Sunday, April 25, 2010

a burger is not just a burger

like most families, we love a good burger. and we do succumb to the occasional trip to the golden arches (tho' we always regret it afterwards, unless the only thing we got is one of those mcflurry with daim and extra caramel (but i digress)). but the best burgers are the ones we do ourselves at home.

i tend to make it as easy on myself as possible, because burgers are always something we do when we've had a busy day otherwise and we don't feel we have that much time, but want something yummy. i buy good quality organic ground beef, some kind of posh buns, a few ripe avocados for guacamole, a tub of greek yogurt for tzatziki, a jar of pickled jalapeños, some arugula, some ready-made indian pickles.

tonight, we also had a mango around, so i diced it, threw it together with a few green onions and tossed it in a ready-made goma (japanese sesame) dressing from a sushi place. i always make a big bowl of guacamole as well, as for us, no burger is complete without it. and yes, a mish-mash of styles - mexican, japanese, indian, is all right by us. this time, it was even more complicated, as i drizzled the ciabatta buns with truffle oil before i toasted them. it was a veritable international feast all one one plate.  but a burger holds up to that, doesn't it?

it's all very simple - in this case, i had strange long ciabatta buns strafed with cheese, so i shaped my hamburger accordingly. i seasoned it simply with salt and a sprinkle of the fajita seasoning i use in my guacamole - fiesta makes the best one in my humble opinion.

tho' none of this is actually complicated enough to warrant recipes, i'll show you how simple it is by sharing the guacamole and tzatziki recipes....


3-4 ripe avocados (depending on how many you are serving - i use approximately one per person, but we're big fans)
1/2 an onion, finely diced
1 small tomato, finely diced
handful of cilantro (this evening, i didn't have cilantro, but i did have those beautiful deep green garlicky ramsons (ramsløg) that can be found in the forests around us at the moment)
1 small chili, finely diced (i do leave this out when serving children, or make them their own bowl without it, but tend to serve it on the side for those who like it with a bit more kick)
fiesta fajita seasoning to taste
juice of a lime or half a lemon (whichever you have on hand)

scoop out the avocado into a bowl and mash it with a fork, add the diced onion, tomato, cilantro and chili and season with the fajita seasoning. if you lack fajita seasoning, a bit of salt and a garlic pepper will do. squeeze the lemon over it to keep it from discoloring. 


1 cup (250 grams) greek yogurt (i like the thickness it offers as opposed to ordinary yogurt)
1 6" section of cucumber, grated (grate into a sieve and squeeze out the excess liquid)
1 clove of garlic (or a handful of ramsons, finely chopped)

stir up and enjoy! 

think posh the next time you serve burgers. if you invest in good ground beef, why not splurge on other ingredients? a bit of truffle oil, fancier buns, a spicy indian pickle, some posh mizuna greens or peppery arugula, a fresh pesto...the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

what to eat with a south african white wine

lovely whites from
late last year, via twitter, surely after i was tweeting on about chenin blanc, i was contacted by cyber cellar, an online south african wine seller. even before that, south african wines were my new world wine of choice. mostly because i had visited spier and delheim and a couple of other smaller wineries on my two business trips to south africa, so i felt i had more relationship to south african wines than any of the other new world wines. the wonderful folks at cyber cellar sent me enough bottles for two wine tastings. i had in mind a (then) upcoming christmas gathering and my january blog camp as occasions for those tastings. well, there was a lot of flu going around at christmas and so that occasion didn't happen. at blog camp, we tried a couple of the wines, but the focus was elsewhere and we didn't do a proper tasting.

i'll admit i felt ill equipped to talk authoritatively about the various wines cyber cellar had sent, as i had only what information i could glean from the quick blurb on their website and the wineries' own websites, so i never felt bold enough to advertise and hold a proper tasting. thus, i've been sitting with 8 bottles of wine (out of 12) left and a very guilty conscience, since i hadn't done a very good job of helping cyber cellars find some new customers. and thanks to our own chaos around here with moving and such, i haven't even ordered for myself yet, which i definitely want to do. so in all, i've been hanging my head a little bit in shame after they were so generous to me.

but on wednesday, it hit me, what i love most about wine (aside from drinking it on a daily basis) is pairing it with food. and food (despite my absence from this blog of late) i can do. so i went to see my wonderful fish man (i'm gonna miss him when we move) and i got a selection of things that would be lovely with the perdeberg chenin blanc and the cowlin chardonnay semillion i had left.

since it's spring and still the season for stenbiderrogn, which i wrote about previously, we started with that. the fresh brightness of the perdeberg chenin blanc was the perfect complement to the light, springy taste of the caviar. it cut nicely through the creaminess of the créme fraîche and let the pop of the eggs shine through.

since we wanted to try a variety of different fish with the two whites, we ate rather tapas-style, with several small dishes, rather than starting with an appetizer and moving onto a main dish. i stuffed two golden foreller (a kind of trout) with shallots, ginger and cilantro, drizzled them with golden, local cold-pressed rapeseed oil and poached them in some of the chardonnay semillion. while they were poaching in the little oven, i steamed some asparagus and did up a handful of scallops that had been marinated in the same flavors in the grill pan. a big loaf of our beloved focaccia bread came out of the big oven just as we were ready to sit down. (don't worry, all recipes will follow.) to make it a meal, i stirred up a golden garlicky aïoli mayonnaise to slather on the bread and eat with the big bowl of dill-poached crayfish that the child had requested (and which she ate most of singlehandedly). we can buy the crayfish frozen and already cooked in the dill, so all we do is thaw them, so i'm afraid i have no recipe for that bit.

