Saturday, November 13, 2010


My love of Sofie Dahl has come to a whole new level tonight. I have been wanting to prepare her Grilled Salmon with Baked Onions recipe for ages and tonight was finally the night. Just listen to her description of the onions: "There is something almost puddingy about a slow-cooked onion with the mellow sweetness that the oven coaxes out." Now, insert her melodious British accent and how could you possibly not want to make that and devour it up?

I can't believe that I'm salivating at the mouth over onions--my sworn enemy at the age of about 2 or 3. I used to pronounce them "ong-ones" and oh, I hated them so much! Over the years, I've grown to like them more and more--first in Mexican cuisine, then Thai cooking--and I eventually grew out of my hated, but I never thought I'd be loving them this much!

Salmon with Baked Onions
Adapted from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights: Recipes For Every Season, Mood and Appetite

2 medium yellow onions (I threw in a few shallots as well)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup of lighy cream
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
2 skinless fillets of salmon
Olive oil
1 lemon

Cut the ends of the onions and peel the outside layers off. Boil them in water for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Once the onions are tender, take them out of the water and cut them in half. Put them in a small baking pan or pie pan. Salt and pepper the onions and add them cream, finishing it off by sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
When the onions have been cooking for about 10-15 minutes, start the salmon. Wash and season the fillets and cover with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Heat a grill pan or a skillet and sear the slamon for about 5 minutes on each side, until cooked thoroughly.
Take out the onions once the cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Serve the salmon and the onions together on a plate.

These were my leftovers, ready to go in the fridge after I had already devoured a plate full of salmon and creamy oniony-goodness.  I am so head over heels in love with baked onions now and I really can't describe them better than Sophie Dahl, so you're just gonna have to take her word for it. Oh, they are glorious and go excellently paired with a nice fillet of salmon.

How to Cure the Travel Bug

Sometimes, my heartstrings get pulled and tugged as all I can think about is Greece and how much I miss living there. Good thing my soul is so easily soothed by a delicious meal, full of happy-memory-inducing tastes.

One of my favorite dishes in Greece (that I sadly did not get enough of) was moussaka. This is a casserole-type dish made out of eggplant, ground meat and spices and topped with béchamel sauce. It's oh so hearty and has a wonderful, creamy texture, making for the perfect comfort food. 


1 eggplant
a water and salt solution
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
For the meat:
1/2 pound ground meat (I used ground meat substitute, but lamb or beef are most traditional)
Olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1 can of chopped tomatoes
For the béchamel:
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
2 egg yolks
A dash of nutmeg
Salt to taste

Peal and slice the eggplant into rounds and place in the salt solution for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the meat in the olive oil. Once browned, add the onions, spices and tomatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside once done.
Once the eggplant has been soaked, take it out of the solution and dry it on paper towels. Broil, grill or
sauté the rounds on both sides until somewhat tender.
While the eggplant is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter at medium heat and whisk in the flour, letting simmer for a few minutes, without letting the mixture get too dark. Add the milk and whisk over medium while it thickens. Add the nutmeg and salt. Once thickened, temper the yolks by pouring a couple ladles of the sauce into a bowl with the already whisked yolks, whisking the whole time, then pour the egg mixture into the sauce, still whisking until it is all incorporated.
Now it's time to assemble. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer the bottom of a 9x9 inch pan with the grilled eggplant. Top with the meat mixture. Cover with half of the cheese and then the béchamel sauce. Finish off with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned. Take out of the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

I can't believe that this dish turned out so well. It tasted just like the moussaka I fell in love with in Greece. It's so comforting to be able to recreate my favorite dishes from such an incredible summer. It's a simple way to sooth my travel withdrawals.

Friday, November 12, 2010


There are those nights that go like this:

"I have angel hair pasta. That's good, I want this dinner to be easy. Oh look at what I have in the fridge. Might as well throw a bunch of it together. Oh yeah, that looks good too...and that! And that!"

And yeah, sometimes that is just a complete and utter disaster and ends in me wishing I had just ordered take-out. However, sometimes it turns out being your favorite dish of the week! Recently, I had the luck (or was it intuition?) to create a situation like the latter.

Zucchini, Feta and Pancetta Angel Hair

(for 1)
A handful of angel hair--you know how much you'll eat
2 tablespoons, olive oil
Half of a small zucchini, sliced
A few slices of pancetta, sliced
1/2 of a shallot, sliced
A few slices of feta, crumbled
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions.
Meanwhile, heat up a skillet with the olive oil. Add the shallots and a few minutes later, add the zucchini to brown on both sides. Salt and pepper to taste.
Start another skillet heating for the egg. Once the pasta is almost ready, cook the egg to your liking--I enjoy sunny side up or basted. (A poached egg will be great as well!)
Add the pancetta to the skillet with the zucchini and sauté for a few minutes.
Once the pasta is ready, drain and top with the zucchini mixture, the egg and the crumbled feta.

