The Brave Cook

My first steps into sewing and fashion design from urban Berlin!

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

My type of salsa!

The month is not even over but I’m already short of money. I was thinking what to do to avoid spending even more money for food this week. I took a look into my fridge to check what I could use up. I had tomatoes, onions, garlic and a lot of vinegar. The first thing that came to my mind was a salsa, but not the typical salsa in the form of a dip or sauce. I wanted to make something more like antipasti, an appetizer to be eaten with bread. One more thing I had at home were physalis fruits, so the idea came up to make a half spicy, half sweet salsa. Of course, I will tell you what I did differently when preparing my salsa. Please keep in mind that my recipe is only for a small bowl of salsa. If you want to prepare more salsa, you need to multiply the ingredients according to your needs!

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 roughly chopped tomatoes, stems removed
  • 12 chopped physalis
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 3 cayenne chilis or jalapeno pepper
  • 3 – 5 black olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley or other herbs
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar

Instructions

Peel the husks off the physalis fruits and rinse well in cold water. Roughly chop or quarter the physalis fruit.

Start with chopping up 4 – 5 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Prepare the onion, the garlic, the olives, the parsley and the chilies in the same way, chopping them in chunky pieces and combining all the ingredients in a big pot. Set aside some of the seeds from the chilies if you don’t want your salsa to be too spicy.Now add the sea salt, cumin, lime juice and a 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar into the pot with all the other ingredients. You can also use fruit vinegar and mix it with red wine. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, until everything is simmering and tender. To make a salsa dip or sauce puree with an immersion blender and cook everything for another 20 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally until it starts to be slightly thickened.

To make a chunky “antipasti” salsa like I did, don’t use an immersion blender. Simply cook the ingredients for 20 – 30 minutes, then separate from the vinegar and put into a mortar if needed.Salsa is really easy to make and you can prepare it in so many different ways and tastes! I could save some money by simply using up everything I had at home and turning it into this colorful appetizer. Serve it with some bread or use it as a substitute for a salad!

The Brave Cook

Save the basil!

I love to keep a basil plant at the kitchen window but due to the unsteady temperature conditions it is not so easy to keep it alive for long as well as it is not so easy to use it up fast enough. The best thing to do in that case is to make a basil pesto! I have never done a pesto before but my blog is basically all about trying new recipes and learning new things.

There are basil pesto recipes for a classic basil pesto but actually pesto is always made to taste, based on the ingredients at hand. That really comes up to my own philosophy about using for a recipe what I find in my kitchen. Most basil pesto recipes include pine nuts/walnuts and parmesan cheese. I did not have these ingredients at hand so I left out the nuts and used a creamy feta cheese. Of course, you can adjust the ingredients to your taste!Basil Pesto with goat cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or goat cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns or freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Instructions

Wash the basil and remove the leaves from the stems. Combine the basil leaves, garlic cloves, goat cheese and the peppercorns in a food processor. Pulse until everything is perfectly blended together. Add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times with a spatula.

Since I do not use any nuts for my pesto I try to give it a special flavor with the type of salt and pepper that I’m using. My peppercorns have different colors and are freshly cracked in the food processor. If you do not have a food processor or you prefer to use a mortar you need to be very accurate when grinding the peppercorns. I like to use a mortar and to work with my hands instead of letting the food processor do all the work.The salt that I’m using is a special himalaya salt with a light pink color. It has a very strong and aromatic flavor.Add 1 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp lemon zest. This will give the pesto a fruity taste and balance the garlic.Your pesto is ready to be served! Serve with pasta, baked potatoes or even with fried fish.This is a very simple recipe and you can even safe your pesto in the fridge for several days to use it for many dishes. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of it like I did so that it does not turn brown!

The Brave Cook

Hidden fall season places

What a great weekend! It was the perfect ending of my one week holiday. The sun was shining and the temperature was mild. On saturday I was invited to my parents place for lunch. We had stuffed zucchini, roast goose and self-made apple pie for dessert. I cannot remember how long it has been that I stuffed myself with food like that! The best was definitely my moms apple pie. It was made with fresh apples from my parents garden. And guess what they brought me from their garden: quinces! I already have some ideas what to do with them.

Of course this weekend was also perfect for nature photography. During the fall season you never know what to expect from the weather, so you always try to use sunny days to full capacity. Nature offers a pot full of colors at the moment and I have selected some of my snapshots and put them together for you on my blog. I was searching for places enchanted by the fall season here in Berlin. It’s amazing what places you can find when you search for them!

