Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Debut: Organic Pizzas

I made my Daring Bakers debut this month with these authentic, home-tossed organic pizzas topped with homemade tomato and oregano sauce, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, fresh basil from my windowsill and savory bits of locally raised, cold-smoked Linderöd pork tenderloin.

This recipe (from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker’s Apprentice") is much easier than I expected it to be and the crust turned out perfectly thin, gently crisp and just tasty. The greatest testament to its success: I ate all of the edges. I never eat pizza crust edges. That officially makes this the best pizza dough recipe ever. May I be so bold here as to suggest that using only organic ingredients and fresh yeast (instead of instant) made my pizza dough even better than Peter Reinharts?

Make a big batch of this easy but perfect pizza dough, keep it in the fridge for up to three days (or longer in the freezer) and then just pull them out two hours before you want to eat, heat the oven, toss/roll and top and bake for 5 to 8 minutes.

Day One
(or in the morning, the same day you want to eat them)
Mix 3 tsp fresh yeast with 1 3/4 cups cold water, 1 tbsp sugar in a big bowl. Then add 1 3/4 cups good olive oil, 600 grams flour and 1 3/4 tsp salt and mix to form a sticky ball of dough. Turn it out on a floured surface and knead for about five minutes until smooth and elastic but still sticky.

Divide the dough in four to eight equal pieces, depending on whether you want smaller individual pizzas or family sizes (...psst, the individual ones are easier to handle later and more fun when everyone gets to top their own) and form the pieces in to balls with floured hands. Place them on lightly oiled baking paper, on an oven pan that will fit into your fridge, and cover with plastic wrap. Pop them in the fridge.

Day two
Remove the dough balls from the fridge, exactly two hours before you make the pizzas. Press delicately, with floured hands, into discs about 1/2 inch thick and then cover and allow to rest for two hours

When the two hours are almost up, start heating the oven (as hot as it goes!) and prep your sauce and toppings. Combine a pure tomato sauce of 100% squashed organic tomatoes with a splash of good olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a clove of garlic, the leaves from a sprig or two of fresh oregano from your garden and heat gently to infuse the flavors into the sauce. Finish with generous sprinkles of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now you're ready to toss. Generously flour the counter, the underside of a big oven pan and your hands with flour or cornmeal. Lift a dough ball and lay it across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. Beginners like myself find it useful to prep with a rolling pin first to get the dough expanded to a nicely round shape and manageable size before doing the proper tossing bit. If the dough tends to stick to your hands when tossing, lay it down, reflour your hands and then continue the tossing.

When you have gotten it to your desired size and thickness place it on the very generously floured pan, top it and slide it into the oven. Bake pizzas one at a time for 5 to 8 minutes in the middle of the oven then serve immediately with a carefree italian red like Dolcetto d'Alba from Alessandria Silvio Azienda Agricola or Cantine Giacomo Ascheri in Piedmont. Buono appetito!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Living Museum Farm at Fredriksdal

I spent last Sunday afternoon tagging along with Bo Dahlgren, head of the living farm at Fredriksdal's Museums & Gardens here in Helsingborg and continued discovering how lucky I am to have a working farm barely two kilometers from my front door (especially nice since I am participating in the Eat Local Challenge).

The Fredriksdal farm is also smack in the middle of Helsingborg, putting it a scant 10 minute stroll from Kullagatan, our main pedestrian shopping street. And, oh delight, its entire reason for being is to preserve the cultural history and natural diversity of life in the Scanian countryside. This means natural organic methods and heirloom fruit and vegetables, like the chiogga or candy cane beets and borgherre apples above. When volunteers have time to help with the harvesting, the fruit and vegetables are sold in the museum's gift shop at the main entrance. The only thing more local than this in Helsingborg is my own little garden.
Gullros, the pretty Rödkulla cow, and the rest of my animal friends at Fredriksdal are naturally raised, traditional and rare breeds of cattle, pigs, rabbits, goats and poultry.

The pigs require a special mention here (vegetarians avert your eyes).

