28 April 2011

A smile that lights your day

Ok for now, no more food and cooking. I wouldn’t be a good aunt if I didn’t post about my newborn niece and nephew once a while. Remember we went back to Vietnam to visit my hubby's brother, his wife and their new born twins. They are entering their 5 month . Can't believe we've been back to reality for 2 months now. Our holiday seems like ages ago. 

My hubby's family lives in America and 2 out of 5 siblings are in a different time zone. Nowadays thanks to the internet, cheap long distance phone calls and skype it is very easy to keep in touch.My in-laws are really good in keeping the family updated. You'll have to know that my hubby is an American, married to a Dutchie (me!) and moved to Holland to be with me. His brother is an American, moved to Vietnam to start his own company, met my sister in law, married her and has now two more attachments to Vietnam

My brother in law sends us pictures of the kiddies all the time we can see them growing up. And they grow so fast.

Luca is resting now but even with 4 months he was already able to lift his head up and I wouldn't be surprised if he would try to crawl one of these days.
Baby Bella is just chilling out and looking at the mobile we got for them. She looks so focused.
But this is the show stopper! This cutiepie lights up my day. Just looking at her makes the world brighter and sunnier!

Pickled eggplants

I wanted to make my own Vietnamese pickled eggplants (ca phao), but I don't think they sell these types of eggplant here. Instead I found these:

They look very similar to the Vietnamese eggplant, but they weren't actually it. Mom already warned me that she tried to pickle them and they took forever to pickle up. But they were so small and cute I thought I’d give it a try.
We had a couple of sunny days so for two days I had them in the sun to dry. Don’t really know what the purpose of this is, but I read it somewhere and thought it can’t do much harm. After two days they were still firm, but the leaves were drying out. 
I removed the leaves and stem and poked several holes with a fork. Hopefully this helps them to pickle faster.

I boiled some white vinegar with sugar, a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. I also added a splash of sherry just because it was on the kitchen counter staring at me. It didn’t taste bad, so hopefully it’ll work out.
I sliced all the eggplants in half and put them in a clean jar. Then I poured the vinegar mixture on top and turned the jar upside down. The eggplants here and there turned brown and didn’t want to submerge in the vinegar, so I had to shake the jar once a while. It is now sitting in the fridge. I’ll give it another couple of days and see if it turns out the way I planned.

Lotus seed head

I totally forgot I made these pictures for my blog. They were so beautiful I wanted to share with you.
Meet the fresh lotus seed head. In Asia they are sold in bunches of 2-3 depending on how big the head is.

Most people know the dried lotus seeds and use them in desserts or soups. I even saw dried lotus seed heads in flower arrangements. The fresh seeds are a different story.
If you have the chance you should try them. They are handy packed, easy to take with you and make a great snack.
The goodies are packed in a sponge like package. To get to the seeds you simple have to crack the head open and pop the seed out.
Peel the light green outer layer.
Then peel the white inner layer, break the seed in two and remove the bitter tasting germ. Eventhough it looks very tasty don't eat it. I tryed and had to spit it right out.
Take your time to peel every one of them. Nibble on the seeds. They are crunchy and slightly sweet.
Eat it all before someone else does! As you can see there are still some seeds left. Those are the seeds that still needed some more developing time.

Beef bourguignon

I don't know what's going on with me lately. I seem to love to make beef stew. Maybe because it is so easy to make. All you need to do is put all the ingredients in one pot and let it simmer for a while. And if you make it ahead it doesn't take much time at all.

I decided to make something different...something Frenchy. I had half a kilo of button mushrooms and didn't want to make mushroom soup. So I thought why not try and make beef/boeuf bourguignon.
I started with chopping one onion and 3 cloves of garlic and brown them in some olive oil and butter. Then I added some dicced bacon and after they brown the big junks of beef went in. You can use whatever beef you like, but since it has to simmer for a long time there is no need for using an expensive cut. In fact I always use the cheapest cut I can find. As long as it doesn’t have much fat you’re good.
After the meat is brown I added a whole bottle of red wine. People always say use the wine that you like to drink instead of cooking wine, but what do you use when you don’t drink wine? I think I’m one of the few who doesn’t like wine. But that doesn’t mean I can’t cook with it. So again since I can’t tell the difference between a 10 euro bottle and a 3 euro bottle (beside in my wallet) I went for the 3 euro bottle. Whole bottle went in the pot.

I didn’t want to through away the flat leave parsley stems so I used them to flavor the stew.

Then I added half a jar of picked pearl onions. The acid in the onions will help to break down the toughness of the meat faster. After everything boiled for a while I had a taste and added some sugar, salt and grounded pepper.

