History on Our Plate

A few years ago, we had the pleasure of attending a lecture by food historian and award winning author Peter G. Rose. She talked about America’s Dutch past and the influence of the Dutch settlers on today’s American food. She explained how the founders of New Netherland (currently the states of New York, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey) brought Dutch recipes, tools, herbs and fruit to the US. And she showed how the Dutch influence is still present in today’s food in the USA.

Recipes

In her book History on Our Plate (2019) she writes in more detail about this topic, also by providing various food and drink recipes from New Netherland (1609 – 1664). The recipes are based on publications like Een Notabel Boecxken van Cokeryen (a Notable Little Book of Cookery, 1514) and the 13th century publication Le Viandier de Taillevent. The recipes include both the original and a modern version, allowing you to recreate food from the 17th century. Fried cod with mace, waffles, mushroom casserole, artichokes with a bread, cinnamon and wine sauce: they all sound amazing.

In her introduction she describes the joy of baking bread in a hearth, the fun (and challenges) of preparing food in her home fireplace and the candlelight dinners that follow. When reading the well written recipes, you sense that she (and her husband who is in charge of the fire) aims to let her readers enjoy the cooking and eating as much as they did.

Quiche or Clafoutis?

We were intrigued by a recipe for Mushroom Quiche without a Crust. It made us think of clafoutis. Replace the cherries by mushrooms, change the seasoning and you have a delicious vegetarian starter or main course. The recipe was first published in 1668 by Franciscus van Sterbeeck  in his book Tractaet van de Kampernoeljes, Genaamd Duivelsbrood (or Treatise of Mushrooms, named Devils’s Bread).
You’ll find a detailed recipe in History on Our Plate.

We enjoyed our Mushroom Quiche without a Crust (or should we say, Flaugnarde with Mushrooms?) with a glass of Rioja d’Oliva Gran Reserva, Altos d’Oliva, 2013. A full bodied, red wine with lots of character that worked really well with the mushrooms, the oregano, and the Gouda cheese.

Buy the Book

History on Our Plate is available via the well-known channels and your local bookstore for approximately 15 euro or 10 US$.

Classic Cèpes

What better way to start the mushroom season than serving Classic Cèpes? The recipe is very simple and the result is about cèpes and cèpes alone. The stems a bit firm, the caps moist, the flavours intense and the taste rich and earthy, with a touch of freshness from the parsley. It’s a classic in Germany (Steinpilze auf klassische Art), France (similar to Cèpes a la Bordelaise), Italy and many other countries. 

Wine Pairing

If you want to enjoy the cèpes with a glass of white wine, then we suggest drinking one that is fresh, fruity, round and balanced, for instance of a glass of Bodegas Mocén Selección Especial made from verdejo grapes. A glass of rosé with similar flavours is also a good idea. The idea is to support the cèpes by adding fruitiness and freshness to the dish.

When you decide to drink a glass of red wine, then we suggest a full-bodied red wine with gently fruit and present tannins. 

What You Need

  • 200 gram Cèpes
  • Butter
  • One small Shallot
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the mushrooms and slice lengthwise. Finely chop the shallot and the parsley. Add butter to a relatively hot heavy iron skillet. Reduce the heat and fry the cèpes for a few minutes. Add the shallot. Cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add chopped parsley, add more butter, black pepper and stir. Serve on a warm plate.

Warm Tapenade

On one of the last, warm, long evenings of this summer we wanted to enjoy something with lots of flavours and depth, but we didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. Then we remembered a tapenade like mixture that worked nicely with monkfish. Why not combine it with excellent beef? The result was what we hoped for: lots of flavours and we only needed 15 minutes to prepare it.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy with a glass of full-bodied red wine, for instance Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. The tannins of such a wine will combine very well with the depth and richness of the tapenade and the beef.

We enjoyed a glass of Les Terrasses Occitanes Fitou produced by Mont Tauch from the Languedoc region in France, made with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah grapes. A not too complex, full bodied dry wine with aromas of red fruit and a lasting taste.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Excellent Beef (Sirloin, Bavette)
  • For the Tapenade:
    • Shallot
    • Garlic
    • Black Olives
    • Capers
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary (optional)
    • Anchovies
    • Olive Oil

What You Do

Let the beef rest on a plate until it reaches room temperature. This could take an hour. Chop the shallot and the garlic, halve the black olives and remove the thyme leaves from the stalk. If using fresh rosemary, make sure to chop the leaves. Dry the capers with kitchen paper. Mash the anchovies with a fork until you have a paste-like substance. Warm a pan, add some olive oil and glaze the onions. After a few minutes add the garlic. Add the olives, the thyme, the capers and the anchovies. The result should be a rather chunky, rich tapenade.
Add olive oil to a hot skillet and quickly fry the beef. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving with the warm tapenade. Add some black pepper.

PS

Not using anchovies is not an option. They bring umami and saltiness to the tapenade. One fillet is enough to have the right result.

Beef with Warm Tapenade ©cadwu
Beef with Warm Tapenade ©cadwu

Mushroom Season

Hurray! The mushroom season has started! Last Saturday we bought delicious cèpes and chanterelles. Such a treat. It does of course mean that summer is over, which makes us a bit sad, but it also means the joy of eating wonderful dishes such as Cèpes à la Bordelaise or Salad with Mushrooms and smoked Duck (see below). Last year we prepared a Pâté with bay boletes, which was both beautiful and delicious. Will we be able to buy them this year? Or perhaps the intriguing Japanese Matsutake? It’s been some time since we last saw them on the market, and we would really love to make Matsutake with Spinach and Ginger again. How about Caesar’s mushroom with Udon?

Books

If you’re looking for useful mushroom recipes, then we suggest Antonio Carluccio’s The Quiet Hunt or Mushroom by Johnny Acton and Nick Sadler. Or look at our list of mushroom recipes.

Wine Pairing

Combining wine and salad is never obvious. In the case of a salad with mushrooms and duck we need to consider umami (mushrooms, duck), a touch of sweetness (smoked or cured meat) and the acidity of the dressing. We choose Domaine de Rimauresq Côtes de Provence Cru Classé rosé. A classic wine from the French Provence with grapes such as grenache noirmourvèdreugni blanc and rolle. The wine comes with delicate fruity, fresh flavours and aromas. It is very well balanced, dry and mouth filling and it combines beautifully with all aspects of the salad.
In general you’re looking for a white or rosé wine that has complexity and length, without being overpowering.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Mushrooms (Cèpes preferred but also great with Oyster Mushrooms or a mix of Champignon de Paris, Shiitake and others)
  • Mesclun
  • Dried or Smoked Breast of Duck
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar (Red Wine, Jerez or Raspberry)

What You Do

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Heat a heavy iron skillet and fry the mushrooms in olive oil. Make a dressing of oil and vinegar. Toss the mesclun and the dressing. Transfer the salad to a plate, add mushrooms and finish with 3 or 5 slices of duck.

Fromage de Fribourg

When reading La Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale: Mes 106 recettes, we noticed that she uses only one kind of cheese in her recipes. Not Parmesan, not Pecorino, but Fromage de Fribourg. She adds it to her fish soup, to her ravioli, to her tourte de blette and to various other dishes. But what is Fromage de Fribourg?

It’s also known as Vacherin Fribourgeois and it originates from the region around the Swiss city Fribourg. It’s a semi-hard, creamy cheese made with raw cow milk. It matures for at least 6 weeks in a damp cellar. Its taste is aromatic, floral, full-bodied and lasting, with a touch of sweetness, bitterness and umami. It is used in a fondue called moitié-moitié (50% Gruyère and 50% Fribourg). It’s also possible to make a fondue with Fribourgeois only, using three ingredients: water, cheese and garlic.

Obviously we wanted to taste this cheese and we assumed that in the home town of Hélène Barale we would be able to buy it. We found a great cheese shop and bought a nice slice of this complex cheese. At home we decided to make an omelet with spinach, following a recipe from Hélène Barale for Omelette aux Blettes.