The rich flavor of the shallots, with the saltiness of the feta and the pancetta went so well together, while the wonderful yolk of the egg really brought all of the flavors together into one hearty dish.

Greece Revisited

This is a very late post, considering that I did this over a month ago! But I still thought I'd share. Since half of the students in my Greece program all live in Davis, we decided to do a little get together once school started--a chance to make some Greek cuisine and reminisce about our summer. Everyone pitched in and brought a few of the ingredients and we had a feast of Greek salad, plenty of feta, figs and olives, and a main course of steak, falafel and chicken souvlakis--our favorite meal that was served in literally every taverna in Greece. I don't have all of my recipes because I went on the fly for most of it and since it's been quite a while now, I can't quite recall what I did.

The Greek Salad was a staple at most of our meals and is so easy to make--cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, olives, feta, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper so that was very simple to recreate.

For the souvlakis, I marinated the meats in a Greek marinade that consisted of a olive oil and a few spices like oregano, garlic, and dill and I baked them in the oven, then sliced them thinly to place on the souvlakis which are small "sandwiches" made of meat (traditionally pork), tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, onions, and french fries.

I made the tzatziki sauce for the souvlakis by combining sour cream and Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt, pepper, shredded cucumber and lots of garlic.

 Homemade tzatziki. I couldn't believe that I pulled if off and it tasted like the real thing!

Not as good as the figs Corinna picked for Lianna but still delicious.

Oh how we love our Feta.

I don't have many photos from this because I was too busy enjoying the company of my friends and catching up on our post-Greek lives. Though we were so ready for a change in our diet after a month in Greece, it was so fun to get back together and attempt to make some of our favorites.

Keeping Warm

I really love making fall dishes. There are so many autumn dishes that are simple to make but do an incredible job warming up the soul. Another spontaneous TJ's grab: acorn squash. Seriously, I shouldn't be allowed in grocery stores without first taking a pledge to only buy what's on my list. Oh well, my lack of self control always ends in a yummy meal so I'll deal with it.

This is a dish that my mom and dad made all the time when I was a kid. It was within my strict dietary restrictions and it was simple for them to make on those busy nights when they were running my brother and I to our various practices and lessons.

Basic Acorn Squash

(for each acorn squash)
2 dabs of butter
1 tablespoons brown sugar
a few dashes of cinnamon
a small dash of cloves
a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.
Cut the acorn squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Place a dab of butter in each hollowed out section, followed the sugar and spices, half in each side of the squash.
Place the squash in a pan and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is tender.
Take out of the oven and enjoy!

I love scooping out huge spoonfulls of this wonderful, creamy squash. It's like the equivalent of pumpkin pie for dinner. This was so perfect with a simple side of israeli couscous, topped with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Something about fall makes me adore those simple dishes with one distinct and overwhelming flavor and this is definitely one of those. I wouldn't want to overpower the wonderful taste inherent in the squash with anything too strong. I adore this dish for it's beautiful fall flavors and it's minimal preparation time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hello Fall!

It's official, Trader Joe's is finally open in Davis and it's frighteningly close to my house. Now, I'm smack in the middle of The Co-op and Trader Joe's. Oh dear. Self control is going to come in handy.

I went to TJ's with my roommates the other day and the brussels sprouts were calling my name. As my roommates were unpacking their grocery bags, I started preparing my sprouts, throwing together a few of my favorite tastes to create a perfect fall dish.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Pancetta

(I didn't measure anything, throw it all in to your own tastes)
Brussels sprouts (I cut a few in half if they were large)
Olive oil
Pine nuts
Sliced pancetta

Toss together all of the ingredients except the pancetta. Roast in an oven at 375 for about 35-45 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are about cooked through. Raise the temp to 400 and add the pancetta. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the pancetta and the edges of the brussels sprouts start to get crispy.

Mmm, I can just taste fall in this meal. The brussels sprouts are so warm and comforting and well contrasted by the saltiness of the pancetta and the nuttiness of the pine nuts. It was the perfect throw-together meal for a cold, rainy afternoon.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Traditions

This post may be a little late for some of you, but if you're just now carving your pumpkins today, don't forget the most important part--the seeds!