I removed the parsley stems as soon as they got tender and almost fell apart.
I went out to my little herb garden and picked some sprigs of thyme. They smelled so good. Love the smell of fresh thyme. I have two kinds of thyme, one regular and one lemon thyme. Never used the lemon thyme before so I have to find a recipe for that.

Anyways after the meat got tender I added the thyme and all the mushrooms I had. I also added some carrots and let everything boil some more till the carrots were nice and soft. Then to thicken the sauce I added 4 pieces of "ontbijtkoek" which is a Dutch spice cake made of rye, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, succade and nutmeg. It was like putting the cherry on top of a pie. The spice cake made all the flavors combine together. As a finishing touch I sprinkled some parsley on top.

We ate the beef bourguignon with some boiled broccoli and white rice. It tasted even better the next day.

23 April 2011

Potato salad

To go with today’s BBQ I wanted to make potato salad. In the Vietnamese kitchen we don’t have any potato salad so I didn’t eat them growing up. But I know what I like and how to put it together. And my American sister in law made potato salad before so I had some reference.
I started cleaning some potatoes and get them to boil for a while. I also hard boiled 4 eggs. Then I thinly slicing two purple onions and heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds. Just so they wouldn’t be too raw. After that it was time to chop some picked onions and some parsley.

In a different bowl I mixed some mayonnaise with some fresh ground pepper, the egg yolks and the egg whites. I was also looking for some mustard, but couldn’t find any.
I boiled the potatoes in their skin. I never liked potato skin in a salad so when they were cooked and slightly cooled off, I removed it and chopped them in big junks. The reason why I didn’t peal the potatoes in the first pace was that I like the more sticky structure of the potatoes when you boil them with skin.
Just to give it a little bit color I sprinkled some paprika powder on top. I folded everything together and had a taste. It needed some more salt so I added about 1 teaspoon.

I just love potato salad. You can eat it room temperature or chilled. I still have a bit waiting for me in the fridge. This would be either a good breakfast or great lunch. I’m looking forward to it already.

Happy Easter everyone!

Lemon tiramisu

Yesterday it was what we call Good Friday. Here in Holland it is not an official holiday, but my company decided to give us a day off so we could enjoy a long Easter holiday. As much as I love a day off, I always end up being more tired then I would be if I would just go to work. Instead of just enjoying the day and do noting, I actually woke up early to bring the hubby to work. After that I did all the grocery for today’s BBQ and on top of that I cleaned the whole house. This time I actually sat on my knees and scrub the tile floor. Or I did part of it. I finished the diner area and the kitchen and I was pooped! At least I vacuum cleaned the rest of the house so no guilt feelings there.

I bought 2 kilos of pork ribs and 4 kilos of chicken wings I wanted to marinate one day before. It took quite some time to chop and clean them and get them ready for the marinate. Next time when I’m not so busy I can actually take pictures and show you how, because everyone seem to like my marinate. I think I should put it in a jar and sell it.

Anyhow after all this I had to go to the supermarket to get some mascarpone for that night’s dessert. Our neighbor invited us over for a BBQ and I always bring dessert. I thought this time I try something new. Since the weather was so nice and hot I decided to make something refreshing. Remember that lemon curd I made earlier...I used halve a jar to make Lemon tiramsu. And once you've got the lemon curd down, the rest is a piece of cake.
So for this delicious summer delight I used my homemade lemon curd, some crema di lemoncello, 250 ml whipping cream, 250 gr mascarpone and some ladyfingers.
First I started by mixing the whipping cream with some sugar. I think I used about 2 tablespoons.  
 Then when the cream is almost stiff I left it and put the ladyfingers in a tray. 
In a different bowl I mixed the mascarpone with 2,5 good tablespoons of lemon curd and a splash of lemoncello. 
After the lemon curd is well incorporate in the mascarpone I put the whole mixture in the same bowl as the whipping cream. I know some people rather fold everything together, but I use my mixer just to incorporate everything. It will still be light and airy because I didn’t over mix the whipping cream.
Then I poured some lemoncello on the ladyfingers and topped them with 2 tablespoons of lemon curd.
I tried to spread it out evenly. All the ladyfingers should be covered with this goodie.
I poured half of the mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers and added some more ladyfingers. Of course I gave them another splash of lemoncello.
To make it look pretty I sprinkled some lemon zest on top. I covered the tray and put it in the fridge. At this time it was already.
I got the tiramisu out at around 7.30 pm and by that time it was in the fridge for 4-5 hours. And I was crossing my fingers that it turned out good. 
And it was good!! The ladyfingers didn’t have enough time to get soggy so they were still a bit crunchy. But the mascarpone was so nice and refreshing. We still had about half a tray left for the neighbors to enjoy today. They couldn’t believe this was my first time making it and would love to be guinea pigs again. This would be a keeper for whenever I have lemon curd. And the neighbors will be there to help me finish it.
It was a great way to end Good Friday.

