rösti almost-y…and what I’m working with

Last summer, I visited Switzerland with my family. Beyond chocolate and neutrality, I didn’t really know what to expect, especially in terms of cuisine. Well we ate lots of delicious food, both French and German, but at every meal, the star of the show was rösti. Considered the de facto national dish of Switzerland, rösti is a basically a potato pancake. Grated potatoes are pan-fried (or sometimes baked) in either oil or butter, and typically served as a contorno, or side dish, at the meal. Sometimes cheese or bacon or some additional ingredients are added, at the discretion of the chef, but traditionally rösti is a one-man-show, consisting solely of potatoes.

I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of a dish made solely from potatoes, but sadly, my jeans are not. Out of deference to my waistline, I decided to add some grated zucchini to the situation. I invited some dill, salt, and the teeniest splash of olive oil and called it a day. Had I remembered to, I also would have added some minced garlic – I definitely will next time! I toyed with the idea of pan-frying them, but then what was the point of adding the zucchini, right?

Into the oven they went, and they came out delicious. Slightly burnt crispy on the outside, softer and chewier in the middle – not exactly like Switzerland, but they did the trick! The zucchini was a grate idea (had to), it melded perfectly with the potato, and added a nice splash of color to the whole affair.

Next time, I will probably pile each pancake a little higher, since they flattened out more than I was expecting them to. I ate these (plus a kiwi) for dinner, but they would be great with breakfast too – maybe with a nice poached egg on top? My extreme hunger and lack of forethought prevented me this time, but next time I’ll also combine some Greek yogurt with some lemon and dill to serve alongside these bad boys.

Now I’m going to share some behind-the-scenes footage, because I’ve told people that my kitchen is small, but I don’t know if words do it justice. I’m weirdly proud of how tiny the space is, take a look:

This is my kitchen. I’ve got a sink, two stovetops, and some shelves. The most sophisticated tool in there is a grater (check it out, its hanging above the sink), and there is no oven. The fridge is one of those cabinets at the bottom.

I am actually starting to really like cooking here. Having such restricted space and no tools I’m used to, like an electric mixer or a food processor (or even a real oven), forces me to do stuff the old-fashioned way, which I love. If I want fluffy egg whites, I’m going to have to earn them. If I want pie crust, I’m cutting the butter into the flour by hand (which is really the best way to do it anyways). And having such a small fridge (made even smaller by the fact that anything on the top shelf will actually freeze, meaning no eggs or yogurt may live there) forces me to plan ahead. Everything in there is there for a reason. I know what every item in that fridge is going to be when it grows up. The zucchini and red pepper are going to be a Thai stir-fry, the mozzarella is going to be a pizza, the giant bottle of Diet Coke is going to be the death of me, and so on.

But I still needed an oven. Luckily I had a microwave, but an oven was a necessity.

Enter the toaster oven – one of the first things I bought when I got here. Not much bigger than a shoebox, but it does the trick! Did you not see the rösti?? They were totally well-rösted! This kitchen is tiny but effectual, and I’ve never had more fun creating yummy food!

And yes, my toaster oven doubles as a breadbox.

Potato-Zucchini Rösti Recipe

  • 1 yellow potato, peeled
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Grate the potato and zucchini into a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine.

Form patties of desired size on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350°.

pecan torte with maple whipped cream

This torte may be one of my new favorite desserts. I like pecans as much as the next person, but prior to tasting this, I thought that this torte was only for the folks who have a serious love thing going on with those funnily-named nuts. This recipe was requested by one such person, and I’m so glad because, although this torte consists of very few ingredients, it is delightful and light and really needs no accompaniment.

It puffs up gloriously in the oven, just like a souffle, and then sinks back down once it begins to cool, immediately alleviating my concerns that I had accidentally made a giant 5-inch tall cake. Just like with a souffle, preparing the batter takes a little bit of patience, at least for me. “Folding” in egg whites is a very stressful task when coupled with my impatience, and I have to work very hard to resist the urge to just mix everything together in order to speed the process along. Resist the urge – it will be worth it.

Now for the whipped cream. I’m sure everyone has heard of/played word association games, like where someone says a word and then you say the word that immediately comes to mind in response. Well, I didn’t want to just make plain sweetened whipped cream, so I stared at the bag of pecans for a few seconds and immediately thought of maple syrup. I can’t help but associate pecans and maple, it is one of the best combinations in my opinion. So the whipped cream had to be sweetened slightly with maple syrup, instead of regular sugar. Major improvement.

Serve this for dessert, as a snack with coffee, or even as part of breakfast/brunch!

I also submitted this to Bake with Bizzy!

Pecan Torte Recipe (adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325°. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

Combine the pecans, flour and salt in a food processor until finely ground; set aside.

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar until pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Using a silicone spatula, fold in the pecan mixture and set aside.

Be sure to completely wash and dry the bowl and mixer attachments, and use the mixer to beat the egg whites until foamy. Add roughly 1/3 of the remaining sugar, and continue to beat egg whites until opaque. Then add approximately 1/3 more of the sugar. Continue beating until egg whites begin to form soft peaks, add remaining sugar, and beat until soft peaks are fully formed. Fold the egg whites gently into the egg yolk-pecan mixture. Folding in the egg whites too soon will deflate the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake is lightly browned and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Run a butter knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the edges, and carefully transfer cake from pan to serving platter. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

Maple Whipped Cream Recipe

  • 1 half-pint Heavy Cream
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup

The cream will whip better if you chill the bowl and beaters in the fridge before preparing the cream, so that everything is as cold as possible.

Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the maple syrup and continue whipping until cream reaches desired consistency. Either serve immediately or chill until serving.

welcome…have some pancakes!

I wasn’t planning on starting to post here until I actually got to Italy, but I made these pancakes, and they won’t be denied or ignored. They are called cinnamon roll pancakes, and they just seem more justifiable as a breakfast food than straight up cinnamon rolls. I didn’t have a lot of time (I was really hungry), so I cheated and used Bisquick for the pancake base, but you can pretty much use any pancake recipe. Or use Bisquick – this is a judgment-free zone.

There is a recipe for a glaze that goes with these pancakes, but I think that getting glaze involved would be pushing the “acceptable breakfast” envelope a little too much. Anyways, the pancakes are delicious enough with absolutely nothing to top them off (they do have swirls of cinnamon, butter and brown sugar after all) but I’m not the boss of you. I’m going to give you the glaze recipe, and then I will look the other way. Make the pancakes. Make the glaze. Make me proud.

For the pancakes, use whatever basic pancake recipe you like, or use a mix!

For the filling (adapted from Recipe Girl):

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine all three ingredients thoroughly, then scoop mixture into a Ziploc bag. After pouring pancake batter onto skillet, snip off a corner of the bag, and pipe filling in a swirl pattern onto pancake. When bubbles appear on pancake, flip and cook until golden brown.

For the glaze (also from Recipe Girl):

  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract