat fabulous recipes after I've blogged about them. Because what would I have to blog about then? It really takes some begging to make me repeat things, and even then, unless I'm strictly supervised, I tend to... tinker.

Lemon Chili Ice Cream

This is more or less a repeat of the incredibly lemony ice cream from last month - the proportions are 4 yolks, 120 g sugar, 200 ml whipping cream, 100 ml light cream, 100 ml milk (or just 400 ml liquids to make it simple), zest and juice of two lemons and one fairly mild chili pepper. (It could have been zingier, is what I'm saying.) Throw in the chili with the lemon zest. The sauce is from Nigella's Forever Summer and is very simple: simmer 250 ml water and 250 g of caster sugar until it thickens (without stirring), dump in one finely chopped chili (again, not a mild chili necessarily), wait until it cools a bit, then stir and store in the fridge.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beet, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad

Season's first beets are here! I find beets somewhat challenging to prepare, since roasting (and maybe grilling) is the only way to do it right, and it does take an age. (Actually it's not so much the time as the fact that you never know how long it'll take.) Once you're done, you sort of want there to be more to it than a bunch of, well, edible root veg.

Beet, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad

Not to knock the old beets-with-butter side dish, which is after all a classic for a reason (it's not just the butter, either), but this time I wanted to go for another classic combo: beets, walnuts and blue cheese. The last time I went for this pairing, it was in somewhat unorthodox empanadas, but that's just too fussy for a weeknight in summer, so I turned to the trusty Epicurious for some salad hints. The dressing is, erm, less-than-beautiful (this is what comes of reading a recipe, thinking "yeah, I'll remember what to do" and then... not remembering what to do), but very tasty!

Beet, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad
adapted from The Figs Table by Todd English and Sally Sampson

5 medium-sized beets, with stems trimmed to an inch or so of the root, scrubbed clean
1 tbsp or so of olive oil
a handful of walnuts
a few tbsp fresh chopped herbs; I used mint and basil
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ tbsp olive oil
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
80 g (about 3 oz) blue cheese (I used Roquefort)
a few tbsp light cream

Rub the beets with a bit of olive oil, wrap tightly in tin foil and roast at 200°C (400°F) for about 40-50 minutes, until tender. Let cool for a while, then rub the skin off and cut into strips/slices/whatever. Mix in walnuts and herbs and season with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. (If your salad isn't all wilted and sad, toss some in, too - the original used arugula.)

Sautée the chopped walnuts in the olive oil and set aside. Whizz together cheese and cream in a food processor until smooth, add the cooled walnuts and the onion and run the blender for a while longer. Add more cream if it's too solid and more cheese if it's runny. Serve with the beets.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pressed Bread with Roasted Vegetables

You may have noticed the recent slew of recipes lifted from the Finnish food mag Ruoka & viini (food & wine) here. This would be because the most recent issue was pretty much filled cover-to-cover with stuff I not only want but NEED to make. (Although strictly speaking, I'm not going to follow all to the letter - where's the fun in buying vanilla ice cream and mixing in lime and chilies when you can make your own?)

Pressed Bread with Roasted Vegetables

Anyway, I made this filled, pressed bread for our impromptu picnic last week - the recipe called it a pan bagnat, but as I understand it that's a nicoise sandwich, while this involved mostly roasted vegetables. Whatever the name, it's chock-full of Mediterranean goodness (literally, in my case, since we don't exactly have baby zucchini here yet - and if we did, they'd be hothouse-grown and decidedly non-eco friendly) and a very nice picnic or lunch item for a hot day. I pressed it pretty heavily, as you can see, with a whole stack of plates overnight, which was... perhaps just a bit overzealous? The bottom of the bread was a bit soggier than the top, so maybe I should have turned it over at some point. But those a really minor quibbles, and the basic concept is definitely one I'll use again. Maybe with some goat cheese thrown in.

Possibly even with home-baked bread. Right now it's even cool enough to bake (I know you just live for these weather reports, y'know).

