Dead of Summer

I know - it's not really the dead of summer any more. Schools have started again, and those blissfully peaceful summer days when all the families and screaming children seem to have departed for France and Italy (there's always just one weekend when everyone is gone all at once) are over. Still, I'm hanging on to the summer, to the sun, to the lazy days, to perfecting my procrastination skills. And I'm in denial about the approach of a new season. For the last couple of days, as I was biking through the Vondelpark very early in the morning (really early - 07:30!) there was this faint, but distinctive smell of fall in the air. A humidity that's no longer just warm and sweet, but slightly spicy. The scent of decay, of rotting leaves - and yes, speaking of leaves, there are speckles of gold among the summer greens.

Usually I embrace the fall. I love the fall. I love everything about it, and it inspires feelings so much stronger and deeper than any summer day can evoke. But this year, it's all different. I'm not done with summer yet, and summer still has a thing or 2 up its sleeve for me - I can just feel it.

I have 2 more Dutch summer weeks to savour before we head on over to the States for yet another American roadtrip, and when we come back, it will October and it will be very hard to remember summer.

Or will it?

Maybe this year, I can take the promises that the summer of 2009 made me, and transport then straight into autumn and winter. I'm facing some challenges here - but if this summer taught me one thing, it's to be less afraid.


Smoked tempeh (with a vengeance)

It really, really bothers me when Dennis doesn't like something I cook. I don't mind it so much when I expect it (when I make any type of soup that combines pulses and pasta, for instance, or when I make something with strawberries, or if I ever would dare to make him something with purslane again.) It's when I don't expect it when it bothers me the most. So when I was swooning over the smoked tempeh, and he said "it's good, but not great, and it's weird, because I want my tempeh with Asian food" I knew I had to fix that. A couple of days later I made another batch of smoked tempeh, not only perfecting the smoking process (cutting the tempeh in small cubes and smoking at a lower temperature for longer), but, also, serving it with rice, ketjap-sambal marinated and grilled chicken, and a spicy peanut sauce.

It was amazingly good and the only ting that made me sad that night was that I had not written down the proportions for the chicken marinade. The chicken was fantastic, sticky and sweet and spicy with nicely charred bits of skin and juicy meat. I need to make that again.. if I can recreate it, that is.


Go ahead.. smoke your tempeh

Yes, I´m sorry. I don´t why exactly, but I had the voice of Clint Eastwood in my head the whole time yesterday, as I was preparing dinner. It´s weird, because when I think of Clint, tempeh isn´t really the first thing that comes to mind. Steaks, baked potatoes and a tumbler of whisky.. yes. Fermented soy products.. no.

We´d been discussing tempeh and various ways to prepare it over on eGullet a couple of weeks ago, but it took me until this weekend to finally try that genius idea of mine: smoking my tempeh. The marinade was a tablespoon of chipotle in adobo puree, a tablespoon of maple syrup, a tablespoon of soysauce, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a splash of water to make it a bit more runny. Slices of tempeh were marinating in this for a couple of hours, and then smoked in my little stove top smoker for 25 minutes. They tasted definitely smoky and ´cooked´ after that (and were nicely browned and considerably firmer than before the smoking). I heated them briefly on the griddle plate before serving - and on the plate they were smothered in this awesome BBQ sauce, which made it a bit hard to tell how good the smoked tempeh really was, because that sauce could make tripe taste good.

The verdict? I thought the tempeh was really really good. Smoky, spicy, meaty. I should have sliced it a bit thinner though, so the slices would have been more impregnated with smoke. Also, they would have been even better (mostly texture wise) if I had fried them in oil after smoking, but I was trying to do the Healthy Thing here, and really, I did not think the frying was absolutely neccessary. Also, next time I might try smoking it for a little longer, to see if that will give it an even more pronounced smokiness.

Dennis was not so pleased, but he says this is mainly because he associates tempeh with Asian food, and the smoky barbecue flavors were clashing with this.

Never mind, I think it was a success, and something I´ll be doing again. I can see thin slices of smoked tempeh in an omelet, or as croutons on a salad, or in a sandwich with avocado maybe. Oh, mmm...


Vertrouw de koekjes

Ik had me laten verleiden tot een weddenschap, iets wat ik niet vaak doe - en de inzet was 'vertrouwen in de mensheid'. Ik had dat wel (tenminste voor het specifieke onderwerp van deze weddenschap), mijn mede-wedders niet, en ik won.

Met de opbrengst kocht ik chocola, boter, espresso poeder, suiker en vanille extract, en ik was blij dat ik weer eens een excuus had gevonden om koekjes te bakken. De koekjes deelde ik vanochtend uit aan alle spelers in de weddenschap.. en iedereen was gelukkig.

Het zijn de espresso/chocolade koekjes van Dorie Greenspan, zoals opgetekend door Smitten Kitchen. Heerlijke, boterige, zachte koekjes die smelten in je mond, met stukjes zoete chocola en een echte kick van het espresso poeder. Ik gebruikte butterscotch melkchocolade, en omdat dat zoeter is dan de pure chocolade in het recept, een flinke snuf zout om het zoet in balans te brengen.



Soms is ordinair de enige optie.


