Mapo Tofu (vegetarian)

The first time we ordered Mapo Tofu we naively expected it to be a vegetarian dish. It isn’t but we were immediately impressed by the aromas and flavours. The Sichuan pepper gives the dish a floral, citrusy touch. The combination of the silky, soft tofu with the ground pork and the scallions is very rich. It allows for spiciness, but it’s also fine to be modest with the Chili Bean Sauce.

A wonderful, heart-warming dish, but not vegetarian. We replaced the meat with mushrooms (shiitake turned out to be the best choice) and we think it’s a lighter, equally tasty but different, version of Mapo Tofu.

Sichuan pepper is not related to black pepper or chili. It’s actually not spicy. It causes a pleasant numbing sensation on your tongue and lips, for a few minutes only, which is surprisingly nice when eating spicy food. We recommend lightly toasting the peppers before grinding or crushing them.

Drink Pairing

Jasmine tea is an obvious choice. It has a nice aroma and floral taste. The combination with the spices and the Sichuan pepper works really well.

What You Need

  • 250 grams of mixed Mushrooms (with lots of Shiitake)
  • 300 grams of Silken Tofu
  • 200 ml Vegetarian Stock
  • 2 tablespoons light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Mirin
  • 3 teaspoons Sesame Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 small Onion
  • 2 Scallions
  • 3 teaspoons of chopped Fresh Ginger
  • ½ -1 tablespoon Chili Bean Sauce (Douban, Toban-Djan)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Black Bean Sauce (Douchi)
  • 1 teaspoon of Sichuan Pepper
  • Oil
  • Cornstarch

What You Do

Toast the Sichuan peppers lightly in a non-stick pan. Remove the peppers from the pan and let cool. Chop the shallot, the garlic and the fresh ginger. Slice the scallions and separate the white from the green. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Slice the tofu and make cubes (2 cm, 1 inch). Warm the stock. Add oil to the pan and fry the mushrooms. After a few minutes, add soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil. Combine and leave to simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven at 50 °C or 120 °F. Grind the Sichuan peppers coarsely.
Add oil to the pan. Fry the white part of the scallions, the onion, the garlic and the ginger. Mix. Add the chili bean sauce and fry. Enjoy the aromas! Add half of the grounded Sichuan pepper. Add the stock, the tofu, the mushrooms and the black bean sauce. Use a spatula to mix. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes or so until the sauce is nicely reduced and the flavours mixed. In the meantime, finely crush the remaining Sichuan pepper. Use cornstarch to create the right consistency. Just before serving sprinkle with Sichuan pepper and the green of the scallions.

Side Dish

Serving Mapo Tofu with rice is a great idea. We enjoyed it with some Bok Choy (Pak Choi) simmered in Oyster Sauce.

What You Need

What You Do

Wash and slice the bok choy. Separate the green from the white. Fry the white of the bok choy in olive oil for a few minutes. Then add Thai oyster Sauce and water. Taste and add some soy sauce. Leave for a few minutes. Adjust by adding Thai oyster sauce or soy sauce. Just before serving add the green of the bok choy and mix.

Mapo Tofu (Vegetarian) ©cadwu
Mapo Tofu (Vegetarian) ©cadwu

Salad of Small Artichokes

The season of artichokes varies depending on the variety and where you are based. In Italy it’s from mid-winter until early spring, in other countries from March to June, or September and October. And in other countries they peak in August. Best is to decide based on quality and price. An artichoke should feel heavy, look fresh and the leaves should be closed. If the leaves are wide open, the artichoke is older and it could be dry with lots of choke (the hairs) and dry inner leaves.

Don’t cook artichokes in boiling water. They must cook for 45+ minutes and during the long cooking process they will lose most of their flavour. Best is to steam artichokes.

Serve large artichokes as a relaxing starter or use them to make Artichoke Barigoule or a Pie. We use smaller ones to make a salad.  You can serve it to accompany an aperitif, or with some bread as a starter. Make sure you have plenty of dressing!

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is enhanced, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj Furmint 2019. This dry, white wine made from the well-known Hungarian Furmint grape is fresh, clean and slightly floral. It supports the Salad of Artichokes beautifully.

What You Need

  • 6 small Artichokes
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Garlic
  • Thyme
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Remove the stem of the artichokes and steam the artichokes for 45 – 60 minutes, depending on the size. Remove and let cool. Peel of the first layers of the outer leaves. Make the dressing by turning the mustard and the crushed garlic into a smooth paste. Then gently add the other ingredients and whisk well to make it really smooth, thick dressing. Cut the artichokes in 6 or 8 parts. Add to the dressing, mix well, coating all artichokes. Sprinkle lots of thyme and mix again. Put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Mix again, taste, add some more thyme and serve!

Potato and Truffle Purée

The combination of potatoes and truffle is an interesting one. Because one is the opposite of the other in terms of price and availability? Because both grow underground?

Dutch chef John Halvemaan (also winner of the prestigious Johannes van Dam prize) created a no doubt delicious combination, using butter, veal stock, parsley and cooked bacon. Also very tasty: a recipe for a gratin with crème fraîche and eggs and a recipe by chef Claude Deligne (Le Taillevent in Paris) with foie gras. All far too complex for us, so we prepared a very rich and tasty potato purée with lots of truffle.

If you look for recipes with potatoes and truffle, you will find suggestions using truffle oil. It’s not the real thing, however, if you find quality truffle oil and use only a little bit, your purée will be yummy. The sad news is that some (most?) truffle oil comes with 2,4-dithiapentane, a synthetically produced, aromatic molecule. Producers add this because it gives the impression that the oil contains truffle. Unfortunately, the flavours of 2,4-dithiapentane are not even close to the aromas and taste of a real truffle.

