Saturday, July 28, 2012

Another midsummer tapas party

Tapas buffet Summer 2012
I was born on mid summer in 1961. So, I throw a party every July, and these last years I have made tapas. 2012 was no exception. Here are a few of the things I made.
Tapas is easy to make, and you can start the day before. I use disposable tin foil containers with paper lids.

These can be stacked in the fridge, saving space as well as keeping the food fresh until the party.

Prunes with bacon
In 2012 I made many of the old classics.
The prunes in bacon have always been a hit. Very easy to make the day before and just pop the tin foil containers in  a hot oven until golden and crisp.

Make 3-4 per person, depending on the number of tapas dishes.  

Prunes in bacon - see how to make them here

Cherry tomatoes with pesto and baby mozzarella
Salmon swirls - wheat tortilla wrappers filled with flavoured cream cheese and smoked salmon, a delicious twist to a traditional combo of ingredients. Make 2-3 per person, depending on the number of tapas dishes.

Sliced Spanish chorizos is another success. Easily made the day before. Make around 4 per person.  

Salmon swirls, chorizo in sherry and more tapas - see recipes here 

You can also use easy tapas day before by using delicious small cherry tomatoes. Remove the seeds, top with pesto genovese and half a baby mozzarella.  

Another rerun is my prawns in white wine and garlic butter. So tasty and so easy to make.

Prawns in white wine and garlic butter

Prawns in white wine and garlic butter
You will need 2-4 prawn per person, depending on size. Avoid sticky fingers for your guests and peel the prawns.

Adjust amount of salted butter to the amount of prawns, ideally 20 grams to 100 grams of prawns.

Add 2 medium sized cloves of garlic to 100 grams of butter, and do add other spices for additional flavour.

Pour a little dry white wine, and bake in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

French breakfast rituals

There are two breakfast rituals that give me that particular French feeling. The first is a visit to the baker's in the morning to buy freshly baked baguettes, the second is a warm croissant with butter and jam and strong coffee outside on a Paris morning.

My first visit to France was in 1979. Then I visited my best pal Tor, that took his French examen baccaleureat at Lycée Corneille in Rouen in Normandy, far away from home. I stayed in his rented room in 5B rue de la Cigogne on the historic Rive Droite area for a whole week.

Breakfast for carb-junkies. Photo: Amarant 
During that visit, I was sent out to buy baguettes for breakfast, and I particularly remember being asked to buy a baguette of seize-cent grammes (1,6 kilograms), as I had to ask my friend twice, if such a giant bread really existed.

It really did, it was not three feet long (as I figured, as everyone knows that a French baguette is virtually just air), but it was as long as an ordinary loaf, but flatter, very thick, rustic and well baked, with a delicious dark brown crust.

I felt extremely French, as I left the boulangerie with the gigantic loaf wrapped in paper under my arm, heading home. Since then I have been participating in the "going to the baker's in the morning to get a baguette"- ritual many times, and it still gives me that French feeling.  

Equally, I find breakfasts on small neighbourhood bars in Paris, to be a another French superb early morning ritual. During our stay in Paris a few weeks ago, me and my good friend (and Enjoy Food & Travel co.-writer) Dagfinn Skoglund engaged in these ritualized meals at Royal Turenne, located on the corner rue Franc-Bourgeois and Rue Turenne.

Here you could start the day with a large meal or, as us, a simple breakfast consisting of one cup strong French coffee, peeping hot, followed by a glass of orange juice and a croissant or a "tartine", both served with butter and jam.
Croissants ready for the oven  Photo: Daniel.pichler
Both alternatives were real treats. Croissant crunchy and flaky, allowing the local sparrow to pick up a few leftovers from our table (they were really tame, suggesting that we were not the first to feed them). I made them super rich, by buttering and topping the pastry crescents with sweet jam.

Tartine, the other alternative, was a half a baguette, deliciously crunchy warm enough to melt the butter, and divine with the jam. God, I get hungry, thinking back on our breakfast ritual.

The advantage of our French breakfast ritual was that we worked up an appetite for lunch, as opposed to the ordinary hotel breakfasts where you over eat on eggs, bacon, sausages, cheese and cold-cuts.

I have plans to return to Paris this fall. If so, I will continue my favourite breakfast ritual, and will,  if I stay in Le Marais, return to Royal Turenne for more.    

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Paris: Medieval houses in Rue François Miron

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Before I came to Paris, I was led to believe that the Nicholas Flamel House in Rue de Montmorency in Le Marais was the oldest residential house still standing in Paris. When walking down Rue François Miron, I found that this was not true. One of the houses in this street predates the alchymists house by at least 70 years.
There are few areas in Paris as historically interesting as Le Marais. Here you find buildings from the Middle Ages as well as cutting edge contemporary architecture. The area escaped the numerous fires as well as the city planners that transferred the French capital in the 19th century.
In 1327 Charles IV was king of France
As I studied the architecture of Le Marais on the net, I was told that the house in 51 Rue de Montmorency from 1407 was the oldest residential building in Paris, but I discovered even older buildings in Rue François Miron closer to the Saint-Paul metro station. On the corner of Rue François Miron (n°11-13) and rue des Barres and rue du Grenier-sur-l’Eau (literally “granary above water”), I found two typical medieval half-timbered houses, the oldest said to be erected as early as 1327, the year before the House of Valois took over the French throne.
These two gabled houses are extraordinary buildings, extremely narrow, with only two windows per floor. The half-timbering used to be covered by plaster, and was uncovered, relatively recently, during restoration work in the 1960’s.
It was Henri IV (1589-1610), that commisioned the construction the the nearby Place des Vosges that in 1607 ordered that visible wooden elements be covered with plaster to prevent fire. It is intriguing to know that there still are, as in streets as rue Saint Antoine, similar ancient, small and narrow structures with two- window facades and gables, rebuilt or transformed on their original narrow plots.
Buildings like these contributes to the charm and the atmosphere of Les Marais, as has turned this area into the most upscale and chic downtown area in Paris to live in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My version of a classic - Russian eggs

