Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fisherman's wife :)

If someone would have asked me say 10 years ago or even 5 years ago, if I thought it was likely that I'd be married to a fisherman, I would have laughed. My own childhood memories of fishing consist of one trip to the lake, where our grandfather took me, my sister and my nephew fishing. We were all terribly excited, but it turned out that sitting still with a pole in your hand for hours on end sounds much more fun than it actually is. And then one of us (can't remember whom, but not me) actually caught a little fishy, suitable for a cat perhaps and it started a major fight as the others then needed to also get a fish.
So no freshly smoked / fried fish stories from my childhood, neither my dad nor my granddads fished. But now S's taken it up. It took him the entire summer, a trunkful of gear he's gradually acquired (starting from all kinds of hooks and poles and lines to a camouflage-pattern suit that I keep teasing him about ('Is that so the fishes don't spot you from the river?') and a lucky chance of pulling out someone elses hook from the water to be able to learn a new way to knot the hooks), before he got anything, but now he regularly shows up with fish. He's gotten decent-sized pikes (yum!), roach and perch so far. But every time he goes, he's hoping for bream.

Luckily for me (as I suck at cleaning fish) he goes fishing when we're in Tartu, visiting my parents. And my mom has an abundance of fishing-memories form her childhood and thus is also a very able fish-cleaner. She's also missed fresh fresh-water fish so much that she often competes with the cat for what S brings home :).

But it is truly and indescribably lovely to toss a freshly caught fish in some flour and quickly fry it in vegetable oil or butter.
"Nothing beats ecologically clean eating", as my mom says every time, licking her fingers.

Fried freshwater fish:

any freshly caught freshwater fish you have (scales off, guts out, head off)
a small handful of flour
1 onion, coarsely chopped
salt vegetable oil for frying

Clean the fishes and wash them in cold water. Pat dry.
Coarsely chop an onion.
Heat some oil in a frying pan and sautee the onions until glassy.
Sprinkle a large plate with flour and salt, toss the fishes in it.
Fry on both sides.

Eat with black bread.
Swoon, swoon, swoon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beautifully, seasonally... with tomatoes, my great love

Indian summer doesn't really happen all that often in Estonia. I remember when I was studying in the States we got a whole month or more of Indian Summer in upstate NY. It was wonderful, colorful, gentle. Well we got about a week of it here this year. And a weather like that is just asking for dishes that serve as memoirs to the sunshine (and for lovely open air markets, which as you can see, we also went to).

Tomatoes are still at their best. Probably the last ones, so juicy, super sweet, fragrant. bursting with all the goodness of the summer that, alas, seems to have completely and unquestionably left us.
So I wanted to make something that'd celebrate the glory of tomatoes without banishing them to their classical tang-adding, color-enhancing supporting-actor role.

I started with roasting them with some brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and then those gloriously taste-filled tomatoes ended up as the star of two different dishes - a simple as hell pasta dish and a dinner sandwich.

Roasted tomatoes with pasta (röstitud tomatipasta):
serves 4

for the roasted tomatoes:
4-10 (depending on the size) ripe tomatoes, different sizes, colors and shapes are fine, best if you can pick your own from the greenhouse and if you do, don't be afraid of the ones that have already fallen off the branches. They're the sweetest ones and you can just cut out the occasional ugly spot).
1 medium red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1-2 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tsp of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a sprinkle of good Balsamic vinegar or Worchestershire sauce (depends on which flavor you prefer).
a good glug of olive oil
1 large bell-pepper (green or red)
a large bunch of fresh basil (small leaved variety is better here)

for the pasta:
your favorite pasta shapes to feed 4 (1/2 pack)
2 tbsp of creamed cheese
parmesan shavings to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C and use the top-grill + fan function.
Deseed the pepper and cut it in sectors.
Separate the garlic into cloves, keep the skins but get rid of any dirt.
Line an oven tin with baking paper and place the bell peppers (skin-side up) and the garlic cloves on it. Sprinkle with some olive oil and place in the pre-heated oven until the skins on the peppers turn black (about 10 min).
While the peppers and the garlic are roasting, clean the tomatoes and cut them into nice chunks (for example 1/2 for small tomatoes, 1/4 for larger ones and 1/8 for huge ones).

