Parasol Mushrooms alla Milanese

A Personal Favourite

The Parasol Mushroom is a fairly common mushroom in many countries. It is very tasty and easy to prepare. It has a beautiful juicy and meaty texture and its flavour is delicate with a touch of lemon. Simply fry the caps alla Milanese or stuff young parasol mushrooms with onion, sage or minced meat.

Yesterday’s Bread

Cotoletta alla Milanese and Wiener Schnitzel are based on a similar concept: breaded and pan fried thin slices of veal or pork, served with a slice of lemon. A very special variation is Cotoletta di vitella di latte alla Milanese, as described in 1891 by Pelligrino Artusi (1820-1911) in his book La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well). Before breading the meat Mr. Artusi coats one side of the veal with a mixture of finely chopped fat ham, parsley, grated Parmesan cheese and truffle. Delicious no doubt!

The key to an excellent Alla Milanese are the breadcrumbs. Make your own breadcrumbs with yesterday’s bread and compare the result with the cardboard crumbs you can buy. Flavour! Texture!

Wine Pairing

A fresh, not too complex white wine will be great with the fried parasol mushrooms. Soave, Burgundy, Loire: all good.

What You Need

  • 100 grams of Parasol Mushrooms
  • One Egg
  • Three Slices of Yesterday’s Bread
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Begin by making the breadcrumbs. Toast the slices of bread and let cool. Cut in smaller bits and then using a cutter or blender make the crumbs. Whisk the egg. Feel free to add some water if you need more volume. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Cut the caps in two if the mushroom is young. Make sure your pan is hot, add the oil, the butter and start breading and frying. Add black pepper and finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately on a warm plate.

Tourte de Blette

A Forgotten Vegetable

For many years Chard was a popular and cheap vegetable. It has many names, including Bietola (Italy), Blette, Bléa (France), Acelga (Spain), Krautstiel, Stielmangold, Mangold (Germany, Switzerland), Snijbiet (the Netherlands) and also Swiss Chard, Leaf Beet, Silver Beet, Spinach Beet and Seakale Beet.
Many names equals many recipes and easy to buy? Not at all. Nowadays it’s hard to find chard and the number of recipes is limited. According to Dutch Food Critic and Culinary Legend Johannes van Dam the chard leaves wither quickly, making it a difficult product for supermarkets. The image of chard is not positive: ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ for the stems for instance. Another reason is probably the fact that the leaves require a different preparation than the stems.
Johannes van Dam gives a number of recipes, including what he refers to as the primal recipe from Italy for Tourte de Blette and the recipe for Bledes amb panses I pinyons from Menorca.

Tourte de Blette

When in Nice we very much enjoyed our Tourte de Blette, locally known as Tourta de Bléa. It comes in two varieties: sweet and savoury. If you want to prepare the sweet one, please visit the inspiring Variations Gourmandes.

The crust of the Tourte de Blette is not straightforward. In most cases it’s a combination of flour, water, butter (or olive oil) and eggs. We were inspired by a dear friend who bases her Tourte on the Italian Torta Verde del Ponente Ligure. This is a very similar dish with zucchini, chard, basil, sage, rise, onion, Grana Padano or Parmesan and eggs. The dough of the Torta Verde is easy to work with and the result is both tasty and crunchy.

Back to the main ingredient of the Tourte de Blette: the chard. We found it on the Amsterdam Albert Cuyp market but were shocked by the price, so we had to look for an alternative. We decided not to use normal spinach because it doesn’t have the right structure. We choose water spinach (also know as Kang Koen or Ong Choy): a very popular vegetable in Asia. The leaves have lots of structure and the (hollow) stems are tasty and crunchy.

