Sunday, May 25, 2014

pesto and mojo

tho' it's barely summer yet, we've already had some glorious weekend weather. the kind that makes you want grill and eat outdoors and only come inside when the dew is settling and a chill enters the air.  and barbeque means a couple of our favorite condiments - nettle pesto and mojo.

our nettles are young and tender and just perfect for big, garlicky batches of pesto. it's dead easy and i always make a big batch and hope that it lasts at least a few days into the week. you blanch the nettles to take away the sting. we actually think it's better than a basil-based pesto, but then we may be biased by our northern climes, where it's easy to grow nettles and not to easy to grow basil. but nettles are delicious and full of nutrients. plus, they're plentiful and free!

stinging nettle pesto

1 colander full of fresh nettle leaves (if they've started to bloom, don't use them, as they may give you a bad tummy)
generous handful of nuts (pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts - whatever you've got at hand - i've even used cashews)
2 fat cloves of garlic
1/4 C freshly-grated parmesan
good quality olive oil
salt & pepper
pinch of paprika

blanch the nettles in boiling water for a minute or so, drain them well and rinse with cold water. squeeze out all of the excess water and toss them into the food processor with the other ingredients and whizz it up. drizzle olive oil in until your pesto has the consistency you'd like. it's a perfect accompaniment to grilled meats and veggies, but is also delicious tossed with pasta for a quick dinner once the hectic week gets started.

another staple at our house is a peppery mojo. we had some couchsurfing guests from tenerife a few summers ago and they taught us to make it. it's a lovely combination of fresh, sweet red peppers, garlic, nuts, paprika and olive oil. i make it year-round and we use it as an accompaniment to omelettes , fresh bread, meat, pasta - anything, really. our couchsurfers served it with salt-roasted potatoes and that's the traditional way in tenerife. but like any adopters of food culture, we have suited it to our own purposes and we use it with just about everything. but we think of our couchsurfing friends from tenerife with a smile every time we make it.


3-4 fresh, long sweet red peppers
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 fat cloves of garlic
handful of nuts - i like pistachios best, but have been known to use almonds, walnuts or pine nuts if i don't have any pistachios on hand.
salt & pepper
good olive oil

like the pesto, you just whizz up the ingredients in the food processor, drizzling in olive oil until it's the consistency you desire. i highly recommend it with virtually any meal. you can also change the flavor to a richer, deeper, darker taste by roasting the peppers and garlic in the oven instead of using them raw. delicious and versatile. often i make it in the food processor after i do the nettle pesto, leaving the last remains of the pesto there, so it becomes flecked with bits of green. 

but you can do your own experiments. if you add these two condiments to your summer grill table, i guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

the perfect mother's day cake

it's a very good year for rhubarb. we've got a double row of it and it's almost literally coming out of our years. we've picked a whole wheelbarrow full twice and you can't scarcely see it. it hasn't made a dent. these are very old rhubarb roots that we moved to another spot when we moved here four years ago. we divided a bunch of the roots at that time and it obviously made the rhubarb very, very happy, as it's thriving incredibly. i find myself thinking up ways of using rhubarb. i've made 6 bottles of cordial so far and should make about 10x more (seriously, i could probably do this in commercial quantities if i had the time). so in honor of mother's day on this rainy sunday afternoon, i turned to my mom's recipe for rhubarb coffee cake to provide us some comfort and to use up a bit of that rhubarb.

i had a conversation with husband about why it's called a coffee cake, when there's no coffee in it, but i explained that it's because you eat it with your afternoon coffee. i think for me, coffee cake is also darker and deeper than normal cake. in this case, the recipe calls for brown sugar, rather than white and i think that lends to the deep coffee cake goodness. i think it also has to do with not having frosting per se. so a coffee cake is a simpler cake.

mom's rhubarb coffee cake

Cream together:

1/2 C butter
2 C brown sugar
3 eggs
1 C buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla


2 C flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
3 C rhubarb, cut into small pieces (between 1/2" and 1", depending on how thick your rhubarb is).

Pour it into a buttered/floured 9x13 baking pan and sprinkle with:

1/2 C sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Bake at 180°C/350°F for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with coffee or even a cup of tea. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

stay warm this winter with roasted cauliflower soup

every once in awhile, i get a bee in my bonnet to eat healthier and it almost always includes thinking that becoming vegetarian is a good idea. i could never fully go vegetarian, since i'm utterly unable to give up bacon (can one be a bacotarian?), but there you have it. true to form, we decided that we'd eat vegetarian during february. or at the very least cook vegetarian during february. we're a week in and it's actually going pretty well. our weather is cold, grey, dreary and rainy and what's better for that than a warming, delicious roasted cauliflower soup?

i only learned to roast cauliflower, in the oven, with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of cumin, in the past year or so and it's now my go-to method, whether we're eating is as a side dish or letting it, like here, take the center stage as the star of the show.

i have pinned quite a number of cauliflower soup recipes on pinterest of late, since it's in season, often local, and one of my favorite brassicas (we like it much better than boring old broccoli). but i didn't follow any particular one of them, but just let the inspiration start there and become something of my own.

roasted cauliflower soup

1.5 heads of cauliflower (that's what i happened to have, you could do with one large one as well)
1/2 bulb of fresh fennel, diced
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic
50 grams butter (approx. half a stick, for those of you in the states)
1 can coconut milk
1 C good white wine
4 C good veggie stock (or chicken stock, if you're not going vegetarian)

for toppings:
crumbled bacon (again if you're not trying to be vegetarian)
toasted bread crumbs (if you are)
crunchy onions (called ristet løg in danish)
a handful of black olives

wash and pull apart the head of cauliflower into florets, cutting ones in half that seem especially large. arrange them on baking paper on an oven tray. drizzle over a bit of good olive oil and a small pinch of ground cumin on each one. pop them into a 180°C/375°F oven for 20 minutes or so until they are softened and getting a bit brown on the edges.

meanwhile, sauté the diced onions, garlic and fennel in the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. when they are softened, but not brown, add the toasted cauliflower and the liquids. allow them to simmer for 15-20 minutes or so, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. use a stick blender to blend the soup creamy, taking care not to splash and burn yourself (i make the mistakes so you don't have to). you can return it to the stove at this point and let it simmer a bit more to meld the flavors or you can eat it right away. 

serve with a bit of crumbled bacon or toasted bread crumbs or crunchy onions on top. we have a ready-made product here called ristet løg (roasted onions) - and it's what you see in my photos. you could also make a gremolata or some pesto or mojo to dollop on top. a spoonful of creme fraiche or maybe some crumbled goat cheese would be good as well. the options are pretty much endless. i served it with slices of bread, fresh out of the oven and it was a warming, filling, fragrant and healthy dinner. and possibly also pretty good for breakfast, should you be so inclined or need to take photos of it in better light.


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