I've carved a pumpkin every year since I can remember. Actually, let me take that back. When I was too young to handle knives etc., I would color a face on a pumpkin with paint markers! My family would always have those stencil kits, and I remember that every year, I would choose more and more complicated stencils, always trying to keep up with my dad and brother. One of my favorite parts of carving pumpkins has always been the roasted pumpkin seeds that my dad would make afterward.

This year, I kept up the tradition, even though I wasn't home to carve with my dad (the only other family member that still carves with me--and he didn't even carve this year so I'm the only one carrying on the tradition). I didn't have a stencil kit, so after deciding on an owl--a homage to Athena and my summer in Greece--I drew it onto my pumpkin and went at it.

Didn't turn out too bad for not having a stencil! Caitlin's boyfriend, Gavin, also carved an owl so we have two of them sitting on our porch at the moment. Next, it was roasting time!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
Worcestershire sauce
Garlic power
*all to taste and depending on how many pumpkin seeds you have.

Slowly, sift through the pumpkin guts till you have all the seeds. This takes quite a while. I was so happy that my one pumpkin provided so many seeds. Place the seeds in a collender and wash them with cold water. Pick all the remaining pumpkin gunk out of the seeds and wash them off again.

Once they're all sifted through, boil some water and place the pumpkin seeds in it for about 5 minutes. Drain them and place them in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients so that the seeds are lightly coated in the seasoning. Place on a cookie sheet and roast in an oven at 375. Every 10 or so minutes, stir the seeds so they can get evenly toasted. I like mine to be nicely golden brown and crunchy so I keep roasting them till I get them to that stage, about 30-45 minutes, depending on your seeds.

These are so delicious and so addicting! They turned out just like they always did when my daddy would make them for me. I would send some to him to show him that I can do it too, but I think I'll have them devoured before I get to that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friends and Food

Shortly after I moved in, two of my high school friends, Staecy and Amanda, came up to Davis to visit me in my new home. We decided to have a night of cooking and since I'd been craving pierogies ever since I wrote my post about my European food adventures, we decided to satisfy my tummy and set out to make these little pockets of goodness. While I don't have exact amounts for the ingredients in the filling (I was too busy having a blast with my girls to write down my expact procedure), it's not really necessary to get that exact.

Potato Pierogies with Cabbage, Pancetta and Browned Onions

For the dough: (adapted from Gormet on Epi)
3 cups all-purpose flou
1 cup water
1 egg
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling: (I made extra so I could have leftovers for potato pancakes)
Several  large baking potatos
1-2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups sharp white cheddar (or more)
Salt and pepper
For the cabbage:
Several tablespoons of butter
1 head of cabbage sliced thinly
1 onion sliced thinly
1/2 cup chopped pancetta
Salt and pepper

First off, get some water boiling for the potatoes. Clean the potatoes and cut them in half if they are large. When the water starts boiling, place the potatoes in the pot and boil until the potatoes are tender, about 8-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic--about 8 minutes.
Let the dough stand while making the filling. Once the potatoes are ready, drain them and remove the skin. Mash them with a fork till there are no chunks and mix in the sour cream, cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Add as much as you want, I definitely added quite a good amount of sour cream and cheese!
Roll out the dough thinly on a lightly floured surface. This will take a while.
If you've got helpers with you, like I did, get them started on chopping the pancetta, onions and cabbage. Start melting the butter and browning the onions on a medium-low setting. Add the pancetta once the onions have started softening.
Once the dough is rolled out, cut out circles (I used a glass cup to cut through the dough), rerolling the extra dough until it is all cut.
Get some water boiling again--this time, to cook the pierogies.
To construct the pierogies, dollop a bit if the filling in the center of the dough. Moisten the edge of the dough circle with a bit of water (I just kept a cup of water by my side, dipped my finger in it and used it to moisten the dough) and close the circle of dough into a half circle--making sure the dough is pinched together around the sides so the filling won't come out.
To cook the pierogies, add them to the boiling water for about five minutes. Meanwhile, melt a bit of butter in a large skillet (you might need several skillets going if you want to cook them all at once). Once they are al dente, drain them and put them in the skillet to brown. Once they are browned on one side, flip them over to brown on the other side. Note: This step is optional. In Europe, the pierogies I had were only boiled and never browned, but I really like them with a crunchy outer shell.
Meanwhile, turn down the onions and pancetta to a lower heat setting and add the cabbage. Allow it to wilt down and soak up the sauces from the onion and pancetta.
Once the cabbage is nicely cooked and the pierogies are nicely browned, plate and enjoy!

