Now I’m not gonna brag that I can bake, because I can’t, really, and the fact that I tried cottage cheese brownies twice and banana bread once doesn’t prove anything.

About the brownies: they’re so easy to make even a monkey could– that didn’t stop me from failing the second time, although the first time I was, and they were, OK. Beginner’s luck? Maybe… If you’re a beginner, try your luck with brownies, by all means. Chances are you’ll be alright.

Quantities are important when baking cakes. Errr… if only I could remember them 😀 Something like this: 200ml milk, 4 eggs, 3-4 teaspoons of sugar, 2 cups of flour, 3-4 teaspoons of baking powder, 250g cottage cheese, a pinch of salt, all the cocoa your heart desires. The beauty is that all you have to do is mix the above, so that you get a smooth, creamy, but not too runny composition, then pour everything in a container (the use of oven paper is highly recommended), and keep it in the oven (preheated to 180 degrees, Celsius) for 20 minutes or so. It sounds, and it is, very easy. What could I have done wrong the second time, I wonder… Maybe too much flour, and too little baking powder, considering hey were too dense and chewy?  😦 Come to think of it, the first time I only had very little flour left, so I used less than the recipe says. That’s it, I guess.

Ah, and as you’ll see in the pic (although maybe you won’t get all the details), I ate them with whipped cream and mom-made walnut jam, so you might want (and I strongly think you should) cut back on the sugar a bit :p

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Yes, I haven’t posted in a while, but yes, I am eating… Most of the time I’m not the one doing the cooking, but the past couple of weeks I was. Problem is that I was also busy as hell, on the one hand, plus kind of disenchanted with my own cooking/ blogging, on the other. But anyway, here are two of the latest creations: chiftelute/ meatballs, with and without sauce.

First, the w/o version: minced meat, finely chopped onion, grated carrot (most recipes don’t have it, but it can’t be bad, and indeed it wasn’t); one or two eggs, depending on the quantity, salt, pepper, and LOTS OF dill. Fry and serve hot, with pickled cucumbers, or salad.

Well, the “serving hot” is the key here; at my place, while my mom is frying the meatballs, me, my sis and my dad would keep eating them, just as they emerge from the pan, because that’s when they’re the best. After that, a different way of eating them has to be concocted, or else they will rot in the fridge forever. And here comes recipe no.2:  finely chopped onion, fried in oil, to which one must add tomato sauce and laurel, and let it all simmer with the meatballs for a while; at the end, a spoonful of vinegar on top of it all, and the chiftelute are good to go, again!

Another collaboration dinner to write about today; thought I won’t be posting it, because I had to write this conference proposal and I was stuck, but I disentangled myself miraculously, and was able to finish the 400-character-torture in good time, so here we go 🙂

My contribution to the feast was a shrimp cocktail. It was loosely put together according to another Epicurious recipe: chopped cucumber, tomato and avocado, with finely minced onion, garlic and coriander, and of course the shrimp (nice story with the shrimp: I tasted it, it seemed OK, so I threw it in, without bothering to boil it; I had to take it out, wash& boil it afterwards, when Selu noticed the inappropriate colour. If I wanted to be hard on myself I’d say that was a basic and stupid mistake, but I’m not, so I’ll just laugh it off in the category “You know you’ve been in Japan too long when… eating raw seafood comes naturally to you” :D). Anyway, to finish the deal, sprinkle some salt and chili pepper on the whole thing; the recipe also required “adobo sauce”, whatever that may be. I made my own sauce which contained cottage cheese, mayo, olive oil and lime juice, and I for one thought it was quite good.

Now, the main dish, courtesy of Selu: bluefish (or actually, just “blue fish”; don’t remember exactly what we got, but it was blueish), with white sauce and tomatoes. The fish was laid to rest on a piece of aluminum foil on top of a grill, smeared with the sauce (containing mayo, minced chives, dill seeds, lime juice, salt and pepper), and covered  with tomato slices. Everything went into the pre-heated oven, and stayed there… just enough 😀 When it came out, it smelled great and tasted perfect, and went down very well with white wine.