Pressed Bread with Roasted Vegetables
adapted* from Glorian ruoka & viini 4/07, serves 6-8

1 boule-shaped bread

2 small bell peppers
2 small zucchini
1 medium aubergine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½-1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
100 ml (scant ½ cup) kalamata olives, deseeded and sliced

2 tsp red wine vinegar
100 ml chopped fresh herbs (I used basil and lemon-thyme)
½-1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Slice the zucchini and aubergine fairly thinly (you can do the salt-sweating thing for the aubergines or not - I usually do if I have the time, because that was the way I first liked aubergine). If you have a gas stove, roast the peppers over the flame. I don't, and I didn't feel like firing up the grill, so I halved them and threw them in the oven with the rest (of course, you could grill all the vegetables if you wanted, I bet that'd be fabulous).

Toss the vegetables with 2 tbsp of olive oil and roast - in a single layer, I had to do it in two batches - at 225°C (440°F) until slightly browned, turning once during roasting.

Slice the peppers and season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Halve the bread length-wise and carve out most of the innards from both halves, leaving about a cm at the edges. Mix together the ingredients for the dressing and spread evenly over the cut-sides of the bread.

Layer vegetables, olives and sun-dried tomatoes evenly on each carved-out bread half, then carefully place the top half, er, on top of the bottom. Um, so you have a bread shaped bread again, yes? Wrap tightly in clingfilm, then weigh down with a few plates or something and place in the fridge overnight.

*they used one zucchini, and had capers where I had sun-dried tomatoes, and the total of 2 tsp pepper specified was just a bit too much.

Recipe after the jump!

Simple Tomato Salad

So last Sunday was a bit of a letdown all around - the internet went boom, and getting up we realized we'd be spending a goodish part of the day at the vet, fixing the girlcat's infected foot. Luckily the lunch we had planned benefited from waiting a bit, and so we threw together a potato salad and this fresh tomato concoction before leaving. (The foot is fine now. The cat it's attached to hates me for the antibiotics though.)

Tomato Salad

The original recipe called for cilantro, which I'm not too fond of in its raw state, so I substituted parsley. Yes, traditional, curly parsley. It has a bad rep, and I just don't understand why. Is it the mouth-feel? You just need to chop it more finely than your average herb! Is it that it's just not as hip as its flatter cousin? I would be happy to use flat-leaf parsley in a load of things, but sadly the flat parsley you get in the shops here is disgustingly overgrown and coarse. Which makes me wonder how hard it is to grow? I have yet to kill my chili plants and I made a piece of ginger root shoot up an enormously tall, er, stalk, so clearly I now have the magic touch and could grow anything.*

Tomato Salad

Anyway, this salad is fast and easy and the season of non-disgusting tomatoes is just around the corner, so I think this'll be one of our summer go-tos in the future. Yum!

*never mind that the chili isn't actually blooming or anything. It's not dead! It's making loads of pretty leaves!

Simple Tomato Salad
adapted from Glorian ruoka & viini 4/2007, serves 2-4

500 g (1 lb) ripe plum tomatoes
1 mild red chili
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch scallions
100 ml (scant ½ cup) chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

De-seed and chop the tomatoes and chili. Mince the garlic and slice the scallions finely. Mix together the ingredients for the dressing and combine with the chopped vegetables in a bowl. Sprinkle in the chopped herb of your choice and let stand in the fridge for a few hours before eating.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Grilled Couscous Salad

The problem with only just getting around to typing up dishes you prepared, ate, and forgot about more than a week ago is, well, the "forgot about" part says it all really. I have the picture I took, and I have the recipe that I know I didn't follow (because no way do I put 300 ml of oil in anything, except maybe a pan for deep-frying), and a vague memory of what I did do, and an equally vague memory of the result being quite tasty.

This is why my internet should never ever break. That, and the bit where I rely on reittiopas to tell me how to get from point A to point B on time and without getting lost.

