I tasted this chutney first at my friend Pia’s home, way back when; it’s her Mom’s recipe and it was then – and is now – good enough to eat with a spoon. It is understood in my family now that that’s what tomato chutney tastes like, the go-to-recipe for a chunky-sweet and slightly sour-with a definite hint of apple tomato condiment for grilled fish or pork. There’s only one person here in the house that actually can eat things like that with a spoon, and that’s my little son Luca, but although I cannot, cannot, cannot and won’t ever learn to understand how it’s possible to eat ketchup that comes in these almost too big for the fridge plastic bottles with a spoon, I have to admit, that I have no problem at all licking the spoon that comes out of the tomato chutney glass.
Here is the train of thought that led to this post: Martin came home from Boston with fresh corn tortillas and Peet’s Coffee for me. I opened one bag of coffee and hid the rest, but corn tortillas are perishable, so….eat it was. That’s where that train of thought almost derailed then and there – too many opinions on what to wrap them around. I settled the matter and decreed: carnitas for dinner, with corn tortillas, tomatillo salsa and queso fresco. Sound good? Agreed. Good corn tortillas are a little bit like gold dust around here: hard to find. So the question what to do with a whole pack of them is to be taken seriously. Everyone here loves carnitas, so we could agree on that, but I have to be particular and need some queso fresco on top of my tacos to make them a perfect bite. Queso fresco (and all its cousins, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunties) unfortunately belong in the gold dust category as well, so there’s only one way out: make your own.
There’s good stuff to eat in Italy – that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that I have a hard time controlling myself when I’m faced with a nice Farmer’s Market (or the well stocked produce department inside a supermarket for that matter) and the immediate means of cooking the ingredients; in this particular case a beautiful Tuscan vacation home in the hills of the Garfagnana with ample access to everything good: wine, cheese, cured (and not so cured) meats, fish, veggies and fruits and veggies and fruits and veggies and fruits….and did I mention the fantastic wine yet? Having access to a kitchen and a BBQ on your vacation lowers the level of frustration (as in: how many peaches can I possibly consume right here, right now??) considerably. I love shopping in foreign grocery stores, it’s a tourist attraction for me and my family knows to tolerate me, because they know there will be light at the end of the tunnel, figuratively speaking. It’s a pity, really, that a person can only eat so much watermelon in one sitting and even though we practically plowed our way through giant tubs of green and black olives and caper berries, we had to give up and take the rest home – they had to share precious real estate in the trunk of our car with the wine, gigantic hunks of parmigiano, pecorino, pancetta, the pool toys, the Smokey Joe (we’re so equipped) and the suitcases that actually contained clothes, not food…
Here’s the thing with corn: it’s really, really good when it’s really, really fresh. When it’s sweet and crisp and the corn kernels pop in your mouth when you bite into freshly grilled corn on the cob, slathered with avocado butter and drizzled with some flaky salt. Heaven. There’s just one problem with heaven; it apparently doesn’t always have a place in danish grocery stores – and that’s a real pity and a shame, since corn grows well in Denmark. Should I really have to go into a supermarket to pick up some fresh corn and find some (granted, all right looking) corn imported from Morocco? Understandable maybe in May when nothing much is seasonal here yet, but in August? During corn season? Corn might look like a sturdy plant and corn cobs aren’t fragile in the “don’t drop the shopping basket, there’s eggs in there” way, but once they’re picked, the clock starts ticking and the beautifully sweet milk inside each corn kernel starts converting into starch – the longer it takes to get the corn from field to market, the starchier the corn gets and a starchy ear of corn is not a good thing to sink your teeth into, no matter how much butter you put on top of it.
In our little greenhouse the harvest season has begun: the first round of chiles has been picked, roasted and skinned, waiting to be turned into chile stew, the heirloom tomatoes are producing fruit faithfully, it’s amazing the size some of them have – the other day Martin and me shared a tomato for lunch…- but there are four plants quietly growing in there that I can say of, with conviction, won’t be found in many greenhouses in Denmark: tomatillos. They’re native to Mexico and though they’re almost as commonplace in many US grocery stores as their distant cousin, the tomato, they’re a rarity here and cannot be bought in any shop for any price, but this year they’re growing in my greenhouse, and they’re ripe.
Making Mole Poblano is a time consuming business, if not a very difficult one. You have to start well in advance, way before you even feel like eating it for dinner – tomorrow nights’ dinner, that’s understood. Making Mole is not rocket science, but finding the right ingredients can be. If you, like I don’t, live close-ish to a mexican market, it’s a simple matter of leaving the house with your elbow-length ingredient list and coming back with everything you needed, plus those mexican popsicles, coconut flavor, mangoes and avocados, because they looked good, tomatillos, because they go so well as a salsa with the nice, thick-cut tortilla chips one aisle down, and some extra queso fresco, since it’s tasty crumbled on many things. And – that pork shoulder had to wait until next time, since it’s time for mole, not carnitas. Next weekend. Did I miss anything?
Everyone in this house loves melons, any and all, Cantaloupe, Galia, Honeydew, Canary, Piel de Sapo (which Felix calls the “american football melon, just green” – I don’t know, better or worse than its real name – “Skin of the Toad”, anyone?) Charentais, all are good. We eat them for desert, they go in lunchboxes (messy…but so yummy!), I wrap them with prosciutto or prepare them as a salad with arugula and lots of cracked black pepper – my friend Anne-Sophie introduced me to a grown-up only version of eating the small charentais melons for desert: halved around the equator, deseeded and the resulting hollow filled with port wine – thanks, Anne-Sophie and it goes without saying, it’s a french thing and the melons need to be super ripe and soft, else it’s a bloodbath….
Strawberries do well here, if only given half a chance = some sunshine, and June has been kind to us. This year seems to be a good year for deep red, juicy strawberries. There are big strawberry fields all around our place and no escaping the strawberry tents that have set up shop everywhere, no matter which way you point your car on your way out of town. The other day I came home with one kilo of sweet, nice and ripe, red strawberries and I can honestly say that I have no idea how that happened, Continue reading “Strawberry IcePops”
Here’s a quick one for the weekend: hibiscus flower agua fresca – the most vibrantly colored summer drink since the invention of “Red #40”, just redder and better for you, no artificial coloring agents involved; just dried, rehydrated and steeped hibiscus flowers, that’s all there is to it. In Mexico, where this drink is from, hibiscus flowers are called flores de jamaica, funnily enough in Denmark the same flowers are called hawaii flowers – I guess one exotic place is just as good as the next when you’re living far enough away…
Elderflowers are magical things; they sit in big clusters of tiny cream-colored blossoms that light up an otherwise unassuming bush. When you walk by on a warm day or after a rain, their fragrance can make your head swim – it’s addictive. Like a bee you want to stick your nose in and have more. The flowers manage to smell both sweet and earthy and light and fresh at the same time – maybe that’s their secret.
Continue reading “Elderflower Syrup”