Wine Pairing

Obviously a wine from the region, for instance a Côtes de Provence (preferably rosé) or a more expensive Bellet Blanc.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 200 gram of Flour
    • 100 gram of Water
    • 20 gram of Olive Oil
    • 2,5 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 500 gram of Water Spinach
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 50 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Nutmeg
    • 75 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the leaves from the stem and chop half of the stems. Best is to have the stem slices the size of cooked rice. Same for the shallot. Warm a large heavy skillet, gently fry the shallot. After 10 minutes add the chopped stems. Leave for 5 minutes and then add the leaves. Cook for a few minutes until done. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Slice the leaves using a kitchen knife. Whisk the two eggs. Combine the vegetables, the egg, the rice and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Generously add freshly grated nutmeg.
Cut the dough in two, one part slightly bigger than the other. The bigger part will be the bottom, the smaller part the top. Roll out the bigger one with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 22 cm or 9 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the first disk in the baking form, add filling and close with the second disk of dough. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Make holes in the top, allowing for the steam to escape. Transfer to the oven for 40 – 50 minutes on 180˚ – 200˚ Celsius or 355˚ – 390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the tourte from the oven, brush the top with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the crust. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

Cod with Kimizu Sauce

Fashion

Isn’t it interesting how our preferences for aromas and flavours change over time, influenced of course by producers, restaurants and chefs. In general we prefer dry white wine, we think a ragout made of pied de moutons, morels, Comté, oranges, bread crumbs and samphire is really intriguing and why not serve tea with your main dish?
Years ago we probably would have loved poached cod with Hollandaise Sauce and a small carrot sautéed in butter accompanied by a glass of Muscadet. But not today. No poached fish and no soft buttery carrots.
Fashion is about change; not improvement.

Let’s revisit the fish with Hollandaise Sauce and give it a ‘modern’ twist: we very gently fry the fish and serve it with a delightful Kimizu.

We mentioned Kimizu earlier when we wrote about White Asparagus. In this case we will make the sauce lighter by adding extra water. It’s wonderful to see and feel the consistency of the Kimizu in combination with the soft, opaque fish.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our fish with a glass of Chardonnay, produced by Antonin Rodet. The wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes. Its aromas made us think of peach. It has clear floral notes. The taste is rich, with flavours of ripe fruit, subtle oak  and minerality.
In general we would suggest a chardonnay with a little oak and a long finish.

What You Need

  • For the Fish
    • Fresh Cod
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • White Pepper
  • For the Kimizu
    • 2 Egg Yolks
    • 1,5 tablespoon of Rice Vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons of Mirin
    • 2 tablespoons of Water

What You Do

Warm a non-stick frying pan. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil and butter and then place the pan over medium-high heat. Gently fry until nearly done. Best would be to buy tail end with the skin on, allowing you to fry the fish on its skin. Turn it for a few seconds, allowing for a light golden colour. The fish is ready when the flesh has become opaque.
In parallel whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar, the mirin and the water. Whisk well. Now set your microwave to 90 seconds and 30% power. Give the mixture 10 seconds and whisk, Repeat this with 5 seconds of warmth followed by whisking. You will notice the change in the consistency. Depending on the size of the eggs, the temperature of the ingredients and the quality of your microwave this may take something like 60 seconds.
Serve the fish with white pepper and a generous helping of kimizu. And if it makes you smile, please add some carrots, sautéed in butter!

Cod with Kimizu ©cadwu
Cod with Kimizu ©cadwu

Kohlrabi with Pickled Radish

A Vegetable to Remember

A cabbage or a turnip? Or both? Kohlrabi (or turnip-rooted cabbage, German cabbage) is a bit different from other vegetables. It’s the swollen stem of a plant. It looks like a turnip, but it actually grows above the ground, hence the leaves and the fairly thick skin. Kohlrabi is not the most popular of vegetables, probably because it requires rather long cooking and the taste is a bit bland. The good news is that when you prepare the kohlrabi in a hot oven, you will have an easy to peel and very tasty vegetable. Its flavour is sweet, it comes with a touch of spiciness and its texture is a real surprise: juicy and crunchy!
The thinly sliced and lightly coated kohlrabi in combination with pickled dried radish is a great vegetarian starter, one that you will remember.

Sake or Wine Pairing

Best choice is a mild, dry, floral sake but a glass of white wine is also a good idea. Go for a Pinot Blanc or a German Grauburgunder. In general a white wine with medium body and aromas of ripe white fruit and flowers.

What You Need

  • Kohlrabi
  • Light and Normal Soy sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Mirin
  • Pickled Dried Radish

What You Do

Set your oven to 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit. Transfer the kohlrabi to the oven without wrapping it in foil, so ‘as is’. Leave it for 60 minutes. Now turn your oven to 235˚ Celsius or 455˚ Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until the kohlrabi is slightly charred (see picture). Let cool, transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Start making the dressing by adding light soy sauce to a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of mirin and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. We also add a teaspoon of normal soy sauce to give the dressing a bit more oomph. Remove the skin of the kohlrabi (be generous) and thinly slice the kohlrabi, either with a mandoline slicer or with a cheese slicer. Now it’s time to improve the dressing: combine small slices of kohlrabi with the dressing, taste and keep adjusting (soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar) until you’re happy. Coat each slice with the dressing, plate up and serve immediately with the chopped pickled dried radish.

Artichoke Salad

Love Your Artichoke

A beautiful flower and an intriguing ingredient. A large artichoke with some mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar makes for a wonderful, relaxing starter. The smaller ones are great when turned into a salad or when served with tagliatelle as a starter.
Steaming is the ideal way to prepare artichokes. The flavour remains intact and the leaves will become soft yet firm.
Don’t be tempted to buy preserved artichokes hearts. In most cases these are only about marinade, vinegar, sugar and unidentified spices. Whereas artichokes should be about taste and especially texture. It’s a thistle you’re eating and not something white and fluffy from a jar.
Key to this salad is the combination of artichokes and thyme. Lots of thyme! Enjoy the light, earthy and slightly bitter flavour of the artichokes in combination with the aromatic thyme.

Wine Pairing

You can serve this salad to accompany an aperitif, or with some bread as a starter.

What You Need

  • 6 small Artichokes
  • Olive Oil
  • (White Wine) Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Thyme
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Remove the stem of the artichokes and steam the artichokes for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove and let cool. Peel of the first layers of the outer leaves. Make the dressing by combining the oil and vinegar and then adding the mustard. Cut the artichokes in 6 or 8 parts. Add the dressing to the artichokes, mix well, making sure all artichokes are coated. Sprinkle lots of thyme and carefully mix again. Put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Mix again, taste, add black pepper and perhaps some more thyme and serve!

Moules Marinière

A Delicious Classic

Moules Marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Piri Piri and Mussels with Anise, served with crusted bread, with French Fries or just a glass of wine, as a starter or for lunch: mussels are great to combine. And did we mention delicious?
Preparing Moules Marinière is not difficult at all. Make sure you buy tasty mussels (we prefer small ones) and lots of tarragon and parsley. Don’t simply add the herbs; create a simple sauce. You want to coat the mussels with the powerful flavour of tarragon and parsley. A drop of Henri Bardouin’s award winning Pastis is recommended.

Wine Pairing

White wine of course: Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, perhaps Pinot Gris or Riesling. In general a fresh, dry white wine with medium acidity and fruit aromas like citrus. Mussels are very flexible, both in preparation and accompagnement.

What You Need

  • 1 kilo of Mussels
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Olive Oil
  • White Wine
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
  • Tarragon
  • Parsley
  • Pastis
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by finely chopping the shallot and the garlic. Take a large, heavy pan and heat the oil. Add the shallot and the garlic, cook for 5 minutes until soft and glazed. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. In parallel clean the mussels. Increase the heat to (nearly) maximum, add the mussels, close the lid and cook until all mussels are open; perhaps 4 minutes. Shake the pan during the cooking process or give the mussels a quick stir with a wooden spoon. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate and put in a luke warm oven. Discard the bouquet garni, add chopped parsley and tarragon, a splash of pastis, some black pepper and leave to simmer for 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer mussels to two warm (soup) plates and pour the sauce over the mussels.