The Brave Cook

My Hokkaido, my love!

This week was weird! Although I’m having one week of holidays I’m still not feeling relaxed. Every single day is running by so fast. I really don’t know how to stick to my tight schedule for this week. At least the weather is more sunny than rainy this week so that I could capture one hour of sun today.

I think I need to remind everyone who reads this blog that I’m far from being a professional cook. I’m an amateur learning how to cook and trying to improve myself day by day. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m such a horrible cook. To prove you that I’m able to deliver some decent recipes I’m presenting you today another creative dish made with two adorable fruits: Hokkaido squash and pomegranate!

I was thinking a long time if there’s actually an english name for the japanese hokkaido squash. The hokkaido orange squash that I’m using for my recipe is quite common here in Germany, but I haven’t really seen them in the US yet. Whatever, it is definitely a lot of fun to prepare stuffed hokkaido squash with rice and pomegranate! What is more, it is the perfect dish when you’re planning to invite guests and to surprise them!

Stuffed hokkaido squash with rice and pomegranate

Ingredients

  • 1 small round hokkaido
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 bag or 1 cup of rice
  • 5 shiitake or oyster mushrooms
  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • fresh herbs such as parsley, dill or else
  • rose leaves, fresh or brewed in tea

Instructions

Cut off the top part of the squash as seen in the picture above. Use a sharp knife, hold it at an angle to the chopping board and carefully cut round the top of the squash, cutting out a shallow cone. Use a teaspoon to scoop out and discard the seeds and the stringy fibers.

Boil the rice in a small saucepan until it is tender. In the meantime, half the pomegranate along its equator and, holding the cut side over a bowl, beat the seeds out of it by bashing the skin with the end of a rolling pin or a wooden spoon. Of course, you can also scoop them out with your fingers.

Chop the mushrooms and the tomatoes, put them in a saucepan and sauté them for 3 – 5 minutes. Take a bowl, put the boiled rice with the mushrooms, the tomatoes and the pomegranate seeds in it. Chop some fresh dill or other fresh herbs and add them to the other ingredients in the bowl. Now knead everything with your hands or with a big spoon until it is incorporated.

I also brewed up some rose tea to add a few rose leaves into the rice. You can leave it out or simply put some rose leaves on top of the squash for decoration. I love to use eatable flowers, especially roses, for my dishes. Of course you can use fresh rose leaves too!

Preheat the oven to 180℃. Spoon the rice with all ingredients into the quash. Put the cut top back on the squash and bake for 30 minutes until the squash flesh starts to get tender. You can test it with skewer. The best way is to serve it hot out of the oven!Enjoy your stuffed squash, the next squash recipe is on its way!

The Brave Cook

Oh rainy day!

On rainy days like today I enjoy staying at home, leaning at my kitchen window and beholding the beautiful view while the rain is dripping gently on the roof top, giving every surface a glance, so that it appears in even more brighter colors. I tend to forget in such a moment all the things causing me stress and sorrows. Instead of that I start to reminisce about the things that are making me feel happy and complete!

The last months had been definitely not very kind to me. I had to go through financial constraints, health problems and distrust between me and my colleagues in the office. Of course I kept myself focused on my own life and my plans, but sometimes you get the feeling in life like everyone is simply up to make your life more difficult. These are the moments when you can regain strength by relying on your loved ones and to remember that life is about yourself and what you make of it, not about what you get!

My life is not for a long time yet at the point I wished it would be, but I still have the chance and the free choice to change my life, to approach my dreams and my visions! I have a loving partner who loves me back and whom I trust completely. This is my strong basis in life. With him I want to find the right place to live and to be happy. The right place to have a cosy little home and to do a job that satisfies us. I remember all these things when looking out my kitchen window and forgetting about the other things in life that are not really important to take them too much to heart. It will be a long way to get there, but life is about finding new goals and overcoming new challenges. I already know what I want in life and that is the best start!

Tomorrow the sun may come out again for me, but for all the other rainy days I keep leaning at my kitchen window and beholding the beautiful view.

The Brave Cook

Where’s the spaghetti?

It’s squash season and everybody is preparing different dishes made with squash. Of course I had to buy my different sorts of squash too! I love to choose the most beautiful ones and to keep them at my window as long as I haven’t prepared them yet. Depending on the size and the shape of the squash I decide what I want to do with it. Maybe I should grow my own squash to see how it will look like. Not everyone likes the taste of pumpkin and I can understand that, but there are different sorts of squash and I wanted to start with a spaghetti squash. I don’t know if there is another english name for this squash but that’s how we call it here in Germany. The reason why it is called like that is because it has fibers inside that resemble spaghetti noodles. Is it not beautiful?

