dinner monologues

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travellingchefbecca:

COMBAT THE WINTER BLUES!
The winter in Denmark is long, dark, and cold. There is  approximately 5 hours of sunlight a day. Well, the sky is light—the sun seldom comes out. With this extreme climate comes a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as  winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression. SAD is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer. To offset these symptoms, I make sure here at the house we enrich our diet with Vitamin D, not only with supplements but mainly 4-5 fish meals per week. Herring, Cod, Sardines, Salmon, Cow’s milk, and yoghurt are a main part of our diet during these long winter months. 
This is a white fish called rødspætter. Lightly breaded (optional) and pan-fried in rapeseed oil. I paired it with bok choy (also high in Vitamin D), cooked with apples which I allowed to simmer in the juices of the apples. I then topped it off with an ever so appropriate yoghurt-based dill sauce.  Enjoy and take care!
1c bread crumbs
4 pieces rødspætter
2tbs oil
3c chopped bok choy
2 apples sliced
2c yoghurt
3 sprigs dill
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lemon (garnish)

travellingchefbecca:

COMBAT THE WINTER BLUES!

The winter in Denmark is long, dark, and cold. There is  approximately 5 hours of sunlight a day. Well, the sky is light—the sun seldom comes out. With this extreme climate comes a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as  winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression. SAD is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer. To offset these symptoms, I make sure here at the house we enrich our diet with Vitamin D, not only with supplements but mainly 4-5 fish meals per week. Herring, Cod, Sardines, Salmon, Cow’s milk, and yoghurt are a main part of our diet during these long winter months. 

This is a white fish called rødspætter. Lightly breaded (optional) and pan-fried in rapeseed oil. I paired it with bok choy (also high in Vitamin D), cooked with apples which I allowed to simmer in the juices of the apples. I then topped it off with an ever so appropriate yoghurt-based dill sauce.  Enjoy and take care!

1c bread crumbs

4 pieces rødspætter

2tbs oil

3c chopped bok choy

2 apples sliced

2c yoghurt

3 sprigs dill

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lemon (garnish)

It is not every day that I am able to enjoy Ancho sauce, so I made sure to use every last drop of the Ancho sauce that I used for the enchiladas. Getting back to a healthier cuisine, I decided to use the sauce on top of a grilled white fish called Rødspætter. I paired this dish with black bean soup and Mexican-style rice. I used the remaining tortillas (oven-toasted) as a garnish.This dish has all the flavours of Mexican food while maintaining healthy elements. The soup is simply pureed black beans, and the rice is prepared with chicken stock instead of water, along with cumin, garlic, and a splash of tomato puree. This dish is just another example of incorporating the local products with recipes from my upbringing. Buen Provecho!

It is not every day that I am able to enjoy Ancho sauce, so I made sure to use every last drop of the Ancho sauce that I used for the enchiladas. Getting back to a healthier cuisine, I decided to use the sauce on top of a grilled white fish called Rødspætter. I paired this dish with black bean soup and Mexican-style rice. I used the remaining tortillas (oven-toasted) as a garnish.This dish has all the flavours of Mexican food while maintaining healthy elements. The soup is simply pureed black beans, and the rice is prepared with chicken stock instead of water, along with cumin, garlic, and a splash of tomato puree. This dish is just another example of incorporating the local products with recipes from my upbringing. Buen Provecho!

My father sent me some ingredients from back home (Texas) that are no where to be found in Denmark.He sent some sauces, Mexican hot chocolate, tortillas, and some dried chilies. Authentic white corn tortillas from Mexico is a key ingredient in many Mexican dishes. I made enchiladas-a favourite from my childhood. 

To make the sauce, re-hydrate and boil the peppers (of your choice) in a pot, along with onion, garlic, salt and cumin.  After bringing this to a boil, pour all the ingredients into the blender. Blend until smooth. You may need to add a bit more salt or cumin, depending on your palate. Also, if the sauce is too strong, adding tomato sauce can be used to dilute it.

