April: a usually wonderful month of the year – flowers start reappearing from their winter sleep, chestnut stands slowly transform into ice cream stands along the lake, winter jackets can finally do what they do best (live in the attic), one can leave work in daylight and even go for a run before the sun sets. Technically so much to love – everyone seems to be in a happy mood now that the cold has passed. Or so we thought it had passed….. last weekend the warmth decided to take a leave of absence making way for some spring snow. How rude!
The snow did not stop me from embracing the supposed spring season – it is finally asparagus time again! A delicious unique vegetable which has the questionable side note of adding a peculiar smell to ones pee. We can count ourselves lucky that not all produce does that….. I wouldn’t want to know what aubergine urine could smell like…. or how about egg? Anyways, in keeping with the season with a hint of snow, I attempted a warming spring pasta dish using six ingredients: asparagus, cream, lemon, garlic, parmesan and, of course, pasta. Turned out yums – perfect for a mid week meal and freezable lunch!
Lemony Asparagus Cream Pasta
For the next 6 weeks fate has decided to give me a new challenge: learn to cook with one hand. How come? After a wonderful girlie weekend filled with fresh mountain air, snow, saunas, steambaths, delicious food, excellent company and a terrifying but harmless mass collision on skis, we decided to end the fun with a bang: sledding. Sounded like a great idea. Proved to be a great idea, however, only until two of us lost control, flung ourselves off the sled in an attempt to brake, as one has learnt to as a child. We successfully came to a grinding halt. Sadly, three of our bones were none too pleased with the speed of our stop. Where did the two junior doctors, who clearly don’t know how to sled, end up? Their favorite place: the ER. Diagnosis? Fractures, to be precise 3 of them, fairly divided between the two of us (mine being the fractured wrist). The best part: we got matching green casts! Needless to say, we sure did end our holiday with a bang and a great story. Also, note to self: never go sledding again.
Now, as for one-handed cooking – it’s really not that easy. I miss my left hand! But, never give up and accept the challenge. Here my first successful one-handed dish. Simple (even with one hand), heart warming and delicious.
Cauliflower, Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin
One of the best inventions (if you can call it that) nature has brought with itself is honey. In any form, in any meal, in chapstick, in skin cream, in a hair mask – it always seems to find its place successfully. I completely understand and support it being the most important food in Winnie-the-Pooh’s universe.
My father’s family used to have beehives up on an Alp when he was a child (how Swiss, right?), yielding over a yearly supply of the golden goodness. We regularly try to inspire him to set one up again masking it as a new retirement project…. so far we have failed. On a recent road trip along the West Coast I came across an amazing shop revolving around bee keeping and honey in Portland, OR. I almost took the invisible project a step further by buying all the essentials for a DIY beehive… lucky for my father the only item I left the store with was a honey-inspired cookbook. And here you have it, a twist on one of their recipes – duck and honey are a great couple. Let me know what you think!
Oven Roasted Duck with a Raspberry Honey Sauce
inspired by The Fresh Honey Cookbook
Based on ecological reasons, my flatmate has recently decided to turn vegetarian. My, was she a bacon lover.
Nonetheless, I fully support and understand her choice. Despite being born omnivores, the impact and consequences of today’s meat and fish consumption are horrendous. Not only is the amount of water used to produce one pound of meat (ca. 1600 litres, no joke) disgusting, the amount of ongoing soy bean cultivation to create enough meal for livestock is equally shocking. Since the 90’s, soy bean production has doubled globally, with about 85% of the produce being used for oil and meal. On average, for the 87kg meat and 250 eggs each European eats per annum, 400m2 of land are needed per person to keep up with the demand. Unimaginable. The rapid expansion has led to invasion of natural habitats, (including woodlands, rainforests, savannahs in South America), damaging water reserves, soil quality, ultimately threatening wildlife and biodiversity.
Something has to change. Something has to change fast. Reducing your meat and dairy intake would be a great first step – it is mine.
That being said, I went through my recipe index and was shocked by the small percentage of vegetarian dishes cited. So, to improve that statistic, I got to work and am proud to present you with a simple mid-week vegetarian gratin. Not dairy free, but delicious. Meat is definitely not missed here. Also, keeping in tune with the ecological theme, it is avocado free.
