Recipe: Easy Sausage Frittatta

Frittattas like Pizza, are among Italy’s most popular and humble dishes, a classic “poor people’s” food that would allow to create a more well-rounded meal by utilizing whatever was left in the pantry and then adding some eggs and flour. A frittatta base is always the same, it’s fast to make and very lowcarb (for those who are trying to cut down on carbs in their diet) or alternatively vegetarian.

Today, I had some leftover pork sausages from the local market as well as eggs, onions and leek in the fridge. The obvious thing was to make a tasty frittatta! There’s little you cannot use in a frittatta….icecream, maybe?

~ Easy Frittatta Recipe ~
(for 2 people as a main dish or 4 as a side)

  • 5 small eggs
  • 4 small sausages
  • 1 big onion, 1 small leek stalk
  • ~2dl milk
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs
  • All-purpose flour

Cut the meats and vegetables into small cubes or strips and stir-fry in olive oil until golden. Use an iron skillet or frying pan with at least a 2cm high rim to hold the rising frittatta.

frittatta01In a separate bowl, first whisk some milk with 1 table spoon of flour. Add the eggs and whisk further until even consistency is achieved. Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. I like using chives or dill, oregano or herbs de provence depending on the frittatta.

frittatta02Douse the stiry-fry with the egg mix and put a lid on for approx. 10mins at medium to high heat. If the frittatta isn’t rising, increase heat. Lay a plate on top of the frittatta inside the pan, to turn it around and let the other side get some heat for another 3 minutes. The frittatta will rise considerably after you flipped it around.

frittatta03Cut the frittatta in quarters and enjoy with some sour cream, chutney or chlli flakes on top! Bon apetito!

frittatta04

Shhh…it’s a secret!

baking-ingredients-FotografiaBasica

In gaming, there’s nothing like a good secret, or seven. Sometimes, you stumble across a secret — a path you never saw before, an item that gives you special powers, or a new place to visit. Other times, secrets are revealed for the benefit of masses or handed down between generations. It’s often the same in cooking. Maybe you carry a centuries-old secret family recipe, or maybe you figured something new out last week when you attempted to spice up your boring macaroni and cheese. In this post, I’m sharing a few of my favorite food-related secrets, some that I’ve discovered through trial and error, others that came through word-of-mouth (or the Internet).

For the best lightly-sweetened, mashed sweet potatoes, try some honey.
Somewhere in the past, I stumbled across the world’s simplest recipe – honey butter sweet potatoes. Simply cook and mash sweet potatoes (or yams) and stir in a couple tablespoons each of honey and butter. But one time with this recipe, during a crazy “I must eat healthy!” moment, I eliminated the butter and used only honey. The results were surprisingly tasty! I was a little worried that the potatoes would turn out gooey or sticky, but instead they took on a silkier texture, kind of like the effect of adding cream to mashed white potatoes. But what was really great was that the honey sweetened up the potatoes just enough to really bring out their flavor. With a couple pinches of salt, they were perfect. I now always make my honey sweet potatoes around the holidays when everything else on the table is already rich and laden with calories.

Tired of bland stir-fry? Infuse your soy sauce with brown sugar and ginger.
A few weeks back, I posted a stir-fry recipe that’s in my regular meal repertoire. Well, it contains a big secret; one that I only recently discovered! Prior to making my own stir-fry sauce, I had been using the bottled “teriyaki” sauces from the grocery store. While not bad, they were always too salty and overpowering for my taste. Then a friend told me about her homemade stir-fry sauce, the main components of which were soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger. Well, I took that idea straight to the kitchen and haven’t looked back at bottled sauces. Adding brown sugar and (ground) ginger to soy sauce gives it a great flavor that, when cooked, is reminiscent of your favorite Chinese take-out. The versatile sauce can be used over noodles and rice, vegetables and meat. And you can add all sorts of other flavors to it — garlic, onion, pepper, vinegar — depending on your taste buds. And if you think it’s too thin, a little bit of cornstarch will thicken things right up.

