Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Broccoli Salad, Jamie Oliver, and Norway

We're on our way out of town and won't be back until after Easter.  It's our second annual ski trip to Norway and, despite all the snow we had in Denmark this winter, we're still excited.  We've picked a new resort to try, so I'll let you know about it when we return.  I'm also planning to report back on the Norwegian food.  I'm seeing lots of pickled herring in our future.

In terms of today's topic, I've been meaning to write about this recipe for some time.  It's truly fantastic.  What's more, it hails from the great Jamie Oliver, who is even more my hero now that he's taken on rescuing American school kids from the pathetic "food" served in the majority of school cafeterias.  Go Jamie!  Plus, he gave a great talk about his mission when he accepted a recent award, check it out below. (I'd also like to thank my friend Kira for turning me onto this recipe in the first place!)

Broccoli Salad (Jamie Oliver)

2 large heads broccoli
8 slices of smoked bacon
olive oil
3 red, firm tomatoes, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
a small bunch of fresh chives (with flowers if you can get them), finely chopped, flowers reserved

1/2 clove garlic, peeled and grated
2 t Dijon mustard
6T extra virgin olive oil
2T white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Please make your way over to Jamie's website for the instructions and a MUCH better photo.  I'm sorry, but broccoli just isn't that photogenic.

Happy spring!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Early Spring in Denmark

The snow is gone.  Gone I say!  I wanted to share some sights of early spring in Hobro.  Things are not exactly green here yet, but the little bits of color are giving me great hope and anticipation.  What's more, I can't wait for my rhubarb to grow (see last photo).  I also snapped a couple photos of a Danish tradition for Påske, or Easter, where paper or fabric eggs are hung on tree branches.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Struer, Denmark: Good Times

Last weekend we visited our good friends Liz and Ole in Struer (see maps below).  Liz is a fellow American who I met through one of Alan's pub friends.  She's married to Ole, a wonderful Danish fellow, and together they have two beautiful offspring, Christian and Emma.  Emma is just a couple weeks older than Anatole, so it's fun to watch the two of them playing side by side and eyeing each other.  Christian is six, and Anatole is in complete awe of him and his cool toys.  We also spent the evening with another great couple, Maela and Marc, yet another international pairing:  Maela is the product of Italian parents but raised in Belgium.  Marc is from Switzerland.  We know them through Liz and Ole who work at the same company as Marc and Maela.  Did you get all that?  There will be a quiz later.

Struer [upper left] is west of Randers and north ofHolstebro, on Denmark's Jutland peninsula.

—  Municipality  —

The evening was a total blast.  Great food, tons of laughs, and non-stop chatter.  What's more, Liz prepared the most gorgeous and delicious dessert that I'm still dreaming about.  It was simple but good.

In the Danish supermarkets you can buy little chocolate cups and put in whatever filling you fancy. In terms of size, they're slightly smaller than a paper muffin liner and made with excellent quality dark chocolate. Liz scooped in vanilla ice cream and added caramel topping.  Served alongside fresh fruit, it was one of those desserts that has just enough good-for-you components to forget about the high-calorie parts.  I wish I could remember the name of the little yellow fruits that look like cherry tomatoes.  They're sweet and a little bit tart, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Warning: Rant to follow

I just thought I would say Hi and tell my blog that I haven't forgotten about her. (I've decided that my blog is of the female gender.) The thing is, I've got a few things swirling in my head that are getting in the way of posting: homework for Danish class, searching and applying for jobs, and studying for my Danish driver's license.  I can't gripe too much about the homework although it does suck when you're 37 and long finished with school.  As for the job part, well, it really sucks.  I've applied for so many, everything from being a school janitor to working in corporate communications.  Those are the extremes one goes to when living abroad and hoping to find something.  Anything.

Yesterday I met with a man about delivering newspapers M-F from approximately 3:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.  The job involves going to the Shell station and loading your car with papers, driving around to all the houses on your route, sticking papers in mailboxes, and checking each delivery off on a list.  The pay is just over 4000 kroner a month, or about $800.  I was seriously considering it until I had a lengthy discussion with Alan who did the math and said that the weekly gas consumption combined with the wear and tear on our (1999 Citroen Berlingo) isn't worth the pay.  And then there's the getting up at 3:30 in the morning part.  Sometimes it annoys me, but it's times like these when I really appreciate Alan's practical and critical thinking skills.

A few weeks ago I spent five hours of work editing a Danish friend's company website, which contains all English text.  I didn't earn much (just over the equivalent of $300), but I enjoyed it and would like to find more jobs along these lines.  But first I need to do the research and identify which companies with English websites to approach.  The key is finding companies with sites with poorly written content and/or typos and other mistakes.

Okay, here is where the bitching really ramps up.  If you are one of the lucky souls to come from an EU country or the exempted countries of England, Japan, and Russia (what?!) you get off scott free and can drive in Denmark legally.  For all of us unlucky Americans and Canadians (and others outside of the EU), we have to take both the written exam and driving test --IN DANISH!  You are allowed to use a translator for the exam but at your expense.  And it's not cheap.  What's more, the municipality "strongly recommends" that you take driving lessons.  This is where I lose it, friends.  I. Know. How. To. Drive.  I have been driving for, dare I say it?, 20 years!  Also, the roads and rules in Denmark are nearly identical to those in the U.S.  But never mind.  There is no way around this rule, unfortunately.  I've tried.  So at this point, I am floating by with my temporary permit and reading the driving manual; I was lucky enough to find a copy in the library system that I could get on interlibrary loan that's in English.  But the test won't be.  Hence, the translator.  Did I mention that they also make you surrender your home country driver's license as soon as you get the Danish card?

