30 August 2011

Tomato soup with spices

(Texto en Español más abajo)

Summer in Berlin. And I'm using italics because this year summer has been almost inexistent, as all my berliner fellows are well aware of. So here we are, end of August and temperatures of around 15 ºC. My plan for last night was to make a gazpacho, but on my way home the chilly wind made me discard the idea. What to do then with all the red tomatoes in my fridge? I started revising my list of reference blogs and found this tomato soup recipe published by Mercado Calabajío a while ago. The sound of tomatoes with paprika, saffron, and cumin suggested a very intense taste, making my blood flow warm in my veins again. And when German tomatoes are reddest and cheapest, and the weather invites for the first soup of the season, isn't that a great opportunity to try this recipe?

This impulsive decision caught me without any broth nor the vegetables to make it (I know, I know, shame on me!) so I used plain water instead. However, the extra virgin olive oil, and the Turkish spices did the trick. The result was a tasteful soup that I will surely repeat during the next days, before red tomatoes disappear from German supermarkets.

What you need:
  • 6 red tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper, large
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 onion, medium size
  • olive oil
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • saffron
  • salt
  • 300 mL of vegetable broth
  • 6 slices of bread

How to prepare this Tomato Soup with Spices:

Chop the garlic, onion and pepper, and fry them in some olive oil in a cooking pot. Let them fry slowly until tender, but without overcooking. We don't want any dark-brown vegetables in this soup. Meanwhile, grind the tomatoes.

Sprinkle the paprika on the fried onions and stir a bit to mix it with the vegetables. Add the tomatoes right away so that the paprika does not get burnt, and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Now you can incorporate the salt, cumin, saffron, and broth. Mix everything together and let it cook for another 20 minutes.

Soak the bread slices in the soup, serve, and enjoy!

Sopa de tomate con especias

"Verano" en Berlín. Y entrecomillo porque este año el verano aquí ha sido prácticamente inexistente, como bien saben mis colegas berlineses. Así que aquí estamos, a finales de agosto y con temperaturas rondando los 15 ºC. Mi plan para la cena de anoche era hacer un gazpacho, pero de camino a casa hacía un viento tan fresquito (una rasca, vamos) que se me quitaron las ganas. ¿Y ahora qué hago con todos los tomates rojos que tengo en la nevera? Me puse a revisar mi lista de blogs de referencia, y encontré esta receta de sopa de tomate publicada hace algún tiempo por Mercado Calabajío. El sonido de tomates con pimentón, azafrán y comino sugería un sabor muy intenso, que hizo que mi sangre volviera a circular caliente por mis venas. Y precisamente ahora que los tomates alemanes están más rojos y más baratos, y que el tiempo invita a preparar la primera sopita de la temporada, ¿no es una oportunidad estupenda para probar esta receta?

Tengo que admitir que esta decisión impulsiva me pilló sin ningún tipo de caldo ni las verduras para prepararlo (lo sé, lo sé, una vergüenza) así que usé agua en su lugar. Sin embargo, el aceite de oliva virgen extra y las especias turcas cumplieron su cometido y el resultado fue una sopa muy sabrosa que seguro que repetiré en los próximos días, antes de que los tomates rojos desaparezcan de los supermercados alemanes.

Qué necesitas:
  • 6 tomates rojos
  • 1 pimiento grande (yo usé rojo, que es el que tenía; aquí los pimientos verdes no los hay tan a menudo)
  • 1 diente de ajo
  • 1 cebolla mediana
  • aceite de oliva
  • pimentón dulce
  • comino
  • azafrán
  • sal
  • 300 mL de caldo vegetal
  • 6 rebanadas de pan
Cómo preparar esta Sopa de Tomate con Especias:

Pica el ajo, la cebolla y el pimiento, y ponlos con un poco de aceite en la olla que vayas a usar para hacer la sopa. Sofríelos a fuego medio, hasta que se pongan tiernos, pero sin quemarse. Mientras tanto, ralla los tomates.

Espolvorea el pimentón sobre el sofrito, remueve un poco y añade en seguida los tomates para que el pimentón no se queme. Deja que se cueza todo junto durante unos 10 minutos.

Ahora podemos incorporar la sal, el comino, el azafrán y el caldo. Mézclalo todo bien y déjalo cocer a fuego medio durante otros 20 minutos.

Sumerge las rebanadas de pan en la sopa, dejando que se empapen bien. Servir y disfrutar.

27 August 2011

O-ton keramik

I love O-ton keramik's window in Oranienstraße, so artistic!

Me encanta el escaparate de O-ton keramik, en la Oranienstraße. ¡Es tan artística!