If you aim to make thin, chewy cookies, only use one egg in the mix. 
Despite having a decent, hands-on knowledge of cooking science, this one took me awhile to latch onto. As most of you know, eggs are a staple in baking and cooking. Not only to they add flavor and richness, but they also act as binders and as leavening agents. That last bit is important when it comes to flour-based baked goods like cookies and cakes — eggs work to help the batter rise properly as it cooks. So, generally speaking, when you make a traditional cookie recipe that uses two eggs, the cookies turn out light, puffy, and have a cakey, crumbly texture. If you eliminate one egg, thereby eliminating a leavening agent, the cookies generally turn out a little thinner, chewier, and crispier around the edges – almost like those “freshly-baked” cookies you see on TV! Of course, a lot depends on the freshness of the eggs, the temperature regulation of your oven, the batter itself, and so on, so a little experimentation may be required to get things to your liking.

What’s my powerhouse ingredient when it comes to seasoning homemade soup? Oregano!
I’d long held the notion that oregano was only for spaghetti sauce and pizza until I started making my own soup. I followed several recipes but soon ventured out on my own, particularly when it came to bean soup, a perennial favorite. The main issue I had when it came to bean soup was getting the seasoning right. While beans offer up unique flavors, just cooking them in broth wouldn’t do. Plenty of the soup recipes that I worked with included oregano as a component, but never as the main spice. Well, one day, being low on spices and with a ready pot of bean soup, I added in a good amount of dried oregano, some salt, a couple bay leaves, and some garlic powder, and let things simmer away. The results? Fantastic! The oregano gave the soup a hearty and bright aroma and lent the beans a nicely herbed flavor. I now keep loads of oregano round during the winter just for soup-making! (P. S. This goes mainly for broth-based soups, though I’m sure oregano has it’s place in cream-based soups as well.)

Want to punch up those chocolate brownies/cookies/cake pops? A little coffee goes a long way.
This is one of my favorite it’s-not-really-a-secret secrets. And I say this not just because I adore coffee, but because coffee and chocolate are simply a baking match made in heaven! Ever since discovering years ago a chocolate brownie recipe that used finely-ground coffee in the mix, I’ve been hooked on adding coffee grounds to any recipe that calls for baking cocoa. (And coffee in liquid form has it’s place too. 🙂 ) But the real secret behind using coffee in baking is getting it as finely ground as possible. Some coffee grinders do a suitable job of this — I think a mortar and pestle works even better. But however you grind up the coffee, the particulates need to be super-duper tiny in order to extract all the tasty deliciousness. And using it doesn’t make your chocolate dessert taste like coffee, it just makes it taste even more rich and chocolately!

*****

Do you have any favorite (and shareable) cooking or baking secrets?


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

 

 

 

The Quintessential Guide to Traditional Swiss Fondue

I am a great cheese enthusiast. I love cheese from all around the world, in all variations, flavors, textures and colors. Melted cheese is sensational in any dish and there are few dishes as iconic for my home country as traditional cheese Fondue. Anyone who ever comes to visit me will at least get to eat Fondue once, be it spring, summer, fall or winter – even if it’s considered more of a winter than summer dish (rubbish if you ask me). To the Swiss, Fondue is strictly about cheese and it can be found and eaten almost anywhere, from small local restaurants to gas stations. The first mentions of Fondue in Switzerland date back to the 17th century and it’s since evolved into an important food tradition most people will indulge in several times a year.

The Fondue Tram on Zurich

The Fondue Tram in Zurich City (myswitzerland.com)

Fondue is a rustic and amazingly social dish that requires time to eat. It is therefore particularly popular at family and friend gatherings and often served on birthdays, Christmas or New Year. It is also simple to make, assuming you have access to the right cheese, get the correct equipment and follow a few basic guidelines. The following pointers are my comprehensive guide for anyone looking to make their next Fondue night a raging success!