Couscous with Grilled Vegetables

So. This may have been good? Maybe. The only reason I remember it at all is that I grilled the vegetables myself and didn't set anything on fire. I think the dressing was the best part. In general, the trick with couscous (in the absence of a couscoussiere) is either a) butter, lots of, or b) a nice lemony dressing. Which leads me to posit that if you combined the two... well, maybe next time.

Grilled Couscous Salad
adapted from Glorian ruoka & viini 4/2007, serves 4

2 small zucchini
1 medium aubergine
1 medium bell pepper
olive oil

200 ml couscous
300 ml water
1 tbsp concentrated vegetable stock (or however much you need to get 300 ml fairly strong stock)
1 tbsp butter
250 ml chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, mint and oregano)

juice from one lemon
75 ml olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Bring the water and vegetable stock to a boil. Add the couscous and let stand over a low heat for a few minutes. Take off the stove and stir in the butter, then cover and let stand while you grill the vegetables.

Chop the vegetables - my chunks were pretty big, but obviously do as you like - and toss them in a bit of oil. Grill over medium-high heat until lightly charred.

Mince the garlic and combine with the rest of the ingredients for the dressing.

Toss together vegetables, chopped herbs, dressing and couscous. Serve.

Recipe after the jump!

Sounding Radish Slivers

xiang luo bu si

I seem to have gone on a bit of an unplanned hiatus here lately - although it was partly unwilling, too, as our internet kind of blew up on Sunday. Or rather, fizzled and died, and, wow, is there a word for being woefully incompetent without internet access? Measurement conversions, word translations, recipes... it's all here. (And then we went and got a new DSL modem and I got lazy.)

Sounding Radish Slivers

I had a bit of a debate with myself about posting this recipe. It's very (VERY) good, but when eating it we were struck by how well some salmon would go with it. It would probably be, hrrm, less than authentic (the recipe comes from Fuchsia Dunlop's book on Hunan cooking, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook), but then I'm already substituting daikon with black radish, so it's probably well ruined anyway.

It takes some slicing and dicing (I used the slicer on my KitchenAid and then cut the slices into strips), but otherwise it's just a breeze, especially as I seem to have finally mastered the art of seasoning the wok so stuff doesn't stick to it.

Sounding Radish Slivers

Sounding Radish Slivers
from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

500 g (1 lb) daikon radish (black radish was fine, although probably different)
1 tsp salt
1 red chili
1 bunch scallions, green parts
1 tsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp potato flour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp groundnut oil for cooking

Slice the radish finely, then cut the slices into slivers. Toss with the salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Slice the chili and scallions.

Drain the radish slices and squeeze dry. Heat the wok until smoking, then pour in the groundnut oil and the chili. Let sizzle for a "a few seconds" (whatever), then add the radish slivers and soy sauce and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the spring onions and vinegar and stir to combine, then add the potato flour goo and stir until it thickens. Take off the heat and stir in the sesame oil.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Blogimiittiä pikavaroituksella

Pääkaupunkiseutulaiset hoi! Monkeyfoodin Ylimuulin kanssa olemme jonkin aikaa vähän miettineet piknikluontoista tapaamista nyt alkukesälle. Alkukesä kuitenkin on ihankohtajo muuttumassa *kröhöm* kesäksi, joten Hyvällä Varoitusajalla päätimme tavata huomenna lauantaina Kaisaniemen puistossa iltapäivällä kolmen maissa.

Mukaan jotain pientä purtavaa (itse olen tekemässä juuri saapuneesta Ruoka & viinistä täytettyä maalaisleipää, mutta näillä säillä & pika-ajoituksella ostoruoalle ei todellakaan nirpistellä neniä) ja pelkäämätön mieli. Mikäli ajatus ei ihan hirveästi pistä vastaan, pistäkee meiliä joko minulle (deinin-at-gmail-piste-com) tai Muulille niin vaihdetaan puhelinnumeroita ja sovitaan joku tunnistamiskeino. :P

[This is an invitation to meet up tomorrow for a picnic in Kaisaniemi park. If you're in Helsinki and would like to join us, do mail me at deinin-at-gmail-dot-com. Yes, I'm always this well prepared, why do you ask?]

