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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

Happy, Happy and A Big Thank You!

cheese cake for birthday

It has been exactly one year since Happy Stomachs was born. And what a year! I have met interesting people and made new friends, discovered a few things and changed some others, come up with more ideas and exciting projects – and enjoyed every single step along the way. Thanks to you, my friends in food, who read and support, enjoy and get inspired by, share and comment on my beloved little blog.

You might not be surprised that my cake is a savory rather than a sweet one. To be exact: It is one made of cheeses. I couldn’t help… But I believe that, once you have read the simple instructions, you might be happy to have this ridiculously easy and flexible idea up your sleeve. Use it in the case you have barely any time, need something different – or simply want to change up the usual cheese platter. Or the traditional birthday cake, for that matter.

So here we go: Choose your cheeses depending your and your guests taste buds as well as the number of people the selection should feed. Keep in mind that soft and semi hard cheeses will allow you to cut the cake into wedges, while you will have to disassemble your oeuvre if  you incorporate hard cheeses (like Manchego, Gruyère, Cheddar, etc.) before you can enjoy them. Also, the subtler and runnier a cheese, the higher up on the tower it should be placed (in order to have as less as possible other weight on top of it). Pick your accompaniments according the season, your mood, a color or taste pattern or to match the cheeses flavor profiles.

My little cake is built of a French goat Brie (Chèvre des Crèmiers), Munster, Pico (another, smaller and looser goat Brie) and a hunk of an Australian Feta. The accoûtrements are red raspberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and Nasturtiums, a widely available, edible flower with a nice peppery after taste. – A rich, creamy and rather lush affair. But hey, it’s my baby’s birthday after all!

cheese cake for birthday

Past Supper #17 – Looks like Christmas

pork tenderloin with cranberry gravy, couscous and salad

It was a regular Sunday night in early December – just one day after Chlouser (Santa Day) – but dinner reminded, flavor and color wise, of Christmas. We had pork tenderloin, first pan seared and then finished to juicy on low temperature in the oven, with a rich, deep, wonderful cranberry gravy. Couscous to soak it all up. And a literally brilliant salad of Romaine lettuce, red onions, boiled eggs, peppery yellow, orange and red Nasturtiums and pomegranate seeds, in a creamy red pepper dressing. Gorgeous!

salad with edible fowers and pomegranate seeds

Bonjour Paris!

Drawing Eiffel Tower, Paris, at night

So I woke up in Paris this morning.

It didn’t come as a surprise, of course, the trip was planned. And yet it did feel special. – I have visited this city numerous times in the past, both for business and leisure. But never during the last decade. So I am curious to discover, during the upcoming days, what has changed, and what not.

My memories and images, expectations and hopes are many. Naturally, most are related to food. When I hear Paris, I think Brasseries and Bistros, Baguettes and Boudin and Blanquette de Veau. I see tiny Epiceries, lively market stalls and expert shoppers. People drinking Café or Pastis or Limonade on the terraces of the different restaurants. Sirop de Menthe. Un verre (a glass of wine) or une pression (a beer on tap). I see Steak Tartare or Steak Frites, all the beautiful Pâtisseries and Fromageries. Oh, speaking of cheese: I also do see – and almost taste by just thinking of it – the classic Chèvre Chaud: A big mixed green salad dressed in warm bacon vinaigrette and topped with a thick, warm slice of goat cheese on toast.

My youngest one, when I talked about Paris with him, had only one, yet a very clear vision: The Eiffel Tower at night, with the stars shining bright and the moon smiling. And fine music in the air, because “the spirit of somebody who created something great always stays around”. Pas mal, non?

So don’t be disappointed not to find recipes or pictures from my own kitchen during the next week or so. Yet expect menu descriptions, photographs of places, plates and people, updates on novelties or funnies or trends. Just about anything that makes (edible) Paris Paris.

Seafood Restaurant in Paris

 

 

Star Stuck

carambola ready to be pickled

I live in Florida. And it’s September. And together, that means Star Fruits. – Not a few, here and there. No, it means loads of them, over and over again.

So we eat Carambola – as this star shaped, deep golden colored fruit also is called -, whole, just as one would eat an apple or pear. We slice it up and let the lovely little stars infuse our water. We cut it into slices, dehydrate it and nibble on star shaped chips. We juice it. We cook it (with the aid of lots of pectin!) into jam. We chop it and make it into salsas and chutneys. We decorate salads or crudité platters with the yellow stars.

And, because even after all of the above there usually still are way too many Carambolas around – I pickle them. I have experimented with different brines and solid partners, and by now stick to red onions as a perfect companion to the Star Fruit, and a simple apple cider vinegar liquid. Pickling Carambola is quick and easy, so I recommend to make the little extra time to take out the seeds. It is not a huge effort, and the result is a very pleasant eating experience.

carambola bounty

carambola

Pickled Star Fruit are most probably not part of any cook book recipe – and therefore mobilize one’s creative juices. They can be added to savory sandwiches or be part of a big mixed salad. They have turned out to be the just perfect companions to specific cheeses. They marry merrily with all kinds of fatty meats and charcuterie (Foie Gras, anybody? Rillettes, Pâtés?). They make baked fish very happy, and simple rice dishes right out fancy – especially when there are some warm spices involved (think curry, turmeric, cumin, coriander, etc.).

Not to mention that they taste fruity and sweet and tart and summery just plain out of the jar. – So, being star stuck isn’t a bad thing after all.

pickled carambola in jars

Continue reading “Star Stuck” »