Moules Mariniere ©cadwu
Moules Mariniere ©cadwu

Tagliatelle with Artichokes, Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese

The Joy of Artichokes

We’re true fans of artichokes. Although available throughout the year, we especially love them in Summer. They come with various structures and flavours, an interesting shape and a beautiful flower. Have you noticed that the heart and the leaves have a similar yet different taste?
Artichokes also come with a challenge: how to serve them in an elegant way? One way of serving the small ones is as a salad; another way is using them as an ingredient in a pasta dish.
Let’s talk briefly about Pancetta: this is cured and dried pork meat, so not smoked. You could replace it with traditional bacon, but be careful not to use something heavy oak smoked.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Italian Corvina from the Verona region. This is a fruity wine, think red fruit (strawberries, cherries), only a hint of acidity, not too much tannins. We bought a bottle from Torre del Falasco. Great buy!

What You Need

  • 4 Small Artichokes
  • 75 gram of Pancetta
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Thyme
  • 100 gram of Fresh Tagliatelle
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Steam or cook the small artichokes. Let them cool, peel them and cut of the upper half. Cut the remainder in 6 or 8 chunks. Cut the pancetta in slices. Take a large skillet and warm. Add some olive oil and glaze the pancetta. It’s not the idea to fry the meat, the fat should not melt, only glaze. Now add the thinly chopped garlic and warm until the garlic is slightly soft. This may take a few minutes so an occasional stir is required. Now add the artichokes and the thyme. Stir very gently because the idea is that the artichokes remain intact.
Cook the tagliatelle (probably 4 minutes) and drain but keep some of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese over the artichokes, stir, very gently, add one or two spoons of the cooking liquid, add more Parmesan cheese and more liquid. Now add some olive oil and the tagliattele. Check if this looks fine to you. If not add more liquid. Add a generous amount of black pepper. Serve on a warm plate with some extra Parmesan cheese.

Ajo Blanco

Tasty, Simple and Rich

The talent of keeping things simple: that’s very true for Spanish Almond Soup. It should consist of white almonds, water, old bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and perhaps a pinch of salt. And trust us, there is no need to add anything else. No cucumber, green apples, jalapeño, chicken stock, pepper, flowers, white grapes, milk, aioli, Balsamic vinegar, raisins, cream, yoghurt, pine nuts or melon. We love creativity, but the ingredients people suggest to brighten up Ajo Blanco, it’s amazing. Especially because there is no need to add anything to the original.

Blanc Manger

The use of almonds and almond milk to thicken liquid was well known in medieval times. In the classic Van Soeter Cokene (1971), professor Johanna Maria Van Winter describes four recipes for Blanc Manger, the oldest one (Blamensier) from Germany (14th century).  It contained white almonds, goat milk, chicken, lard, sugar and violets (for colouring). A similar dish was enjoyed by Royalty in England in the 15th century. Also from that century is Brouès d’Allemagne. It contained almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, onions, lard and many other ingredients making for a hearty dish. Blancmanger was also known in 15th century France, as a dish for the sick with almonds and sugar.

Ajo Blanco seems to have its origin in Roman time, others mention Moorish roots. The soup is linked to Málaga and Granada. Ajo Blanco survived and Blamensier became extinct. Perhaps because Ajo Blanco is tasty, simple and rich whereas Blamensier is rather tasteless with the consistency of porridge?

Gazpacho

Mention Ajo Blanco and someone will say ‘white gazpacho’. Because both are cold soups, because both are from Spain? We can’t think of any other reason, so please, please don’t even think about gazpacho when you serve Ajo Blanco.

What You Need

  • 70 gram White Almonds
  • 200 ml ice-cold Water
  • 30 gram old stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 medium Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 70 ml Olive Oil
  • 10 gram of Roasted Almonds

What You Do

Buy excellent almonds, so not the soft, bland ones from the supermarket. Start by very, very lightly roasting the white almonds in a dry non-stick pan. Let cool. Soak the bread for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the garlic. Using a heavy blender or food processor whizz the almonds, the garlic and some of the water until nearly smooth. Squeeze out the bread. Add bread and remaining water to the mixture. Continue blending. Add vinegar and salt. Check the mixture for taste and smoothness. It should be very smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! When happy with both smoothness and taste, slowly add olive oil with the blender running on low speed. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator for at least two hours. Also cool the bowls you want to use.
Just before serving crush some roasted almonds and sprinkle these on the soup.

