Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's in a name?

When I started blogging in December of 2007, it was mainly to share recipes with family and friends. When I chose a name for my blog, “Sonja’s Kitchen” seemed good enough. Since then, I have written some recipes and shared cooking tips and eating adventures.

I’ve been thinking about the future of this blog a lot in the past year. As much as I love cooking, I also love to dine out, drink, travel and share stories. The name “Sonja’s Kitchen” no longer fit my blog as well as when I started it 2+ years ago. Thus began a search for new blog name that would more aptly fit my new blog.

During a girls’ weekend in L.A. last spring, we were eating at IHOP at 3am. My friend Robin took a goofy photo of my gazing longingly at the phrase ”Satisfy the Craving” printed on the menu. At 3am, we were obviously “satisfying the craving” for some greasy booze-sponge type food. The more I thought about that phrase later however, the more I liked it. Finally, I decided “Satisfy the Craving” fits my blog – and the way I eat – perfectly.

I will admit that it wasn’t my first choice. “Satisfy the Craving” is a little longer and a little clunkier than I would have liked. Buying a domain name is no easy task however. Every fun and clever domain name you can think of has probably already been taken. Many are taken by so-called cybersquatters. People buy up domain names and don’t use then, but hope someone will want the URL enough to pay big money for it. As much as I wanted forkit.com, I wasn’t will to pay big bucks for it…

So, head on over to Satisfy the Craving and stay tuned for dispatches from my stomach.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Glögg

Seattle is filled with whiners. This summer when temperatures broke 100 degrees for over a week, they whined. This week, temperatures have barely risen above freezing during the day. And guess what? Seattleites are whining again. What am I doing? I'm drinking.

OK. That didn't sound quite right, but it is in fact what I am doing to combat the cold. Just like I made ice cold daiquiris this summer and retreated to our blissfully cool basement, I have been making warm drinks this week and curling up under a down comforter. Let's call it S.A.D. - seasonally affected drinking.

Warm drinks on a cold winter's night are traditional in Northern climates and where my family comes from, Glögg is the drink of choice. Other countries have Glüwein or mulled wine, but in Sweden, it's Glögg. They are all pretty much the same: steep some spices in wine, heat and serve.

I've tried several recipes over the years. A favorite comes from a dear familiy friend, John Swedstedt, who adds Vodka to his Glögg. This year however, I wanted to try out some new recipes. That's not to say I didn't want Vodka in my Glögg, I just needed an updated recipe.

In a pinch I've used the bottled Glögg concentrate from IKEA. It works, but I find the spices to be kind of flat.

I heard Marcus Samuelsson on the radio a couple of week's ago. He's an Ethiopian born Swede that now lives in America. His restaurant - and cookbook - Aquavit, had just what I was looking for. A little more online research and cookbook consulting and I think I've found a recipe to call my own.

Glögg
3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 Tbsp cardamom pods
2-3 small pieces candied ginger
Grated zest of 1 orange
6 whole cloves
1/2 cup vodka
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine. I like Zinfandel
1 cup port
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/2 cup raisins

Crush the cinnamon and cardamom using a mortar and pestle or smash on a cutting board. Put them in a small glass jar and add the ginger, orange zest, cloves, and vodka. Let stand for 24-48 hours. Strain the vodka into a large saucepan and discard the spices.

Add the red wine, port and sugars and heat over medium heat just until bubbles start to form around the edges. Do not boil.

Add a few almonds and raisins to the bottom of each mug and pour the hot Glögg over the top.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ridiculously Delicious Cookies

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I have been making Choklad Biskvier at Christmastime. There is a Swedish Christmas tradition of making seven kinds of cookies - sju sorters kakor - and these cookies are one of the 7 (or 8 or 10) kinds of cookies we make every year. I have recently discovered though, that Choklad Biskvier are just as enjoyable the rest of the year as they are at Christmastime. It sounds kind of stupid to say I just "realized" this, I know, but do you ever make pumpkin pie in March? I didn't think so.

Part of the reason I started making CBs year-round is because the recipe calls for three egg whites. You may remember that I love eggs and that I have a ongoing supply fresh chicken eggs. Since Gavin's "new" favorite dessert is poundcake (who knew?!), I often have leftover egg whites to use up, and this recipe is perfect for using them up. These cookies also store well in the freezer, where they wait for you until you need them to serve guests, bring to a party or just eat by yourself while you lie on the couch watching reruns of 30 Rock with a glass of Malbec.