It takes a lot of time (and I had two awesome friends helping me!) but these are really worth it once you get to sit down to enjoy them. The filling is so smooth and tasty, and I love the crunchiness of the outer shell. The cabbage is a perfect side, especially with the hearty, browned onions and salty pancetta. If it's raining where you are, like it is here, this would be the perfect meal to make and enjoy while cozying up against the rain with a few friends.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Who Needs a Real Oceanview When You've Got Potato Pancakes?

My mom has raved to me about Bette's Diner for years and I've always thought she was exaggerating a bit--although the scone mix she always brought home from their shop was always delicious, even though I'm not a huge fan of scones. When I went to Berkeley with my family for the Davis v. Cal game, I finally had the chance to try this place out. I was not let down!

Bette's Oceanview Diner
1807 Fourth Street
Berkely, CA 94710

Bette's Oceanview Diner (which doesn't actually have an ocean view, my brother and I were disappointed to find out) is located in a beautiful section of Berkeley CA. The air was so crisp that morning and as we waited for our turn to be seated (there is always a long dinner at Bette's), mom and I wandered around the area, looking at all the small shops. We stopped in a paper store right down the street, where I got two beautiful screen printings on mulberry paper for my new home. When it was finally our turn, we decided on the outdoor seating, right on the sidewalk, where they bring you fleece blankets to keep cozy. After joking around with the amazing host, whom my mom claims is always there, we settled in to look at the menus. There were so many choices and we definitely ended up over ordering, but it was well worth it.

Bette's Potato Pancakes-German style potato pancakes with sour cream and house-made apple sauce! I remember the first time I was urged to eat potato latkes with apple sauce and sour cream--I thought it was an absolutely insane idea but ever since, I've been addicted. These were delicious and were the perfect combo of crunchiness without becoming all dried out on the inside. The apple sauce was delicious as well and reminded me of making apple sauce with my mom every fall as a child.

"California Breakfast"-Poached eggs on ham and toast with a lemon-herb butter sauce, grilled tomatoes and home style potatoes (with an addition of avocado, as per the waitress' suggestion). The eggs we poached beautifully and what goes together better than ham, avocado and eggs? The sauce was to-die-for and brought together all of the flavors wonderfully. The tomatoes were wonderfully ripe and grilled to perfection and really topped off this gorgeous meal.

Salmon and Potato Breakfast-Potatoes and with flakes of grilled salmon, in their lemon-herb butter sauce, served with poached eggs, grilled tomatoes and toast (their special for the day). Wow, was this good. There wasn't a great amount of salmon in the potatoes, but somehow the salmon flavor shined through, brilliantly. The potatoes were cooked so well--perfectly done on the inside, yet crispy brown on the edges--a perfect style for this dish. This was such a hearty breakfast plate, and perfect for the cold morning outdoors.

I'm so happy to say that I have finally made it to Bette's Oceanview Diner. I had a wonderful breakfast with my family, amidst a charming setting and wonderful staff. Now, my stomach is telling me that I have to make my way back there soon.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Home Grown

The excitement over the last few days? Discovering a fruit tree in the backyard!
The other day, I was in the kitchen and heard a knock on the window. It was Caitlin and she was holding some oblong, green, fuzzy thing. I went outside to discover that the tree outside our kitchen was producing fruit! Weird looking fruit at that.
I went inside and got a knife to cut it open. The inside looked like a really gooey and less seedy fig but the outside was definitely too tough to be any sort of fig.
It smelled delicious! It reminded me of the grapes that we used to grow in the backyard of my childhood home. Those grapes tasted and smelled nothing like the grapes from the store, but I would sit outside and pick them and eat them for hours; resulting in an awful stomach ache.
I took a bite of the inside and was pleasantly surprised. Okay, it's definitely not the best tasting fruit I've ever had, but it was also definitely not bad! It wasn't too sweet and just a tad sour and had a delicate taste.
After calling the troupes on facebook to figure out what this fruit was, and a few google searches later, I had my answer--I have a Pineapple Guava tree growing in my backyard.

On the tree. They kind of look like really big almonds to me.

If I'm good, you'll see some Pineapple Guava jam on here in the new future. If not, maybe I'll try next season.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cheeseboard #2

Back to Cheeseboard! Of course. This time, I went with my brother and my dad after the Cal v. Davis game. I needed some cheering up after the incredible loss, and Cheeseboard pizza was just what the doctor ordered.

The Cheese Board Pizza Collective
1512 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA

I sadly forgot to write down what was on the pizza and it's been a while since I ate it, so I sadly cannot remember exactly what was on it, but I do remember that there were figs, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and arugula. Mmm, delicious!

We ate on the median-per custom. It was dad's first time and it was a successful one at that. It was so rich between the figs and the gorgonzola but it was just perfect for some comfort food especially with a bottle of delicious apple cider that tasted like apples right of the tree in the fall.