According to Yahoo News, taking photos of what you eat and then uploading them to your blog is the latest trend. People share pics of what went down their digestive system apparently as a way of communicating themselves to others, because, you know, we are what we eat.

I never really wanted to be trendy, but somehow found myself doing it ever so often, and ever so unconsciously. I did start my blog because I was bored of eating alone, and sick of making the same food every time; having someone to talk about it (a few friends, yes; I only get like 10-15 views a day, which probably spoils the whole idea of having a public blog… whatever!) made me come up with new things to cook, think more about novelty, combinations, mis-en-place, etc… it did make dinner more pleasurable, I swear. And that’s all that matters, after all. I never meant to have a recipe blog, or one with fancy foods that I ate at nice restaurants, so… to hell with it, I’ll just keep posting in my marginal “food” blog. Even though lately I haven’t been cooking or eating alone:)

Last night it was Mexican(?) night; we made chicken tortillas, using the recipe off this little iPhone App, sweetly called Epicurious (warmly recommend it: it’s free, and it turns your recipes into shopping lists, where you can check/uncheck the things you have at home and those you still need to buy). First, the onion goes under the knife, and on fire, in butter; the chicken follows shortly. After a little while, you have to add all the whole tomatoes from a can, chili powder (the recipe said cayenne peppers, but who cares), and cumin powder. Everything has to be simmered for a loooooooong time (close to one hour); just before the end of the process, take off the lid, and let the sauce evaporate; add salt at some point, too, then cut the meat in small pieces (after all that frying and simmering and boiling, it should be very soft). While it’s cooling down, halve, pit and skin an avocado (tried the skinning first time in my life; can be easily done by hand, imagine that!), then cut it in thin slices; do pretty much the same with a cucumber (cut in 4 pieces, seeds out, then thin slices). Avocado and cucumber alike should rest in a bowl with lemon/lime juice, salt&pepper for a while. Make sure you have enough chopped coriander, too.

Selu made the tortillas (of course you can buy them too, still home-made is always better). I watched the process, but anything that involves flour and comes even remotely close to baking and cakes is totally out of my league, so I might not be able to give a correct account of it here; anyway, it’s about mixing flour and baking powder and olive oil and water to make a dough, and cooking small pieces of it in a pan until you get these nice round wraps for the chicken and the cucumber, and the avocado, and the coriander.

Wrap x 3, beer glass x 2, yummy and hurray! (photo is not very good, because I was too hungry to set up the good camera, so I used the iPhone…)

Easter Sunday was perfect this year: sunny, warm and mellow. And right in the middle of cherry-blosson season here, in Japan.

Easter lunch was fulfilling and elaborate. First, the drob (another difficult problem for Google Translate, and most online dictionaries; all I found is haggis, apparently a Scottish specialty, that resembles the Romanian Easter traditional recipe. Wiki can tell you more).  As you might know, it’s supposed to be made with lamb offal, and boiled in the actual stomach of the animal, for as long as it takes. Since it’s almost impossible to find that kind of stuff here, I just made it with pig liver, and chicken liver and hearts. According to my mom’s recipe, all this is boiled first; in the meantime, huge quantities (the more, the better) of dill, spring onion and parsley are chopped, while one normal onion is fried in oil until it gets to the appropriate colour and texture. Then, the liver and hearts are cut in small pieces, and mixed with the chopped dill et co, the fried onion and a couple of raw eggs (the number depends on the other quantities). Add salt and pepper, pour the mix in a pan, and leave it in a very hot place, preferably the oven 😛 for 20 or so minutes. You can hide some boiled eggs in the paste, too; oh, and don’t forget to butter and flour your pan, of course.

