Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer eating

Today was one of those days, when the craving for meat is so strong you don’t dare resist it. When the need to fire up the grill and smell the aromas of sizzling fat and searing meat is impossible to ignore.

Lamb chops are perhaps my favorite kind of meat to grill or barbecue. That small, juicy piece of meat on the bone is so tender and flavorful that can rival even the best beef steak. You can’t help but salivate even at the thought of it being served to you.

The green herb and garlic sauce with olive oil and lemon complements the strong taste of the lamb, and the sweet, cherry tomato salad with the mild red onion brings freshness and cleanses the palate between bites.

The succulent meat, the eating with your hands so indicative of summer, the pungent green sauce, the tomato salad, the cold glass of beer. That’s what summer is all about.
That, and music.

Lamb Chops with Herb and Garlic Sauce, and Tomato and Onion Salad

This is for me the best summer meal for 2 or… 102 people. Adjust the recipe according to how many people you’re cooking for.
Also, a Greek classic accompaniment to lamb chops: Rub some slices of good bread with olive oil and dried oregano and grill them on both sides.

Yield: 6-8 servings


for the herb and garlic sauce
2 handfuls fresh parsley leaves
1 handful fresh mint leaves
2 garlic cloves, mashed
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

for the lamb chops
20 lamb chops
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

for the tomato salad
A variety of cherry tomatoes, halved
Red onion, sliced
3 parts extra virgin olive oil
1 part red-wine vinegar
Sea salt flakes (I used Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: small food processor or blender, grill (you can use either a stovetop grill or a barbecue grill - this is the one I use)


for the herb and garlic sauce
Add parsley and mint leaves to your food processor or blender, followed by the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Process until you have a slightly coarse sauce, you don’t want a puree, and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix again and give it a taste. Adjust seasoning. You may find that it needs a bit more acidity in which case you can add more lemon juice.
Put sauce in a small bowl and set aside until ready to use.

for the lamb chops
Trim extra fat from the lamb chops with a sharp knife. They are small and cook very quickly so there’s no time for the extra fat to render. You don’t want to be chewing on uncooked fat.
Dry them on paper towels and pour olive oil over them. Rub it onto the chops and season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat your grill or outdoor barbecue. If you’re using a stovetop grill, make sure to heat it up really well before adding the lamb chops. Add chops to your grill and cook for 2 minutes on each side, for medium. Adjust cooking time depending on the thickness of the lamb chops and your personal preference.

for the tomato salad
Add all the salad ingredients into a big salad plate and toss well with your hands or two spoons. Check the seasoning before serving.

Serve the lamb chops straight from the grill. Have the salad at the table as well as the bowl of herb sauce so everyone can put some sauce on top of each chop.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dutch countryside in pictures

The Dutch countryside is beautiful, even on a cloudy day. Grass, cows, trees, green in every shade, canals, farmhouses.

We visited our favorite farm yesterday and we came home with the freshest eggs and butter. We could not wait to savor them. Our meal of fried eggs and toasted bread with butter and sea salt, a tomato salad and feta was perfect.

Van Leeuwen Family
Noord Aa 4
2381 LV
The Netherlands

I hope you're all well. See you again soon!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Little suns

Lately, I’ve been feeling rushed. Rushed in every possible way. With life, with work, with everyday chores, with cooking, with myself.

I feel like I need to take a break from everything and most of all my own thoughts and preoccupations. Those that are meddling with my inner peace, those that stir up memories and waters that are best left serene and waveless.

Speaking of water, I miss the sea. My sea, the one back home, not this one here which can be pretty, even breathtaking at times, but that can never be the one I long for.

I miss my feet being immersed in the sand, the subtle waves stroking my toes. I miss the sound of crickets in the night and the soft breeze traveling through the trees.
Perhaps I miss him, or the idea of him, being there but not really. Being a part of my future without him ever being present. His loud laughter and his hands that always looked so manly, so strong yet delicate at the same time, his cologne that smelled long after he’d leave a room.

It’s not so much a longing for home, but more for comfort, for safety, for belonging. I understand now that I will always be that person who reminisces about home, who can never really settle anywhere else but won’t go back either. I have to accept the fact that I’m perhaps destined to explore new worlds or that I’m the person who can never be content with what they have.

