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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

What Are You Smoking?

Gravlax

Gravlax

Salmon!

On a journey to Helinki, Finland, myMEGusta was reminded of how delicious and varied “preserved” salmon can be, in various guises.

The three best known are cold smoked (looks raw, tastes smoky, usually served sliced thin), hot smoked (looks cooked, also tastes smoky, usually served hot) and gravlax (marinated rather than smoked, raw, also usually served sliced thin).

Hot Smoked Salmon

Hot Smoked Salmon

One fabulous lunch was seasonal simplicity: Hot smoked salmon on bed of mashed potatoes, with leeks and morels. The smoky flavor of the extremely moist fish was a perfect complement to the vegetables. It is ubiquitous in Helsinki, although not so easy to find stateside, with the exception of Seattle. In this Scandinavian city, there are hot smoked fish stands in the markets, and even a lady selling potato cakes and smoked salmon from a boat.

Salmon and Potato Cake Lady

Salmon and Potato Cake Lady

Another took an entirely different turn to open sandwiches, one spicy crayfish and the other a rosette shaped arrangement of cold smoked salmon on rye bread at the Old Market Hall. The fishmonger E Eriksson is one of Scandinavia’s oldest, and still a family run business, with a massive, multinational business in addition to the charming stalls in the market, including the oyster bar where you can enjoy a good French Chablis with your impeccably fresh lunch.

Open Faced Crayfish and Smoked Salmon Rosette Sandwiches

Open Faced Crayfish and Smoked Salmon Rosette Sandwiches

It was dismaying on one occasion when a lovely outdoor café on the Esplanade had a pretty pedestrian menu (and it was a Sunday, with not a lot of choices), but then there was a twist on the usual Caesar Salad. In addition to the usual suspects to garnish the salad (chicken, shrimp, ho hum) smoked rainbow trout was an option, and what a treat is was! A close relative of salmon, this was juicy and a perfect complement to the lettuce mélange it rested on.

Smoked Rainbow Trout Caesar Salad

Smoked Rainbow Trout Caesar Salad

Another day, we’ll look at codfish, currently endangered in some areas, but once the mainstay of Europe and North America, whether fresh or preserved, which is the only way most people in warm climes ever tasted it.  And, we’ll talk tuna:  the perennial lunchbox staple in a can and the fresh treat that not so many years ago, wasn’t on the radar of anyone other than the (rare, in the old days) sushi lover.

 

 

 

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A Crepe-y Salute to the French on Bastille Day!

Buckwheat Crepe near Chateau Blois in the Loire Valley

Buckwheat Crepe near Chateau Blois in the Loire Valley

Creperie in Landevennec, Brittany

Creperie in Landevennec, Brittany

It’s July 14, a day of celebration for the French and for Francophiles (that’s anyone who likes good food).

And, what’s more French than a crepe? But, there are crepes, and then there are CREPES!

They are ubiquitous in Brittany, somewhat in Loire Valley and other popular tourist destinations, and in kiosks everywhere

Crepe Kiosk

Crepe Kiosk

. A favorite place to enjoy one is Paris’s Jardin de Luxembourg, where one can be purchased as a breakfast treat, eaten while strolling among the flowers and sculptures.

French crepes come in two general formats, “sucree” (sweet) and “salee” (savory), the latter being perfect for lunches, or even breakfast if you don’t need a sugar rush in the morning.

On a recent trip to the Loire Valley and Brittany, myMEGusta had an even bigger treat: the option of regular versus buckwheat flour, usually opting for the latter for extra flavor.

Crab Appetizer with Buckwheat Crepes in Quiberon, Brittany

Crab Appetizer with Buckwheat Crepes in Quiberon, Brittany

The best of the local chefs incorporate little buckwheat crepes into other dishes from time to time, for a real regional touch. This crabmeat appetizer in Quiberon, Brittany, was cool and impeccably fresh tasting (because it came straight from a boat there), served on tiny, tasty buckwheat crepes, hot from the pan, a great contrast.