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Pasta Salad with Zucchini, Red Onion & Sun-Dried Tomato

[Because I'm nothing if not bad with timing, we had this salad last week. After the first heat wave. Before the current heat wave. (Which, luckily, isn't as bad as the first one, if only because it's not as oppressive.) I wrote this after I'd made it and then had internet troubles and forgot to come back and actually post it when they were resolved.]

Of course, by the time I get around to cooking sweltering heat-appropriate dishes, the weather's gone back to +17°. (Note: THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT. I like seventeen-degree weather. It'll pretty much have to be minus seventeen* for me to start bitching about the cold.) I just wish I'd had this salad ready earlier this week when the thought of keeping the stove on long enough to cook pasta was enough to make me want to burst out crying. (I believe we've established that I'm a wuss when it comes to heat, yes?)

Pasta Salad with Zucchini

This is perhaps not the fastest hearty salad you'll ever make - unless you take to a mandolin or similar, the chopping will take a while, and it is really so much better when you really get the zucchini into fine slices, at least to my mind - but when you have it, should you follow the amounts given below, you'll have a huge salad, enough to feed six people at least, and it will stay fine in the fridge for several days. I've usually left the pine nuts to be sprinkled on each serving, so I'm not sure if they'll go soggy in the fridge, and sometimes I've perked it up with more fresh basil and some arugula, or even cherry tomatoes.

Pasta Salad with Zucchini

I wish I could give credit to someone for the recipe (the balsamic white vinegar is a stroke of genius, for one thing), but it's a copy-pasted document on my computer from a time way before knowing the source of something because I'd be presenting it to the public became an issue.

*all degrees in Celsius. Obviously.

Pasta Salad with Zucchini, Red Onion & Sun-Dried Tomato

½ l (2 cups) fairly sturdy pasta
3 baby zucchini, about 200g each
3 medium red onions
100 g (or so, translates to roughly half a cup chopped) sun-dried tomatoes in oil
200 ml cream (I used light cooking cream)
2-3 tbsp balsamic white vinegar
salt & pepper
a lot of fresh basil
toasted pine nuts

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water. When it's al dente, drain and run under cold tap water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes finely. Reserve some of the oil.

Slice the zucchini and onion finely; cut the zucchini rounds into strips.

In a very large saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of the oil from the tomatoes and soften the onions in it. Add the zucchini and stir to blend, then add the cream and let come to the boil (if you prefer your zucchini pieces a bit thicker than mine, wait a bit before adding the cream to cook them properly) and take off the heat. Stir in the tomatoes and pasta, season with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

Let cool to room temperature, then stir in a big bunch of chopped basil. Let stand in the fridge for a few hours and check to see if it needs more seasoning before serving. Sprinkle on the toasted pine nuts.

Recipe after the jump!

Risotto med musslor & rökt bacon (Mussel & Bacon Risotto)

This is my entry for this month's Swedish food blog challenge. Scroll down for the English writeup & recipe.

Normalt brukar man ju skriva ganska vitt och brett om sina hopkok, men nu blir det faktiskt nästan bara ett recept för månadens cyberkock - om jag skall hinna somna innan väckarklockan ringer så blir det ingen tid över till annat pladder fast rätten eller snarare ingrediensanskaffningen nog torde kunna dryftas. (Tänk dig bara att sitta med ett nät musslor i en solgassad, fullproppad buss vars värmesystem gått totalt ur balans så att det blåser hetluft på dina stackars fötter. Ja, musslorna såklart också. Men dom är uppätna nu, medan mina fötter fortfarande liiiider.)