Check out my last post from cheeseboard to learn more about the place! Quality ingredients, delicious food and good people.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Calming Down

The last month has been crazy busy and I've felt like I've had so much on my place and nothing to do all at once. How does that happen? I guess after traveling, many of the things I had to do just felt too trivial or boring to actually consider them to be of any importance. But no worries, I'm out of my post-traveler's-melancholy and I'm back in school (one and a half weeks in). Now that I have a normal schedule, the blogs should be coming out more regularly. The more things I have to do, the more productive I get.

I've been obsessed with zucchini and yellow summer squash lately--probably because I can't resist these beautiful vegetables whenever I go to the farmer's market or the co-op. Browning them in a skillet with a little bit of salt and pepper is definitely my new favorite thing to do. I'm putting it in every dish imaginable! I also had a short lived obsession with orange cherry tomatoes, because there was such a bountiful supply of them at the co-op. Seriously, living so close to this place is going to be the death of me. Or at least my bank account (ignore that, mom and dad)! This meal is such an easy fix on hot nights, when I wanted to be using my new kitchen, but I also feel like exercising little-to-no movement plus having a delicious meal on the table. 

Summer Vegetable and Polenta Mess

A few slices of prepared polenta
A handful of cherry tomatoes
A few chunks of garlic
1/4 a red bell pepper, sliced
A big handful of sliced zucchini and yellow summer squash
A big spoonful of marscarpone (cream cheese, craime fraiche or sour cream works as well)

Fry up the polenta with some oil on both sides.
Meanwhile, brown the zucchini and squash. Add the garlic, pepper and finally the cherry tomatoes closer to the end. Season with salt and pepper.
To construct, dollop the marscarpone on the polenta, then top with the sauteed veggies.

So simple. So beautiful. Perfect for the end of summer. I love using up all of my delicious vegetables and having it come out this good!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rainy Day Prose

My friend just left from a visit and catch-up-session (involving Woodstock’s Cheese Pizza) and now, I’m taking full advantage of an unexpected summer rainfall by laying in bed with my light on dim, surrounded by incense and candles and my windows open wide to let the crisp, cold air flow into my room. I finally have posters on my wall and I strategically placed my favorites at the end of my bed so I could look at them when I’m laying down. One is Chagall’s La Mariee. This is my absolute favorite painting because of the emotions it evokes. I love how romantic it is, with woman floating through the air while she’s being serenaded by a goat. Everything seems so effortless and relaxed. The woman lacks all tension in her body and makes me want to just melt. While the painting has a heavy sense to it, it remains playful and childish. Every time I look at it, I feel something new. I have two favorite quotes about this painting. One is from the film, Notting Hill, when the lead woman, played by Julia Roberts, is discussing her love of this painting and she remarks “happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat”. In the song, “Painting by Chagall” by The Weepies, one line goes, “all around is sky and blue town; holding these flowers for a wedding gown. We live so high above the ground, satellites surround us”. Another poster on this wall is one that I just got a few days ago in Berkeley from a Japanese paper store. It is screen painted on mulberry paper and is so elaborate that it is hard to explain. It’s a scenery painting with water and hills of flowers, trees, a bridge and flocks of birds flying into the sky. The colors are so vibrant and there is so much going on in the painting that my eyes just flit from section to section, mesmerized by the scene I’m looking at. Lastly, I have a poster from my Dad that he got in Spain of a beautiful Spanish dancer, wearing a beautiful and elaborate dress, with a long, green train. She’s dancing in the midst of bright flowers, in front of a stucco wall. On the bottom of the poster, it says “Gran Festival De Cante y Baile: con la sensacional actuacion de Brittany”. Every time I look at this poster, I want to get up and dance and dance and dance.

 La Mariee by Marc Chagall

Well, since that was basically a very round-about way to say that I’m in the perfect blogging mood, I guess I should move onto the food aspect of this post. Here’s a post of the first thing I made in my new kitchen. This was made when the kitchen was still unpacked, so I had to do some digging to even find a skillet. It was a simple breakfast but it felt incredible to be making my own food again. Plus, sometimes the simplest dishes taste the best if they’re made with good, fresh ingredients (on bright green counters). 

Egg and Goat Brie Breakfast Sandwich

1 egg
½ of a bread roll (any kind of bread works, really)
1 clove of garlic
Brie or any kind of creamy cheese (I used triple cream goat brie)

In one skillet, fry the egg.
In another skillet, melt a few tablespoons of butter at medium heat. Cut the bread roll  open and place the open part in the skillet, making sure that it’s covered in butter. Fry until the bread is golden. Meanwhile, cut the clove of garlic in half.
When the bread is ready, rub the garlic over the golden part of the bread to impart the flavor. Place a few slices of the cheese on one slice of bread, top with the fried egg and a bit of fresh ground pepper.

