Friday, September 30, 2011

Saveur's Worldwide list of 55 Great Global Food Blogs

Tomatoes 2011
Today's photo: some of Nami-Nami tomatoes, 2011

I'm thrilled to say that Nami-Nami was listed in Saveur's list Worldwide Feast: 55 Great Global Food Blogs. (Thank you, Silja, for pointing this out to me). I'm in a great company - there are some real foodblogging heavyweights listed -  Delicious Days, David Lebovitz, Chocolate and Zucchini, to name just a few. During my 6+ years of foodblogging, I've met several authors of the blogs mentioned - Ximena, Dagmar, Jeanne, Keiko, Pertelote. Most of the other blogs are familiar to me and I follow them regularly, but there are some new ones listed as well that I'm off to check out right now. Definitely a good and honorable company to be in :D

Thank you, dear Saveur, and dear Nami-Nami readers :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bruschette with chantarelle pesto

Chantarelle pesto / Kukeseenepesto

We've had another wonderul wild mushroom year in Estonia. With two small kids, I've only made it to the forest twice myself, but friends and family have supplied us with plenty of different wild mushrooms. Chanterelle is one of the most popular wild mushrooms - they're easy to recognise, versatile and taste lovely, and I've had more than my fair share of chantarelle dishes this summer. Chantarelle bruschetta, boiled potatoes with fried chantarelles, creamy chantarelle sauce, chantarelle quiche - you name it, I've had them all. Again. And again. So when I spotted a recipe for chantarelle pesto in the Finnish Kotiliesi magazine, it immediately caught my attention - something new, something that I hadn't tried with chantarelles before..

It turned out to be a lovely mushroom spread that I'll be making over and over again when I get fresh mushrooms.

Chanterelle pesto
(Krõbesaiad kukeseenepestoga)
Serves 4 to 6

Chanterelle pesto / Kukeseenepesto

Chantarelle pesto:
250 g fresh chantarelles
1 Tbsp butter
1 small garlic glove, coarsely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
80 g toasted pinenuts
1 small bunch of fresh basil
5 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan
about 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To serve:
ciabatta or baguette
olive oil

Clean the mushrooms, avoid washing them, if possible. Transfer onto a hot dry non-stick frying pan and heat, until the liquid has evaporated.
Add butter and garlic, fry for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and cool
Place the basil and pinenuts into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds. Add the cheese, fried mushrooms and about 2-3 Tbsp of oil. Process until you've got a coarse paste. Fold in the rest of the oil, check for seasoning.
 To make bruschette, cut the bread into thin slices and sprinkle with some oil. Bake under a grill until lightly golden and crispy, then smear some garlic over the bread slices.
Spread the chantarelle pesto on top, garnish with some Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tasty apple and oat morsels that don't look much, but taste wonderful

Apple oat almond morsels / Õuna-kaerahelbekäkid

Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of the Green Market Baking Book: 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet and Savory Treats by the publishers. A proper book review is yet to come, but here I sing praises to one little recipe from that book - apple oat pecan drops (page 121). These soft oat cookies (or morsels) don't look much, but I've made them no less than three times during the last week. As pecans are prohibitively expensive - and hard to come by - over here, I've used chopped almonds instead. I love them - they're soft, yet ever so slightly chewy, naturally sweet (apple! raisins!), healthy (no added sugar and virtually fat-free), very simple and quick to make, vegan, and rather addictive. I baked them last Friday, just to try a recipe from the book, then made another batch to take along to a a pop-up apple cake café on Saturday (the first person to try them bought 20!), and then another batch to a little village fête yesterday - and I will certainly make them again soon.

Apple and oat drops
Makes about 25-30 tasty morsels

Apple oat almond morsels / Õuna-kaerahelbekäkid

1,5 cups rolled oats (about 350 ml or 130 grams)
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour or spelt flour
2 large apples, coarsely grated
1 Tbsp mild oil (I used rapeseed)
0.5 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla sugar
4-5 Tbsp (hot) water
0.5 cup small seedless raisins or currants (about 75 g)
4 Tbsp chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.
Using a fork, mix together oats, flour, apples, oil, vanilla and water. Mix in the raisins and the nuts. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the batter onto the baking sheet by the spoonful (either a heaped teaspoonful or a scant tablespoonful).
Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until the morsels are light golden brown.
Cool a little, then enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Potato salad, slightly Danish

Taani kartulisalat / Danish potato salad

Potato salad is an Estonian institution, whether you like it or not. I tend to like it, if it's well made.