Månadens ingredienser var förutom musslor ingefära, koriander och nånting rökt. Det rökta blev för min del bacon och färsk koriander smakar tvål så den bytte jag ut mot persilja, men om man har såna smaklökar som står ut med eller rent av njuter av det så lär koriander passa hur bra som helst. Titta in på Annes mat senare i veckan för att se resten av bidragen!


In English: Cyberkocken is a monthly event where you prepare a dish or meal containing four given ingredients. This month's hostess is Anne of Anne's Food, and the ingredients mussels, ginger, cilantro (or coriander, as the Swedish word is the same for both spice and herb) and "something smoked." I could tell you stories about finding the mussels, but since I was in too much of a hurry to do so in Swedish when I posted this, I shall just say that heat is evil, my shoes are evil, and the bus I came home on tried to steam-boil both my feet and my mussels by running the heater (my feet were just by an air-vent) in 25°C weather. It's a miracle I didn't give all of us food poisoning, but miraculously a decent amount of the mussels survived the trip.

I'm not a fan of cilantro (it tastes like soap) so I substituted fresh parsley, and my smoked ingredient was bacon, because nothing can go wrong with bacon. Yesterday was perhaps not the perfect day to make risotto, but eating it was wonderful. Recipe in English follows the Swedish one after the jump.

Risotto med musslor & rökt bacon

ett nät blåmusslor
ett paket rökt bacon (eller vanlig)
en stäng selleri
en rödlök
en ca. 4 cm lång bit färsk ingefära
3 dl arborioris
2 dl vitvin + lite till till musslorna
ca 1,25 l (tillredd, sjudande) hummerfond
1 knippe vårlök, strimlad
persilja/koriander, grovhackad

Skär baconen i små bitar och stek en stund i en medelstor kastrull på ganska låg värme - avsikten här är att få fettet att smälta. Hacka selleri och rödlök fint och stek dem med baconen i några minuter. Riv ingefäran och tillsätt den. Rör ner riset i grönsakerna (tillsätt lite olja om det ser torrt ut) och låt värmas nån minut tills riset börjar se lite genomskinligt ut i kanterna. Häll i 2 dl vin och rör om tills riset sugit upp vätskan. Sen kommer det roliga med risotton: tillsätt hummerfond (eller kräft- eller fiskbuljong, antar jag) en slev i taget allteftersom riset suger i sig vätska. Det hela borde ta en knapp halvtimme eller så, och vätskemängden kan variera.

Under tiden: pochera (de tvättade) musslorna i en slurk vin tills de öppnar sig, ställ åt sidan.

När risotton är mer eller mindre färdig: rör i den strimlade vårlöken och hackade örter. Smaka av med peppar (salt behövs knappast, det är ganska mycket bacon) och blanda i musslorna.

Mussel & Bacon Risotto

a net of mussels (I... have no idea how much that is. A pound and a half?)
170 g smoked bacon
1 stalk celery
1 red onion
a scant-two-inch-long piece of fresh ginger, grated
300 ml arborio rice
200 ml white wine + some more to poach the mussels in
1¼ l prepared, simmering lobster (or fish or prawn) stock
1 bunch of scallions, sliced
parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
pepper to taste

Cut the bacon into smallish pieces and cook in a medium-sized pot on a medium-low heat. You're not crisping them here, just releasing the fat. Chop the red onion and celery finely and add to the pot, stir-frying until translucent. Add the grated fresh ginger, stir for a minute or so, then pour in the rice and keep stirring until the rice starts to look a bit translucent at the edges. Pour in the wine and stir until it's been absorbed, then add the stock, one ladleful at the time, stirring often, until the rice is ready.

Meanwhile, poach the mussels in a bit of wine in a large, covered pan until they open - just a few minutes really. Set aside.

Once the risotto is almost ready, stir in the sliced scallions and chopped herbs. Taste off with pepper (what with the stock and the bacon, I shouldn't think you'll need salt, but of course tastes vary.) and stir in the mussels.

Recipe after the jump!