1. The Cheese
Naturally there is nothing more essential to Fondue than the cheese mix. Unfortunately this is also the trickiest part to get right for anyone outside Switzerland, certainly outside its immediate neighborhood. Contrary to popular belief, Fondue is in fact not just “melted cheese” but a mixture of several cheeses as well as more ingredients like alcohol and starch. The balance of this mixture is vital and will not only decide over your Fondue’s flavor and consistency but whether the cheese curdles completely and becomes inedible. Therefore even here, nobody mixes their own Fondue; people will either rely on a local dairy for homemade mixes or get some (no less excellent) store-bought Fondue cheese. The most common cheeses used in Fondue are Emmentaler, Vacherin and Gruyères, the last two known as the magic formula of “moitié-moitié” (half-half or fifty-fifty) but there are many regional variations to what people prefer.

fgerber

Breaking up the cold mix before cooking

One of the universally most endorsed Fondue brands is Gerber’s red and I implore anybody seriously looking to make a great Fondue to put in the extra effort (and money) and order online. There are several websites including Amazon that export Fondue nowadays and since it’s not something you’ll have often, it’s worth getting the real deal. Really, a rubbery or curdled cheese mess ain’t pretty!

2. Equipment
As Fondue is meant to be eaten slowly over the course of one or even several hours, it comes with its own equipment that consists of either a clay or iron pot called “caquelon” (iron pots heat up faster), a steel rechaud (with oil or burner paste) and of course extra long Fondue forks. Most households around here own their own Fondue sets but maybe you can borrow yours or find alternatives to what essentially comes down to a boiling pot over a fire. Dedicated rechauds come with heat regulators but you can always keep it simple – I rarely use the regulator because we tend to obliterate our Fondue like rabid wolves anyway.

frechaud

Fondue rechaud with adjustable flame and lid

3. Sides
When I say “sides” I am referring to all food that’s being dipped into your Fondue. Traditionally, Fondue is eaten with bread cubes or diced cooked potatoes (popular especially in the French part of Switzerland), as well as less commonly with brussels sprouts or canned pineapple (and other fruits). Bread needs to be crusty: there should be one side of crust to every cube, so getting long, thin (baguette-shaped) bread is ideal. Nothing is as boring as ordinary soft, white bread for Fondue so try to pep it up with nut&seed bread, tomato or olive bread etc. Potatoes are a more light-weight alternative that I personally love, as well as steamed brussels sprouts if I’m feeling more lowcarb.

As far as complementary sides go, Fondue is always served with different pickles (cucumber, onion, baby corn) – the vinegar helping a great deal to cut through some of that heavy cheese. Some people will also serve canned mushrooms as well as chilli or stuffed peppers. No matter what sides you prefer, remember absolutely everything gets dipped in delicious cheese!

Steamed brussels sprouts, bread and pickles

Steamed brussels sprouts, bread and pickles

4. Spices and Ingredients
Only very few things go into traditional Fondue whilst cooking. Regional differences aside, most people will agree that Swiss Fondue is to be prepared with fresh garlic, nutmeg, Fondue spice mix and Kirsch (cherry brandy) or white wine (usually Fendant from the French part of Switzerland). While the alcohol may be optional for some (although it will cook out!), I would be devastated to discover I am out of garlic or nutmeg before cooking Fondue.

The amount is up to taste; as a garlic fan, I usually go with 8 cloves per pot. I press them for stronger flavor but you can also slice the garlic and make people go dive for it later on. If you’re not familiar with nutmeg, rather start using too little than too much or you’ll end up ruining everything.

Ground pepper, Fondue spice, nutmeg, garlic, lemon juice, Kirsch

Ground pepper, Fondue spice, nutmeg, garlic, lemon juice, Kirsch

Other than the basics, I will add a squirt of lemon juice to my Fondue sometimes to take off the edge of the fat. I also like adding a bit of paprika and ground pepper. If your Fondue runs too thin for some reason, Maizena corn starch dissolved in a bit of water will save the day.

5. Drinks
No Fondue is complete without the right drinks which come down to either Fendant (a white wine that is not too sour and very light) or slightly sweetened, warm black tea. This may sound weird but nothing complements Fondue quite as well as a simple Lipton Yellow Label (or more fancy if you prefer) which also helps with digestion later on. Try it, it’s lovely!

What is absolutely not recommended with Fondue are soda pops, sparkly water or anything of the sort as they don’t agree with the cheese.