22 August 2011

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

Last Monday we attended the premiere of the movie El Bulli: Cooking in Progress in Berlin. The best chef of the 2010 decade was also there to present the movie and to talk about elBulli's transformation from a restaurant into a foundation.

In Catalan, bullir means to boil, but this is actually unrelated to the restaurant's name. Alternatively, one could think that bulli comes from bull, and therefore the big bull's head in the kitchen of the restaurant. Wrong again. At elBulli, nothing is what it looks like! When it was opened as a minigolf in 1961, the original owner named it after his French bulldogs, which he used to call bulli. If you are interested, you can read about the restaurant's history and how Ferran Adrià became one of the best chefs in the world here.

Ferran Adrià himself struck me as a bull, or a bulldog, or some other sort of natural force. He is pure energy, true passion. His eyes burn with fire when something goes wrong, and shine with excitement when he finds some new dish that he knows will be a new hit. He is not interested in the press, the photos, the recordings. He is all for his creativity.

Taking this into account, closing the restaurant and establishing a foundation in which to innovate and create all year long is the natural evolution step for elBulli. Still under construction with an opening foreseen for 2013, elBulli Foundation's motto is to offer the means and the freedom to explore and design new cooking techniques, new surprising and extravagant dishes. As a scientist myself, I can only applaud this initiative. If you bring excellent people together, provide them with the proper environment, and give them enough freedom, you can surely expect great contributions from them. This is how research works, and from what I could see in the movie, Adrià's kitchen functions pretty much like a science lab.

The documentary is absolutely non-invasive. The camera stays with the team for a whole year, during both the winter research period and in summer, when the restaurant used to open to the public. After so many hours of shooting, Adrià and his team become used to the presence of the cameras, and you as a spectator have the feeling that a small window has open to elBulli's kitchen so that you can
watch those great cooks do their magic.

After the movie, Adrià said "Those people who work with me in the kitchen are common people. They are well aware of that, they know that it is what they do that is important, not who they are". Well, no doubt it is magic what they do in the kitchen. Click play below and enjoy.

14 August 2011

Sunday treat: Lemon Sponge Cake

It was one of those weekends when I fancied a breakfast treat but we hadn't made plans to go for brunch on Sunday - the perfect excuse to prepare a sponge cake! My man likes it simple (no frosting at all) so that he can dip it in his coffee, and as you might suspect by now, I love citrus, so this is a regular at home: lemon cake. Easy to make, tasty, and moist. Check by yourselves!

What you need:
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 full spoons of white sugar
  • 10 full spoons of wheat flour
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 glass (250 cc) of sunflower oil
  • 1 packet of baking powder

How to prepare a lemon sponge cake:

Pre-heat your oven to 180 ºC.

Blend the eggs and sugar together in a big bowl. Add the oil and keep mixing.

Zest the lemon skins (try to avoid the white part) and then squeeze the lemons. And the zest and juice to the bowl and blend everything very well until you obtain a somewhat foaming mixture.

While you keep mixing with your hand blender, slowly add the flour and baking powder. Make sure that you obtain a very homogeneous mixture.

Pour into a baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes. That's it! you will obtain something like this:

Have a nice breakfast!

12 August 2011

Pasta al limone

Pasta, pasta!

I love pasta, but am tired of making the same old bolognese once and again, and strongly refuse to use one of those sauces that you can buy in the supermarket. So I have decided to experiment with new recipes. For tonight I have chosen pasta al limone because I have never tried something like that before, but also (mainly) because I love citrus. I have followed my friend Gata Vagabunda's recipe and am quite happy with the result! The recipe is very simple, and the result is surprising (at least it was for me). So I would suggest you to give it a try sometime. Here it comes.

What you need for 2 servings:

  • 250 g long pasta like spaghetti. They should preferably be thick-ish. I used bavette n. 13 instead.
  • a bit of butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled but in one piece
  • 2 big lemons, the freshest ones you can find
  • 200 mL cream
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • basilicum

How to prepare this Pasta al Limone:

Fill a cooking pot with salted water and heat until boiling. Cook the pasta in that water until al dente (you can follow the time suggested in the pasta package).
Let's prepare the sauce while the pasta is boiling. First, zest the lemons using a thin grater. Beware not to take also the white part of the lemon skin, because that would make the sauce too sour. Keep this lemon zest for later.

Take a large frying pan and put some butter in it. Heat slowly until the butter melts, and fry the garlic cloves there. Once the garlic is toasted, take it out from the pan and instead add the cream and the lemon zest, salt and pepper. Let the sauce cook until the pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta, bring it to the frying pan with the sauce, and stir it all together. Serve and top with grounded parmesan cheese and a couple of basilicum leaves finely chopped. Ready! It will please your taste, and leave a delicious smell in your kitchen.

