Monday, November 30, 2009

melk meisje

My blog namesake. The famous Vermeer painting portraying the "melk meisje" (milk girl)  or keukenmeid (kitchen maid servant) in the act of making bread pudding. 

I went and saw the original Milkmaid at the Met yesterday. The museum's written commentary about the symbol of the  milkmaid in 17th century Dutch paintings really perturbed me. First, everything is a sexual innuendo. Which wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't really all about the milkmaid being either a subservient or nefarious woman who must give in to the whims of the man or master of the house. It's ridiculously misogynistic. Most of the art critics are men and the few that are women offer very little difference of opinion, all stating that every object in the kitchen signifies the erotic. The jug is a uterine representation. The milk, alludes to the woman's overflowing sexual desires. The mortar and pestle symbolize female and male genitalia. Really?! The list goes on. It's exasperating. 

Secondly, they treat this myth of the milkmaid as a harlot as fact. As though all women who are dutch kitchen servants are waiting to be ogled by a man. Or just daydreaming about a tryst with the master of the house. Maybe she's thinking about mathematics or astronomy or how the hell to get out of this godforsaken kitchen! Of course, sadly, during the golden age in the Netherlands, women of a lower social background did need a man to get her out of an economically difficult situation. The strongest values of 17th century Netherlands that a woman could possess was domestic virtue. Sad. 

I do like, however, one view of Vermeer's works. "In the end, it is not the allusions to female sexuality that give this painting its romance or emotional resonance — it is the depiction of honest, hard work as something romantic in and of itself," states Raquel Laneri in Forbes magazine. The Netherlands was rooted in Calvinist ethics, on hard work and diligence and piety. I might not be so into the piety part, but I do like the calvinist work ethic and the need for more appreciation and acknowledgment of working class heroes, especially ones that make good bread pudding.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

pine nut lemon rosemary shortbread cookies

Lemon. Rosemary. Pine nuts. Butter. Shortbread cookies. Thanksgiving. Goodness. This recipe is from Heidi Swanson's cooking blog. Here's the link:

Monday, November 23, 2009

citrus marinated kale salad

Eating raw kale might sound as delightful as biting into boiled brussel sprouts, but there's simple ways to make it taste good with very little effort. Kale is a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It's very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and has more calcium than milk. So, you should really eat your greens! 

By marinating the kale in orange juice, lemon juice and a splash of apple cider vinegar, you get a more tender and sweet green. You could just marinate in one of these acidic choices, but I chose all three to give it a more tart and sour kick to help balance out the rich creaminess of tahini and the smokey goodness of roasted red pepper.

Here's what to do: 
Tear off the leaves of kale from its stalk (about five leaves will do)
Put into large bowl and add about 1/4 cup of orange juice and lemon juice. Finish off with a splash of apple cider vinegar (any vinegar will do)
After roasting on the stove top, put into an empty pot or bowl, cover and let it sweat for about 15 minutes. Then, remove all the burnt bits and its seeds and slice lengthwise into strips. Add to kale.
Next, thin out 1/4 cup tahini paste with water til it resembles a creamy dressing. ( I added a pinch of paprika to accent the smokiness of the pepper)
Add to kale, sprinkle some salt and pepper and there you have a healthy hearty salad.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

white bean and farro soup with mushrooms

I've been obsessed with making soups recently. They're really just so versatile and simple. I used to hate soups. The thought of chunky soup just made me queasy. But when you add beans, especially big starchy ones like great northern beans, they become rich and thick and hearty. I used farro, which is an ancient grain most closely associated with Tuscany, specifically Lucca. It's a form of wheat that's similar to barley in texture. It can get chewy in the best possible way, especially in this soup. This soup takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to make, but largely unattended. I didn't soak the beans beforehand. If you use canned white beans, this soup would probably only take about a half hour. This recipe has been adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. An amazing cookbook.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 celery stalks, choped
2 carrots, chopped
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup farro, uncooked
1 cup dried white beans
2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
6 cups water or veggie stock
handful of dried mushrooms (reconstituted by adding a cup of hot water and soaking for 15 min)
1/4 cup any fresh herbs. ( i had some chopped parsley)

Put oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add onion, celery, carrots and some salt. Cook until the veggies are glossy and the onion softened, about 5 to 10 min. Add the garlic and stir. Add the reconstituted mushrooms with the soaking liquid (unless the liquid is sandy, then drain) Add the farro, beans, tomato and stock and stir.

Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. Cook until farro and beans are tender, at least an hour, adding stock or water as necessary if the mixture becomes too thick.
Stir in chopped parsley or basil and cook for another five minutes. Taste, adjust the seasonings and serve.