But I never stop smiling. I’m thankful for so many things and for the people in my life, for S above them all. I’m thankful for all of you, yes you, who read my words and drop by to leave me a note, for you who cook my recipes and come back, full of graciousness, to tell me all about it, you who are quiet yet here. Because, as I’ve said so many times before, this space here is a part of me, one that I’m very proud of, a part of me that always brings me pleasure to share.

I’m thankful for the cooking that fills me with joy, the food that brings me happiness, the ingredients that make me go in the kitchen and not come out until I have made something delicious to share with my loved ones. I’m thankful for the fruits of the summer. The cherries, the melons, the peaches, the apricots. The apricots, the little suns. Cooking with them brings sunshine even if it’s raining outside; always satisfying, and this time wasn’t any different.

This time I made this galette. With apricots, sugar, vanilla and a flaky pastry so light and buttery it reminded me of puff.
Simple stuff that bring a smile to your face. That’s what this is.

Apricot Galette

The galette is one of the easiest types of tarts because it’s free-form. You simply roll-out the pastry, arrange the fruits in the middle and you bring the sides of the pastry up and over the fruit. Straightforward and no tart pan required.

Use ripe, sweet apricots; the sweetest the fruit the less sugar you’ll need to add to them. If they’re very sweet, use 2-3 tablespoons of sugar in the filling instead of 4.

I used vanilla bean paste but you can use the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean. Don’t use vanilla extract, the flavor won’t be the same.

If you have a large food processor, it is best if you use it to make the pastry instead of making it with your hands because during the summer, our hands tend to get very warm causing the butter in the pastry to soften and thus making handling the dough more difficult. Below you’ll find instructions for both methods.

Yield: 6 servings


for the pastry dough
200 g all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
140 g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1-2 Tbsp cold water

for the filling
300-350 g ripe apricots (I used 11 small apricots)
4 Tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped)

1 small egg, lightly beaten, for glazing the dough

Special equipment: large food processor, plastic wrap, rolling pin, baking sheet, baking paper, pastry brush


for the pastry dough
• with a food processor
In a large food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest and blend for 5 seconds. Add the cold cubed butter and process for a few seconds until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then add 1-2 Tbsp cold water (I used 1½ Tbsp) and process in order to bring together the mixture into a dough that just holds together when pinched (see photo below). Add 1 Tbsp of water to start and see from there whether it needs more. You don’t want the dough to be wet.

• by hand
In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest and stir with a spatula. Add the cubed cold butter and, using two knives, a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut it into the flour, until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then add 1-2 Tbsp cold water (I used 1½ Tbsp) and mix with your hands, working quickly, until the dough comes together into a ball that just holds together when pinched (see photo above). Add 1 Tbsp of water to start and see from there whether it needs more. You don’t want the dough to be wet.

Empty the pastry dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form a disk, cover it and place it in the refrigerator to chill, for about 40 minutes.

for the filling
Rinse the apricots well, cut them in half and remove the pits. Place them in a medium-sized bowl and add the sugar and vanilla bean paste (or scraped vanilla seeds). Mix well with a spoon until apricots are completely coated and set them aside.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.

Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap and place dough between two large sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry into an approximately 30cm round, with a 0.5cm thickness. Remove the top piece of baking paper and place the pastry, along with the bottom baking paper, onto a baking sheet.
Arrange the apricot filling evenly in the middle of the round piece of pastry, scraping out any sugar that’s left in the bowl, and taking care to leave space around the edges of the pastry, about 5cm, and place the baking sheet in the fridge. At this point the pastry will have gotten soft so by putting it in the fridge, the butter will harden thus making the pastry flaky when baked.
Leave it in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove it from the fridge and fold the edges of the pastry up and over the apricots, making sure to seal any cracks, otherwise the juices will run out during baking. You can use the baking paper to pull and fold the pastry dough over the fruit.
Using a pastry brush, glaze the dough with the beaten egg. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the apricots soften and the pastry takes on a golden-brown color.

Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Serve the galette warm with some lightly whipped mascarpone, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
You can also eat it at room temperature.

You can keep it for a day or two, covered, at room temperature but it is best eaten the same day.