Sorry.  I realize this is a blog about food, not about driver's licenses, unemployment, or homework.  But sometimes, it really helps to have a rant and get it off your chest.  At least it helps me, so I guess I'm thankful for my blog for giving me an outlet to complain from time to time.  At the very least, I'm "educating" all of you prospective Danish citizens out there.  Because I'm sure there are a ton.

By the way, I know what it might look like, but the turtles are actually sunning themselves.  They live in a tank at our local library.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Roasted Chickpeas

Years ago I went through a phase where I ate hummus all the time.  I don't know if it's still as popular as it once was, but I'm a little weary of it.  Don't get me wrong, it can be very tasty, but there is some pretty bad hummus running around out there, whether in grocery stores, home kitchens, or restaurants.  And the bad stuff ruins the party for the incomparable chickpea.  No, this is not a post about hummus, in case you were wondering (sorry if you're disappointed).

I recently bought a bag of dried chickpeas and discovered just the inspiration I was looking for in Julie Van Rosendaal's blog post.  The concept of roasted chickpeas fascinated me.  What would the texture be like, I wondered?

So I soaked some overnight, boiled them until tender, and then tossed them into a roasting pan with olive oil, bay leaves, chopped shallots, whole garlic cloves, and a generous sprinkling of sea salt.  They'd been in the oven for 30 or so minutes when I left the room to put Anatole to bed.  But before I scooted away I asked Alan if he would turn off the oven and remove the pan when the buzzer rang.  No problem, he said.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that there would not be a repeat of the afternoon when I left for a walk with Alan's assurance that he would remove a loaf of banana bread from the oven when it was done baking.  I came back to a charred loaf--still in the oven--and a sleeping husband on the couch.  In general, I consider myself a patient, understanding, and forgiving person, but NOT when it comes to burning my baked goods.

Chickpeas.  Right.  Anyway, when I came upstairs I half expected the buzzer to still be ringing, but what I discovered instead was a partially-fulfilled mission.  Buzzer off?  Check.  Oven off?  Check!  Pan of chickpeas cooling on counter?  Not exactly.  Apparently, Alan's version of "take the pan out of the oven" differs from that of most normal human beings.  He simply opened the oven door and left the pan inside.  Not a horrible injustice, but it did make for some mighty crunchy beans.  I feel sure that a little less time in the oven (and proper cooling on the counter) would have resulted in perfectly roasted chickpeas.

So, in terms of texture, mine were a mix of crunchy and chewy.  The chewy beans were a little dry for my taste, but the crunchy ones made up for that.  Plus, served with vinaigrette atop a bed of wilted spinach masked any possible imperfection.  And, the roasted garlic is amazing. Note to self: Give hummus another chance.  Second note to self:  Do not entrust oven duty to husband.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Øster Hurup: Denmark's Frozen Tundra

Over the weekend we drove east to a little seaside town called Øster Hurup to check out the coast.  Not only was it a stunningly bright, sunny day, but the scenery was breathtaking.  We were blown away by the natural ice sculptures and surreal landscape and wondered "Are we really in Denmark?"  Sure didn't look like it.  Just for fun we imagined we were spending the afternoon in Alaska.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Olive Oil Cake

I subscribe to the food blog Orangette, which I suppose is how I originally heard about Molly Wizenberg's food memoir, A Homemade Life.  I realize I'm plugging a book two times in less than a week, but I'm still reading and it's still just as good.

Before I even opened my copy of the book though, I happened to receive an Orangette post on olive oil cake, which Molly terms Marmalade Cake. The key ingredients? Oranges, toasted, ground almonds, and olive oil.  I was immediately sucked in and knew I would be making this cake right away.

What really got me is the step where you simmer an orange (and lemon if you want), remove from heat and let cool, and then throw the whole thing (minus seeds) into a food processor to make a paste.  How fun. The only problem was that perhaps I didn't cook my fruit long enough because while it was paste-like, it was a bit too chunky. Thus, the mortar and pestle in my photos, which helped grind the mix into a finer paste.

Toasting and grinding the almonds yourself (rather than buying already roasted nuts) is really worth the extra step.  It imparts the most glorious flavor and suits the citrus fruit to a T.

The best news is that the cake is an unequivocal success  It's light, extremely moist, and contains tiny bits of nuts and citrus.  Yum.  My only complaint is that I found it a tad too sweet.  Instead of the recipe's 1.5 cups sugar, next time I will try cutting it back to a 2/3 or perhaps 3/4 cup.  But if you like your cake on the sweet side (which I do normally), keep it as is.  Also, the recipe instructions call for a 9-inch spring form pan.  Mine is 10 inches, but as you can see it did the job beautifully.

Please click here for the full recipe.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Can't Get Here Soon Enough

A few weeks ago Alan arrived home with a quart of milk, some bread, and a lovely little pot of flower bulbs.  After two solid months of snow, I was delighted to see something green and anxiously anticipating the forthcoming blossoms. Forget the plant, all Anatole wanted was the bird egg tucked inside.