Slice or garter the onion and separate into layers.
Pull the leaves off the basil, but keep the stalks and break them into shorter sprigs.

When the bell-peppers are blackish on top, take them out and transfer them into a plastic bag.

Check if the garlic is soft, if not, leave them on the baking tray (remember to check on them otherwise they'll burn and dry out).
Transfer the tomatoes to the baking paper, sprinkle with salt, pepper, sugar, Balsamico or Worchestershire (or both), olive oil, onion slices and basil stalks.
Grill in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until nice and soft.

While the tomatoes are in the oven boil the pasta according to instructions (7 min).
Take the bell-peppers from the plastic bag and peel the skins off (should be relatively easy thanks to the plastic-bag sweating).
Cut the peppers into smaller pieces.
When the pasta is done, drain it, toss it with the creamed cheese and stir in the bell peppers. They'll be tender and have a nice smoky taste to them.
Divide the pasta between bowls, put a very generous ladleful of roasted tomatoes-onions (remove the basil sprigs first) on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan. Top off with the roasted garlic.

Roasted tomato and ham roll (Kukkel röstitud tomatite ja singiga):
serves 4:

For roasted tomatoes see the above ingredients and instructions.

For the rolls:
4 ciabatta buns or dinner rolls
olive oil
4 slices of your favorite ham
Grana Padano shavings or 8 pieces of nice fatty Brie

Cut the rolls in half, sprinkle with olive oil and grill in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until golden.
Slice the ham and if you want to (or it's been in your fridge a while), quickly fry it in a pan.

Top one half of the roll with a generous spoonful of roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle with grillde bell-peppers and ham-strip. Top with fresh basil, cheese, the roasted garlic and the second half of the roll.

Enjoy the remnants of summer in every mouthful.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Zu Zu Zucchini and my first ever blogging award

Zucchini is a wonderful vegetable (for some reason I wanted to write 'fruit'. It's one of those things that kind of don't taste like anything on their own, but add the necessary mellowness to many things. Soups, stews, muffins, pasta dishes. Probably my favorite way to eat zucchini is the way my mom's been making it ever since we were kids. Coated in egg and flour and pan fried with garlic, topped with some cheese. YUM.
But a little while ago I decided that griddle-fried zucchini would also make a lovely addition to a nice and filling dinner salad.

Grilled zucchini and chicken salad (Suvekõrvitsa ja kana salat):
serves 2

1 large, very ripe tomato
4 thick slices of a large zucchini
freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and crushed cumin seeds
some oil for frying
some roast chicken (a breast for example or meat from 2 thighs)
2 hard boiled eggs
1 tbsp of mayo
1 small shallot
fresh salad leaves
fresh basil leaves for serving

Boil the eggs and chop the onion.
Heat the oil in a griddle pan, season the zucchini slices with salt, pepper and cumin seeds and fry on both sides until almost tender.

Cover the boiled eggs with cold water, then peel and thinly dice (or mash with a fork). Mix the egg with the diced onion and the mayo.

Lay out the salad leaves, then a big fat juicy slice of the tomato. Top with the sizzling zucchini slices, some cold roast chicken and a dollop of egg salad.
Decorate with fresh basil and enjoy.