Ajo Blanco © cadwu
Ajo Blanco © cadwu

Tamagoyaki (Japanese Omelette)

Rolled Omelette

Tamagoyaki is best described as a Japanese rolled omelette and it is often served for breakfast or included in a bento box. It’s made by rolling multiple thin layers of egg; let’s say the concept of a Swiss roll but with much thinner layers. Making Tamagoyaki requires years of practice and a special rectangular pan (a makiyakinabe) using chopsticks only. But we, as western cooks with little patience, we use a round small, non-stick pan and two spatulas. The result is very tasty and it will make you think of a real Tamagoyaki.

The ingredients are a bit of a puzzle. Eggs, soy sauce and mirin for sure. Other ingredients include sugar (for a sweet version), sake and dashi (for a savoury version called Dashimaki Tamago).

The technique of rolling thin layers of egg is a great way of making an omelette. Feel free to replace the Japanese ingredients with some chicken stock and finely grated Parmesan cheese. You will love it!

Wine Pairing

Tamagoyaki comes with some umami thanks to the dashi and a touch of sweetness. Enjoy with a sparkling wine, for instance a Crémant de Bourgogne. Our choice was a glass of Blanc de Blanc Brut made by Vitteaut Alberti. Its aromas are fresh and flowery; the flavours suggest honey and pear. You could also serve a dry Riesling or Sylvaner.
Serving sake is also a good idea; our choice would be a Ginjo-Shu because of its delicate and light flavour.

What You Need

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of (Light) Dashi
  • 1 Teaspoon of Mirin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Light Soy Sauce
  • Oil

What You Do

Heat a small non-stick pan (10 -15 centimetre) until warm but not hot. Whisk the eggs, add dashi and mirin. Use kitchen paper soaked with oil to coat the pan. Use a (small) sauce spoon to add a bit of the mixture. Make sure you can repeat this as often as possible, so it has to be a really thin layer of egg. When nearly set, roll it up and move to the side. Coat the pan with oil. Add some of the mixture, make sure it connects to the roll, wait until nearly set and roll it up. Repeat until the mixture is used up. The tamagoyaki should be yellow with perhaps a touch of golden brown.
When done, feel free to shape the tamagoyaki by rolling it in a bamboo sushi mat. Slice and serve, perhaps with some grated daikon on the side.

Avocado and Cucumber Soup

Something Extra

Preparing a chilled soup is more than simply combining and blending a few ingredients; it needs something extra, something that will give the soup a push, simply because it’s chilled and the aromas are not as present as when a soup is warm. For instance Gazpacho is not just a mixture of tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and red onion; it absolutely needs Jerez vinegar.
Cold soups also benefit from adding excellent olive oil just before serving. The olive oil will give that velvety, rich feel in your mouth.
Chilled avocado and cucumber soup also needs something extra. We add soft blue cheese (for instance Gorgonzola Dolce) and Dill. Lemon will bring the required acidity and Greek Yoghurt will enhance the texture.

What You Need

  • One Ripe Avocado
  • One Small Cucumber
  • Stock (Chicken, Veal or Vegetable)
  • Soft Blue Cheese
  • Fresh Dill
  • Lemon
  • Black Pepper
  • Greek Yoghurt
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Peel the cucumber and remove the seeds. Add the cucumber, avocado, stock, cheese and dill to your blender and mix. Now it’s a matter of tasting. Add a bit of lemon and black pepper. You may want to add more dill because it’s a fairly delicate herb. Once you’re happy with the taste, add some yoghurt and mix with a spoon. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool and integrate for at least 4 hours. In this case ‘integrate’ also means making sure the cucumber is not too present. Just before serving taste again and add some olive oil. Stir with a spoon. Serve in a cold soup plate and decorate with a sprig of dill.