11 August 2011

Dinner at Kuchen Kaiser

Last night we were meeting some friends for an informal dinner, and we decided to go to Kuchen Kaiser.

This cosy restaurant, nicely located at Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg, serves the lucky Berliners since 1866 with different types of breakfast (including brunch on Sundays and festivities), salads, burgers, flammkuchen, and list of traditional German dishes, plus the daily specials. Everything that we have eaten here was very good. Last night I went for a classic flammkuchen (which are one of my weaknesses).

This restaurant offers a good opportunity to taste the Kreuzberger Molle beer, a pils which is brewed locally at Südstern, and tastes so natural and soft that I prefer to consider it some type of barley juice. In the picture you can also see a kaiser spritze, a summer drink containing white wine, elderflower, lime, and soda.

However, what Kuchen Kaiser is most famous for is cake (guess you didn't expect that, huh? ;-) ). The menu includes a very large selection (I counted 25 different cakes and pies!) although they normally don't have all of them. This is a picture of the cake cabinet, taken at a respectably late hour in the evening. We can assume that there were more cakes at the beginning of the day, but a horde of starving people devoured most of them.

If you are planning to go there for a celebration, you can order a whole cake in advance. We did that for a birthday a few weeks ago. We had a whole huge Schwarzwälder (black forest) cake which was absolutely delicious. The cream was very soft and light, the cherry marmalade was home-made, and overall it had just the perfect amount of sugar. We loved it, and now I suspect that we have turned into regular customers. I totally recommend it!

08 August 2011

Vegetables, powders, and drugs

I confess: I sometimes go to KaDeWe just for the pleasure of walking through its gourmet floor and browsing among all those delicacies exposed along the alleys... mmmmmmh! I certainly enjoy looking at fine food nearly as much as eating it.

A couple of days ago I was examining the spice section when I found this:

Beetroot and spinach powder. They are not really spices, since don't have any specific taste. Instead, they are used as dyes, to add colour to pasta and other dishes.

Following a chain of thoughts, this reminded me of another vegetable powder - the asparagus powder presented a couple of weeks ago by Bubble Food, a London company which offers molecular food caterings for events. The particularity of this powder is that the client is not supposed to eat it, but rather to sniff it. Apparently, the powder is served as if it was cocaine, including a card, a mirror, and a (fake) 100$ note.

Dominique Persoone, in Belgium, has invented a chocolate shooter to sniff cacao, which supposedly enhances the experience of its taste and smell.

Leaving aside the controversy and the discussion whether these are examples of innocent food design, or a glamorisation of drugs, I wonder, where does all this obsession with snorting come from? I can surely understand the importance of aroma but, when did we start eating through our noses?

01 August 2011

Going veggie: green beans with potatoes and carrots

Today I have prepared a vegetarian dish which is not only healthy and light to digest, but also very tasty. Having said that, some of you might still be reluctant to try it because, after all, it's just green beans, and green beans are boring by definition! Well, let me tell you that there is nothing boring about this dish. Even if you have eaten something similar one thousand times before, this recipe is different. Basically, El Comidista has added his personal touch (I would dare to even say reinvented) to a traditional mediterranean dish, and the result is amazing, so I strongly suggest to give this a try. You will be surprised!

You will need:

  • 500 g of green beans
  • 2 potatoes (medium size)
  • 4 carrots (large)
  • 1 onion (large)
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 150 mL of white wine
  • 50 mL of balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil and salt, for dressing

How to prepare these green beans with potatoes and carrots:

Wash the potatoes, put them in a cooking pot, unpeeled, and cover them with water. Boil then until they are tender. This process can take around 30 minutes. Afterwards, replace the hot water with cold one, and once you can handle the potatoes without loosing the skin in your fingers, peel them and cut them into large pieces.

Now it's a good moment to start preparing the caramelized onion, since it needs to cook for a while. Use the onion, wine, vinegar, and sugar, following the directions in this previous post.

Meanwhile, wash the green beans, and using a peeler, remove those sort of fibers that they have on the sides. Then, with the help of a knife, cut the beans into very thin and long stripes. Peel and wash the carrots, and chop them into thin sticks of length approximately half of the bean stripes. This task is somewhat laborious, and it might seem that right now we are just victims of aesthetics, but I promise it will pay off.

Vapor-cook the beans and carrots until they are tender, but take care that they are not overcooked. If you are using a rapid-express-pressure cooking pot, then you only need to cook them for 5 minutes after the valve rises.

Now choose your favorite serving plate and place there, in layers, first the potatoes, then the beans, the carrots, and end up with the onions. Add some salt and olive oil as a dressing, and voilà, you have just prepared a delicious and colorful dish full with vitamins!! Don't forget to share it with your loved ones.