And now to the award. Lovely Sophie, from Sophies Foodiefiles gave me the compliment of 'One Lovely Blog Award'. I'm so pleased. Obviously :).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Easy-peasy (mainly peasy)

Pea-soup is something that is quite common in Estonia and a part of the traditional national cuisine. It is made from dried peas with smoked pork, it's very thick, usually grey-ish looking stuff that doesn't look too appetizing, but doesn't taste all that bad. It's served during Mardi Gras (Vastlapäev).
But there are these lovely fresh peas, the last of them, still available at the markets. So I was craving for something much more vibrant, fresh and well ... summery. So I decided to make a different kind of pea-soup.
Pairing mint with peas is something one would never do in the realms of Estonian cooking. But having watched plenty of Nigella shows (who seems to have some sort of a semi-erotic relationship woth frozen peas) and read tons of Good Food and Olive magazines, I came to this (as I understand, thoroughly British) idea quite easily. So I returned from the market with 1 kg of fresh green peas and three (the lady who was selling them went for the 'Oh such a lovely baby, well take all three bunches, they're the last I have, I'll give them cheap, oh such a cute baby' monologue, so I could do nothing but buy three) bunches of fresh mint (most of which ended up as tea).
And here's what they ended up as.

Fresh green-pea and zucchini soup with mint (Rohelise herne ja suvekõrvitsasupp mündiga):

1 kg of fresh green peas (in their shells)
1/2 of a large-ish zucchini
1 tsp ground coriander
some fresh mint leaves (about 10 leaves or tips of 3 sprigs)
1 cube of organic chicken stock
4 cloves of roasted garlic
sour cream or creme fraiche for serving

Shell the peas (or don't of you're using frozen pre-shelled ones, I'm jsut unable to estimate the quantity of the shelled peas as I had 1 kg of them with shells).
Peel and cube the zucchini.

Boil about 1.5 l of water and add the chicken stock cube.
When it's dissolved, add the peas, the zucchini and the coriander and boil on medium heat until they're tender (about 10-15 minutes).
Add the roasted garlic (I find that it's good to roast up spare ones whenever I'm doing oven-roasted veggies and then store them in the fridge for a little while) and the fresh mint. Let it cool a little and then blitz into a smooth puree.
Serve with a twirl of sour cream of creme fraiche.

It's lovely (I suddenly started thinking if it's bad foodie-etiquette to keep saying that on my own blog about my own food :). Peas really do go well with mint (and coriander). And it's such a light, energyzing thing to have for lunch.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An open cabbage pie

I've professed my love for cabbage here before and here's another recipe to prove it. My mom packed 1/2 of one of her huge cabbages for us the last time we left and I was thinking what to do with it. We'd just had cabbage with braised mince, so that was off the table. The classic yeast-pastry based cabbage pie seemed too heavy. So I invented this. It's sort of a cabbage quiche or a cabbage tarte (sounds just wrong, doesn't it?).

An open cabbage and ham pie (Lahtine kapsa ja singipirukas):

For the pastry:
100 g flour
75 g barley flour
2-3 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tsp salt
100 g cold butter, cubed
1 egg

For the filling:
1/4 of a large cabbage (1/ of a small one)
1 tbsp of oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp of brown sugar
2 tsp of Worchestershire sauce
6 slices of good lean ham
2-3 tbsp cumin seeds
2 eggs
a splosh of milk
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp of sour cream
fresh basil leaves
a generous handful of grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Combine the flours with salt and nigella seeds in a food processor. Add butter and whizz until mixture is crumbly. Add the egg, whizz some more. Press the dough to the bottom and sides of a pie dish.
Leave it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Pierce the pastry with a fork and bake (if you wish, cover with baking paper and baking beans) for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile shred the cabbage.
Braise it in a large saucepan. Heat the oil, add the cumin, then after about 1/2 a minute add the cabbage. Season with salt. When it starts to turn golden brown, add the balsamic vinegar and the Worchestershire sauce and the sugar. Toss. Add a small slposh of boiled water and cover. Remove from heat when the cabbage is almost tender.

Whisk the eggs with the milk, sour cream and the black pepper.

Cut the ham in thin slices.

When the pie shell is done, put in a layer of braised cabbage, then the strips of ham. Pour in the egg mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Decorate with basil.

Reduce the heat in the oven to 180 C and send the pie back in for 20 minutes.

Serve with a tossed salad or fresh tomatoes or cucumbers.