Asparagus Mushroom Gratin
Any american football fans around? Rumor has it that if you live stateside, Sunday night football is holy. Apparently there is even a theme song welcoming viewers back. Part of the tradition also includes ordering take-out (usually pizza) – the best part in my opinion. Personally, not being such a fan of the sport, one can easily reach a compromise with moi regarding what TV channel will run if the words take out and seamless are mentioned. (Un)lucky for me – my better half is currently based in Trumpland, so I actually have to hang out in New York occasionally. First thing I ever ordered on seamless? Sesame Broccoli Chicken – sticky take away heaven.
Now, sadly, my home town doesn’t offer such a tasty range of unhealthy goodness delivered straight to your doorstep. My solution? Try to recreate. What occasion? Sunday night Academy Awards. Instead of drowning in ones sorrows about celebrities and their perfect bodies, one can drown in some sticky home-made chinese dish. Doesn’t sound too bad? Also, sooooo much better than football. So if you’re still arguing about what’s for dinner – head to the shops and have a go! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Sesame Broccoli Chicken
This past month has been insane – I can’t believe it’s already March. It started with two days out of my usual surgical routine, namely in the life of an Anesthetist, because why not. A perfect base specialty for going into emergency medicine – a potential career goal after (hopefully) successfully becoming a surgeon. It continued with a few crazy days of Fasnacht (= my local carnival), the highlight! Have you been? If not, add it to your bucket list. Apparently it’s even listed in 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the city goes insane, who thought Swiss people could actually have fun? Fasnacht lasts for just 3 days, but what glorious days these are. One calls them the “drey scheenschte Dääg” (= three nicest days of the year). I don’t think I would go that far, but they are fun. In a nutshell – parades of giant burning wood pieces, booze, confetti ALL OVER, parades of crazy people throwing oranges, flowers, alcohol and again, confetti, at you, flour soup (ew), booze, cheese tart, cellar bar hopping, booze, more confetti, amazing brass bands, schnitzelbängg (satirical poetry), crazy costumes. Also, very little sleep. Retrospectively it would have been wiser to take the days off work before my 10 day shift……
Now, after all this booze, my roommate and I were not in the best of states, understandably. Ideal culinary hangover cure? 1. Bacon, 2. Garlic, 3. Bacon, 4. Garlic, 5. Alcohol (always), 6. Panko breadcrumbs. Turn that into something crispy and satisfying? You end up with Chicken Kiev. There is a debate going on whether this dish is of American, Ukrainian or Russian origin…. honestly, who cares, thank you to whoever invented it, it’s delicious.
P.S. Apologies for the picture – blaming it on the hangover.
Chicken Kiev with BACON
If you are Swiss – stop reading here and wait for my next post. If not, please continue.
Sit back, close your eyes, and try to imagine how a typical Swiss winter weekend is spent. What did you come up with? Let me guess: waking up to blue sky and sunshine in a remote wooden chalet amongst meters of powpow. The day is started with freshly baked bread and hot chocolate, before taking to the slopes (mind you, by this time it’s probably only just gone 08:30 am). After a full days of skiing you slide into the local après ski bar for a glas or two of mulled wine before returning to your chalet and pampering yourself, especially your muscles, in the in-house sauna or steam-bath. Showered, relaxed and changed you gather around the fireplace and commence with an apéro, probably consisting of some bubblies, Hobelkäse and Bündnerfleisch. And dinner? Well, cheese of course. There’s nothing like melted cheese served with potatoes, grilled veggies, garlic and meats, a.k.a Raclette (wohooo low carb!!). The food-belly will be painful, but worth it – no better way to digest than with a sip of Kirsch whilst enjoying fire number two, before heading to bed. And tomorrow? Well, naturally, REPEAT, with cheese fondue instead. Sound about right?
Now, what on earth do the Swiss do when it snows and rains all day? Get all dressed up in ski-gear and watch ski-racing from the sofa, prior to commencing the daily apéro a few hours early? Exactly right. Also exactly how I spent my past weekend (minus the ski-gear, in-house sauna and steam-bath, add the onesie). It was glorious, you should try it.