In this case you have to spend some money on both the truffle and the potatoes.

We combined our purée with an excellent rib eye and served it with its own jus and the purée.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed a glass of Camino de Caza Almansa Garnacha Tintorera-Monastrell 2020. An organic red wine produced by Bodegas Piqueras and made grapes from the Almansa region in Spain. It’s a full-bodied wine with soft tannins and a hint of vanilla and chocolate. In general, you’re looking for a smooth wine with notes of red fruit and oak, medium acidity and with a long, dry finish. One that goes very well with for instance red meat and game (hare, deer).

What You Need

  • Potatoes
  • Butter
  • Egg Yolk
  • Cream
  • Milk
  • Salt
  • Winter Truffle

What You Do

Make your favourite purée! Cook the potatoes until ready (meaning: until the blade of a knife inserted in the potato goes easily through it). Drain. Mash with a fork, add cold butter, combine, add warm milk and/or cream and use a spatula to get the right consistency. You could add a beaten egg yolk (also because eggs and truffle work together wonderfully). Add salt to taste. Perhaps some white pepper. Grate the truffle and add half of it to the purée. The taste of a winter truffle benefits from the warmth of the purée. Just before serving add the remaining truffle.

Potato and Truffle Purée ©cadwu
Potato and Truffle Purée ©cadwu

Tiramisù

Such a simple, tasty, fairly easy to make dessert. No oven needed and the result is always a pleasure to serve. We rely on the recipe of an expert, in our case Dutch pastry chef Cees Holtkamp. Renowned for his excellent patisserie and his truly delicious croquettes. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the shop in Amsterdam, please do so.

After his retirement he started working on his book Dutch Pastry (De Banketbakker in Dutch). The recipes are very clearly written and easy to follow. One of the remarkable aspects of this book is that he prepared all pies, cookies, doughs etcetera in his own home kitchen with basic home cook utensils.

If you want to see his amazing technique and his gently style of creating wonderful patisserie, then visit FoodTube and enjoy how chef Cees Holtkamp and his granddaughter Stella Meijles prepare Pavlova, Black Forest Cake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Saint Honoré, Cheese Butterflies, Tiramisù and many more.

Dutch Pastry is available via the usual channels or via the publisher for 20 euro.

Liqueur

Let’s go back to the Tiramisù. It’s all about eggs, mascarpone, sugar, ladyfingers (savoiarde, sponge fingers or boudoirs) coffee and cocoa powder. Most recipes suggest adding a liqueur to the coffee, for instance rum, cognac, amaretto or marsala. Obviously, we want to add an Italian liqueur to our Tiramisù, so perhaps marsala? This is a fortified wine from Sicily, dry or sweet. A good choice but for some reason the idea of an almond based liqueur is tempting, perhaps because of its slight bitterness in combination with the coffee and the cocoa?

Unfortunately, most amaretto’s taste nasty and artificial. We decided to spend a bit more money and bought a bottle of amaretto produced by Lorenzo Inga. The distillery is located near Gavi, a city known for its amaretti cookies. They produce grappa, bitters and liqueurs such as sambuca and limoncello. Their amaretto is all about almonds. It has a soft structure with a sweet and full mouth feeling. We added it to our Tiramisù and the result was delicious.

Leftovers

The next day we noticed that we had some leftover ladyfingers and also some coffee-amaretto mixture. Why not combine them with whipped double cream and perhaps some vanilla sugar? Would that work? We followed the same approach and stored it in the refrigerator for half a day. We were pleasantly surprised!

  • Tiramisù ©cadwu
  • Amaretto Originale Lorenzo Inga
  • Cees Holtkamp

Mushroom Fricassee

A few weeks ago, we wrote about History on Our Plate (2019) written by food historian and award-winning author Peter G. Rose. She writes about America’s Dutch past and the influence of the Dutch settlers on today’s American food. She explains how the founders of New Netherland (1609 – 1664, currently the states of New York, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey) brought Dutch recipes, tools, herbs and fruit to the US. Most recipes are based on publications like Een Notabel Boecxken van Cokeryen (a Notable Little Book of Cookery, 1514) and the 13thcentury publication Le Viandier de Taillevent. Peter Rose includes both the original and a modern version, allowing you to recreate food from the 17th century. 

Two Recipes

We were intrigued by a recipe for Mushroom Quiche without a Crust that made us think of a savoury clafoutis. We were also intrigued by another mushroom recipe, called Mushroom Fricassee, partly because of the unusual combination of eggs, mushrooms, onion, marjoram, thyme, orange juice, sherry, nutmeg and (optional) beef juice. The recipe is included in a manuscript written by Anne Stevenson Van Cortlandt (1774- 1821). She was married to Pierre Van Cortlandt, a well-known influential family with Dutch origins. Anne Stevenson was born in Albany, a city linked to Dutch settlers until the British took over in 1664.
We tried this imaginative combination of ingredients and prepared an omelette. The result was tasty and beautifully balanced, with a nice twist thanks to the herbs, sherry and orange juice. Peter Rose suggests preparing it like scrambled eggs, which is probably a better idea. Turning the mixture into an omelette was a bit of a challenge.
You’ll find a detailed recipe in History on Our Plate.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Mushroom Fricassee with a glass of Conde Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco Rioja DOCa 2020, produced by Bodegas Valdemar. Its colour is slightly yellow with greenish tones. The wine has notes of tropical fruit (pineapple) and its taste is fresh and pleasantly persistent. A beautiful, unoaked white Rioja made with 100% tempranillo blanco grapes.
In general, you’re looking for a lean, dry, slightly fruity white wine with notes of lemon, melon and/or pineapple, preferably with a long finish.

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$.

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 fricassee, 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.

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.