Until a few years ago you could guarantee that if you were invited to a birthday party, you'd be served kartulisalat. It's pretty close to what's known as Salad Olivier or Russian Salad across the world, though it does taste different. Must the be magic Estonian touch (or the mayonnaise-sour cream dressing) :) I vaguely remember an old joke that any suitable Estonian bride must know a) how to make a good coffee and b) how to make a decent potato salad :D For any larger family gathering, my mum (and all other relatives) would always make a large saucepan-full of potato salad, and we, kids, were often asked to help with the chopping. You see, there's a lot of chopping and mixing involved - a typical Estonian potato salad contains perfectly cubed boiled potatoes (lots of them!), carrots, onions, cucumbers (fresh and/or marinated), as well as apples, green peas, ham/cooked sausages etc - the exact list of ingredients and proportions depend on what's available and personal preferences. I, for example, dislike boiled carrots, apples and peas in my salad, and I never include ham/sausages in the salad if it's served alongside small frankfurters ("viinerid").

However, this summer I discovered a much more minimalist salad that yet manages to deliver the same flavour sensation. The recipe is from a Danish magazine cutting from early 1990s, but adapted heavily over the years. It works well as a quick light meal, or as a side dish to some grilled meat. Recipe below.

Danish potato salad
(Kergelt karrine kurgi-kartulisalat)
Serves 4 as a side dish

Danish potato salad / Taani kartulisalat

600 g potatoes, unpeeled
1 green cucumber

250 g sour cream
250 g mayonnaise
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Boil the potatoes (you can do that on a previous day). Cool a little, then peel. Cut into smaller or larger uniform pieces - it's your choice.
Cut the cucumber into small dice, place onto a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Leave for 15-30 minutes, drain any liquid. (This is not a necessary - or a traditional step - but something I've borrowed from the tzatziki-making process. I love how the cucumbers retain their crunch and the salad doesn't become watery).
Mix all the dressing ingredients, fold in the cubed potatoes and drained cucumbers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Georgian recipes: cucumber and tomato salad with cilantro/coriander

Tomato and cucumber salad, Georgian style / Gruusia stiilis tomati-kurgisalat

How do you like your tomato salad?

The most popular version here in Estonia is sliced and quartered cucumbers and tomatoes, simply mixed with some sour cream, dill or green onions/scallions and seasoned. However, this summer we've been experimenting with alternatives and this Georgian-style fresh salad has proved to be very delicious and well received. The key ingredient (in addition to flavoursome tomatoes and cucumbers, of course) is fresh cilantro/coriander. Not something I would have thrown into a simple tomato and cucumber salad a year ago, but love now!

Cucumber and tomato salad, Georgian style

tomatoes, quartered
cucumbers, peeled and thickly sliced or cut into batons
(red) onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
fresh coriander/cilantro (leaves only)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
some apple cider vinegar

Put the prepared tomatoes, cucumbers and onions into a bowl. Add the coriander/cilantro leaves, season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of vinegar. Combine gently and serve.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Maison Pic, Valance, France (Restaurant review)

Sorry about the hiatus. We've just spent 10 days travelling (and eating!) in Normandie and Bretagne with our little family. While we unpack our bags and upload the photos, I'll share some photos from our last trip to France in August 2009. Back then we were still three - our daughter just 7,5 months old - and we had a chance to eat in two 3-star restaurants. Excellent meals both, and I'll start with Anne-Sophie Pic's restaurant, where we had a lunch, a full tasting menu and breakfast.