the light was starting to go and not great for this picture in light of my reluctance to use flash, but you get the idea.
rounding off the deliciousness was some smoked cod egg (torskerogn) and a couple of delectable slices of smoked tuna, both of which were gorgeous with the homemade mayonnaise. they're pictured here on swedish flat bread from today's lunch, but we ate them with the homemade focaccia last night.

smoked cod egg on the left, smoked tuna on the right
the cowlin chardonnay-semillion was the perfect companion to the heavy oiliness of the smoked fish. it both lightened and brightened the heavy smoky taste of both - i think they were smoked in a similar way and both could have a tendency towards heaviness, but the chardonnay-semillion stood up to them nicely. the right wine really can make the meal.

and now for the recipes....

my favorite focaccia
adapted from jamie oliver

1 block organic yeast
pinch of flaky sea salt (i love maldon's best)
1 glug of good olive oil (a couple tablespoons?)
1 squeeze of runny honey
2 C (1/2 liter) lukewarm water
4-5 C of flour - i often mix 1/3 spelt flour and the rest good organic white flour, but use what you have around. the more rough your flour, the heavier the bread will be.

give the liquids and yeast and salt a whirl in your mixer with the dough hook in place and then let it sit until it begins to froth up a bit (about five minutes), then add the flour.

mix in your mixer with the dough hook until it comes together in a sticky knot on the dough hook. it will still be a little bit sticky. if it looks too sticky, add a bit more flour - in my experience flour varies a lot, even if you use the same brand, but especially if you're using speciality, stone-ground flours, which i like to do. it can be anywhere from 4-6 cups you need.

set the dough to rise under a tea towel in large bowl that you've dabbed with olive oil and a sprinkling of flour.  you can ignore it all day or let it rise only an hour or so, whatever fits your schedule.  once it's risen, spread it out flat on a baking pan that's lined with baking paper.  make some dimples with your fingers, then drizzle olive oil over it. sprinkle with a good pink of flaky salt crystals and whatever herbs you have at hand. i usually grate a bit of cheese over the top - my favorite is prima donna, a salty aged gouda, but i've been known to use parmesan or cheddar - i really use whatever i've got in the fridge.

let it rise again for 30-45 minutes if you have time. bake approx. 30 minutes at 180°C/375°F. my oven is faster than that, so keep an eye on it. it's done when you knock on it and it seems crispy. it shouldn't seem soft. and it will be quite flat still, not more than about 3cm high.

i make this bread several times a week and it always disappears immediately.

stuffed, poached trout

2 small-medium trout, which your fish monger has cleaned for you (e.g. the guts are gone and their belly is ready to fill with goodness)
1 big hunk of fresh ginger
1 medium shallot
rapeseed oil (it's a bright, beautiful yellow, but you can just as well use olive oil)
handful of fresh cilantro
good glug of white wine

chop the shallot and the ginger finely and mix them together in a bowl. drizzle with rapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper. place the trout in an oven-safe dish and stuff them with the shallot-ginger mix and as much cilantro as the trout can hold. pour over about a cup (250ml) or so of white wine and place them in the oven to poach at 150°C/350°F for 15-20 minutes (depending on how fat your trout are).

i served them with steamed asparagus that had melted butter and a squeeze of lemon over it.

i love that beautiful bright gold of the rapeseed oil
aïoli - garlic mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, salted and crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 egg yolks
1 T vinegar
a good oil - i used a combination of rapeseed oil and olive oil, but it's up to you.

i have taken a long time to perfect making mayonnaise and i will admit it doesn't work for me every time - sometimes it's more of a runny sauce than an actual mayonnaise. the key is in adding the oil slowly enough. i've tried making it by hand and in a blender and with a hand mixer, but have found that it succeeds most often if i use my big food processor. first, i crush the garlic into a paste with a good pinch of salt in my mortar and pestle. i give the egg yolks a whirl with the vinegar in the meantime, then i add the garlic to them and begin very, very slowly to add the oil. i usually start with the lighter oil - in this case, the golden rapeseed oil because it is lighter than olive oil. the photo above is a HUGE stream in comparison to what it should be at first, it should be as thin as a hair at first. after about a minute or so at the very slow speed, you can begin to increase the amount or switch to olive oil if you want that rich, green flavor. this time, i made it only with the rapeseed oil because i wanted it to be really golden and i wanted to make it with ingredients produced in denmark. it made for a lighter mayonnaise than when you use olive oil. i actually think it's a bit easier to make it come together as a mayonnaise if you use the rapeseed oil rather than straight olive oil. but i'd love to hear from any of you who have mayonnaise-making experience. i think it can be a temperamental thing.

in all, this fish feast felt like a very springy, eastery thing to eat. and the lightness of the south african whites, both of them, were really the perfect complement to the food. if you're interested in these wines, you should definitely check out as they will ship just about anywhere! please do tell them i sent you, if only to ease my guilty conscience!

i'll present some wonderful south african reds and the food to go with them in a few days.


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