Omelet

For this omelet you need spinach, shallot, garlic, bay leaf, egg and freshly grated Vacherin Fribourgeois. No thyme, black pepper or salt. We were much surprised by the perfectly balanced flavours of spinach, cheese and eggs. Wonderful omelet.
You’ll find all the details you need in La cuisine niçoise d’Hélène Barale: Mes 106 recettes.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our omelet with a nice glass of Côtes de Provence Rosé. You could also enjoy it with an unoaked Chardonnay.
If you decide to eat the cheese as dessert, then we suggest a glass of full bodied red wine (Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhône etcetera).

PS

From a culinary point of view we think we understand why Madame Barale favored Fromage de Fribourg. If it’s her personal choice, something typical for the Niçoise cuisine, a culinary trend or perhaps because she was fond of Fribourg, that remains a mystery to us.

Zucchini with Oregano and Parmesan Cheese

Recently a friend who lives in Liguria, north-western Italy, gave us a Trombetta d’Albenga. This is a zucchini, shaped like an antique trumpet. What makes it interesting is related to its shape: the seeds of this kind of zucchini are in the bell of the trumpet only, meaning that most of the zucchini is free of seeds. Which makes it ideal for a salad or for frying, especially when it’s young. Older trombettas tend to be yellowish and firmer; more pumpkin-like.

It’s wonderful to prepare this starter with Trombetta d’Albenga, however they are hard to find outside of Liguria, so we prepared this dish both with a trombetta and with a young normal zucchini. The trombetta is firmer and its taste creamier, nevertheless in both cases it’s a healthy, very tasty, vegetarian starter, one to share and enjoy with friends. It’s crunchy, salty, full of flavours, soft and slightly bitter.

Wine Pairing

The most popular grape in Liguria is Vermentino, which is used to produce white wines. Don’t worry if you can’t find a wine made with vermentino. In general a glass of rosé or white wine will be nice with the zucchini, provided the wine is fresh, with a touch of acidity and notes of citrus or green apples.

What You Need

  • One Trombetta or Young Zucchini
  • Breadcrumbs or Panko
  • Dried Oregano
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Wash and slice the vegetable. If using a zucchini, drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for two hours, allowing for the zucchini to lose water and become firm. Best way to do this, is by putting the zucchini in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl. Wash the zucchini.
If the dried oregano is not very fine, then use a kitchen knife to make the dried leaves smaller. Mix breadcrumbs or panko with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Oregano. Heat a non-stick pan with olive oil. Coat the slices of zucchini with the mixture and fry quickly until golden. When ready, leave for a minute or two and serve the trombetta warm.

Château de Bellet

The Riviera is a much-loved coast, with wonderful cities such as Genoa and Nice, and touristic hot spots such as Saint Tropez and Portofino. Blue seas, mild climate, culture (the film festival of Cannes), art (Léger, Picasso, Cocteau, Miró, Niki de Saint Phalle) and everything else you can dream of. Go to the beach, tour the hilly mountains and of course, visit the beautiful gardens and enjoy local food and wine. Taste Taggiasca olives, pesto, socca, tourte de blettes, merda de can, spumante.

The French part of the region is well known for its flavourful rosé wines. Well known wines such as Domaine Ott, wines from Cassis and Bandol, or more affordable wines from the Var region. In general the rosé wines are pale, fresh, fruity and delicate. Ideal for lunch, accompanying Fruits de Mer or pissaladière. Amongst the most popular grapes in the Provence are grenache, cinsault, syrah, mourvèdre and tibouren.

Bellet

Not far from the city of Nice you’ll find a relatively small and isolated wine area, named after the village of Saint Roman de Bellet. We had the pleasure of visiting Château de Bellet, a winery that was founded in the 18th century. We walked around the vineyard and enjoyed the view, from snowy mountains to the Mediterranean. The vineyard close to the tasting room (an old chapel) showcases special grapes such as Rolle (also known as Vermentino), Braquet and Folle Noire. Did we mention all wines are organic?

We especially enjoyed the red wine from Château de Bellet. The wine is dark, ruby red, with aromas of berries and cherries. Elegant, fresh, balanced and with soft tannins.
Some wines from the Provence suggest a flavour called garrigue. The term refers to a shrubby vegetation with plants such as thyme, lavender, rosemary, heather and kermes oak, a vegetation that is very common in the Mediterranean hills and mountains.
Next time you sip a glass of Côtes de Provence, remember to think of garrigue and see if you recognise it!

