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

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

Directions:
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!