Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ToastPoint Goes Dutch

ToastPoint recently had occasion to take an excursion to the Low Countries, and what did she find there? Dutch babies! No, not the offspring of Amsterdammers (though I'm sure there are some of those around): Delicious fluffy pancakes, in their bite-sized manifestation in this case. If the small American pancake is a silver dollar pancake, then I suppose these are silver guilder pancakes.

The Human Vacuum and I savored this light-yet-filling treat at an unlikely location: A tiny basement level coffeeshop/Internet cafe right next door to the Anne Frank House. After contemplating wartime privation and tragedy, nothing will cheer you up like a peek at your email and a late breakfast of sweet, eggy, buttery, sugar-dusted treats (or, oddly, a pastrami sandwich, if you prefer). The juxtaposition of the sober, modern museum facade and the cheery red canopy of the cafe is a perfect example of truth in advertising.

If you can't make it to Amsterdam, there's an appealing recipe for making your own jumbo version at Orangette.

Cucumber Tangerine Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

The name pretty much tells you everything you need to know--this salad sounds like a crazy person assembled it. But it tastes like that crazy person was really an idiot savant de salade. It's in the same spirit as the even crazier, even more delicious dish at the longstanding D.C. Greek and Turkish tapas hotspot, Zatiniya. There, they call it "Portakal Salatasi" which the menus describes as "oranges, red onion, pine nuts, kalamata olives and feta with orange blossom dressing."

You should really go to Zantiniya (Hint: Go early so that don't have to wait with the beautiful people at the bar for an eternity. The place is very chic) and have their version. But failing that, this is a tasty, quickie at-home version that omits the olives and is therefore slightly less threatening and more of a go-along-to-get-along side salad.

Cucumber Tangerine Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

In a dry pan, gently toast until golden:
1/4 cup pine nuts

Cut in quarters lengthwise:
1 English seedless cucumber (or a normal cuke, if that's what you have)

Peel and de-pith:
1 tangerine, mandarin, or other small orange-like fruit
Pull segments apart and cut each one in half.

Combine all of the above in a bowl, and toss with:
1 Tablespoon white vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon rosewater or orangeflower water (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Crumble on top:
2 Tablespoons goat cheese

Refrigerate until serving.

Indian Asparagus

I love asparagus. We here in the ToastPoint household buy asparagus nearly every time we go to the store, regardless of season (take that Michael Pollan!). But as good as basic steamed asparagus is, sometimes you want something a little more interesting. Especially in the winter when puttering around the kitchen and fussing with multiple hot pans is more appealing.

And how can you lose by adding oil, spices, yogurt, tomato, and nuts? The result is really good (if not nearly as good for you as the steamed version), and suitable for serving to foodies.

Disclosure: The fine people at The Lisa Ekus Group sent me this cookbook (for free!) umpteen months ago and I have been sitting on this recipe since then, because I am an ungrateful wretch. It's a pretty book full of pretty food, and would be good for those who have mastered the basics and are in the market for a take-it-to-the-next level Indian cookbook for dinner party recipes.

Indian Asparagus with Pistachios
on Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna's Sweet and Sour Asparagus with Cashews from Modern Indian Cooking)

Boil for 2 minutes, plunge into cold water, and then set aside:
1 lb asparagus

In a large skillet, warm over medium high heat:
3 Tablespoons oil

Briefly fry:
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Quickly add and cook until golden brown:
1 large onion, thinly sliced

Add and fry for one minute:
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small chili peppers, de-seeded and minced

Stir in:
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large tomato, chopped (I used a small can of diced tomatoes, drained)
1/4 cut yogurt

Cook for a minute or two, then add the asparagus and cook for another minute or two.

Serve garnished with pistachios (or the cashews in the original recipe)