Food Pairing

We combined our glass of Château de Bellet with lamb chops (thyme, garlic) and fried (waxy) potatoes.

What You Need

  • Lamb Chops
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Potato (we used Agata)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Use a fork to pinch small holes in the potato. Transfer to the microwave and set to 4 minutes on full power, depending on the size and shape of the potatoes. Let cool.
Fry the chops for a few minutes in olive oil until beatifully golden-brown. Reduce heat, wrap the chops in aluminium foil and add thyme and roughly chopped garlic to the pan.
In parallel slice the potato lengthwise in 4 and fry the potatoes in olive oil and butter until the potato is crispy and golden. Serve with freshly grounded black pepper.

Green Gnocchi

We love eating Gnocchi, preferably as a starter with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Tasty and rich. Perhaps sometimes a bit too rich and too filling, especially the ones you can buy at your local shop or supermarket. Therefore it’s best is to make your own gnocchi, which is not too difficult, just time consuming.

We were pleasantly surprised when we found Green Gnocchi in Nice (France), made with Swiss Chard. The chopped leaves help improve the structure of the Gnocchi and add complexity and freshness to the dish. Yummy!

So all is good? Well, the name is a bit odd, to say the least. This Niçoise speciality is called Merda de Can, which translates into something from a dog – not very pleasant and certainly not something you want to eat. Very odd.

The name shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it. Merda de Can with Sage Butter is truly delicious.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Merda de Can with a glass of Saint Roman Sable de Camargue Rosé. In general you’re looking for a well-balanced, fresh wine. Given the butter and sage sauce you could serve a Chardonnay or perhaps an Italian white wine such as Gavi di Gavi or Soave

What You Need for 8 starters

  • For the Merda de Can 
    • 600 Grams of Starchy Potatoes
    • 300 Grams of Swiss Chard, Spinach or Water Spinach (cleaned and ready to use)
    • Olive Oil
    • Nutmeg
    • 1 Egg
    • All Purpose Flour
  • For the Sauce
    • Butter
    • Sage
  • Parmesan Cheese or (preferred) Vacherin de Fribourgeois)

What You Do

Best is to follow the instructions by a Niçoise chef. 
Or prepare gnocchi as you would normally. Quickly fry the leaves in olive oil, remove from the pan, chop finely and drain. Add to the potato mixture, add the beaten egg, add freshly grated nutmeg and combine. Now start adding flour until you have the right consistency. You’re looking for a flexible, non-sticky dough. Flour your hands and start making short, small, thin, sausage like pasta. (Perhaps this is the moment to think about a small dog. Or perhaps not.) Don’t worry about the shape, it’s okay if they are not very similar. Devein the sage leaves. Warm butter in a pan and add the sage. In parallel heat a generous amount of water. Add the pasta to the boiling water and wait until the pasta surfaces. Remove from the water, add the pasta to the pan with sage butter, coat the pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

PS

The Merda de Can we enjoyed was bought at a local Niçoise shop and had a more elegant shape.

Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu
Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu

Chervil (Pan-) Cakes

Maastricht is one of the Netherlands most beautiful cities. It’s located in the very south of the country, on both sides of the river Maas. It’s close to Germany (Aachen, Aix-La-Chapelle is only 30 km) and the Belgian city of Liège (25 km). Its culture and cuisine are strongly influenced by France. Maastricht is well known for its excellent local wines (Hoeve Nekum, Apostelhoeve), the hilly countryside and its ceramic.

In 1737 Marie Michon was born in Maastricht. In 1768 she married Albert de Milly. Both families were related to Hugenoten: protestant people who escaped from persecution in France because of their religion and moved (in this case) to the Netherlands in 1685. One of her daughters was Thérèse Elisabeth de Milly, who married the German Baron Friedrich Ludwich Behr in 1792. Clearly a rich and influential family. Mother and daughter wrote down recipes and practical households tips. There are two ‘cahiers’, known under the title ‘Natuurlijk Kookboek van Beproefde en Ondervonden Echte Recepten voor een Zindelijk Huijshouden’. The title would translate into something like ‘Natural Cookbook of Tried-and-Tested Real Recipes for a Proper and Clean Household’. In 2008 44 recipes were included in a book written by Marleen Willebrands.