Pour the slightest bit of oil into a pan on low heat. (I don’t like my food to be too greasy as it takes away from the flavour of the other ingredients). Lightly toast the tortillas on both sides in the oil. Have a few toasted before you start filling them with cheese. Having the tortillas warm prevents them from cracking, and they are much easier to handle. Put 2-3 tbs of cheese in the center of the tortilla and roll it up.Place rolled tortillas filled with cheese on a baking dish. They should be placed right next to each other, tightly packed. Repeat this process until desired number of enchiladas are made,keeping in mind some cheese will go on top just before baking. Pour a generous layer of sauce on top and around the enchiladas and top with cheese. Place into preheated oven (175 C) and bake until cheese is melted and crispy (approx 13 minutes). Buen Provecho! 

Sauce:

3-4 dried peppers (Ancho)

4 cloves garlic

1 onion

salt  (to taste)

1 tbs cumin

1 can tomato sauce (optional)

Other ingredients:

corn tortillas

2c grated Cheddar

3 tbs vegetable oil

Reinventing Flæskesteg: Flæskesteg is a traditional Danish dish and also one of the most popular cuts of meat in Scandinavia. It is simply the Danish version of pork roast. I prepared the meal for the family’s Christmas party. They requested that I cook traditional Swedish and Danish dishes; this was such a delight for me, as I was eager to see if my skills would measure up to such traditional recipes. I adhered to a Scandinavian cookbook for the most part, however, I did go out on a limb by ‘reinventing’ the pork roast. Normally, the flæskesteg is prepared with salt, pepper, and bay leaves. I decided to stuff the roast with lemon, garlic, thyme, and finish it off with truffle oil. It was a conglomeration of old and new. And, it was a great success! 
Preheat the oven to 150 Celsius and make sure the pork is at room temperature before cooking. Grate the zest from the lemon, and then thinly slice the lemon. In a bowl, mix the zest, slices, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and truffle oil. 
Cut just under the rind, leaving it connected, opening up the roast (like a book). Rub the pork with the lemon-herb mixture, and place the rind flap back over the pork. You can use toothpicks to keep the rind down, or leave as is. Place in a baking dish and roast for 90 minutes at 150 C. Turn the heat to 225 and roast until the rind has become crispy and brown (approx. 15 minutes) You may need to keep a close eye on the last minutes of cooking. The goal is to keep the meat moist while the rind becomes crispy, which is why we cook it at a lower heat, and then raise the temperature towards the end. 
Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle the roast with a bit more truffle oil and carve it into slices, making sure there is a piece of crisp rind with ever slice. Enjoy!
1 lemon
6  thyme sprigs
5 garlic cloves, diced
salt and pepper
2 tbs. truffle oil, plus some for drizzling
2.5 kg pork foreloin

Reinventing Flæskesteg: Flæskesteg is a traditional Danish dish and also one of the most popular cuts of meat in Scandinavia. It is simply the Danish version of pork roast. I prepared the meal for the family’s Christmas party. They requested that I cook traditional Swedish and Danish dishes; this was such a delight for me, as I was eager to see if my skills would measure up to such traditional recipes. I adhered to a Scandinavian cookbook for the most part, however, I did go out on a limb by ‘reinventing’ the pork roast. Normally, the flæskesteg is prepared with salt, pepper, and bay leaves. I decided to stuff the roast with lemon, garlic, thyme, and finish it off with truffle oil. It was a conglomeration of old and new. And, it was a great success! 

Preheat the oven to 150 Celsius and make sure the pork is at room temperature before cooking. Grate the zest from the lemon, and then thinly slice the lemon. In a bowl, mix the zest, slices, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and truffle oil. 

Cut just under the rind, leaving it connected, opening up the roast (like a book). Rub the pork with the lemon-herb mixture, and place the rind flap back over the pork. You can use toothpicks to keep the rind down, or leave as is. Place in a baking dish and roast for 90 minutes at 150 C. Turn the heat to 225 and roast until the rind has become crispy and brown (approx. 15 minutes) You may need to keep a close eye on the last minutes of cooking. The goal is to keep the meat moist while the rind becomes crispy, which is why we cook it at a lower heat, and then raise the temperature towards the end. 

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle the roast with a bit more truffle oil and carve it into slices, making sure there is a piece of crisp rind with ever slice. Enjoy!

