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Archive for the ‘Cooked’ Category

I made it out to Berlin recently to visit friends.  I thought that, without a doubt, I would walk away with some new wonderful currywurst addiction.  Instead, I fell in love with Kartoffelsalat, or German potato salad, which I picked up as a side dish one damp and chilly afternoon at Curry 36, an apparently famous (according to my travel buddy and Lonely Planet) currywurst stand under a city rail overpass.   (The currywurst was okay, too, but nothing in comparison.)  After that, it seemed like Kartoffelsalat existed everywhere I went.  There are a few different kinds, of course, Germany being a relatively large country and made up of various regions that like to claim cultural independence from each other (try referring to a Bavarian as German and you’ll see what I mean).

Anyways, this particular potato salad was served cold (or Kalter), as opposed to this type of hot German potato salad.  This salad had a light but slightly creamy sauce to it, and my friends and I couldn’t figure out exactly how that was done. Yes, it could have been mayonnaise, and according to the internet it was mayonnaise. But it didn’t taste like mayonnaise.

I looked high and low on the internet but I just couldn’t find exactly what I had fallen in love with.  So I had to improvise. One friend had suggested perhaps sour cream–and that got me thinking.

I took the basic recipe of peeled and cooked potatoes, marinated in onions and a little bit of the water they were boiled in, mixed with vinegar, mustard and seasoning.  Having recently become ridiculously attached to creme fraiche (which is related to sour cream), I thought this would be the perfect addition to add the slightly sour, slightly tangy, creamy texture to the salad that I was looking for.  It came out great!! I also added things not mentioned in the recipes I was looking at, but that had made such a big difference in Berlin: fine rings of radishes, and sometimes green onions and chives, depending on the place. So delicious!

For the dill haters out there, just know that I usually don’t like dill either, but just a little bit of fresh chopped dillweed does add an almost summery quality to the salad.

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 3 hours, including skinning and boiling the potatoes beforehand, and 2 hours of marinating.

Servings:  6-8.

2 lbs. (1 kilo) peeled and boiled medium potatoes

1/2 onion, sliced thin into strings

1/2 lb. (approx. 200 g) radishes (depending on how strong an influence you want–I love radishes), sliced very thin

2-3 tsp fresh dill, chopped

2 tsp fresh green onions (optional), chopped

2 tsp fresh chives (optional), chopped

a few dollops of creme fraiche (approx 3 Tbsp, depending on your preference)

1 Tbsp mustard (more if you really love mustard)

salt to taste

Okay, I cheated once again and used vacuum-sealed, pre-boiled, pre-skinned potatoes, although in this case I do think it would be better to use fresh potatoes because you want to save some of the water in which they’re boiled.  Also, the potatoes in Berlin were a tiny bit firmer than the usual typical American potato salad, and the pre-boiled ones were too soft for my preference.

Chop up the onion into thin strips, slice the potato into disks, mix these in a large bowl and pour a small amount (1/4 cup or less) of the water the potatoes were boiled in (if you have it) over the mixture.  Cover and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

After marinating, add vinegar and mustard.  Supposedly the texture would be “creamy” as-is, according to every internet recipe I saw, but it was nothing like what I had in Berlin.  So, I decided to add a few dollops of creme fraiche, which immediately thinned out upon contact with the water, mustard, and vinegar.  That definitely did the trick!

Nice and creamy potatoes, after much ado!

Add in the dill, radishes, green onions, and chives.  You’re ready to go!  Enjoy!

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I love cheesy potatoes au gratin, and I am especially a big fan of Betty Crocker boxed potatoes au gratin, having grown up on them. But I figured there had to be a way to make potatoes au gratin out of real, fresh potatoes and a block of cheese. I poked around on the internet and there are countless recipes, some of them adding onions, some adding flour. But I wanted to go simple, if only to prove the point that it really doesn’t take that much to make a satisfying side dish. This is what I came up with:

Take that, Betty!