These are no ordinary piggies. They have been raised up on organic apples and potaotes that ripen within their sight on the farm and are an ancient native breed from the Linderöd Ridge in Stone Age Scania. These Linderöd Pigs numbered only ten adult animals in 1992 but now they are happily making a comeback with the help of Fredriksdal, Bo and Slowfood. According to Slowfood's Convivium Helsingborg website, there are now 350 adult Linderöd pigs registered for breeding and these lucky porkers are the only Swedish native breed of pigs to be granted the environmental support of endangered domesticated breeds by the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

The description of the Linderöd's looks and tempermant on the Slowfood site is so quaint that I must not rob you of it:
The Linderöd Pig is a little round and has sturdy strong legs. The snout is straight and well developed. The colour is gaudily black on a white/grey or brown bottom. Sometimes the black spots can be so big that the animal almost looks black. There is a great variety, and individual animals can be predominantly black or brown. The brown animals are more orange when they are small, but they gradually develop into brown/grey when they get old. Not a single white animal has yet been born, which indicates that the breed is native. The Linderöd Pig has a winter fur and likes being outdoors all the year around. The pigs grow slowly and they are calm, patient and sociable.
What you see below is Linderöd bacon and pork tenderloin, born on the Fredriksdal farm, raised on organic apples and cold-smoked by our local smokery master, Per in Viken. Delicious. But, you say, if you want to preserve the breed, why are you eating it?
Bo explained it to me. The reason that these rare, native breeds are disappearing is precisely because we don't eat them anymore. If they are to make a real comeback and if we are to promote biological diversity, they must become more than museum pieces. This is also why Bo is away from the farm this week and participating in the Salone Del Gusto and Terra Madre annual, international Slowfood events in Turin, Italy, for everyone who is passionate about good, clean and fair food. Bon Courage!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Understanding true wealth eradicates poverty

When do you feel richest? Laughing with friends, kissing your child goodnight, walking in the sunshine, building a life with your soul mate, enjoying a meal cooked with love, singing in the rain, dancing in the grass, kicking up leaves, and just being alive ... it is all about love. And love is F-R-E-E.

I believe that living well entails much more than indulging in epicurean pleasures. You cannot live the true good life unless you do good and enjoy ethically with respect for all living things and for yourself.

So far today, Blog Action Day 2008, over 10,000 bloggers have posted on poverty. My hope for all of you is that you understand true wealth, live a truly rich life and share this idea with as many people as you can: slowing down, savoring life and doing good is better for your economy, your health and your happiness...and it stops mindless consumption, heals the environment, and eradicates poverty.

You know what you have to do:
1. Read the quotes below.
2. Decide to be the change you want to see in the world.
3. Start doing good. If you have money, spread it around to people in need and the ethical companies that support them. If you have none, volunteer and give kindness from your heart and ideas from your head. Stop supporting any organizations whose business contributes to the unfair distribution of monetary wealth (unfortunately there are A LOT of them and the most basic action we can take to affect a change in this situation is to be diligent consumers, persistent in our demand for information and for the right to buy goods of ethical, sustainable and traceable origin.)

"Every good act is charity."
- Moliere

"Contentment is natural, luxury is artificial poverty."
- Socrates

"Wealth is the ability to fully experience life."
- Henry David Thoreau

"Your wealth is where your friends are."
- Titus Maccius Plautus

"Real wealth is ideas plus energy."
- Richard Buckminster Fuller

"Wealth is not a matter of intelligence it's a matter of inspiration."
- Jim Rohn

"A man's true wealth is the good he does in the world."
- Kahlil Gibran

"It's better to have a rich soul than to be rich."
- Olga Korbut

"Men are rich only as they give."
- Elbert Hubbard

"True happiness enjoy the present, without anxious dependance on the future."
- Seneca

"That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."
- Henry David Thoreau

"...true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood ans sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share."
- Dalaia Lama

This excerpt from the European Commission, Joint Report on Social Inclusion 2004 published on will help you better understand poverty and hopefully spark some ideas on what you can do to help:

"People are said to be living in poverty if their income and resources are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living considered acceptable in the society in which they live. Because of their poverty they may experience multiple disadvantage through unemployment, low income, poor housing, inadequate health care and barriers to lifelong learning, culture, sport and recreation. They are often excluded and marginalised from participating in activities (economic, social and cultural) that are the norm for other people and their access to fundamental rights may be restricted."

Bon courage!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Organic Roasted Vegetable Bisque

I made this for an organic potluck on Friday night and was warmly welcomed when I arrived with my giant pot, steaming with delicious aromas.

Start by peeling and roughly chopping carrots, red bell peppers, red onions and a big chunk of a pink banana pumpkin or butternut squash. Drizzle with olive oil and wine and roast while you prepare the rest.

In a huge pot, brown chopped shallots and garlic cloves in wine, rum and a knob of butter. Add sweet corn kernels, a jar or two of preserved tomatoes/tomato sauce and a few more generous sploshes of wine and rum. When the veggies are nicely roasted, add them to the pot and start the puréeing.

Add cream, milk and/or water in desired amounts to thin this now very thick bisque and salt and peppar to taste. I roasted organic salmon fillets with rum as well and placed a few big beautiful pink chunks into each bowl. Bon appétit!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gala Dinner by Gastronomy Studio Era 10:3

Thursday was a big gala night in Helsingborg and I was so thrilled to find that the whole dinner showcased organic and local food.