1 lemon

6  thyme sprigs

5 garlic cloves, diced

salt and pepper

2 tbs. truffle oil, plus some for drizzling

2.5 kg pork foreloin

My employers had a few friends over to celebrate their 14th anniversary. They were to head into the city for drinks after all of them met up at the house. My employer wanted a simple, light meal to accompany ‘drinks at the house’ so they would, ‘Not end up with a headache in the morning.’ She was speaking euphemistically, of course. I only had a couple hours to prepare for this small dinner party so I thought of making something that was filling, easy to prepare, and festive: Beef-vegetable skewers.

You can use any meat or vegetable on skewers. For this dish I used sirloin for the cut of beef, along with peppers, onions, and mushrooms for the vegetables.  The sirloin came conveniently cubed, so I added a simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper to it. As the beef marinates, chop the onions and peppers into 1 inch pieces, not bothering with the mushrooms as they can be kept whole.Then, start cooking the rice, and put a small pot of water to boil for the green beans. While the rice cooks (20 min. or so), begin assembling the skewers. When the rice is ready, take off the heat and remove lid. I find it best to let the rice sit and cool for about 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. The green beans simultaneously should be be ready, drained and put to the side. 

We prefer medium rare-medium beef, so the skewers will not take too long to cook. I like to sear the skewers on each side for about 2-3 minutes. After,place them on a warm tray and cover with foil. The meat should rest for about ten minutes. This is the perfect opportunity to begin plating the rice and green beans. You can either put skewers on the table for everyone to serve themselves, or directly on the plate. Enjoy!

Approx.6 servings:

2 lbs.cubed sirloin

2 large onions

3 large peppers

1-2 packages mushrooms

2c. basmati rice (uncooked)

.5lbs. green beans 

Marinade:

3 tbs. olive oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

2tsp. salt

2tsp. cayenne pepper

Oct 3

I was given the opportunity to cater a wedding during my stay in Iceland. The Head Chef allowed me to create a menu for 100 people. My training from catering on tour required food for 100 people, twice a day, so this task was definitely something I felt confident in doing. It was to be an outdoor garden wedding. The food needed to be convenient and practical, yet gourmet. 

On the menu:

Grilled Asian-Latin fusion marinated shrimp, beef, and chicken skewers

Bacon-wrapped dates

Ceviche (individual servings)

Garbanzo salad w. sesame-garlic dressing

Cucumber, feta, kalamata olive salad w. oregano vinaigrette

Southwestern pasta and bean salad w. corriander-lime dressing

Caprese salad w. balsamic reduction

Sauces:

creamy garlic

spicy mango

citrus aioli

Sep 9

Last summer I took advantage of being in Continental Europe, so I did a bit of a tour of four countries. This year I was so fortunate to visit an amazing country:Iceland. A dear friend that I met in Denmark invited me to stay with her and her family in a small town in Iceland for the summer. That wasn’t even the best part. I also managed to get a summer job cooking in the local hotel/restaurant. Normally, you are supposed to relax during summer holiday, but we worked 6 days a week in this quaint kitchen—and I couldn’t have been happier.

The challenge was using the extremely local and seasonal ingredients. The produce and the dairy shipments came by on a weekly basis to the town we were living in.  In the U.S., everything we need is at our fingertips. Even in Denmark, I can usually find a wide variety of ingredients at the local shops. But here in this town in Iceland, supplies were limited. I really had to put in some thought about using what was available. 

In the restaurant, hotel guests and locals had the option of ordering ‘a la carte’. If it was a large reservation, the guests had the additional option of ordering a set 3 -course meal.The latter was my favourite. At least 5 times a week we had reservations of 20-30 hungry tourists. Usually the Head Chef would decide on the menu. However, he was always open to my suggestions and ideas, which enabled me to create some exciting,new dishes. I was elated with the support and knowledge I received working here this summer.

I have written about the new method I learned when making Swedish meatballs. However,now, I am going to write about Italian meatballs, plus,  home-made Vodka sauce, in which equates to the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs.

In a previous post on Vegetarian lasagne, I wrote of making Marinara for most any pasta dish. The only difference in this version is I add Vodka. ‘My Vodka sauce’ is not, per se, the ‘traditional Vodka sauce’, which is usually a pink sauce (cream and tomato w/ a splash or Vodka). I usually skip out on the cream as a lighter version and/or Vegan-friendly sauce. The Vodka, in short, has the similarity of a sugar molecule which has a bit of sweetening effect-it does indeed enhance the flavour. So just as you are bring your Marinara or red sauce to a simmer, add half a cup of Vodka (and a bit for the chef) and simmer for at least 25 minutes.