Makes about 4 to 6 servings

Monday, November 16, 2009

baked eggs with basil and herbed cheese

I had never baked an egg before. I just always ended up scrambling eggs or frying them. I figured baking required just too much effort. And really, eggs taste great when they're cooked these simple ways. However, I got these great little oven-proof ramekins for my birthday and thought it was about time I tried this technique out. I kept hearing all these great things about baking eggs, from how there's endless variations, it's super easy and it just looks elegant and damn adorable. Plus super tasty.

Here's what you need: 
four ramekins or a muffin tin would work too
four or more organic eggs (depends on how many you wanna make)
olive oil or any kind of oil really, for oiling the ramekins
any fresh herb ( I had basil) or dried herb (paprika would be great!)
bread crumbs
some good cheese ( i had a herbed goat milk cheese from Gouda)
sprinkle of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil the ramekins. Break an egg into each one and top with breadcrumbs. You could conversely put the breadcrumbs on the bottom and then break an egg on top. Top with cheese and then the herbs. And a good sprinklin of salt and pepper. Bake for about 11 minutes or until the egg looks set. I like it a little runny and oozy. Let the ramekins cool for a bit and then eat directly from them. They turned out great. It's like a little meal full of protein, a bit of bread and some nice touch of herb. Quick, simple and they looked really damn adorable. My roommate and I ate them with little spoons and we felt kinda fancy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

broccoli soup with homemade croutons

This head of broccoli had beautiful purple florets. The soup still turned out green though. This recipe is super easy and requires very little attention. It only consists of carrots, celery, garlic, onion and broccoli. Add water, olive oil and salt to that vegetable mixture. Use an immersion blender and you have yourself broccoli soup! Homemade croutons make it all the better.

One head of broccoli (cut into small florets)
Five medium sized carrots (chopped into 1 inch rounds)
Five celery stalks (chopped into 1 inch pieces)
One onion (sliced)
Couple cloves of garlic (left whole, with only white paper and stem removed)
1/3 cup olive oil
About 4 or 5 cups of water or veggie stock

Put the olive oil in a large stock pot at medium heat. When hot, add onions. Let the onion cook til they're shiny and a bit brown. Add celery and carrots and cook for an additional five minutes. Add water or stock and throw in the garlic cloves. Add salt. Bring to a boil and then add the broccoli. Add a couple more sprinkles of salt. Turn heat down to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are all very soft. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend all the ingredients together. Make sure not to lift immersion blender out of soup mixture or you'll get yourself soup burned!

Homemade croutons

This is undoubtedly the easiest, quickest little add on recipe to do. And it gives soups a heartier full meal element. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. All you have to do is break off pieces of stale bread, put it on a oiled baking sheet and slather with olive oil and sprinkle salt on top. Bake for about 10 minutes. Ta da! Olive oil-rich salty, crispy bread! Add generously to soup! Top with cheddar cheese if you so desire.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

savory bread pudding with collard greens

Everyone's had bread pudding. I always think of some decadent banana or chocolate pudding with soggy cookies in it, or something to that sweet effect. I never thought of creating a savory one. Well, I had all this bread that was getting stale real quick and random greens that I didn't know what to do with. Since I'm broke and need to make the most of what I got, I figured I would attempt to make a savory bread pudding. So it's not REALLY a pudding in the standard way of creaminess, but it is kinda in a casserole sorta way. There's endless variations on this. You could top it with fresh herbs like basil or chives as well.

Here's what you need: 
Two loaves stale bread
About 5 large collard greens leaves (thinly chopped with thick stems removed)
One teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano and basil (or whatever dried herb or spice you feel like adding)
One teaspoon of salt
Two cups unsweetened soymilk
Two organic eggs
Two cups veggie broth or stock ( I used boxed and it came out fine)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees first and foremost. Then, break apart the super stale bread (old baguettes work great) and place in an oven proof glass dish along with the thinly chopped collard greens or any greens you fancy. Kale, swiss chard, dandelion. They're all lovely. Then douse them both with plenty of olive oil. Pour in the veggie broth. Sprinkle with salt. Add the unsweetened soymilk and the dried herbs. Beat the eggs briefly and stir into the bread mixture to give it some body. Omitting the eggs is fine too. Top with any ole cheese (or soy cheese!). You could totally top it with some nutritional yeast also to keep it vegan. Bake for 25 minutes. It should be done when the top pieces of bread are golden and crusty. The submerged bread will be soggy, but that good kinda soggy that's enriched with salty brothy veggie goodness. Like big fat croutons.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

deep fried cheese sticks

 A classic dutch bar food. Deep fried. Cheese. Really, that's all you need.

cheese in its many dutch-themed shapes..

I had to get a photo of this. Cheese in the shape of wooden shoes. Brilliant. And below, cheese made to look like a little dutch girl. Oh those crazy cloggers

And let's not forgot the classic cheese shape with various herbs. Traditional goodness.