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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Koolsoep (Savoy Cabbage Soup)

Tired of cooking large meals? Can´t fathom having to do another pig-out on New Year´s Eve? No worries! This quick, savory, easy cabbage soup will allow you to put your feet up for a bit, have a hearty bite to eat and save some space for all that lovely food that will be coming your way until the end of the year.

Green cabbage, or savooiekool (savoy cabbage) is the Dutch green cabbage of choice. Its flavor is pleasantly cabbag-ey, but not overly heavy, and the leaves maintain a pleasant crunch after a quick boil. This brassica pairs nicely with pork and bacon and does best in a broth or a stamppot.

Save some French bread or a thicker loaf to toast and add to this soup. Select a nice, flavorful cheese to melt on the toasted bread. With this addition, the soup can be served as a meal.

Koolsoep
1 small savoy cabbage, washed and cut in narrow strips
1 cup of diced salty pork (or 4 strips of bacon, in strips)
1 medium onion, sliced
6 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
Splash of white wine (optional)
4 slices of bread
1 cup of grated cheese

Fry the salty pork or bacon crispy in a Dutch oven. Add the onion slices and stir until they are golden, about five minutes. Add the cabbage and stir until it´s slightly wilted, then add the broth and the spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Add the splash of white wine if you want. Taste and adjust salt.

Put the cheese on the slices of bread and quickly melt the cheese under a broiler. Place a piece of bread in a deep plate or soup mug, pour the soup over it and enjoy!




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Foeksandijvie (Escarole Endive Mashed Potatoes)

Nothing says "Dutch" like a good old-fashioned stamppot, a pan full of mashed potatoes and a vegetable. Most stamppotten consist only of potatoes and veg, and no butter or milk. The potatoes are usually creamy enough to make up for the lack of dairy, and the vegetables release enough juices to make the dish moist but not rich. A perfect dish therefore if you want to watch your weight, eat healthy and still feel like you have a dish full of comfort food!

"Foeksandijvie" is a stamppot made with escarole endive, a vegetable easy to grow and readily accessible at your local grocery store. The lettuce-type greens are washed and cut into strips, and mixed ("foeksen" in the dialect of the province of Overijssel where this dish is traditionally from) in with the potatoes after they have been mashed. The combination of warm, gooey potatoes with the crispy, slightly tart vegetables is a winner and will be a new favorite at your family's table.

The dish can be served with or without the added " karnemelksaus", a gravy made with buttermilk and salt pork.


Foeksandievie met karnemelksaus
6 large potatoes
1 head of escarole endive
1 teaspoon salt

Peel the potatoes and cut into regular sized chunks. Bring to a boil in a pan of water, barely covering the potatoes, add the salt and lower the heat to medium and boil for about twenty minutes. When the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, pour off the remainder of the water saving about half a cup. Mash and add some potato water if the mashed potatoes are too dry.

Wash the escarole, rinse and cut into half inch strips. Mix in with the mashed potatoes. Taste and adjust salt, and add a pinch of pepper or nutmeg if desired.


For the sauce

3 slices of salt pork, diced
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 tablespoon of flour

Slowly render the fat out of the pork. Remove the meat, stir the flour into the fat and add the buttermilk. Stir until the sauce thickens, then add the pork back in. Serve separately, or pour it over the foeksandijvie on a family-style plate.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stoofpeertjes (Stewed Pears)

Stoofpeertjes, or stewed pears,  are one of those dishes that show up on the table when game such as rabbit, hare or pheasant is being served, or the richer meat dishes such as hazenpeper. Stoofpeertjes can also be served with "draadjesvlees", braised beef, in combination with boiled potatoes, and will take the place of a vegetable.

The first time I ate stewed pears was at a friend's house, I must have been six or seven years old. They served ratatouille and as dessert, stoofpeertjes. Ratatouille sounds much like "rat-something" and the chunks of eggplant were HUGE, something I was not necessarily fond of, but I was raised right so ate without complaining. I felt so rewarded for my good behavior when we had stoofpeertjes for dessert....Once I bit into one of these soft, tender, sweet pears, all eggplant misery was forgotten and I was in food-heaven.

Stoofpeertjes can be served as a side-dish to a beef entrée, or as dessert with some yogurt or hangop. It is easy to make and, if you have any leftover cranberry sauce and a bottom of red wine from Thanksgiving, I'd be sure to give it a try. These pears will be a beautiful addition to your Christmas dinner table.