Break Away

Time will not wait for me
Time is my destiny
Why change the part of me that has to be free
The love that passed me by
I found no reason why

But now each day is filled with the love
That very same love
That passed me by
And that is why

I can breakaway from that lonely life
And I can do what I wanna do
And breakaway from that empty life
And my world is new



We´re going to a party tonight. The invite said to bring as gifts: something for the house bar, and burned cd´s of our favorite music. I made a Patty Griffin compilation (of course) and Dennis made a Beach Boys collection.. which reminded me that I love them, but never listen to them, because they are such a given in this house and it´s so easy to overlook the obvious.

This song seems to be the theme of my days, in the summer of 2009.
It was recorded the year I was born.


Cracking the Merguez Code

Those meatballs in my previous post? They tasted exactly like really good merguez sausages. And I did not even plan it that way, it was just a very lucky coincidence that only revealed itself the moment Dennis bit into one of the meatballs and said: "oh hmmm, merguez!"

For future reference, here's what I did:

Home made merguez sausages
for 500 grams of not too lean lamb mince:
1 heaping tablespoon of Turkish red pepper paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 5 crushed all spice berries
2 cloves of garlic, pressed to a pulp
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and regular pepper
1 egg
a good handful of dry breadcrumbs

Mix everything together, then form the mixture into small balls (or, alternatively, shape them into kebabs around a skewer). Keep them chilled until ready to cook.

Fry them in a tiny bit of oil over very high heat, or grill them (or put them on the barbecue).


Maple & Rosemary Roasted Tomatoes

Usually I try to be creative with the titles of my blogposts (defying the laws of google findable-ness, which dictate that you should give your blogpost a description that tells your readers exactly what the post is about).

But when you make something, and it´s so good you want to make it again the next night, it deserves to be in the title.

Yes, these tomatoes are THAT good. And more importantly, they can be used for almost anything that strikes your fancy. In a salad, on a sandwich, to accompany fish or meat or grilled chicken, tossed with pasta (which is how we had them the first time I made them, in a pasta with poached wild salmon and fennel), or on bruschette to serve as a fancy appetizer. The only thing to remeber is to serve them when they´re still slightly warm (or maybe put them very briefly in the microwave when they´ve gone too cold), as the syrup tends to get too sticky and solid when the tomatoes cool too much.

The first time I used miniature roma tomatoes (I put the large tomato in the picture so you can see just how tiny those babies were), the next night, I used even tinier cherry tomatoes and added a yellow bell pepper, cut into strips. The we had them with lamb meatballs and a bulgur pilaf - so different from the first dinner, and every bit as good.

There´s something about the dark husky sweetness of good maple syrup combined with the fragrant, pungent rosemary that makes this irresistable. So irresistable you´ll want to make this again and again.

Maple rosemary roasted cherry tomatoes

250 gram cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablesoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
a good pinch of salt
a good pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 150 C.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put the tomatoes on it, cut side up.
Mix together oil, syrup, salt, pepper and rosemary. Drizzle this over the tomatoes. Roast for about 45 minutes (I had them in there for 35 minutes, then turned off the oven and left them in while the oven cooled down - after another 20 minutes they were luke warm and perfect).

I keep thinking of other things to eat them with.. an omelet, or as a bed for a poached egg would be really good!


Delicious, unexpected

We needed something fast and light before going to the movies. I had no expectations whatsoever of the noodle soup I threw together, but it was so wonderful I´m recording it here for future reference.

The important thing is to not overcook the broccoli - it has to be slightly crisp so that its vibrant taste really livens up the soup. Cooking mushrooms this way is genius: without adding fat you transform them from spongy pillows to little nuggets of powerful mushroom flavor. Use a cast iron or other heavy pan for this, not a non-stick frying pan - that won´t be able to stand up to the heat you need.

All that said, the savoury bits of fried tempeh were really the star of the dish. Marinated in sambal, soy sauce and rice wine, they give this light soup just the meaty bite that makes this a satisfying dinner.

Too bad the movie was sold out when we got there!

Broccoli noodle soup with spicy tempeh croutons
serves 3

1 liter light chicken stock
200 gram tempeh, cut into small cubes
for the tempeh marinade: 1 tablespoon sambal, 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
450 gram broccoli, washed and cut into florets
250 gram chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 shallot, thinly sliced
fishsauce, shaoxing ricewine, soy sauce
100 gram noodles of your choice
a handful of coriander, chopped, and sriracha, to serve

Mix the tempeh marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add the tempeh. Mix well so all the pieces are evenly coated. Leave to stand for a bit (ideally, a couple of hours).

Bring the stock to a boil and when it boils, cook the noodles according to packet instructions until just done. Lift the noodles from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon and transfer them to a colander, rinse them so they won´t stick together.

Heat a large heavy frying pan over medium high heat and when it´s hot, add the mushrooms. Cook them over medium high to high heat for a couple of minutes: they will start to squeak, a really funny sound to hear coming from a pan of mushrooms - quite disconcerting actually, as if you´re frying something that´s still alive! After 5 minutes or so they will start releasing their liquid. Keep cooking them till they´re almost shrivelled and nicely browned.

Add them to the pot of chicken stock together with the broccoli, shallot, a splash each of fishsauce, soy sauce and shiaoxing rice wine. Bring to the boil and cook until the broccoli is just al dente. In the mean time, add the tempeh cubes, including their marinade, to the frying pan (no need to clean it) and fry the tempeh over medium high heat until it´s browned and crispy (taking care not to burn it).

Broccoli and tempeh should be done at just about the same time. Add the noodles to the pot of soup and warm them through. Divide soup, noodles and vegetables among 3 bowls and top with the tempeh. Garnish with coriander and sriracha. Happy slurping!