The end of summer, and my birthday.

I have neglected this blog long enough now. I just needed a little break from blogging to come up with some inspiration. That, and my birthday, which for the first time made a severe dent in my otherwise cheerful take on life.

What really hit me this time was that I’m 27 now and I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life. A couple of years ago I was sure I would end up in some big investment bank or hedge fund, work my ass off for a while and rake in a nice salary in the meantime. Yet now that I’m older I’m really enjoying other parts of life as well, and giving my life to my work just doesn’t seem so appealing anymore. On the other hand, I’m currently doing a temporary job which I know is going to end withing two years. I think my birthday weighed down on me by making me feel ‘stuck’ in life.

It’s almost a month later now, and I’m largely past the proverbial wall. I’m enjoying life more now instead of worrying about what’s going to happen later. I’m following a bread-baking course (bread dough has always been sort of my nemesis), taking tons of pictures everywhere (the ones in this post have been taken at koffie Onan during a rainy Saturday afternoon) and coming up with menus for our November dinner parties. I’ll be commenting on those over the coming weeks!

Spaghetti con granchio e pomodoro

I’m starting to realize that I have some funny conceptions when cooking for a party. Most people I know would go to the store an hour before the happening and stock up on potato chips, dips, olives or whatever they feel like. I, on the other hand, obsess for a week about what I’m going to prepare. I also make my own bread and marinate my own olives. I don’t even think about it anymore.

On top of that, I have very bad assessment skills when it comes to optimizing quantities. No, let me rephrase that: I have abysmal assessment skills. I blame my Greek background. There should never be insufficient quantities of food available at a party! This inevitably leads to overeating and that well-known stuffed feeling. Ever since I went on a self-invented diet in order to slim down a bit, I’m hitting that feeling a lot sooner than I used to. That’s a good sign health-wise, but it does provide this gnawing feeling that I’m less of a man than I used to be. I quickly compensated that by buying a nice, big dSLR camera with a big lens. I’m the alpha male of the block again!

But seriously, after such parties, of which there have been too many lately, I crave for lighter meals that don’t require umpteen intermediate steps to prepare. Enter light pastas and simple curries. Our usual quick and dirty pasta fix consists of thickening a couple of tins of tomatoes with spicy garlic oil, yet sometimes we crave for something a bit more complex. I was delighted to find this recipe for a crab and tomato pasta, which I altered ever so slightly to our taste.

I’m not sure if the original recipe required fresh crab, but since fresh is unavailable here I used canned crab. It might be heresy, but so be it; it was still delicious. This would be perfect for one of those holidays in a beach cottage, where fresh seafood is abundant. One of those fun trips I seem to be dreaming of a lot these days. Where everyone is happily cooking and eating outside on the patio.

Spaghetti con granchio e pomodoro

Recipe almost entirely taken from the Simple Kitchen Seasons blog.

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • A can of chopped San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup fish stock
  • A can of 210gr king crab meat (or fresh crab if you’re lucky enough)
  • Some parsley and mint, chopped together
  • (Fresh) spaghetti

Heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium heat, until it turns golden. Add the red pepper flakes and give the pan a couple of swirls to mix. Continue by adding both the stock and the tomatoes, and let simmer for fifteen minutes until the sauce thickens. In the meantime, cook your spaghetti according to instructions. I added the liquid from the crab to the cooking water. When the sauce is thickened and your spaghetti is al dente (which you will have timed perfectly), add the pasta and crab meat to the sauce, together with a splash of the pasta cooking water (this will also partly salt the sauce). Add some more salt if needed, plate, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and mint (to taste).

Abolishing old eating habits (Roasted quinoa with white chocolate cream)

Old habits die hard.

As a kid, I used to terrorize my mom with all my crazy ideas about what constitutes a good meal. I would not touch anything that was covered in sauce, because in my mind a sauce was the perfect way to hide something nasty. While other kids went nuts for McDonald’s, I was disgusted by minced meat (again, why would you need to mince it if it was fine to begin with) and all condiments such as mayonnaise and ketchup. Put a drop of mayonnaise on something, and I would have rather starved than eaten it. I wouldn’t even touch the rest of the food, because somehow in my mind this stuff was like some sort of supergerm, instantly contaminating any edible object in sight.

A lot of these habits haunted me for a long time. I would even say that some of them still haunt me now. Obviously not the sauce one (really, what was I thinking), but as an example I still dislike the texture of mayonnaise. There’s just something in my mind that makes me insanely uncomfortable if I have to eat it. I enjoy it when it’s sufficiently mixed up with other stuff though, just don’t expect me to dip my French fries in it. The same goes for mustard and ketchup. Interestingly, I do enjoy a good Hollandaise.

White sauces are another example. A white sauce, like béchamel, was the pinnacle of food horror when I was younger. I guess it is related to my aversion to cheese, the idea that all those sauces contained some sort of cheese fueled my fear of those white puddles of sheer agony. Even now I’ll still get anxious when I see a white sauce. I almost never make them at home either.

It’s a slow process, but I’m overcoming my irrational fears.

Except for cilantro. That shit tastes like soap.

Roasted quinoa with white chocolate cream

The recipe for this one is really simple. You roast 1 part quinoa in a 180°C oven for 20 minutes. Then you boil it with 2 parts salted water. Let it cool. Mix with some chopped mint.

For the chocolate cream, you melt some white chocolate au bain marie (or, in this case, you can melt it over a low fire directly on the stove). Whip up some cream, and incorporate it into the chocolate. I did this entirely on feel, but I believe I used 25g of chocolate and about 20ml of cream. Just add cream until you get the desired consistency/taste.