Tomato salsa

Yesterday I made tomato salsa for the guys who would be helping us to do our yard today. We have been living in our new house for more then a year now and we still haven’t done our back yard. We’ve been looking for several tiles, but none of them really rocked our boat. And I guess it wasn’t priority to do it, but two weeks ago we decided to just give it a go. We bought tiles online, even without seeing or touching them. They did have a photo on their website, but it is still different then when you actually get to see and touch them. But we decided to just buy them and get it over with. At this point, everything would go. So we ordered them on Thursday and Friday I had a phone call they could deliver on Tuesday. That was fast service! So today me and the hubby, his friend and my sister’s bf got at it and prepared the yard so that we could lay the tiles. During break time the guys were enjoying some nice salsa with tortilla chips.
Our yard isn’t big, but we just couldn’t get ourselves to do it. Well we couldn’t decide on tiles. So this was our view for the first two years. We just had enough tiles to take us to the shed.
And this is what we accomplished today. One straight runway to the bbq! Lucky the troops are coming, because the hubby can't take it anymore. Everything is aching! My dad and uncle will help us laying the tiles this Monday so after this we can finely enjoy our back yard.

I thought the guys would enjoy a nice salsa today so I made it one day ahead so all the flavors can marry. And if you’ll have to wait for it, it will taste a lot better!
I used halve a lemon, 3 tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 purple onion and some cilantro.
As I like to build up layers of flavor I started with the strongest one. I diced or more like minced the garlic with a very sharp knife. Then I squeezed halve a lemon on the garlic and stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar.
It’s almost like I’m making sweet and sour garlic bits.
Then I added the finely diced purple onion.
Of course tomato salsa has to have tomatoes, so I used 3 fairly large tomatoes, removed the seeds and diced them finely.
Last but not least I added some finely chopped cilantro to the party. Then I had a taste and added a little sprinkle of salt and lots of fresh grounded pepper.
I mixed everything together and let them party all night in my fridge.
Today at half time I put all the salsa in a bowl and served them with some tortilla chips. The 3 guys rather ate this then a sandwich and due to all the hard labor they manage to finish it all. Guys will never say no to chips and it helps if you pair it with some home made salsa. They’ll be eating veggies and they will like it!

17 April 2011

Lemongrass Chicken

We haven’t had any rice for a while and after a few days of leftovers it was nice to get back to my roots. Rice is so easy to pair with other food. For me rice always has to go with some kind(s) of meat and veggie. And sometimes soup too if I have the time for it. Today I was craving lemongrass chicken. So lemongrass chicken it is. So good to be able to cook whatever you’re craving.
For lemongrass chicken I used: onion, a piece of chili, one lemongrass, 3 cloves of garlic and a bit of ginger.

I like to get everything ready before I actually do the cooking. So I cut the onion in cubs, finely chopped the lemongrass and a little piece of chili, chopped some garlic and finely chopped the ginger. If you want you can grate the ginger too, but I like the little bits of ginger. Everything goes in one bowl.

I had 2 chicken thighs (wish I had more) and chopped them in piece. Now it is time to make my caramel sauce. I used 3 tablespoons of sugar to do so.

I used the same pot I use for the caramel sauce and started by adding some oil and the chopped onion. Then the rest of the bowl went in.

I waited till the garlic browned then it was time for the chicken and some salt and pepper. After everything is mixed the caramel sauce went in.  
Because there was not enough sauce I had to add one drinking cup of water. After it came to a boil I tasted it and added some more salt and a bit of sugar. You want it to be salt, sweat and chili hot. Once the sauce is to your liking turn on the heat and let the sauce thicken a bit.
After 15-20 minutes the sauce has been reduced and the chicken has got a nice brown color. Make sure you keep an eye on your pot; the sauce can burn if your heat is to high. As a finishing touch sprinkle some chopped spring onions.
Chicken and rice is not really a healthy meal so I made some stir fried flat green beans.
I chopped the beans in about 1,5 cm.
In a big wok I poured some oil, some fresh ground pepper, one table spoon of oyster sauce and a little bit sesame oil.
When the wok is nice and hot I added the beans and stir fried them till they were done but still crunchy. I also added a little bit salt and some more pepper.

The whole meal didn’t take more then 30 minutes to make. The hubby was very happy to have rice on his plate. The chicken sauce was so good he could just eat that with rice. Noting else needed.