6. Cooking Your Fondue / Step-by-Step Recipe
Once everything is set up, it’s time to cook that Fondue! I personally measure about 800 grams of Fondue for 3 people (=1 store-bought box of Fondue usually, containing 2 packs of cheese). A reasonably big pot can serve about double that amount of cheese but it’s recommended to have 4-5 people maximum per pot. If you’re planning for a big party with many guests, you’ll need several cooking sets or the hunger games are on.

Break up the cheese mass in your pot with a wooden spoon before heating things up to max temperature. If you’re going for a double serving, start off by filling the pot by half, adding the rest of the cheese slowly over time to avoid clumping. As your Fondue starts melting, stir slowly to avoid any burning on the bottom. When you reach creamier consistency, add nutmeg, spices, garlic and Kirsch (and whatever optionals). Keep stirring for about 10-15 more minutes after that; the cheese should become perfectly creamy and glossy before serving. Perfect Fondue consistency is neither watery nor thick as double cream – it should allow dipping in bread chunks with ease while covering them up nicely when removed. The closest in terms of consistency is probably melted chocolate / ganache.

Make sure the rechaud is set up and burning before you take your pot off the stove and gather everyone around quickly – dinner is served!

Creamy awesomeness

Creamy awesomeness

7. Fondue Tips, Tricks & Traditions

  • The “correct way” of dipping bread and other food in Fondue is by running your fork in a few (usually about three) clockwise circles around the inside of the pot, then twirling several times as it comes out to lose those strands of cheese.
  • As you’re eating away, a crust will form at the bottom of the pot which may be thicker/thinner and more or less burned depending on how fast you eat and how hot the cheese is cooking. Do NOT ever try to break up Fondue crust while there’s still cheese left to eat! A bitter, black crust will ruin the rest of your Fondue if disturbed and there’s no reason to do so. Leave the crust for the end and check if it’s yummie or not. A great crust is coveted among Fondue connaisseurs and colloquially called “the Grandmother” so treat that last bit as a special delicacy.
  • Fondue is often served in several rounds through the course of a night. If you only have one pot for too many people or didn’t quite get enough the first time around, take a break and prepare another serving in a bit!
  • Dedicated Fondue restaurants serve all kinds of different flavor Fondues: Chilli Fondue, Mushroom Fondue, Tomato Fondue, Bacon Fondue or Fondue with a variety of herbs or cream cheeses (often Gorgonzola) added while cooking. So if plain cheese sounds too boring for you, experiment away!
  • If your Fondue gets too watery and just won’t come together, a few spoonfuls of liquified Maizena (corn starch) are your best friend!
  • Do not ever wear warm sweaters or long sleeves that you cannot take off to a Fondue dinner! Trust me.
  • Since Fondue is such a social party dish, there are many traditions that have formed around it. The most common such tradition is this: before anyone is allowed to dig in, the stakes and punishment for losing one’s bread in the pot are agreed upon. Repercussions generally range from public shaming to kisses or more painful rituals in a set progression.
fasterix

Crazy Fondue traditions in “Asterix in Switzerland”

8. Waste not! About Fondue Leftovers
Sometimes you won’t quite finish your Fondue and that’s no problem because it’s still absolutely wonderful the next day. Do not ever throw away leftover Fondue – cover the pot and leave it standing! Break out the hardened Fondue the following day and enjoy it with some bread and meat cuts or alternatively, as a pure treat like I do (all you need is a spoon!). If you still have leftover potatoes or brussels sprouts, heat them up in a pan and cover with last night’s cheese for another round of delicious Fondue goodness! However, don’t consume cheese that’s been standing for longer than a day.

Happy Cooking!

And that’s it, the end of my Fondue knowledge! You have all the tools in your bag now, so I hope your next Fondue night will knock people off their socks! There’s nothing left for me to say other than happy cheese time and En Guete!

Kitchen Tips: How to Slice a Mango

I love eating mangoes. I often get the pre-cut frozen chunks and eat those, but that is expensive. I used to hate peeling and slicing fresh mangoes and worried that I’d cut myself handling the slimy things. Then I learned how to do it properly.
sliced mango
First, you need to  find a ripe mango. Look for ones that are colorful and mostly red and yellow but still firm. There can be a little bit of green color, but the more red and yellow they are, the better.