Anne-Sophie Pic (born in 1969) is the head chef at La Maison Pic in Valance, France. She's a third-generation la chef cuisinier of the family restaurant, which was previously run by her dad and grand-dad. She earned the third Michelin star already at the age of 37, and is one of the only two female chefs in France and of female chefs in the world to win the accolade. Earlier this year she was also named the World's Best Female Chef (you can read an excellent synopsis of her culinary credentials and history here). Even before that last award, I was extremely excited about the chance to have lunch and dinner at her restaurant. Valance isn't on most tourist routes, but as we were driving down from Lyon to our friends' wedding in Sauzet further South, it was conveniently on the way. Lucky me :)

Anne-Sophie with her dad and grandfather:
Anne-Sophie Pic with her dad and granddad

Upon arrival we had some nibbles in the courtyard, while our room was being prepared. From left to right: tomato and lemon macaroon, basil and ricotta sphere, peanut marshmallow, foie gras and apple:
Amuse bouche

Maison Pic

That was a great alternative to the more usual nut selection:
Nut bowls

After settling into our spacious room, we headed for lunch at Bistrot Le 7. The name Le 7 is an homage to Route Nationale 7, a famous motorway connecting Paris and Côte d’Azur (The French Wench has written more about it).
Bistrot Le 7

Le tarte fine croustillante de saumon salma, légumes croquants aux aromates (for me):
Bistrot Le 7, Valence: le tarte fine croustillante de saumon salma, légumes croquants aux aromates

K. was very pleased with his tomato starter - Les tomates de variétés anciennes, crémeux de mozzarella di bufala - one of the reasons why he's so supportive of my grow-as-many-tomato-varieties-as-you-can hobby:
Bistrot Le 7, Valence: Les tomates de variétés anciennes, crémeux de mozzarella di bufala

For the main course, I went for the veal dish - Le poitrine de veau, confite aux aromates, etuvée fondante de fenouils et poivrons rouges:
Bistrot Le 7, Valence: le poitrine de veau, confite aux aromates, etuvée fondante de fenouils et poivrons rouges

K. chose the cod - Le cabillaud, cuit sur la peau a la'huile d'olive,fondant de carottes des sables a la fleur de thym:
Bistrot Le 7, Valence: le cabillaud, cuit sur la peau a la'huile d'olive,fondant de carottes des sables a la fleur de thym

For dessert, I opted for the classic strawberry-basil combination - Le fraisier version 2009; biscuit pistache, sorbet basilic (for me):
Bistrot Le 7, Valence: Le fraisier version 2009, biscuit pistache, sorbet basilic

K. opted for the cheese plate:
Bistrot Le 7, Valence: fromage

We were very pleased with our lunch - it was flavoursome and very pleasing to the eye.

We had a pretty late dinner. I apologise for the quality of the photos - there wasn't any natural light, of course, and we didn't want to use the flash. We opted for the News Menu (or Menu Actualités), which was the one of the tasting menues on offer.

I loved the personal touches on the cutlery and dishes (see also the amuse bouche plate above):
News Menu @ Maison Pic

News Menu @ Maison Pic

Summer truffle:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

Veal sweetbread:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

Foie gras:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

Lobster tail in a spicy broth:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

I loved the cucumber crocant that accompanied this subtly flavoured fish:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

Rinse-bouche: coffee granita with Limoncello foam:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

A beautiful cheese board:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

News Menu @ Maison Pic

A very pretty dessert with raspberry sorbet:
News Menu @ Maison Pic

Overall the food was very tasty. We appreciated that Anne-Sophie Pic came to personally greet us at the end of the meal and speak about the difficulties of travelling and dining out with a baby :) She had seen our little daughter, sleeping at the Reception (we had asked about being allowed into the restaurant with the baby and they assured us it's fine and that they're happy to babysit the baby during our meal - which the kind receptionists ended up doing. Very thoughtful).

However, when looking at the visual side of the meal, it was all quite pared down and beige-brown (NB! I'm talking about dinner here!). We had another 3-star meal during our trip (@ Régis Marcon's restaurant), which was visually much more entertaining and impressive (our only other comparison is with lunch @ El Bulli in 2008). The only real 'eye candy' was the dessert.

Breakfast - croissants and other pastries, yoghurt verrines, some fresh fruit:
Breakfast @ Maison Pic, Valence, France

Breakfast Breakfast @ Maison Pic, Valence, France@ Maison Pic

Breakfast @ Maison Pic, Valence, France

Breakfast @ Maison Pic, Valence, France

Oh, the hotel gave our daughter a little present - a green soft frog with Maison Pic's shawl. She loved (eating) it :)
Breakfast @ Maison Pic, Valence, France

Here's me, my daughter and the Chef, just before we checked out:
Me, Nora Adeele & Anne-Sophie Pic

Would I go again? Yes, definitely - both for the food, for the hotel, and for the beautiful chef :)