Snapshot van de week

Een zomernamiddag in het Vondelpark.

Warm gras, madeliefjes, een tevreden hondje.

Nieuwe schoenen, blote benen, straks een biertje.




Dennis is going to Berlin for a couple of days, with a friend. When he went to Avignon, I asked for calissons. If he was going to Paris, I would ask for macarons, if he was going to London, I would ask him to bring me back some salt and vinegar crisps, and some cheese from Neil's Yard. If he was going to Brussels I'd ask for chocolate, and so the list goes on.. but what should he bring me from Berlin? Help?


Meatballs for a crowd and Blueberry cake

Not that I was actually feeding a crowd - there were 4 of us for dinner yesterday. But since the store where I was shopping only had organic meat pre-packaged in pounds, and one pound wasn´t enough, I ended up with almost a kilo of meat. Normally I fry and then braise my meatballs in a large frying pan, but no frying pan is big enough to hold the amount of meatballs you get from a kilo of meat.

So I thought of this way to cook and serve them, and they came out so delicious and moist and juicy, that I think this will be a great method even for smaller batches.

This recipe is more about the method than about ingredients: use whatever flavorings you fancy in the meat, but do use the eggs, milk, breadcrumbs and tomato paste. There could be rosemary and lemon zest, or fresh oregano and a bit of grated parmesan in these meatballs. Or go the oriental route and add chili paste and soy sauce, and add some peanut butter instead of the tomato paste!

Baked meatballs
a kilo of ground meat, half beef, half pork
2 eggs
a good handful of dry breadcrumbs
100 ml milk
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
a handful of fresh parsley, chooped
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, chopped
1 small shallots, finely chopped
a grating of fresh nutmeg
salt, pepper
oil for frying
to finish:
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 glass of wine (I used rose but red or white would work just as well)
1 glass of water or light stock

Mix the meat with the first set of ingredients. Form into small patties. By ´patty´ I mean a small, slightly flattened meat ball. At this point, you can set them aside in the fridge for a couple of hours until you are ready to cook them.

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Heeat a little oil in a frying pan. Get the pan really, really hot. Have a large baking dish ready, preferably one that will take all the meat patties in one layer. Start frying the patties until you have a nice crust on both sides - no need to cook them all the way through, they´ll finish cooking in the oven. Transfer them to the baking dish when they are browned. When all the patties are browned and in the baking dish, add the butter to the frying pan. When it´s melted, add the onions and garlic and fry over medium heat until they are golden brown. Deglaze the pan with wine and water, simmer for a minute, and season with salt and pepper. Then pour this sauce over the meatballs in the baking dish. Nudge the strands of onions a bit so they rest between the meatballs instead of on top of them, or the crust on the patties will go soggy.

Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes - test one meatball to see if it´s cooked through.

The cake we had for dessert was this one, made with blueberries instead of raspberries. Very good, and not bad with a cup of coffee the next day as I´ve just discoverd!


From Dusty, with love

... in the non-food category: I´ve been listening to a lot of Dusty Springfield lately, but today was the first time I looked for clips of her on You Tube. I can´t resist sharing this here - one of my favorite songs sung by one of my favorite voices. Watch it all the way to the end and I´d be impressed if you make it without getting a lump in your throat.

but if you stay
I´ll make you a day
like no day has been
or will be again
we´ll sail on the sun, we´ll ride on the rain
we´ll talk to the trees
and worship the rain
then if you´ll go I´ll understand
leave me just enough love
to hold in my hand
if you go away
if you go away
if you go away


Zeg het met koekjes

Als je van bakken houdt, maar geen zin hebt om elke maand een grotere maat spijkerbroek aan te schaffen (of, om toe te kijken hoe je huisgenoot/man/kinderen langzaam steeds verder uitdijen) dan zit er maar 1 ding op: bakken en uitdelen.

In een vorige baan, waar ik behoorlijk ongelukkig was, had ik 'woensdag bakdag'. Het was grotendeels therapeutisch bakken (weinig dingen zijn zo heilzaam voor de ziel als beslag kloppen, boter losroeren, om nog maar te zwijgen van het effect van de geur van versgebakken cake of koekjes). Het product nam ik dan mee naar mijn werk, om vervolgens toe te kijken hoe mijn niet geliefde collega's het verslonden. Parels voor de zwijnen, dacht ik dan vaak.

Inmiddels werk ik ergens waar ik bepaald niet ongelukkig ben, en waar ik mijn collega's van harte iets lekkers gun. Therapeutisch bakken heb ik niet meer zo nodig, maar wel heb ik vaak zin om een nieuw recept uit te proberen - zonder het bovengenoemde gevaar van die groeiende spijkerbroekcollectie.

Ik ga dus mijn collega's wat vaker verwennen. Met koekjes als deze: de 'salty oatmeal white chocolate cookies' waarvoor ik het recept vond op smitten kitchen, 1 van mijn favoriete recepten blogs. Hier mijn versie, aangepast aan grammen en graden, met een tikje minder suiker zoals altijd wanneer ik een Amerikaans recept gebruik.

Iets over de ingredienten: gebruik geen instant havermout, maar het soort dat minstens een half uur moet koken - dan krijg je koekjes met de juiste beet. En voor de chocola: gebruik de beste die je kunt vinden.
Zout op koekjes strooien lijkt raar, maar het zoute accent is heerlijk bij de zoete en romige chocola. Probeer het!

