I’m lucky in that Amsterdam has tons of American book stores in the center, which happen to be on the way home should I be walking.
This particular Friday, I left work around 4:30, with plenty of time for my routine window shopping along the Kalverstraat and Spui on my way to the West, where we live. I start at Muntplein, walking through the Kalverstraat, taking a left at the Spui, walking through the book stalls at the market, touring the American Book Center. Then I walk up the Spui towards the Dam, stopping at Van Ness Cupcakes to get two cupcakes for me and the Englishman.
I’m usually pretty good at keeping it to people watching and window shopping, but when I saw books being sold at 5 Euro per KILO! and sales at the ABC, it was impossible to leave empty handed. I bought several short stories by Roald Dahl, and a mountain of cookbooks, including “Moorish” by Greg + Lucy Malouf and “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi + Sammi Tamimi.
If you know you love Middle Eastern food, but you’re unsure of where to start, this is a great baby step. “Kawarma” is Arabic for lamb, and this extra additive to hummus gives it the meat and bulk that the Englishman misses with the hummus I usually make. It’s a familiar face, with a little extra somethin’ that will help you start your quest into the culinary Levant world.
You know that strange time between lunch and dinner, when you’re looking for a substantial snack with a satisfying combination of soft and crunchy, and maybe a little salty?
Yea, these got you covered.
Not only are these little knots easy to make, they’re delicious little morsels, perfect as a party snack or entertaining.
The dough is a familiar one, a basic pizza dough, so if you’re feeling ambitious, you can double the recipe and have extra dough for later. Alternatively, if you’re feeling lazy, you can pre-made pizza dough, but that’s really not my style :D.
The thought came to me to make something with a soft dough, combining soft and crunchy, which is where the knot comes into play. Soft near the knot, and crunch on the ribbon-like handles. Just what all snacks should be.
It’s the simple things in life that keep me moving. Like supremed + sliced oranges, so simple, treated with sophistication in the form of a generous cinnamon sprinkle, and mint garnish.
Served as a classic Moroccan dessert, I sampled this at a lovely lady friend gathering. An unusual mix of Latvian, Slovene, Serbian, Icelandic, Russian and my culturally confused self snacked on these tasty little slivers after literally a table full of tapas.
So fresh and simple, they are a great pallet cleanser and after-meal soother, especially if you’ve just stuffed yourself silly. Because after all, there’s always room for dessert.
If there’s one thing I can say about my job, it’s that I really love my coworkers. Everyone is super open, friendly, and enjoys a good laugh. It makes slower days or boring projects a lot more bearable, and going to work is much easier when you know you’ll be surrounded by great international people.
One of these great people happens to be on my team, a former lawyer from Brazil, who found love and followed his heart to Holland. Between breaks and at lunch, we love to talk about our big joint venture, in topics which change daily from dating services to cafes. No matter the direction, there’s always good fun in there.
So, ladies + gentlemen, here is a delicious, Brazilian cake from the very talent Jaime de Jesus Lima.
Cakes, pies and puddings are also present in Brazilian kitchen even though they are less known in international circles. I am sure the long tradition of homemade birthday party food has something to do with it! Delicacies had to be made from scratch and should take advantage of local products such as chocolate, sugar and tropical fruits.
The “Nega Maluca” chocolate cake is super simple and delicious. You can add a fruit filling (apricots is my personal favourite) but it isn’t really necessary. This chocolate happiness should take you no more than 40 minutes to prepare.
We are finally in the beginnings of spring in Amsterdam, and with the sunshine and warmth come longer days and countless hours sitting on our balcony overlooking the historic courtyard with cherry blossoms and daffodils. Why is it historic? I don’t know, but my home owner’s association charges me a pretty penny because of it.
What starts as a sit down in the sun invariably turns to dinner, and I’m in the kitchen while he sits pretty. For a lighter entree on these warmer nights, this zucchini and tomato gratin the spot. Sweating the tomatoes and sautéing the zucchini before hand lets everything bake to a beautiful golden crisp. Sometimes we serve this with bread and olive oil, on a bed of bulgur, or as a side if we’re feeling a bit more peckish, with some grilled chicken or the like.
Remember this little breakfast gem? Well, we eat a lot of yogurt at home. Like, a lot. With nearly every meal. Whether its with breakfast and some muesli, as a dressing in lunch, or as a side for dinner, I love the taste and texture of thick, Greek yogurt.
But the price difference between plain yogurt (49¢) and my favorite FAGE brand (€2.49) is tough not to notice. Straining it at home means you control the texture and mind your wallet. Between tzatziki, mast o moseer, as a substitute for sour cream or homemade raita, the amount of stuff you can do with it is endless. The next venture is to start baking with it, but that will have to wait until I’m more comfortable using my horrible CombiOven.
