Looks like a formula, feels like a recipe.
You’re looking at one of my favorite things to make. Usually, I just make this with whatever I have on hand, although sometimes I think ahead and grab something specific I know I’ll want in it: in this case, I thought to pick up some really nice French feta from Fresh Direct.
It doesn’t really have a name, because it’s different every time I make it, but here’s my usual formula, with the actual ingredients listed parenthetically.
The best, easiest thing I’ve made in ages:
Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage
- 1 small head red cabbage
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
Shred cabbage. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Add cabbage. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for one hour. Serve as is, or with a little sour cream.
I’m just so pleased with this recipe. Years ago, I ate something much like this â€” in, of all places, Restaurant Akershus, in the Norwegian section of EPCOT â€” and I thought about it for the rest of the day; how it was sweet, sour, and bitter without being overwhelmed by any of its elements. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of recreating that here.
Plus, I’m really glad to have a new way to make cabbage, because I’ve had enough local, seasonal freakin’ produce to last me for quite some time.
Kristen to Old Man Winter: Drop Dead
I am so fucking tired of winter.
An entire February of cold, grey, depressing days, not even broken up by any real snowfall, has exhausted my patience with winter. Start up the daffodils and robins already, because I am so done with all this wintery shit.
So much so, I went out of my way to cook something without local, seasonal ingredients and instead bought two of my favorite spring vegetables — snow peas and asparagus — from FreshDirect to make this:
I call it Hurry The Fuck Up Already Springtime Pasta.
Not an especially inspired name, but it gets the point across.
I did it! I cooked fish â€” my final food frontier! Here’s a somewhat crappy photo to prove it!
That is a piece of sesame-(semi)crusted tilapia. It was great; the fish was firm and flaky, and the sesame seeds took on a lovely toasty flavor.
The best part, though? The wasabi-ponzu sauce. Sweet sassy molassy! I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but two hours after dinner, I poured the leftover sauce over some rice and ate it with a spoon while I watched my Netflix. That’s how good this sauce is.
For the full recipe — with much better photos of the fish than the one I took —visit Kate’s blog.
Guess the dessert:
Love, (Italian-)American Style
During my (very brief) stint as a classic poor college student, I would head over to my grandparents’ house about once a month, to be fed and/or do some laundry. My grandmother, in ever-declining health, wasn’t up to cooking the foods she used to make when I was a kid (a subject that richly deserves its own post), so we’d usually get some kind of take-out.
There was, however, one time (I think I had stopped by to pick up some things I’d left in the dryer last time ) she felt up to the task of making spaghetti sauce. And, just as she did every time I’d ever left her house, she loaded me up with food, including a plastic tub full of sauce, straight off the stove. Seeing as it was still warm when I got it home, it seemed a waste to put it in the fridge right away, so…
I probably polished off a pound of this rich, meaty sauce before I had the good sense to save the rest for later. I don’t think it was the last time she made spaghetti sauce, but it was certainly the last time I remember getting to eat it: standing in the dim pantry of the run-down apartment I shared with no less than five roommates, eating sauce right out of the container with a spoon I’d had to wash before using. Maybe it was just from living on ramen noodles at that point, but I don’t think I’d ever eaten anything that made me so happy before.
And yesterday, after years of trying, I think I’ve come as close as possible to making that sauce myself.
It happened pretty much by accident — in truth, I really just needed to cook some sausage meat before it spoiled — so I’m going to try and recall everything I did, in the hopes of recreating this sauce again later.
- 1 lb. sausage meat (or lean ground beef)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 big handful fresh parsley, minced
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tbs. red wine
- 1 heaping tbs. sugar
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- about 1 can of water (because I couldn’t waste that bit of tomato clinging in the cans)
- salt and pepper
The rest is pretty self-explanatory; brown the meat and then the vegetables, dump in the rest, set it to simmer.
Here’s what I did differently yesterday: I pretty much forgot about it. Seriously, I walked away from it simmering on the stove and started doing something else… and then before I knew it, it was two and a half hours later and my husband was calling from the kitchen, “uh, should I be doing something with this sauce out here?”
I scuttled off to the kitchen, muttering fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck! under my breath, and found the sauce had reduced by about a third. I stirred, skeptical but hoping some of it could be salvaged, and found it was more than salvageable — it was perfect. As close as I’ve ever come to the sauce my grandmother made.
And, of course, I just stood there in the middle of my kitchen, the same as I did fifteen years ago, just eating that sauce with a spoon and being happy.
How to reverse engineer gezellig:
The last time we went to Holland, my husband and I both got really nasty sick halfway over the Atlantic. It was the worst gastro-intestinal virus I’ve had in years, certainly, if not ever — and we spent the first 48+ hours of our trip in bed, shivering and miserable.
When we finally felt well enough to eat, my husband’s aunt sent over groentesoep met gehaktballen — a vegetable soup with meatballs. It was like gezellig in a bowl: salty, with beefy broth, spoon-sized meatballs the size of marbles, and some vegetables I was still too muzzy-brained to identify. It was probably the happiest a bowl of soup had ever made me feel (with the exception of this potato soup with truffles I ate in Maastricht one time, but no soup’s ever gonna top that).
A couple of months ago — around the time the weather got cold and I started thinking about Dutch food — I became determined to reverse engineer this soup. I knew the two main components — soup and meatballs — and I asked my mother-in-law about it, what was in it, how it was made, et cetera. She told me in the Dutch supermarkets, you’d usually buy pre-chopped soup vegetables, cover it with water, and add a Maggi bouillon tablet or two, along with the meatballs.
Seemed simple enough, I reckoned.
I started with the meatballs, finding a couple different recipes for gehaktballen, and then came up with the following:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 egg
- 2 slices bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
Cover the pieces of bread with milk and let soak until soft. Squeeze out excess milk and add bread to bowl, along with remaining ingredients. Mix well.
I formed the meatballs with a small melon baller, and I think that was maybe a little too big. They should be about the size of a rounded teaspoon. I started by browning a couple of them in a pan, until I realized the meatballs were probably poached in the soup instead. No matter; I ate the browned ones while I cooked.
I simmered the meatballs in about 4 cups of water in the soup pot, along with a bouillon tablet. Here’s what I did next:
- 4 leeks, quartered and sliced 1/4″ thick
- 2 carrots, quartered and sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1 large waxy potato, peeled and diced
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 2-3 bouillon tablets (I used a combination of beef and vegetable)
- 8-10 cups water
Combine all ingredients. Simmer 45-60 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
I started with the leeks and carrots and let those simmer together. I didn’t want to add any potato, because I always make way too much soup, and freezing what’s leftover becomes out of the question with the addition of potato — however, I evidently added one bouillon tablet too many and really needed a potato to make it less salty.
The meatballs — while really good — just didn’t have the texture I remembered. I think instead of a meatball with eggs and bread, those meatballs were just seasoned meat, more like these.
Still, the end result came really damned close to what my husband and I remembered. The leeks were soft and almost buttery-tasting. The carrots added a note of sweetness. Even the potatoes were okay, although I don’t think I’d add them again, along with a couple of changes I think I’d make.
But for now, here it is — groentesoep met gehaktballen: the beta version, stable but not ready for general release just yet.