Witte chocolade havermout koekjes (ca. 30 stuks)

150 gram bloem
3/4 theelepel bakpoeder
1/2 theelepel sodium bicarbonaat
1/4 teaspoon zout
170 gram zachte boter
125 gram suiker
50 gram lichtbruine basterdsuiker
1 groot ei
1/2 theelepel vanille extract
150 gram havermout
175 gram witte chocolade, in stukjes gehakt
fleur de sel of grof zeezout

Verhit de oven voor op 175 C en bekleed een bakplaat met bakpapier.
Meng de bloem met het bakpoeder, bicarbonaat, en het zout.
In een andere kom, roer de boter schuimig met de suikers (kan met een mixer, ik deed het met de hand). Meng het ei erdoor en het vanille extract, dan het bloemmengsel, dan de havermout, dan de chocola. Schep er hoopjes van op de bakplaat (je kunt er ook bolletjes van draaien als perfect ronde koekjes erg belangrijk voor je zijn). Zorg ervoor dat de koekjes genoeg ruimte hebben om uit te lopen. Druk de hoopjes een beetje plat, strooi er klein beetje grof zout over. Bak de koekjes 13-16 minuten, en draai de bakplaten halverwege een keer zodat ze gelijkmatig bruin worden.

Hoe langer je ze bakt, hoe knapperiger ze zullen zijn.


Purple & Green Weekend Dinners

We did have our steak last night and it was wonderful. I made a kohlrabi-stilton gratin to go with it - because I adore the taste of salty, pungent blue cheese with red meat. I found this gorgeous purple kohlrabi at the farmers market yesterday. I can´t say that it tastes very different from the regular kind, but it sure was pretty!

Dinner tonight was a bit more frugal but equally delicious. I had this beautiful, squeaky fresh bunch of parsley, also from the farmers market, and I decided to really showcase it in a dish instead of just using it as an accent or garnish. It turned out to be an excellent soup, very clean and fresh and green-tasting.

I always serve pureed soups topped with something crispy, to make it more interesting to eat. A bowl of pureed soup can get a bit boring because every bite is essentially the same. Croutons work very well for this, as do little cubes of potatoe, fried until crisp, bits of bacon or chorizo, onion rings.. Today I fried some strips of oyster mushroom until they were brown and crisp and piled these on top.

Parsley soup, for 2

75 grams of very fresh and bright parsley, stalks and all, washed thoroughly and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon of butter
2 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large potato, peeld and cubed
1 tablespoon flour
500 ml light chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of milk
1 egg yolk
salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg
your crispy garnish of choice

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the potato and garlic. Cook over very low heat for 5 minutes or so, making sure that the garlic does not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well. Add the stock, then the parsley. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and let the soup cook for about 20 minutes. Test a parsley stalk, it should be tender by now - if not, cook for 5-10 minutes more.

Puree the soup in a blender or with a stick blender. Pour it back into the pan and taste for salt and pepper. Add a tiny grating of fresh nutmeg. Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl with the milk. Add a tablespoon of hot soup to the mixture to temper the egg, then add this egg mixture to the soup. Stir it in to slightly thicken the soup, making sure the soup does not boil anymore - or you´ll end up with bits of scrambled egg in your soup, which doesn´t really matter with regards to flavor, but doesn´t look as nice.

Spoon into bowls and add your garnish.


Nautical Gourmet: Pont 13

One of the many dinners out we had the past couple of weeks was at Pont 13. Within one week, this place had been recommended to me by several people about whose culinary standards I really have no clue, but who all commented that it was such a magical place at such a fantastic location, with such great atmosphere. So on one of the warm and sunny days of the Pentecost weekend, we headed out to the remote spot where this former ferry-transformed-to-restaurant is located. It´s not that remote, really, at least not to us who live in the western part of the city - and I would guess it´s about a 20 minute bikeride from Central Station. But that bikeride leads to what feels like the middle of nowhere: an industrial area with no housing or stores or other restaurants, just huge warehouses and boats.

We were seated outside with a view of the Silodam, ordered one of our favorite wines (a German Gewurztraminer), a plate of oysters to start, and were happy. Even happier when our main courses arrived: everything fresh and vibrant tasting, carefully seasoned, prepared with attention to detail. Dennis had roast poussin with roast vegetables (which were laced with fresh peas), I had the fish of the day which was fried lemon sole with a crushed potato salad and tarragon sauce. And the fries.. these were easily some of the very best fries we´d ever eaten in a restaurant. Served with a tangy mayonaise, crispy on the outside and creamy fluffy on the inside.. oh my. I would go back just for the fries.

Sitting outside is lovely, but indoors it´s pretty cool too - a large room with lots of nautical features, a huge woodburning stove, and a rabbit that lives a quiet life in a large cage that´s guarded by a St. Bernard. And seeing the sun set behind the boats is indeed magical - it makes you forget you´re in Amsterdam, and makes you feel like you´re on vacation. Which is something we all should feel more often. So get yourself to Pont 13 for a nautical mini break with some great food to boot!


Take me back

It's been a while! Truth is, I haven't been cooking much. We entered this kind of social vortex where every Sunday you think "ah, the next days are blissfully empty" only to find on Monday night that every evening of the week is fully booked with socializing, eating out and cocktail parties.

I'm just kidding about the cocktail parties. We don't have many of those here in Amsterdam - I may have gone to only a handful in my entire life. But substitute 'hanging out in bars and drinking beer and jenever' for the cocktail parties, and you get the idea.

Anyway, there have been lots of dinners in restaurants and at friends' houses, and not that many home cooked meals. I'm starting to itch for it. Tomorrow we have big plans that involve Great Steak and Really Good Wine.. so who knows, a report about that might pop up here on Sunday.

In the picture: me preparing Treviso radicchio, in Montone, Italy, in the kitchen of the lovely Judith of Aroma Cucina. Maybe it's because I'm researching our vacation for this fall, but I'm homesick for trips of the past - and have been going through old photo files and dreaming about all the wonderful places Dennis and I visited together, the food we ate, the people we met. Good memories.