Skill Level: EASY
Preparation time: About 25-30 minutes, including skinning and boiling the potatoes beforehand.
Cooking time: About 15 minutes.
Servings: 6 -8.

1 pound of potatoes (the smaller they are, the quicker they’ll cook)
Block of cheddar cheese (quarter pound ought to be sufficient)
Cream
Bread crumbs
Olive oil (optional)
Salt
2 Tbsp butter (optional)

Skin and boil potatoes. I actually cheated and used a vacuum-sealed pack of skinned and pre-cooked baby potatoes (although I did need to rinse off the ascorbic acid to separate the potatoes–ascorbic acid is a form of Vitamin C often used as an antioxidant to prevent produce from browning).

Set the cooked potatoes in lukewarm or slightly cool water to cool them down to the touch, if necessary.  Then slice the potatoes into thin discs. Lay out in a casserole dish. In a small pot, mix over low heat a small dollop of olive oil, and enough cream to melt the block of cheese, which should be cut up into small pieces to help speed up the melting process, stirring constantly. Add butter if desired. Salt to taste.

Pour cheese-cream mixture over potatoes so that all potatoes are covered. Take a couple of small handfuls of bread crumbs and lightly dust over potatoes. Bake at 450˚F (250˚C) for 10-15 minutes or until the tops of the potatoes are browned. Remove and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

This dish was a surprisingly simple hit with my friends, and a nice option if you have to throw something together quickly but only have a few ingredients! If you have more time and more ingredients, feel free to add additional spices, some flour to thicken the sauce, onions, chopped peppers, or whatever you prefer!

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Before summer gets here for those of us above the equator, I wanted to get out one recipe I picked up while living in Armenia.

Armenia is situated high atop the Armenian Plateau in the South Caucasus, with less than 15% arable land throughout the entire tiny country.  What few forests remain are quickly disappearing due mainly to illegal logging.  So the available produce is not nearly as plentiful as that in, say, the Mediterranean.  But in this case, less is more.  With only a handful of ingredients, they make some kickass foods.

The stew is wildly popular there, although the name remains in Turkish, and literally means “[It was so good] the Imam fainted.”  Well, I have to agree, this is some seriously delicious vegetable stew.  The easiest thing ever to make.  Completely vegan.

Armenian/Turkish Imam Bayildi (Stewed vegetables, usually served with bread)

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 20-25 minutes.

Cooking time:  About 20 minutes.

Servings: 8 as a side dish or appetizer; 4 as a meal.

8 medium tomatoes, chopped into quarters

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped into thin strings

2-3 Japanese eggplants (alternative: 1 American eggplant), chopped into small squares for more even cooking

1 pale green bell pepper (alternative: 1 mild-flavored orange, yellow or red bell pepper–NOT American dark green bell pepper), chopped into thick strings

Olive oil

Salt

In a 2 qt. pot or pan, heat up a thick layer of olive oil with a few teaspoons of salt.  Once heated, add the onions, stirring frequently so as not to singe them.  Once the onions begin to soften when stirred, add the garlic.  After 5-10 minutes, after the onions and garlic have caramelized (or turned clear and soft), add the tomatoes.  The water from the tomatoes should begin to make a broth of sorts for the rest of the vegetables to cook in.  Add the eggplants and the bell pepper.  Cover and stir occasionally.  Add oil as needed to achieve a stew-like consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Let cook for about 10 minutes or until all the vegetables have “melted” into the tomato juice and become soft.  Serve hot.  In Armenia the dish is served with a large piece of bread to sop up the juices; when in the U.S. I usually use a baguette from the supermarket.

Even if you don’t have 3 other people to feed, this dish makes a fantastic leftover snack.  I usually live alone and I have found that one pot usually goes pretty fast, even when it’s just me.  (Perhaps especially because it’s just me.)

Imam bayildi is extremely satisfying, especially on a cold day.  It can be served as a side dish or appetizer, or as a full meal.  When I’ve brought this dish over neighbors’ houses and forgot the bread, we found it was quite tasty with spiral pasta as well.  Experiment and have fun with it!

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