Since these cookies have been in heavy rotation, I have been spreading the love. I have brought them to meetings at work, exchanged them for the aforementioned fresh eggs and taken them to parties. Since Choklad Biskvier is not easy to remember or pronounce, my friend Robin just calls them "those ridiculously delicious cookies." I often just refer to them as "those Swedish chocolate cookies." If you can suggest a better name, I am accepting ideas.

I've been asked for the recipe dozens of times, but have always declined to share it because this is kind of graduate level baking. Consider yourself warned. Having said that, I have tried to provide as much detail (and photos) as possible into the recipe below. I even shot a little video. A video! Gavin warned me against posting it because it is one the geekier things I've done recently, so er...consider yourself warned, again

Ridiculously Delicious Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cookie

3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
4 oz. blanched, slivered almonds
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Progresso brand)

Filling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Glaze
8 oz. semi sweet chocolate - chips or chunks
6-8 Tbsp unsalted butter

Prepare and bake the cookie
Grind the almonds in a food processor until fine. Like so:

Whisk the egg whites for a minute in a stand mixer. Add sugar and whisk on high for 3-4 minutes, until a stiff meringue is formed. Like....so:

Stir in bread crumbs and almonds and let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

Drop teaspoon sized mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove with a metal spatula so they don't crumble and cool on a wire rack, round side down.

Prepare the filling and frost the cookies
Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together onto a flexible mat or piece of wax paper. Cream the butter on high until lighter in color and smooth. On slow speed, add the sugar/cocoa mixture until combined. Add the vanilla and mix on medium-high until smooth.

Smooth a mound of filling onto the flat side of each cookie. Place them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the glaze.


Make the glaze and...watch the video
In a double boiler melt the chocolate and 6 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Stir until smooth. It should be the consistency of Hershey's syrup. If needed, add more butter. As you glaze the cookies, you may need to reheat the glaze if it begins to stiffen.

The easiest way to apply the glaze is to dunk the chocolate half of the cookie into the pot of glaze. I can't really describe in words how to do this so, as promised, there is a video demonstration. Enjoy!

video

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When Accidents Happen - Bread

Once in awhile I like to share my kitchen failures with you. It is an occasional column I like to call, “When Accidents Happen.”

I've made Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day dozens of times. It is pretty much idiot proof as long as you read the instructions. I think this last time I got cocky. As directed, I checked on the bread after 30 minutes. I thought…hmmm, just 10 more minutes. Shut the oven door and walked away. Who needs a timer? But then, I got distracted. Can you say croutons?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Guy

It is starting to feel a lot like fall around here. Temperatures in the mornings and evenings are much cooler and my mailbox has been packed with cooking magazines whose pages are loaded with recipes for soups, stews and Thanksgiving. Every year though, there is one event that really signals summer is over to me: a bag of corn is anonymously delivered to my doorstep.

Well, it isn’t really anonymous. I know it is our neighbor Dale that leaves a bag on our doorstep – and on the doorstep of every other house on our block – each year. He explained it once, many, many years ago. He visits a small farm in a nearby valley every September when they are harvesting the corn. I thought he was friends with the farmer, but I guess he is just a really big fan of their corn. The corn is so good and fresh that he buys a couple of boxfuls and wants to spread the love.

The corn arrived last Sunday, when we were still out of town. Our friend Maria was staying at the house and sent a text message, “Somebody dropped off a bunch of corn on your doorstep.” I called her immediately and said, “You need to cook up some corn immediately because it will never be as good as it is RIGHT NOW.” OK, that may have been a little bit of an exaggeration but I have never tasted corn as sweet and fresh as the corn that Dale brings us.

We arrived home on Tuesday and had about eight ears of corn remaining that we wanted to use up that night. The solution was simple. Fill a large stockpot with water and several spoonfuls of salt. Bring to a boil, add corn and wait 15-20 minutes. Drain water, remove the ears of corn, add butter and salt…EAT.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Have I Become?

My first job was at a deli counter in a small gourmet grocery called Brodeens. I made $3.35 an hour. We sold lots of stinky cheeses whose names I couldn't pronounce and cured meats of all shapes and sizes. I started the summer after I turned 14 and quit just before Thanksgiving. I couldn't bare the thought of handling whole, raw turkeys. Raw chickens were bad enough.

The affluent little suburb where this grocery was located (and where I grew up) was filled with desperate housewives. The owners of the store flirted with them endlessly and those of us in the deli had to fulfill all of their very specific requests. The worst was when someone ordered Prosciutto. "I'd like it sliced VERY thin," they'd demand. I'd roll my eyes and lug the large leg of ham over to the meat slicer. I had nightmares about that fucking meat slicer. It was terrifying. Slicing the Prosciutto thinly, AND evenly, was no easy task. I never mastered that task in my brief tenure at Brodeens.