Don’t try to peel the skin off of them, that just makes them harder to handle. As you will see from the picture, you will be cutting segments off from around the pit, then scoring the flesh, turning it inside out, and pushing the chunks off the skin.

Start with the “cheeks” of the mango. First, make a shallow cut along the base where the stem was to make it easier to stand the fruit on end. You should be able to tell approximately where the pit is by finding the top ridge of the fruit and starting your first cut about a half inch from the ridge. Cut as close to the pit as you can without cutting into the pit. Do the same for the second cheek.

This will leave a ring of fruit around the outside edge of the pit, and there may be some along the pit you can shave off it you want. Carefully cut the ring of fruit off the outer edges of the pit.

Now, carefully slice in a grid pattern along the cheeks, trying not to cut through the skin. Then turn the skin inside out, which will separate the chunks (or wedges if you prefer), making them easy to pull off the skin. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to separate the chunks from the skin. Enjoy!

Preserving Jams and Pickles, 101

preserves
Pickled garlic and asparagus, peach thyme freezer jam, quick pickled beets, sweet pickled jalapenos, lemon strawberry freezer jam

I only really got into canning this year, but I already love it. As someone who can be a little tweaky about the passage of time it’s soothing to open up a jar of strawberry jam in August and have the smell remind you of the first crops of May. And there’s a little moment of self-satisfaction when I squirrel things away in the “larder”. If I was trapped in my building for some unknown reason, I could eat for weeks! I mean I’d be eating like 5 pints of pickled beets, but they’d be my pickled beets by god.

So let’s look at the very easy basics of canning jams and pickles.

There are three types of canned preserve techniques that are relevant to our interest: water bath, quick pickle (also known as fridge pickle), and frozen. The first creates the more resilient, shelf-ready jars that you can give to people at Christmas. Quick pickles are kept in the fridge for anywhere from a few hours to a few months, and frozen preserves are.. in the freezer.

As with any food or drink, good quality ingredients get better results, so pick whatever is fresh and in season.

How to not make yourself sick

Here are some guidelines for making a safe jar of preserved food with any technique:

1) The empty jars (proper canning jars!) should be hot to touch. 30 seconds in the microwave often works. If you’re reusing a lid ring, boil it or put it in the oven.
2) Always use a fresh lid disk.
3) Always pour in your brine when it’s boiling hot.
4) Obviously don’t stick your fingers or random items in the jar.
5) Vinegary and salty foods are way easier to keep than sweet ones.

How it will work

For frozen stuff, just stick to the above guidelines and then stick the jar in the freezer once it’s cooled. Freezer jam is basically just mashed fruit, sugar, and freezer pectin, so you don’t even have to turn on your stove. Being frozen will break down the fruit a bit which helps make the jam soft later.

For quick pickle stuff, again follow the safety guidelines and pop it in the fridge once it’s cool. Unopened jars of vinegary things like pickled beets or chutney should be good for months.

And now the tricky bit — the water bath, like how grandma made pickles back when we were kids. You will need a pot that can be filled until it covers one inch above the canning jar(s). (If you live above 1000 feet, use two inches. I know, weird right.)

You can’t put the jars right on the bottom of a boiling pot because they’ll get too much heat, so if you have nothing else (upside-down colander, maybe?) you can put a dish towel on the bottom of the pot. It’s unwieldy (we’ll get to that later) but it works. Get the water boiling, pop in the pickle jars, wait 10 minutes (for a pint), and pull ’em back out. Hopefully you’ll hear the sounds of lids popping over the next few hours.

How to make it easier

If you’re making a new recipe, try a quick pickle first before going through the time and effort of a water bath. I figured that out after a hot afternoon boiling up my first ever batch of “dill” “pickles”.

If you enjoy all this stuff, strongly consider getting a few canning tools. I picked up a basic plastic kit on Amazon for under $15, and it has a jar tongs (never get water burns again), a magnetic lid lifter, and a wide-mouth funnel among other things. Also consider getting a jar rack for your pot to save on your towels if for no other reason.

Looking for a good recipe to start? Beets are in season right now and this recipe is easy and doesn’t have any fancy ingredients.