The best way to prepare a spaghetti squash is to make a salad or a stew. Since my spaghetti squash is so big I decided to make a salad and a soup with it. I took a huge sharp knife and cut it in half. It’s really not as easy as you may think. It takes some strength to split it in half. One half will be boiled in a pot and the other half put into the oven. I have done this only to compare both ways of preparation and to find out if there is a difference in taste. To forestall the question about the difference in taste: Yes, it is! Squash that is heated in the oven is softer than squash boiled in water. At least that is my experience.

You can decide if you want to remove the inner part with the seeds before heating it or afterwards, but when you put it into the oven it is better to remove the inner part at first. Heat the oven to 180 C and bake it for 40 minutes. The other half can be boiled in a pot also for 40 minutes.

In the meantime you can chop the other vegetables for the salad. Of course, you can choose whatever vegetables you like to mix with squash. I always go for what is in my fridge. I took a zucchini and some tomatoes, because my plan was to use the second half of the squash for a soup. When the vegetables are chopped you can start preparing a simple chicken broth for your “noodle” soup. At the same time the chopped vegetables can be fried gently in some olive oil or sesame oil.

I have seasoned the zucchini and the tomatoes with some special rose salt, giving it a strong aroma. To use simply salt may seem boring, but sometimes too many spices take away the original flavor of the vegetables.

The spaghetti squash should be ready by now and it is time to take one half out of the pot and the other out of the oven. Be careful, because the squash is still very hot! Now take a fork and scrap the fibers out of the squash, they should come out like short spaghetti.Of course the squash fibers do not taste like spaghetti at all, but it is a great alternative to pasta. If you invite guests you can surely surprise them with spaghetti squash, because a lot people did not have the chance to take it yet!

The last steps are simple! Put the fried vegetables on the squash and drizzle some lemon juice or some oil on the salad. You can eat the squash salad warm as well as cold.

Do not forget to use the other half of the spaghetti squash for your chicken soup. Basically you can use the same vegetables for your soup or prepare others. Put them on the spaghetti fibers and pour the soup other it. I was surprised how good it tastes, the perfect replacement for noodles!

There are a hundred ways of preparing squash, so other squash recipes are on the way! Enjoy your warm salad and soup during this beautiful fall season.

The Brave Cook

Omelet with oyster mushrooms and cranberries

The last days were very stressful for me because I had some serious throat pain with coughing and at first I thought it would be a simple flu but as it always disappeared unexpectedly the same way as it appeared from time to time I reckoned it could be caused by something else. Since it appeared mostly in the mornings after sleep and after having food it showed that it was caused by an oesophagitis due to an acidity of the stomach. Now I feel relieved that it was nothing serious and I can concentrate again on posting the first recipe on my blog.

To regain my energy after some nights without sleep I was thinking of preparing something simple but still delicious giving me new drive for the day: An omelet!

Ingredients:

6 eggs

1 red onion

3 cherry tomatoes

2 green/spring onions

5 – 10 oyster mushrooms

a handful cranberries

some basil leaves

salt/pepper

The recipe is as simple as it sounds but it is colorful and nutritive! First you cut all the vegetables as shown in the pictures: The red onion, the cherry tomatoes, the green onions, and the basil leaves.

Don’t cut the cherry tomatoes too chunky, they have to be covered with the whipped eggs!

Now it is time for the most beautiful ingredient of this recipe: The red onion! Somehow I was fascinated seeing it on the photographies.

The oyster mushrooms don’t need to be cut into small pieces unless they are not too big.

Now you can put everything into a pan and fry it gently with some olive oil. I used a very acerb olive oil to impart an aromatic flavor to the omelet.

For those of you who love to give it a fruity taste add some dried cranberries to it like I did.

Now it’s time to whip the eggs and to add the creamy whipped eggs to the other ingredients in the pan. Some like to add salt and pepper directly to the whipped eggs, others do it in the pan after pouring the eggs into it.

Fry the egg mixture with all the vegetables gently so that the egg does not burn. When one side starts becoming brown it’s time to flip it.

Enjoy your omelet like I did! Now I have new energy to indulge in new recipes and photographies!

The Brave Cook

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