I thought my parents were pretty worldly, especially when it came to food. They were European. At least they cooked. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s meant that most of my friends had two working parents, the microwave was a relatively new invention (and therefore a novelty that must be used AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE) and many people subsisted on frozen dinners and hamburger helper. Margarine, Velveeta and bologna were other household staples.

Although my parents cooked a lot and always grew their own veggies and fruit, their diet was limited to mostly Scandinavian food. Norwegian’s have their own version of Prosciutto, but my dad left it hanging in the garage with a knife stabbed into the flesh, ready whenever he – or any visitors – wanted a snack. There was blood sausage, liver pates, potato dumplings, and salted cod. The flavors leaned far into the mild category. I won’t say bland, because there was definitely a lot of flavor. There just wasn’t much spice. Let me just admit right here that the first time I had pizza – at about age 10 – I spit it out. It burned my tongue.

It didn’t help that I was a supremely picky eater. I loved fruit, sugar, dessert, and juice. We ate a lot of fish – a Scandinavian thing, but also a Northwest thing – and with the abundance of salmon in those days we had what you’d call an embarrassment of riches. There were many nights my brother and I would whine and complain, “Salmon…AGAIN?!” My mom cooked most things from scratch, even making homemade macaroni and cheese, even though what we really wanted was the stuff with the powdered cheese.

It wasn’t until I started traveling – on my own – that I got more adventurous with food and flavors. Visiting markets in Italy, France and Turkey opened up my palate to a lot more interesting flavors. I had an interest in cooking early on, especially baking (for the sugar, of course) and by my mid-20s I really wanted to challenge myself. If I ate a good meal in a restaurant, I wanted to try and recreate it at home. Returning from 6-8 week trips in Europe, I tried to recreate the food moments I experienced there.

On the spectrum of foo-fooo. Foood…Oh, I can’t say it. On the spectrum of food enthusiasts, I am pretty novice. I only buy Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, organic milk, and try to stick to produce in season. But, I still love me some junk food. You can take the girl out of the 80s but you can’t take the 80s out of the girl. I still devour the cheese dip my mom makes with Velveeta, have bought Tang in the last five years and can’t be trusted around a can of Pringles.

So having said all of that, I have come to a point in my life, that I when I shop for food – at a Farmers’ Market, mega market or deli – I know what I want. I am undyingly loyal to my favorite brands of olive oil, dried pasta and Dijon mustard. I scrutinize wedges of cheese for freshness and pepper butchers and fish mongers with questions. But when I go to the deli counter, I always pause and think hard about what I am going to do and say.

When I step up to place my order at the deli, the young man who is generally working behind the counter recognizes me instantly, and not in a good way. I usually stop by for some sliced ham or turkey, but every few months I buy some Prosciutto and I swear he sees me coming and thinks, good Christ she’s gonna demand some thinly-sliced Prosciutto again. And you know what? He’s right.

The thing is…I now understand and appreciate the mouth-watering appeal of fresh, thinly sliced Prosciutto. The pre-sliced stuff just doesn’t compare. And, if the Prosciutto is sliced too thick or too uneven, it just isn’t the same. If you are cooking with it, you can fudge it a little bit, but for wrapping around fruit, vegetables or breadsticks…thin is the only way to go. And really, for $27 a pound I can be a little demanding can’t I?

I have had this recipe floating around my kitchen for at least a year. My friends in Copenhagen sent it to me, knowing I would love it. They were right. Eggs are obviously a staple we have in abundance. Red-ripe tomatoes (grown by my parents) have been lining my windowsill for weeks. And Prosciutto, well all I need to do is visit my favorite deli man. I’m sure he’s missed me.

Parma Bowls with Egg and Tomato
Serves 2

2 big slices Prosciutto di Parma (thinly-sliced, natch)
2 Tbsp diced tomato
2 eggs
2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 2 cups in a muffin tin. Line the cups with one slice of Prosciutto each, forming it into a tight little cup. Sprinkle Prosciutto with chopped tomato. Crack an egg into each cup.


Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out the tray and sprinkle with the cheese (optional). Bake another 3-6 minutes or until the eggs are set to your liking.


Gently remove the Parma bowls onto plates and sprinkle with basil.

I think the general concept of this dish could be adapted with other ingredients. A sliced meat with plenty of fat is key for making a nice crispy crusted bowl, but ham may work. If tomatoes are out of season, caramelized onions or roasted red peppers would work great. Thyme or tarragon sprinkled on top would work well too. And for the optional cheese, you can’t go wrong with Velveeta…