Crossing the ocean, part of Quebec’s culinary heritage is in the form of crepes in an entirely different style, more robust, made simply from wheat flour, eggs, and milk, and an old fashioned breakfast staple, served with real maple syrup.

Crepes with Maple Syrup

Crepes with Maple Syrup

You can find myMEGusta’s grandmother’s recipe in the Lodge Cast Iron cookbook: https://www.lodgemfg.com/cookbooks-and-videos/the-lodge-cast-iron-cookbook.asp

In contrast, and also delicious, are Crepes Suzette, a confection finished table side in old-fashioned French restaurants. All it takes are some sweet crepes, orange juice, some orange zests, flaming liqueur and a nice tip to the waiter after the show.

Crepes Suzette

Crepes Suzette

An ambitious home cook can make dessert crepes, too, with less bravado, but delicious, especially for guests: prepare some simple crepes ahead of time (or find a store that sells them), pull out at the last minute and create an elegant dessert for guests simply by adding some fruit in season and (to be really decadent) some whipped cream and/or ice cream.

Yes, you can do this at home!

Yes, you can do this at home!

Chill! (The Soup!)

Cherry Soup

Cherry Soup

Here’s a salute to myMEGusta readers in the Pacific Northwest and in France, all enduring a crazy heat waves right now, and to cold soups!

It ain’t just vichysoisse, my friends! (And, that’s pronounced “vee-shee-swahz”, by the way). While that cold leek and potato puree is a perfect summer meal or appetizer, there are so many more ways to enjoy these treats on steamy days.

Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise

Recently at a farm market, we were deciding what kind of local cherries to purchase: Bright red and sweet? The Rainiers, yellow with a blush of color? Shiny little tart ones? A bystander jumped into the conversation explaining her cold cherry soup: pit the cherries, simmer a few minutes with some sugar, cool and add cream (and did that ever sound delicious!). Thinking of the calories, myMEGusta opted for the Rainiers, a real seasonal treat, and not guilt-inducing.

Crème Du Barry

Crème Du Barry

In winter (hot) or summer (chilled), faux Crème Du Barry is an easy, healthy favorite. We say “faux” because there’s no cream in it, the soup being made by chopping up a cauliflower, simmering in chicken stock until soft, pureeing, then adding a little 2% milk at the end. Purists out there will (correctly) counter that the soup “needs” cream, and fancy Michelin star restaurants will sieve it for a perfectly smooth texture. Those steps are just not necessary (assuming that the inspector is not coming to your house any time soon).

And, what to do with all those cucumbers exploding in the garden? The thought of cold cucumber soup brings myMEGusta to an outdoor café on Goetheplatz in Vienna, perfect for a hot day in a beautiful city. Recipes abound on the internet for purees made with raw cucumbers or cooked (myMEGusta’s recommendation). Try one of the cooked versions (pick an uncomplicated recipe), chill it down and taste. If you like it, blanch and freeze those cucumbers to pluck out of the freezer and make into a soup once the season is over.

Cucumber Soup

Cucumber Soup

Pea Soup

Pea Soup

Fresh pea puree soup is a fabulous way to celebrate their very short season. But, try it with frozen peas, picked and processed at their sweet peak, and you’ll get almost as good a result at any time of the year, although finding the fresh mint accent will be harder in December.

Borscht

Borscht

Thoughts of December bring borscht to mind, but it is also excellent cold right now.

Then there’s the Spanish treat, Gazpacho, the delicious puree of dead ripe tomatoes and other summery flavors. Long time myMEGusta followers may remember “What’s the Difference Between Hot Gazpacho and Tomato Soup?” from August 2012 http://wp.me/p1VQOz-9f .

If you think about it, some of those “smoothies” coming out of the ubiquitous Vitamixes are not unlike cold soups, although calling it that is probably more decadent than some dieters want to admit to.

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