In the Historisch Kookboek Vega written by Manon Henzen we noticed a recipe for chervil (pan-) cakes, based on one of the recipes of Marie Michon and Thérèse Elisabeth de Milly. Chervil, although its taste is delicate, was considered to be a very powerful and useful herb. It relieved symptoms of gout, high blood pressure, gas, eczema etcetera. The original recipe suggest frying the pancakes per 3. Which made us think of the traditional Dutch dish ‘drie in de pan’. These are small pancakes made with flour, yeast, eggs, milk and (optional) raisins. Fried per three, indeed.

The dough of the chervil pancakes is a combination of eggs, all-purpose flour, bread crumbs, melted butter, yeast, sugar and cinnamon. Add lots of chopped chervil, allow to rest and fry in a pan. We also added chopped parsley and chives.
The pancakes looked very nice and inviting. When eating them we were slightly disappointed (a bit heavy, a bit dry). Perhaps we should have thought about a sauce?

More information (Dutch only) about the original recipes from 1785 can be found on the website of DBNL.

Chervil (Pan-) Cakes
Chervil (Pan-) Cakes ©cadwu

Inari Sushi

Sushi has become such a mainstream product! We all seem to enjoy Nigiri (sushi rice topped with fish or egg, sometimes held together with a ribbon of nori), Maki (rice and stuffing rolled in nori), Uramaki (as maki but with rice on the outside), Temaki (in the shape of a cone) and Oshi (pressed rice, in the shape of a block).

Inari and Nare sushi are clearly the less known kinds of sushi.
Nare Sushi is made with fish and is fermented for 6 months. Impossible to buy where we live.

Inari Sushi is made with a pouch of deep-fried tofu (inari age) and sushi rice, originally without a topping. The tofu pouch is fried in oil, then cooked in water to remove excess oil, then cooked in dashi with soya, squeezed to remove most of the cooking liquid and then stuffed with hand-warm sushi rice. Fortunately, the pouches you can buy are ready to be stuffed, so making inari sushi is not too much work. The challenge is of course in cooking the rice and turning it into shari (the vinegar seasoned rice that is the key to tasty sushi). Another challenge is eating Inari Sushi because the pouches tend to be rather oversized.

The art of cooking rice, regardless if you make risotto or sushi, starts with the right rice. Cutting corners will lead to a disappointing result. You need short grain Japonica rice (uruchimai) when making sushi.

Drink Pairing

A dry, cold, crisp sake will be very nice with your Inari Sushi.

Choosing the right wine is not straightforward. You could think of a sparkling wine (great with the sweetness of the sushi), for instance a prosecco from Italy. We would suggest a prosecco produced by Corvezzo. An affordable, vegan, organic wine with just a touch of sweetness.

Another approach is to serve a sweeter wine, for instance a glass of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh from the Southwest of France. Wine that comes with aromas of fruit and honey. The wine has freshness and is well balanced.

What You Need

  • Tofu Pouches
  • Sushi Rice
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • (optional) Topping

What You Do

Gently wash the rice, until the water is clear. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package but use less water. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Make awasezu by adding some salt and sugar to the vinegar. If it doesn’t dissolve, heat the mixture gently.
Now transfer the rice to a low bowl (a hangiri) and add the vinegar to the rice. After 30 seconds use a broad spoon (or spatula) to combine the rice and the vinegar. This is the moment to use a fan. According to some this is to cool the rice, according to others it should be done to remove excess vinegar. Leave the rice to rest at room temperature under a damp cloth for one hour.
Depending on the package you may want to wash or squeeze the pouches. Stuff them with rice, serve on a plate with the open side down and enjoy your traditional Inari Sushi.
We love to combine the rice with some sliced kimchi, stuff the pouch and top it with fish eggs.

PS

Ratios are very important when preparing shari. We suggest using the following:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water (or a bit less, depending on the instructions)
  • 30 cc of rice vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ – 1 tablespoon of sugar (depending on your taste)