If you have any greens that you could sauté up, go for it! That would really add a lot. Or maybe some bacon or ham? This was just thrown together with the ingredients that I had on hand. The orange cherry tomatoes to go along with it and the Pomegranate Blackberry Juice made for a perfect first breakfast in my new place in the midst of mountains of boxes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Surroundings

Now that I'm back from all of my travels, I'm moved into a new place in Davis. I'm living in a house this year, which I could not be more excited about. It's a cute older home, close to campus, with hardwood floors, a fire place, yard space and of course a beautiful kitchen! I love my new kitchen. There isn't much counter space, so we're looking for a table to put in there, but I still love it. It has green/turquoise tile which just adds to the feel of the whole room and it has open shelving! I've wanted open shelving instead of closed cabinets ever since I fell in love with my childhood friend's kitchen that had all open shelves so you could see everything. Something just feels so homey about being able to see a lot of the items that are used for cooking and eating. Why hide it away when you use it so often? It's a part of kitchen and dining life and I just love being able to see everything surrounding me while I'm cooking.

I love hanging pots and pans. One of my favorite kitchens is owned by a family friend and she has an island in the center of her kitchen that her pots and pans hang over. The feeling of being in the midst of all of your cooking supplies makes me feel so cozy and in the cooking mood.

I just love the open shelving. I think it brightens up the whole room. Plus, look at the green tile! How cute is that?

More open shelving and our lovely collection of tea. Hopefully, the table will go in this corner so we're not confined to the small counter.

It's so convenient to have some produce and supplies accessible right by the stove. And again, I love how much it brightens up the room to have apples, square, oils, flour and what-not sitting close at hand.

It feels so good to have a new cooking space. My apartment's kitchen was so tiny and it was so dark too. Light floods into my new kitchen all day long and there are plenty of lights that brighten it up at night. Plus, this kitchen just has a cozier feel. There's something about the way older houses look that make me feel so relaxed and at home. I've only lived here for a week and I already feel like I belong in this new space. I am so looking forward to cranking out a lot of delicious food from this room.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Update

I'm back! Finally. It's been a long summer (and I still have a few weeks of it left!) I spent 4 weeks of the summer in Greece, 2 weeks traveling through Eastern Europe, and 1 1/2 week in IL amongst various weeks at home in Fresno. Now, I'm finally moved into my new house in Davis and I'm back to cooking my own food (but that is for another post). It was crazy not being able to cook my own food this summer but I was able to try a lot of new foods.

I went to Greece for 4 weeks for a study abroad program. I lived on the Island of Hydra with 19 other people. Hydra is a very small island--2500 people and the village we stayed in is home to about 40-60 people during the summer and only 3 in the winter! I participated in a dramatic arts program, where we learned Ancient Greek Theater, Mask Making, Greek and Egyptian Dance. We lived right on the water and spent our days in class at our house, exploring the island, siesta-ing, eating good food and swimming in the sea. It was a beautiful experience.

Every day, we ate breakfast in our little breakfast pagoda. We had a spread of Greek yogurt, honey, lemon bread, toast and apples. It got a little tiring after a while, but the Greek yogurt was the best I've ever had. Much better than what is sold here. 

Breakfast Pagoda at our house in Vlychos.

Every week day, for lunch and dinner, we ate at a taverna called Enalion (Εναλιον). We would go to the taverna at 2 for lunch and 9 for dinner and a Greek salad (or some other kind of salad) and bread was always waiting for us. We had a great variety of entrees there. The owners went back and forth from trying to cater to our "American tastes" with dishes like spagetti, to getting a little too Greek for everyone's liking like the time that we had a dish full of rice topped with all these little fish--scales and all-- in a red sauce. A few times,  they served us calamari that they had just fished that morning! Some of my favorite dishes were Mousaka, Greek-spiced meat balls in red sauce, a pasta casserole dish that was similar to Mousaka but not quite the same, and rice-stuffed tomatoes.

Last lunch at Enalion-This was where we sat every lunch and every dinner. It was so nice to eat together at every meal. It kept us close and felt like a family.

Enalion Taverna, Vlychos

Last Dinner at Enalion-and the only meal I took a picture of at our Taverna

Enalion owners and our chefs for a month!

