Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gingerbread and Cream

It is simple. Light. But a delicious dessert.
Homemade ginger cake.
And unsweetened cream.
Tastes great. And makes you feel good when you eat it.
Who doesn't love ginge?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Barbeque Artisian Pizza

I am continuing with my quest of artisian pizzas. I have a pizza stone that is now a permanant resident in my oven. And it whispers each week from the closed door, telling me, "Come on. You know you want pizza."

I decided my ultimate quest would be to go to the fridge, and with only the ingredients I had in the fridge, make an "artisian pizza."

I decided to make a Kansas City Artisian Pizza.

Here are the ingredients I started with:

The core of the dish were braised Memphis style pork ribs that I had smoked. Those ribs by themselves are so amazing. And after spending time carmelizing them in the oven once again, I had to admit, questioning, "Why not eat these alone? Do they deserve a pizza?"

I had a handful of small pearl onions. I boiled them, and one by one, popped out the flesh. I added them to butter in a pan, and created delicious carmelized pearl onions.

For the sauce, I started with a homemade tomatoe pizza sauce I created several weeks ago. I added spicey barbeque sauce. But of course, for pizza sauce - it needed sugar and a hint of tartness. I turned to the secret ingredient used, but not oft talked about by chefs. Ketchup! I blended those three ingredients, and it created a smokey, sweet and spicy tomato sauce for my base.

I am a sucker for some sort of cheese on my pizza. I opted for crumbled blue cheese.

And I had to give it a hint of green - just to be able to say I had my vegetables for the day. I used some whole fresh spinach in spirals on the pizza.

After re-roasting the ribs, creating a carmelized effect from the fatty delicious pork, I pulled them from the bones and chopped the pork.

The pork and all included ingredients went onto the whole wheat pizza crust, and looked like this as it went into the oven:

The oven was fired up to 500 degrees. And the hot temperature did its magic.

The final product was great. The sweet yet savory sauce complimented the chunks of nearly crispy pork ribs. The blue cheese added a salty and tangy dimension. The carmelized onions were terrific, albeit time consuming to make.

It was another great pizza that made it worth it to sacrafice the natural eating of the barbeque ribs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Räkost is just a great food word

One of my absolute favorite foods while traveling in Sweden was räkost.

I first saw it one morning, at breakfast, while staying with a family in Sweden. It sat right next to the bowl of pickeled herring and cheese, and long with a stack of Wasa sesame  knäckebröd.

I sat looking at the collection of interesting items being served to me for breakfast. As a kid that only knew fried fish sticks as the only way to eat fish, the idea of the picked herring wasn't going to happen. I asked my host family what they recommended. The told me to squeeze the tube onto the cracker, and try it out.


But it was the beginning of a passion that I continue to this day. It was cheesey. A little salty. But wow. There was something addictive to it! (To see how my taste buds responded - take a look at this video:

Räkost is a word that basically combines the words of shrimp and cheese. Blend that together, and you get a savory akin to cheese whiz. Spread that on a cracker - and I think you have heaven.

That became my breakfast staple in while traveling in Sweden. Often, families would ask us, "What do you like for breakast." While my roommates hinted at items like pancakes (what? For breakast? Not in Sweden), or musli, I always shyly smiled, and asked, "Do you by chance have any Rack-Ost?" And sure enough - if not that morning, then the next morning, I would get my tube of shrimp cheese. And whenever possible, my favorite version of Wasa - the crisp sesame version, made it the perfect match.

In my recent excursion to the grocery department of IKEA, I was excited to see a version of räkost. While not from shrimp, crab was certainly close enough. Over the last nights, I have been adding it to both crisp bread as well as to some really delicious cardamom crisps that give a slightly sweet, yet savory crunch to the appetizer.

And each time I take a bite, I whisper the word "räkost" - just because it sounds fun to say.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The taste of Sweden I didn't like.

Thirty years ago, I tasted Sweden. And I didn’t like it.
It was a day off in Jonkoping. And instead of eating ham sandwiches as part of the group meal, we had a day with our host families. My host family decided they would make us a traditional Swedish meal. It would include a whole roasted salmon. And potatoes as the side dish.

Growing up in Kansas – fish was much less common than steak. if you ordered a fish – it was either as fish sticks. Or perhaps, in the fancy restaurant, you might get a trout. But the head was removed. The bones were removed. The skin was removed. And it certainly didn’t taste fishy.

My Jonkoping host family presented the whole salmon. Head. Skin. And decorated with dill. I took a little. But there were potatoes. And so I knew I would be ok. We had lots of potatoes in Kansas.

I took a bit of the salmon. It wasn’t bad. I dug my fork into the potatoes, and took a big bite. My mouth froze. My face froze.

I went from a subtle taste of fish to a bomb blast.

I had been served a big helping of something my host family called “Jansson’s Temptation.” This was a gratin or a scalloped potato dish. But the key “umami” ingredient was either anchovies or herring.

My mouth didn’t like it. But if this was one of the most famous dishes of Sweden, I was bound and determined to like it.

Fast forward thirty years, and it is a dish that I year for. I yearn for many things I would not have put my tongue to thirty years ago. But now, I love oysters and fish roe and whole anchovies on my Caesar salad.

Tonight – I celebrate that memory with an IKEA version of that dish. It tasted a salty and strong as I remembered it. But this time, much more delicious!