In the meantime, super simple, delightfully easy, at-home Greek-style strained yogurt. You can use cheese cloth, paper towel and colander, or a sieve. Any way, its easy, simple and super cost effective.
Place a paper towel into a strainer and dump your container of yogurt in the center.
Place a bowl under your strainer, and leave in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour, depending on how thick you like your yogurt.
When you can easily pull away the paper towel from the yogurt, your yogurt is probably thick enough. Place yogurt back in its original container, and throw away the 'yogurt water' left in the bowl. Voila!
I like to pat myself on the back every time I hear silence while the Englishman devours our homemade salsa, enchiladas, guacamole, refried beans, or the like. He had not yet eaten Mexican before we met. If I had just a nickel for every chipotle burrito I’ve consumed in my life, we’d be living in a beach bungalow in Cancun.
The point is, Mexican food is always a hit around here, so I thought I’d share some of our favorites, so you can have your own little fiesta en tu casa.
Refried Beans. Better than canned or store-bought, you control the sodium and texture.
Few things in life are better than a flakey crust and melted cheese.
And it seems there has been a running theme of simple methods and ingredients in my last few posts. This recipe is impossibly easy, total comfort-style breakfast-lunch-dinner-whenever food. It’s a simpler take on the equally delicious spanakopita, but without the fuss of wrestling with phyllo.
Two sheets of puffed pastry, stuffed with spinach and feta, a whisked egg, delicious hot or cold.
Beware, it’s dangerously delicious, and on that particular chilly Sunday, 1/2 of the pie mysteriously disappeared in 20 minutes.
Line your pie tray with baking paper, and one sheet of your phyllo.
Mix together you whisked egg, feta and spinach. Place into your mixture into the phyllo-lined pie tray.
Take your second sheet of phyllo and layer on top, cutting the excess dough from around the pie form. Crimp the edges together, either with a fork or just with your fingers. Bake at 375 from 20 minutes, or until the top layer of phyllo is golden brown.
I prefer cooking to baking because I am impatient, don’t like measuring, and absolutely hate my combi oven. It blows my mind that Dutch people cook with this regularly. It doesn’t get super hot, has oven setting like “microwave + broil” and is the culinary equivalent of a futon; something that has 2 functions, and does neither very well.
But alas, I volunteered to bring a cake to celebrate the contract renewal of 2 friends at work. Cake + libations were in order!
I love carrot cake. So I knew immediately what to make. This recipe is tried and true, but took twice as long to cook with my beloved combi oven. My excitement turned to impatience, and I didn’t wait until the cake was fully cooled to release the cake from it’s form. It crumbled, and I was again defeated by the combi. Too embarrassed by the mess, the cake stayed at home, and so did I.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, and the Englishman’s mother + step dad came over for lunch. This big mess was not part of the program, but when she asked for a piece, I told her to proceed with caution. Despite it looking like a mound of dirt, it was apparently delicious, as she mmmmed her way through her whole visit, and proceeded to take the rest of the cake home, asking for the recipe.
Success? Sure. I made it again this weekend and was slightly more patient. Delicious as ever. Even Olive thought so.
It’s no wonder that most Dutchies first encounter the Middle Eastern world through shwarma. It’s cheap street food, especially delicious late at night, when all you need is lots of grease to line your alcohol-laden stomach.
But it saddens me that this is the only exposure the Englishman has had to Middle Eastern food. Slowly but surely, I’ve been able to introduce some staple things into our diet, like rice, lentils, halloumi and cinnamon-spiced meats. But it’s been at a snail’s pace, I tell you.
If you can’t beat em, join em. They sell prepackaged everything here in the grocery store, from all-you-need-to-make-guacamole in a bag, to prepackaged shwarma meat, complete with garlic sauce (which is really just mayo + garlic) and pita.
A good idea in theory, but a culinary train wreck in practice. Why not just make it at home? That way I can control the taste, salt and other ingredients, because with the recent meat scandal in Holland, your lamb or beef might just be my little pony.
The best part of shwarma is it’s slow roasted flavor, achieved through hours of spit fire grilling. A giant sword-like knife shaves off the outer layer, ensuring your tasty treat is going to be perfectly crisp, and the next guy’s sandwich will be equally and deliciously cooked. Perhaps the next best part is choosing what things to mingle your meat with, so they all can come together at the glorious party in your pita. Tahini, yogurt sauce, cabbage, go nuts.
While a spit roast is right up there with a wood burning pizza oven on my lists of things to buy in the next home, my broiler had to suffice this round. I flash boiled my chicken to save on time and calories, and got my gold brown crispiness by shredding and broiling the meat, in a single, olive oil kissed layer. Lekker.