One night, our professor took the whole group out to dinner in Hydra Town (the "large" port town on the island), to a taverna where they served us traditional Greek appetizers. I apologize for the quality of the photos. It was dusk and there weren't many lights around.

Zucchini Cake-I really enjoyed these and even went back to get some more another day. They tasted really nutty for some reason, although I don't think there were nuts in them.

Fried Feta and Greek Salad-Fried feta! FRIED FETA! Oh my goodness this made me so happy. The feta was actually melted and stringy, which I didn't expect. It was salty and warm and stringy and delicious all around.

Sausage in Red Sauce-I really enjoyed this. A lot of dishes were cooked in a red sauce in Greece but this one was spicier to match the spice of the sausage.

Stuffed Pepper-Mmm the pepper had a mild flavor and was well complemented by the feta.

Spiced Meatballs-These meatballs almost tasted like they were spiced with mint! They were delicious with squeezed lime juice.

Pork-This pork was delicious and fell apart nicely.

We had some great dishes and drinks when we would go out on our own. My favorites--Slouvakis, Dolmas, Greek Salad, Cappuccino Freddos, Spanakopitas and Baklava. Here's a sampling of pictures!

Chicken Slouvaki-We ate Souvlakis everywhere and oh my goodness where they delicious! I never got tired of them. I actually never ate a Chicken Souvlaki because I stuck to the traditional Pork Souvlakis but I never got a picture of one of those. The pork in most Pork Souvlakis was so good! It was sliced really thinly and almost tasted like bacon. A Pork Souvlaki consisted of lettuce, tomato, tzatziki sauce which is a yogurt sauce with garlic and cucumber, pork and french fries--yes, french fries--all wrapped up in pita.

Greek Salad-We ate Greek Salad all the time, but I still never got tired of it. Traditionally, it consisted of cucumber, tomato, onion, olives, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, topped with a huge hunk of feta. This one also had green pepper which wasn't as common. I think it was the feta combined with the crunchiness of the cucumber and the freshness of the tomato that kept me coming back.

Baklava-So sweet and so delicious! Phyllo die, honey and nuts...but pretty much just honey! I definitely took advantage of this being sold in every bakery.

Meatballs in Red Sauce over Rice-We were served this a few times at our Taverna and at other Tavernas too and I really enjoyed the dish. The meatballs were spiced differently than what I'm used to in a meatball and I really liked having them over rice instead of pasta.

Pasta Casserole?-This was an interesting dish but it surprisingly tasted good. All I could figure out was that it was angel hair pasta in a white sauce baked in phyllo dough. I would never imagine to bake pasta in phyllo dough but it was delicious. The white sauce was mild and creamy and I could taste a good amount of black pepper to spice it up. It went well with the crunchiness of the phyllo dough. Who would have thought?

Cappuccino Freddo-I was obsessed with this drink the whole time I was in Greece. After some searching, I think I understand how it was concocted. It's made with 2 shots of espresso, mixed with a little bit of sugar over ice and topped with frothed milk. I loved the bitterness of the strong espresso, contrasted with the sweetness of just a bit of sugar. The sugar didn't mask up the bitterness of the espresso, like I would expect. Instead, you could clearly taste both. The frothed milk was so much better than whipped cream! It wasn't sweetened and it wasn't too thick. I enjoyed having an Upside Down Cappuccino Freddo, where they would put the frothed milk in the glass first and then top with the iced espresso. I liked this more because it mixed up the milk and the espresso a bit even though the frothed milk would end up moving to the top anyway. I drank so many of these from my favorite cafe, Kiss Cafe.

Dolmas-I was dying for dolmas the whole time I was there. These were so delicious! The rice was still nice and warm and the grape leaves were well marinated and fell apart easily when bitten into.

Greece was such an amazing experience and the food was a huge part of it. Some days the food was a little extreme, but other days, it was simply incredible. After writing this, all I want is it sit down to a huge feast starting with Dolmas, and Greek Salad and Fried Feta, them moving onto a Souvlaki, Mousaka, Meatballs with Rice, and ending with Baklava then washing it down with a Cappuccino Freddo.

After Greece, I flew to Rome and had an evening taking tours by myself before I met up with my travel group to start my tour through Eastern Europe. I had a lot of great food experiences, but I don't have many pictures unfortunately.

The first night in Rome, I had dinner by myself in the Piazza Novona. It was a beautiful view. I was in awe, being in that setting. I called my mom freaking out because it all felt so surreal. It was crazy to be surrounded by so much magnificent history and to be able to just sit there and enjoy Cannelloni and a glass of wine.