Next thing on the menu was lamb with black olives: first, some finely chopped rosemary leaves, garlic and cloves are sauted in olive oil (the aroma!!! Damn, I shouldn’t be writing this before lunch! I never learn…); then in come the lamb pieces, followed a couple of minutes later by some wine. After the alcohol evaporates, the pitted olives and tomato sauce join the party. Everything has to be cooked then for close to one hour, which is tough when you’re hungry, but the results are worth the wait.

The festive lunch also included potato gnocchi (didn’t know they could be so good; mixing potatoes with flour and eggs really didn’t sound all that appetizing; I couldn’t’ve been wrong….er :p), then tiramisu, also beyond yummy. I wish I could brag I did all this alone, but actually I only contributed the drob, and a failed attempt at painted eggs (didn’t have enough eggs, the right type, i.e., with a hard shell, patience to boil them through the dirty pink phase and into the bright red one…ah!!); the lamb, and the gnocchi and the tiramisu were the creation of Selu, a.k.a. 板長 supreme 😀

gnocchi

One little post here for you today, about spinach, of course.

My family has never been religious, and fasting was never part of our values and traditions. In fact, for a long time, any food without meat in it was not really food for my dad. Vegetable ragout, onion stew, rice salads– he would meet them with a grunt, a smirk and two thick slices of salami. Lately though, after years of my mother’s “education”, he came to like some of the meatless dishes; on the other hand, we also came to adopt the good custom of eating mainly vegetables for at least a week before Easter– maybe less as actual religious fasting, and more for enjoying all the new “leaves” and “grasses”, such as salad, leek, spinach, baby nettle, wild garlic and so on, that come out in spring. It’s also a good break after the calorie and fat-loaded winter menu, and before the Easter feasts (of which I expect I’ll be having one myself this Sunday, but more about it in a later post).

Anyway, what you eat and when you eat it is preserved in your body’s memories, and every spring I get a sudden urge to eat spinach. There’s this simple dish that my mom makes, very tasty and healthy. As a kid, I didn’t like it much, because it looked like… chicken poo 😀 But well, yes, appearances are deceptive, as they say…

So, I parboiled the spinach leaves with a little salt, all the while frying finely chopped onion in olive oil, with one spoonful of rice.  When the spinach was ready and the rice half-cooked, I arranged for them to meet in the same pot, with the mediation of a pinch of consomme powder. Then I let them boil in their own juices, bubbling away the 20 or so minutes necessary for the rice to cook. Just before finishing, I also threw in an egg, and mixed it with everything else. Perfect served with lemon juice and brown bread, just like in the picture. Good for your bones and muscles, if we are to take Popeye’s word for it (one of the tricks my parents used to convince me to eat the spinach porridge when I was a kid…)

It’s been a while, a long while actually.

The school year finished, a new one is about to begin. I won’t be a student anymore, not in mind and spirit, not formally, not in my visa either. Come to think of it, except for the first 6 years of my life, a short one year break after high-school and the almost two years teaching in Moldova, I’ve always been a student. When I counted the other day, I had 12+4+1+6=23 years in school. Hm…

A lot of things happening for me right now, and life’s been rather hectic. Been on 6 (six) planes in the last month. To Romania and back, then to Taiwan and back. Haven’t done much cooking all this while, either, because I had other people cooking for me, and much better food. Now I realize I should’ve taken pictures…

I’ll just give you a glimpse of the Taiwanese cuisine that ended on my taste buds and in my stomach. All they say about it is true: delicious! And the fruits… for the guava, and the rien’u (連霧, something like an apple, but better), and the star fruit, and all the other nameless (to me) riches of the trees, I’d just move there!

I’ll stop here, because dinner is near, and looking at pictures of delicious stuff never helps. If you hover over the thumbs, you should see short explanation of what’s featured.  For more images, check my Picasa album: http://picasaweb.google.co.jp/iholca/Taiwan26290310#

Hope to be back soon with my own cooking. Until then, think about traveling to Taiwan 🙂