Saturday, May 7, 2011

Broccoli and bacon salad

This is my bounty from the morning's farmers market: tender young radishes, soft red strawberries, and a half kilo of peas. And all at what, in my continual adaptation to Scandinavia, now seem like reasonable prices: five dollars each for the peas and strawberries, and only one dollar for the radishes.

I love peas in the spring. I love the way they grew up our balcony railings in Budapest last year, confounding the neighbors and giving us fresh peas even in 30° heat. To me, a large bowl of fresh peas is the springtime equivalent of a bowl of mandarin oranges: placed on the table after a meal, they bring a refreshing closure.

Despite all my complaining about high prices in Denmark (it's the $14 for a pint of beer which really gets to me), one vegetable is reliably available and always inexpensive: broccoli. I don't understand it. A head of broccoli typically costs 7 kroner (or 12 kroner for organic broccoli). This is just over one dollar (or about two dollars for the organic). The only explanation I can think of is that Danes don't like broccoli. Luckily, I do. And I eat a lot of it.

This salad is my favorite new way of using broccoli: quick, simple and as tasty as it gets. (That's the bacon. The foodie scene may have had it with bacon-flavored ice creams and crème brûlées, but I'll never tire of plain, simply cooked bacon.) Fry up some bacon – while it's in the pan, cook some broccoli [please do not overcook it] – let the broccoli cool slightly – combine the bacon and broccoli with some lettuce and chopped green onions (both the tops and bottoms) – and toss with a simple olive oil-balsamic or walnut oil-balsamic vinaigrette. Eat. Enjoy. Be glad it's spring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shrimp and basil frittata

I am usually not a fan of egg-based dishes. Omelettes, quiches and frittatas are – despite years of trying – not to my taste.

Until now.

This brilliant concoction [I'm still marveling at how well it came out of the pan] is a shrimp and basil frittata, a glorious circle of lightness and flavor. It's based on Jamie Oliver's shrimp and parsley frittata, with a few changes to give it a bit more zing. It takes virtually no time at all to prepare and cook: preparation is limited to deveining some shrimp and grating Parmesan, and the cooking takes six minutes.

It's immensely satisfying when something so far from my usual repertoire works so well. And especially so when the past week has been filled with some of the best food in the world: seven course dinners at Belica winery in the Goriska Brda region of Slovenia, and fresh seafood out of the Adriatic in Piran. We spent the Easter weekend enjoying deer carpaccio, home cured prsut, potica, persimmon jam, whitebait, and scallop roe at two of our favorite restaurants from this posting. Slovenia has been the highlight of our posting to Budapest, and we will miss it.

Shrimp and basil frittata

What you need (serves two):
  • 6  eggs
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a large handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
  • zest from half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 8-10 shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • butter
  • olive oil

What you do:
  • Pre-the oven to 210°C. 
  • Place a good dollop of butter and a splash of olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan or pot, and heat it on the stove.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a small bowl with a little bit of salt and pepper. Add the basil, lemon zest, and Parmesan, and stir briefly. Then add the green onions and shrimp and stir again.
  • Once the oil and butter are foaming, pour in the egg mixture. Cook over medium heat while gently stirring for 1 min. Then transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 5 min., until the frittata has risen slightly and is light, fluffy, and just turning golden brown.
  • Serve with a simple salad.