The talented Tobias och Ulrica Millqvist of Gastronomy Studio Era 10:3 pulled it off brilliantly, no suprise considering that Tobias captured the silver in Sweden's National Chef of the Year Championship last year and made it into the top six as a finalist this year. The Millqvists have created a mecca for wine tastings, chocolate tastings, and cooking classes and experiences near Båstad, Sweden, the (in)famous beach town which hosts the Swedish Open.

I loved everything about the food (organic, local, delicious) and was also completely won over by the genuine concern and care they showed for us troublesome sorts with food allergies.

I translated the menu for your vicarious tasting pleasure:
Char with Kattvik Apples, Parsely Root, and Spicy Spinach Purée
Fillet of Bjäre Chicken with Sea Buckthorn Berries and Kale
Terrine of Venison with Prunes, Thyme and Pumpkin Mousse
Air-Dried Wild Boar Ham, Chantrelles, Carrots and Scanian Mustard
Anya Potatoes with Cream of Ceps and Chives
Oatmeal Bread with Traditional Swedish Bread Spices and Sour Butter
Chocolate Mousse, Blueberry Compote and Rosehip Lemon Crumble

Organic Caramelized Pear & Camembert Salad

This is one of those delightful 'warm' salads I discovered on a lazy weekend when I couldn't be bothered to go shopping. I had a peck of organic pears from my Årstiderna's delivery on Thursday and a lonely little round of organic camembert in the refrigerator. I googled "pear and camembert" to learn from those who have gone before me if there was something more interesting to do with them than just eat them slice by fresh, creamy slice together.

I found all kinds of recipes pairing these two favorites, including a stuffing for pork tenderloin, a topping for potato pancakes and sandwiches and fillings for savory pies, but I fell for the idea of a pear camembert salad.

This is so easy! Simply slice your pears and sautée them briefly in a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lay slices of camembert over the pears in the pan until they just begin to melt and then toss the whole with a flavorful lettuce (I used argula) and salt and pepper it to taste. You could even improvise/improve this salad by adding onions, walnuts, basil, thyme, cloves, and more, more, more...bon appétit!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hot Air Ballooning: Exhilarating and Ecofriendly?

Here I am running towards what could be my first hot air balloon flight ever. At this moment I have yet to decide if I am going to jump into that ridiculous little basket and let myself be whisked up and away somewhere over the rainbow or not.

Hot air ballooning has always appealed to me in theory: rising majestically in a fire-breathing, rainbow chariot over vineyards and verdant hillsides until you can just perceive the curve of the globe in the glorious sunrise, lighter than air and going only where the breezes convey you, landing in a meadow of flowers, toasting with champagne to your new noble title. It is all deliciously romantic, wonderfully French, and it has ME, ME, ME written all over it.

And yet, I hesitate. And yet, I have quite certainly made up my mind that when I do reach that basket I will not be hoisting myself over its side and risking an hour of very unromantic vertigo-induced panic, dangling 300 meters over Sweden with my colleagues. And yet, I do.

Exactly 217 years and one week after a sheep named Montauciel, and his apparently nameless duck and rooster co-pilots, rose above Versailles as the first living beings ever to fly in the Montgolfier brothers' amazing invention, it was my time.

We floated low and slow over lovely Lund, my first hometown in Sweden, and off over the countryside to land in that flowery meadow of my imagination. We toasted with champagne and were dubbed Aeronauts and Counts and Countesses of Haga.

But I still had reservations non-vertiginous. I was bothered. How sustainable is ballooning really? I did some homework and found out that our one hour balloon flight emitted about 29 kilograms of greenhouse gases per person, about the same as an hour in a car, but with clean-burning (though still fossil-based) propane instead of gasoline.

Balloons are also significantly less polluting than airplanes (about 120 kilograms of greenhouse gases per person for an hour's flight), snowmobiles and motorboats. And while there are very valid concerns about the noise level of the burners disturbing the wildlife and the peace and quiet of nature-lovers (we managed to spook deer, swans, cows and horses on our short flight), quieter whisper burners are now widely used. In another positive development, some logistics companies are now putting the balloon principle to work harnessing wind power to pull cargo ships over the oceans, considerably reducing their use of fossil fuels.

In the end, while balloons are a better option for a travel adventure than cars, airplanes, motorboats or snowmobiles, the best ecotravelers will stick to bicycles, trains, and their own two feet to get the lay of the land until no-impact balloon adventures become standard. Bon voyage!