Dinner by the Pizza Novona

In Austria, I got to eat the Original Sacher Torte! This Torte was created when Prince Metternich asked his chef to create a special dessert for some important guests. When the chef got sick, sixteen year old Franz Sacher, his apprentice, was in charge. The guests and Metternich loved the dessert, but for a while, no more attention was paid to the torte. Later, Sacher's son took over his practice and perfected the Sacher Torte recipe and began selling it at both Demel and Hotel Sacher. Later on, there was a dispute over who owned the rights to the Original Sacher Torte--Demel or Hotel Sacher. Now, Hotel Sacher serves "The Original Sacher Torte", while Demel serves "Demel's Sacher Torte".

The Original Sacher Torte-The torte has two layers of dense, bitter chocolate cake with an inner layer of apricot jam and covered with dark chocolate icing with a side of whipped cream, made with no sugar.

Demel-Though I stopped by Demel after Hotel Sacher, I did not try their version because I'd already eaten one at Hotel Sacher so I opted for some Gelato instead. I love how you could see the Palace behind the Demel sign.

In Budapest, decided to go traditional and had a huge plate of Gulyás (goulash)! Gulyás is a thick stew, traditionally made with meat, onions, paprika, tomatoes, green pepper and wine. I had beef Gulyás, which was served with csipetke, which are "egg noodles" which seemed more like little tiny dumplings, made by pinching small bits of dough and either adding them to boiling Gulyás or boiling them and then placing them as a side to the Gulyás.

Beef Gulyás-The Gulyás was so good and not really what I was expecting. It had a nice warm spice to it and the beef was cooked well and was very tender. I really liked the csipetke as well. They kind of reminded me of gnocchi. The texture was nice and pillowy and it went well with the beef and the sauce.

In Krakow, Poland, I was super excited to get Pierogies! My roommate, Caitlin loves to eat Pierogies so she got me started on them.  Pierogies are these little dumplings made with a delicious, light dough, stuffed with several different types of fillings and often topped with bacon or prosciutto, and green onions or parsley. 

Pierogies-These were delicious and filled with potato, onion and cheese. The cheese was nice and strong and the texture of the potatoes was perfect--nice and hearty without being too heavy. I absolutely loved these and could have eaten five more plates of this!

Pierogies #2-I had some more the next day but they weren't quite as good. Here, there are a few filled with spinach, a few filled with meat and a few filled with potatoes and cheese.

This was one of my favorite food experiences of the summer: I was determined in Berlin to find some traditional food. My family is partially German and I feel more connected to that part of my heritage than any other part. Every New Year's Day, my mom makes my family eat mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and either pork or sausage. Now I hate sauerkraut--absolutely hate it. I think it's awful. But I've always been told that it tastes way better the way it's made in Germany so I was so excited to eat some once I got there. After a wild goose chase for a traditional German restaurant, we finally found a great place! A few adorable older German women were running the shop and they let us know what all of their different dishes were.

Currywurst, Mustard, Sauerkraut, and Roasted Potatoes- I decided on Currywurst which is very popular in Berlin. It is a pork sausage that is flavored with curry powder and was delicious with a side of mustard, roasted potatoes and sauerkraut. I was absolutely surprised by how much I enjoyed the sauerkraut. The flavor of the sauerkraut was less pungent than the kinds I've had before and it was a very good side to the potatoes and Currywurst. All together, the sides and the sausage all tasted so comforting and homey. Mmm, now I'm hungry for more!

I had another fun food experience in Holland when we stopped at a small little farm, where the farmers made clogs and cheese. Yes. CLOGS and CHEESE. The Cheese was delicious and was famer-made instead of factory-made. Gouda cheese is a Dutch cheese made from cow's milk. I bought a brick to take home to my family and I learned that this cheese can be kept unrefrigerated for months! If you leave it out for a long time, it will harden into something that resembles Parmesan, but it won't mold and it will still be good. You simply place the part where the casing had been broken down on the counter and cover it with a towel and it will keep well!

Gouda Farmer's Cheese-The cheese had a nice, deep, smooth flavor without being too pungent.

Finally, on the last day, we had a very long driving day from Amsterdam to Calais and then a ferry ride from Calais to Dover and then another bus drive from Dover to London so thankfully, we got a lunch break in Bruges, Belgium and I had a chance to get a Belgium waffle with bananas and homemade whipped cream!

Belgium Waffles-The waffles were the best that I've ever had. They were nice and fluffy and light. I normally don't eat waffles because I don't like how heavy they are but these were nothing like what I'm used to.

This was the best summer of my life and I'm still overwhelmed trying to process all of my experiences. It's so good to finally be back in my own kitchen but I will definitely miss being able to try all of these amazing foods!