As for the meatballs, I use a pork and beef blend. The trick is to mix the ingredients of the recipe below at least 24 hours before cooking. Again, we marinate to enhance flavour and cut cooking/preparation time. For cooking, I use a frying pan coated with a thin layer of grape seed oil. Place the meatballs in the hot oil and allow to sear on one side. After browning occurs, rotate meat balls until all sides are brown and crispy. To ensure proper cooking inside, stick a  meat thermometer in the middle which should read around 70 C (medium well). Note that proteins continue cooking after being removed from direct heat. Put the cooked meatballs onto a platter with a towel and cover. 

Again, to keep this dish on the lighter side, I use a whole-grain Spaghetti, cooked al dente and tossed in olive oil. After plating the Spaghetti, spoon on the Vodka sauce, meatballs, and I garnish with freshly-grated Parmesean and chiffonade Basil. Buon Apetito!

0.5c finely diced onion

0.25c smash garlic cloves

1.5c bread crumbs

0.5c fresh Italian herbs

2 tbs. olive oil

8oz of EACH two meats, or 16oz of one

2 tbs. crushed Rose pepper

salt to taste

Min første Påskefrokost! This meal was my first traditional Danish Easter Lunch. My friend, who invited me to his house for Easter Lunch, called me frantically the day before saying that he had just realised he needed to have food for his Easter celebration, and had no idea how he was going to make it happen. He then desperately  inquired if I had any ideas or suggestions. Calmly, I told him I would call him back in ten minutes. I called him and told me to pick me up in 20 minutes—we were going to the grocery store. 

Basically, I knew this was my time to put my catering experience to use. My friend needed me.  I wanted to use the traditional elements of Danish food, but also add a bit of my American Easter traditions.

Pickled Herring, eggs (of some sort), rye bread, potatoes, and liver paste topped with bacon, are all very traditional Danish foods, served mostly at any holiday gathering (or so I’ve noticed).

Back home, there was always a pork dish and/ or poultry, mashed potatoes, green beans, and I have been working on perfecting my oven-roasted chicken, so I threw that in there for good measure.

My contribution was green bean Almondine, roasted potatoes with fresh herbs, oven-roasted French chicken, pork tenderloin marinated in paprika and orange zest and a orange-honey glaze (a sort of play on honey-glazed hams in America). Some of our Danish friends brought the traditional foods in which they showed me how it was to be prepared, and also where I should buy these items if I wanted the best quality.

The luncheon was truly amazing. It was a perfect conglomeration of America and Denmark, yet again; The American sticking to her roots while warmly embracing Danish tradition.

Soup is always a winner at the house. It is simple, quick, and delicious. This dish is asparagus soup garnished with toasted garlic, pan-fried croutons, and bacon. 

The soup itself is very easy:

Sweat onions, celery, and carrot along with asparagus (about 2 bunches). I let all the vegetables get a nice colour before I added vegetable stock. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you do not want to over cook, so just as it starts turning that lovely bright green, is when I add the vegetable stock, knowing it will continue cooking as I let it simmer. I bring this mixture to a boil and then turn off the heat, allowing it to cool for about 20 minutes.

After cooling, I use the hand mixer and blend until desired consistency. (You can either strain the soup in a china cap or keep the fibrous bits intact in the soup—it’s a matter of preference). I then turn the heat back on to low for a slow simmer. I add a bit of salt and white pepper to taste. Using vegetable stock rather than plain water adds flavour without excess sodium. Also, if you want to make the soup creamy, adding about a cup of cream is possible, or you can keep it on the lighter, healthier side and leave it be. 

While the soup is simmering, fry some bacon for garnish. A nice trick for some homemade croutons is to throw in a few cloves of garlic to flavour the bacon fat, then toast a few strips of bread to absorb the goodness left over from the bacon. The croutons are crispy and perfectly seasoned, and the garlic melts in your mouth. Serve the soup and garnish. Enjoy!