The stoofpeertjes are pears that improve from stewing and turn red, like the Gieser Wildeman. As they are not available to us here in the US, I've chosen some sturdy Bartletts to do the job.

Stoofpeertjes
4 pears, peeled but with stem
1/2 jar of cranberry sauce/berry jam/fruity red wine
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 lemon peel, no pith
1 cup of apple juice* optional
1/3 cup of sugar

Warm the cranberry sauce, berry jam or fruity red wine in a sauce pan. Add the apple juice if the sauce or jam needs to be thinned. Stir in the sugar, add the cinnamon stick and place the pears in the warm liquid. Bring to a boil, then turn to a slow simmer and cover.

Simmer for about forty minutes, turning the pears over occassionally, but don't simmer them past their point as you want the fruit to remain whole. Remove the pears carefully as the fruit will be soft, then reduce the sauce or thicken with some cornstarch. Pour the sauce over the pears. This dish can be served warm or cold.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roti (Curried chicken with beans and potatoes)

When we talk about Dutch food it would be difficult, and careless, to ignore the colonial influences. Some cuisines, such as the Indonesian one, have had time to slowly integrate into the daily culinary grind, to the point where traditional Dutch families will serve Indonesian dishes (albeit it heavily adjusted to the local palate) regularly at the dinner table and not consider it extravagant or daring. Cuisines from other colonies, such as Suriname and part of the Netherlands Antilles, are not yet as integrated into the six o'clock dinner routine, but can be readily obtained at the many tropical eateries around town and are quickly becoming a favorite. Today's dish is a colonial culinary treasure from Suriname.

The country of Suriname is located on the northern coast of South America. A former colony of the Netherlands, it obtained its independency in 1975. Leading up to its independence, many Surinamese emigrated to Holland instead, thereby introducing a new culinary development. The Surinamese cuisine is an exciting mix of European, Indonesian, Indian and South American influences.

The Dutch brought over workers to plant and harvest the plantations: they were from Indonesia and India, equally former colonies. These workers prepared their own traditional dishes with local ingredients which, in turn, became local specialties. Roti is one of those dishes.

The roti is a flat unsweetened pancake, made from flour, oil and water. Often there is no leavener like eggs, although sometimes baking powder will be used. The roti is heated on a hot plate where the baking powder will puff it up, creating pockets of air and a tender structure. In various countries around the world rotis are served one way or the other: sometimes as a breakfast item, covered with sweetened coconut milk or as dinner with a variety of side items. That's how I'm eating my roti today, with a side of potatoes, chicken and green beans. The traditional roti is filled with yellow lentils, but I'm just making an easy one today. If you want to skip this part, a flour tortilla will do just fine.

Surinamese Roti
For the roti
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 of warm water
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
extra flour

Mix the flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, and slowly mix in the oil and water. Knead into a flexible dough, adding flour if you need to. Let the dough rest, then cut and roll into balls the size of a small egg. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan. Roll a dough ball into a large, flat pancake and place it on the hot surface: the roti will puff up in various places. Turn it over with a spatula until the other side is done. Place them on a plate and cover with a towel.

For the chicken
1 tablespoon of oil
2 chicken legs and thighs (or two medium chicken breasts cut in large chunks)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons of curry powder*
1 pinch of sugar
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

In a Dutch oven, heat a little bit of oil and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the garlic and the onion, sauté with the chicken for a couple of minutes. Add the curry, the water and the bouillon cube and stir in the pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for thirty minutes. Add the potatoes (you may have to add a little bit of water if the water doesn't cover the potatoes) and simmer until the potatoes are done. If the sauce doesn't thicken with the potatoes, use a little bit of flour or cornstarch.

For the beans
The beans used in this dish are traditionally long beans, or yard beans. You may be able to find them in the Asian grocery stores. In this case, I used standard green beans, they make a valid substitution.

1 lb of green beans
3 cups of water
1 bouillon cube
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Cut the green beans in two inch pieces. Bring to a boil with the water and the bouillon cube and boil until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, the potatoes and the beans on a plate and serve the warm roti on the side. Tear a piece of the roti and use it to pick up a piece of potato, chicken and green bean. Wrap it up and eat! This is not a dish to eat with fork and knive, but with your fingers....


* Curry powder is a very personal choice: some people prefer to use a store bought spice mix, others mix their own. For ease of use, and because I appreciate the flavor, I usually go with an instant curry roux from S&B, available in the Asian aisle of your local grocery store.