My version of the classic Oeufs á la Russe
Ideally Russian eggs should be made with truffles and real Beluga caviar. For us mortals, any other roe will do. I used capelin roe, an inexpensive and delicious alternative and made it into a tapas dish at my birthday party. 
My version of Russian eggs is made with hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and roe. This is what I did to prepare enough as a tapas dish for 16 guests.

16 eggs, cold and hard boiled
1 glass (200 grams / 7 oz) capelin roe
4 tbsp good mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Cut eggs in two, scoop out the hard boiled egg yolks.

Place yolks in bowl and mash them finely, then add mayonnaise and mustard. Process into a fine puré. At this point you may add other ingredients, e.g. chives or French tarragon.
Arrange halved eggs on a large serving tray. Place the capelin roe in the cavity in the middle of each egg.
Place the egg and mayonnaise mix in a piping bag. I used a disposable bag. Pipe the cream on top of the roe.
Serve immediately.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

New direct flights to the sun from five Norwegian airports coming winter

Beautiful Puerto Mogan - Gran Canaria. Photo: Guido Haeger
Norwegian Air Shuttle starts direct flights to Gran Canaria from five airports coming winter season. 
More good news for those of you that want to escape the Norwegian winter. Norwegian Air Shuttle will start direct flights to Gran Canaria from five Norwegian airports this winter. This means easier travel for passengers, as they will not have to change to corresponding flights from Oslo Airport. 
Norwegian will start direct flights to Gran Canaria from following airports: 
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Leaner 'n creamier dips'n dressings

Photo: Rainer Zenz
For those of you that have the urge for a dipping sauce for your chips, beware that ready made sauces may be calorie bombs, especially in combination with the snack products themselves. There are however creamier alternatives that do not put those extra inches to your waist line.
I love creamy dip sauces, not only to my snacks, but also as dressing on salads. I have started to use dip mixes. When mixed in different dairy products, they are much leaner than most oil and mayonnaise based products, and tastes delicious as well
Celery stalks - photo:  Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
In Norway Maarud Gaard is one of the main brands for snacks and dips. They have different tastes. My personal favourites are the Holiday, Hot Holiday and Garlic.

How healthy they get depends on you. You may use a wide range of products with different amounts of fat, and what you use it for, will also account for how much fat you eat. Why not try thinly sliced vegetables instead of potato chips or stalks of celery.
But beware - if you use mixes you may get more sodium, which is not good for you, and definitely not when combined with potato chips or other conventional snacks. The consistency of the dip may also vary. Here are a few (Norwegian) products to try. If you live in other countries you will most certainly find identical or similar products in your supermarket
Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese: 96 calories in 100 g. 
Cottage cheese is similar to the Italian ricotta. It is a soft cheese with a high protein content. In Norway it has a soft, granular consistency. This mean that the dip mix will not mix properly with the cheese. Your will need to use your blender to process the cheese into a smoother consistency, more suited for the mix.
I mixed in 5 cl of milk to the cheese, as the cottage cheese was too firm to be processed, and added the dip mix. The end result was a thick, cheesy dip, rather than a sauce or dressing. Not unlike much of the soft cheeses with garlic found on the market. The slightly sourness of the cottage cheese may be corrected by using a little honey or sweet Thai chili sauce.
Sour cream: 185 calories in 100 g.
Sour cream
The Norwegian dip mixes are made to be dissolved in "rømme" or sour cream.

If you want the full fat version (Norwegian "Seter rømme") you will get much more fat, but the result is richer and creamier dips. This will be less an issue if you use healthy snacks, but if you for for chips you will get you dose of fat.
The low fat version contains much less calories, and is so good that you may to think again if you consider a full fat alternative. When mixing in the dip mix you will get a much creamier dip sauce than with cottage cheese, that, if left in the refrigerator to set for an hour, thicken into a even more scrumptious sauce.
Kesam: 116 calories in 100 g.
Kesam is known as quark, a type of fresh cheese, also known as tvorog (from the Russian творог). It is even more low fat than cottage cheese in its light form. The light version has only 75 kcal per 100 gram.
I have not tried mixing kesam with dip mix, but I figure it may be the same experience as cottage cheese. I will update the story when I have tried this product.
Philadelphia light: 150 calories in 100 g.
Low fat Philadelphia cheese

Another great idea is to stir the mix into low fat Philadelpia cream cheese. This is a leaner alternative than sour cream beating it with 35 calories per 100 gram.

Philadelphia is firmer, but creamier than cottage cheese and the alternative ends up like a garlic flavoured cheese. To get a creamier alternative add some sour cream to the cheese.
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