Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ridiculously easy

Here are two salads, that are so easy to make, they're actually an embarrassment to a self-proclaimed foodie as I am. But they reflect our summer reality, so what can I do. The bean one is a new invention, but the potato one is an every summer staple and my absolute summertime favorite. I could basically live off of it and often do...

My absolute favorite summertime tomato salad (Tomati ja kartulisalat):
serves 2

1 large boiled potato
1-2 very large tomatoes
1 small or 1/2 large onion
2 slices of black rye bread
some fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp of unrefined sunflower seed oil
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground salt

Dice the potato, bread and chop the onion.

If you want to, peel the tomato and then cut it up.

Toss everything with oil, season with salt and pepper and basil leaves.
Enjoy with a glass of cold beer or on it's own in a shade of an apple tree.... This is summer. Yum!

A simple broad-bean and cheese salad (Lihte põldoa ja juustusalat): serves 4

1 clove of garlic
some fresh basil
a small bowl (or a large two-hand handful) of shelled, boiled broad-beans
1 tomato
~50 g grated Parmesand or Grana Padano
~50 g grated cheese (any kind you like)
~2 tbsp sour cream
~2 tbsp mayonnaise
freshly ground black pepper

Boil the broad-beans in their shells for about 30 min. Add a lot of salt in the end.
Let them cool and shell them.

Chop up the garlic.

Peel and deseed the tomato and cut up the pulp.
Grate the cheeses.
Mix everything with sour cream and mayo and season with pepper. Serve with fresh basil.

Broad-beans are a funny thing, some people really like them and others find them hardly edible. For example my dad asked said, that it's a nice cheese salad, by why are there beans in it? :)
I like them. I like to just eat them and I liked them in the salad. However later I started thinking that maybe it would have been a good idea to halve them, so the juice would have gotten in. But that wouldn't have looked too hot...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More 'vegetable' muffins :)

Thanks to Lisa from Lisa is Cooking I now have an addition to my weird vegetable muffins series. I've never cooked anything of Martha Stewart's before, but I must take my hat off to the lady. Despite the fact that she seems like the most annoying kind of public figure, the muffins were great. Zucchini made them ultra moist and as one would have guessed, none of the people that had the muffins (and as I made two batches, there were quite many) could guess what was in them. Apples and rhubarb were mentioned most often.
I would have liked the muffin tops to be a little bit more on the crispy side than they were, but it might have been just something I did (maybe I took them out too soon, but one can never be too afraid of over-cooked and dried out muffins :).

Zucchini and black-currant muffins a'la Martha Stewart (mustsõstra ja suvekõrvitsamuffinid):
makes 12

225 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
200 g sugar
120 ml oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
300 ml thinly shredded raw zucchini /about 1/2 of a large one)
5 generous handfuls of black currants

Peel and grate a big zucchini.

Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Whisk the eggs with sugar, oil and vanilla, then add the zucchini.
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add the dry ingredients to the egg-zucchini mixture.
Don't over-mix!
Gently fold in the blackberries (still keeping the overall mixing to the minimum).
Bake for about 20-25 minutes (if using a metal muffin pan).

As I already wrote, they're very nice. Moist and tender, the black currant ads tartness and the zucchini adds a certain mildness. And they're pretty bikini-friendly, as far as muffins go. If you use whole-grain flour and demerara sugar you'll get a batch of health-food store babyliscious muffins :).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ready, set ... apples

It's getting around to that time of year when everyone who knows anyone with an apple tree is constantly searching for new ways to cook apples. My parents have two trees, a small young one that sill doesn't get a lot of apples, but that are the my favorites just to eat raw and an older tree that has enormous amounts of apples that are very good for cakes, jams and juices. Neither are quite ripe yet, but the big tree already sheds tons and tons half-ripe apples that have to be dealt with. I've obviously already made my fall favorite - tare tatin already. So it was time for something else.
Here is a recipe for a very odd apple cake, that my mom found in a family magazine (Pere ja Kodu) recently, but which was, despite the oddness, very very good.

Apple and coconut cake with chocolate (Õuna-, ja kookosekook shokolaadiga):
(serves 8-10)

150 g butter
200 g coconut flakes
100 g dark chocolate
3 eggs
2 dl sugar
2 dl apple jam (or if you don't have any, you can make a puree from apples by peeling and deseeding them, cutting them up into small chunks and stewing them in a small amount of water and then blending)
2 tbsp rum or brandy
1.5 dl flour
1 tsp baking powder
6-8 small sour apples

Preheat the oven to 175 C.
Peel and clean the apples and thinly slice them.

Spread a cake-tin with butter and sprinkle with coconut flakes (using a small amount of the 200g).
Melt the rest of the butter and set aside to cool.
Bet the eggs until they turn light and then add the slightly cooled butter, apple jam and alcohol.
Mix the rest of the coconut flakes with flour, baking powder and chocolate (coarsely chopped) and add the dry ingredients to the wet.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and stick in the apple slices in a nice circle (or whichever way you want).

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanish.

It's quite sweet but very very satisfying. The texture is luscious thanks to the coconut and the dark chocolate adds that extra something to 'just another apple cake'.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


We've decided to spend the summer holidays in Estonia this year, as travelling with our kid, especially to somewhere where the weather would be nice and hot to our standards, but probably intolerable to his, would probably be a bit of a pain.
And we've had a chance to remind ourselves how beautiful Estonia is in the summer.

So first we rented a lovely little cottage on a lake in Mulgimaa for a couple of days. For most of our group it was mostly about fishing.

Some of us (alas, not me) literally spent a day and a half with a fishing pole in their hand. The result was that they had a pregnant pet cat (who got most of the fish they caught as they were too small for anything else) and a fat pet duck (!), who hung around and ate all the bread and leftover worms.

But they did manage to catch some fish that was for human consumption, so I made a camping and fishing trip classic - Ukha (a clear Russian fish soup, uhhaa in Estonian and Russian). For the soup you basically need onion, potato, carrot (maybe also leek, but that is less important), dill and fish. All the veggies go in in big chunks. I’ve heard that it turns out best if you boil it on an open fire in a kettle, but I took the more civilized route myself. They caught perch, but unfortunately not enough of it, so I had to cheat a little and get some pangasius and some trout from the nearby store :).

Perch is wonderful in taste, but really difficult to clean (especially to get the scales off), so I boiled it separately and then strained the good broth into the soup and picked out the meat. No scales. Needless to say the contrast between the smells accompanying boiling a freshly caught fish versus store bought fish bring tears to ones eyes.
The soup was lovely. The humongous pot was no challenge at all.

After that we went to Narva Jõesuu, it's a small resort-town in Eastern Estonia, quite near to the Russian border. In fact it's closer to St. Petersburg (150 km) than it is to Tallinn (200km). Due to that it has heavy Russian influences everywhere - in food, in customer service, in the language environment (you rarely hear anything but Russian, as the locals who live there are mostly Estonian Russian). It has the nicest white sandy beach in Estonia (also the longest stretch of 7.5 km) and it used to be called the Northern Riviera in the beginning of the last century, when it was a famous resort especially for Russians. It's lost some of it's glory since then, but they're in an active process of restoring it now.

There we had one of the greatest surprise-meals of our vacation. We randomly wondered into a very modest looking open air eatery called the Blue Lagoon. It was adorned with the most delightfully tacky plastic plants and monkey statues, the team came in a Soviet style porcelain pot and the menu written on the blackboard left something to be wished for as far as spelling goes.

But they had sturgeon on the menu! Sturgeon shish-kebabs! I had never ever had anything like it and it was flawless.