Fall Cooking

This year I have tried to do more cooking with typically Dutch ingredients. Fall is amazing because pumpkins are available everywhere. I discovered last year how much I love pumpkin. I’ve made pumpkin black bean chili, pumpkin curry, and pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin chickpea stammpot is next on my list to make. This year I decided to expand the variety of vegetables I cook. I began with an aardpeer soup.

Aardpeer – I discovered this vegetable after seeing it in a recipe. Aardpeer is a small, ugly root with a bark-like skin. Peel off the skin then roast them or blend them up in a soup. Roasted they take on a nutty flavor but I found that in soup they taste similar to potato. Mike was underwhelmed by the flavor.

Aardpeer. These are about the length of my pinkie.
Aardpeer. These are about the length of my pinkie.

Boerenkool, or kale to English speakers, is a Dutch staple. They will put it in everything from stammpot to ovenschotel (a hearty casserole style dish). I recently made a boerenkool stammpot with fennel seeds. It tasted strongly of fennel which is great – if you like fennel. Next time I’d replace the fennel with another herb or seasoning. At some point I want to try boerenkool in a quiche or casserole.

Next on my list to try:

Venkel (fennel root) – A friend swears it is much milder and tastes better than the seeds. He suggested to chop it up and roast it or saute it. This is almost always available at the store or market and the Dutch put it in everything from salad to casserole or even by itself as a side dish.

Also popular this time of year are

Paddenstoelen* (mushrooms) – The Dutch will often refer to them as champignons** (yes, they use the French word and no, I don’t know why). Originally I thought this was to differentiate between the plain button mushrooms (paddenstoelen) and chanterelles (champignons) but then I saw a bag of button mushrooms labeled champignons. So who knows? I really enjoy the flavor of mushrooms and would cook them more if Mike liked them.

Mussels – Given my dislike for shellfish and paranoia about cooking seafood I will not try to cook them.

*Interesting side note in Dutch padden are toads. So paddenstoelen are literally toad chairs which is similar to the English toadstools.

**To my Dutch friends reading this: if you know why people use champignons instead of paddenstoelen let me know.

Kruidentuin

Last year, Mike and I planted cilantro, basil, and two types of mint. This year we are expanding our herb garden or kruidentuin. We also picked up peppers and tomatoes. Of course, I picked the rainiest day of the weekend to go to the garden center on the other side of town.

Mike started tomatoes inside in a small container. We didn’t realize how many plants we had until they were transplanted into larger pots. Currently the tomatoes, mint, and bell peppers are flourishing. The hot peppers never sprouted. Oh well.

tomatoes and mint

peppers maybe

Rollende Keukens

Last Thursday we visited Rollende Keukens in Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam. As the name suggests this is a several day food truck event. Almost the whole park was end to end food trucks and music tents. We arrived early enough to nab a picnic spot on the grass. You could find pretty much any type of international, fusion, or Dutch food you could want. Our group had bahn-mi, mango-pineapple lassie, seafood burgers, fancy mac n cheese (topped with basil and tomato), stracciatella and churros.  I’d love to go again next year.

Welkom bij Rollende Keukens
Welkom bij Rollende Keukens
Combo music and beer tent with some trippy artwork
Combo music and beer tent with some trippy artwork
Dutch Weed Burger - from what I could tell this was just a veggie burger
Dutch WeedBurger – from what I could tell this was just a veggie burger but no one in the group tried it so I don’t know for sure
Kunst en Kookwerk
Kunst en Kookwerk – artisan tortillas
Chicks on a Stick - their
Chicks on a Stick – their slogan is Hottest Chicks in Town
Zwaardvis
Zwaardvis on display at one of the many seafood trucks

Afternoon in Amsterdam

This past Saturday, we started off the afternoon having lunch with friends at De Hallen Amsterdam. De Hallen is home to a food hall (where we had lunch), film theater, library, studios, and more. Today they also had an artisan fair where you could buy anything from tea to art to raincoats. The food hall is an indoor food market with a variety of stalls serving different foods: Vietnamese spring rolls, Australian pies, French pastries, American burgers, and gourmet bitterballen to name a few.

De Hallen Amsterdam
De Hallen Amsterdam

After lunch, Mike and I saw a movie at Theater Tuschinski. It is a beautiful theater built in 1921 by a Polish man, Abraham Tuschinski. The theater’s architecture is a mix of Art Deco and Jugenstil. The building is opulent but also very cozy with multiple zaals or theaters tucked in throughout the building. They also give daily tours if you want to see more of the building.

Theater Tuschinski, Amsterdam
Theater Tuschinski, Amsterdam
Lobby of Theater Tuschinski, Amsterdam
Lobby of Theater Tuschinski, Amsterdam

Town Market

Farmers’ markets are one of my favorite food related things. In the US, most farmers’ markets last from May/June to about September/October. For Mike and I visiting the local farmers’ market was always an event. We would plan to eat a meal there, try a new food, and bring back some goodies for at least one more meal. Often we would pick out interesting or unfamiliar foods. To this day one of my favorite finds was a middle eastern bakery. After moving to the Netherlands, I was very excited to find out that our town has a market twice a week.

From what I can tell after living here almost seven months, pretty much every town in the Netherlands has a town market once or twice a week. The town market is very similar to the American farmers’ market but the town market is often bigger and for some people their main source of food shopping. You can find produce, herbs, breads, eggs, cheese, fish, worst, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, even potted plants, linens, and clothing not to mention an array of things for your bike. Our market also has a fry stand where you can order a cone of fries with your favorite sauce and perhaps a kroket if you are really hungry.

At first, I didn’t do a lot of shopping at the town market. For a couple reasons:

1. I was convinced that it was going to be overpriced or higher priced than the supermarket. This is generally not true, the prices are about the same if not a little less at the market depending on the item and the seller. In my experience the town market produce is often better quality and more varied than the supermarket.

2. It was winter, a balmy winter with no snow, but still colder than Texas where I had spent the last two to two and a half years. Yes, I was a wimp.

3. I didn’t speak any Dutch and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand people. Most sellers speak at least enough English to conduct their business but I didn’t know that at the time. Now I know enough Dutch to make my purchases without resorting to English.

The present
I have noticed that some things are way easier to find at the market than at the supermarket. A couple times the supermarket was out of a veggie I needed but at the town market the same veggie could be found in several stalls. I usually plan my shopping around going to the town market and what is available seasonally. One of my recent town market hauls included raspberries, cucumber, and salad greens.

Gebruik van mij Nederlands

For those of you keeping track it has been about 8 weeks since I took my Dutch immersion course with Sylvia. I have been making the effort to speak Dutch everyday or at least read and listen to Dutch. Often my interactions are with shopkeepers or waiters so my conversations don’t usually last very long. Although last week I did have a nice long conversation with a shopkeeper. We discussed a wide range of topics from artwork (the shop sells art and curios from around the world) to living in the Netherlands. I got to use some vocabulary that I don’t often get to use so it was very exciting.

In addition to my regular errands, I have gone to a few events to meet people and practice my Dutch. Normally, I am not very social but learning a language forces me to be social. You may remember that I recently learned to paint in Dutch. I also checked out a couple language cafes in Amsterdam where I met other Dutch speakers including my friend, Joanna. She and I have begun meeting a couple times a week to work on our Dutch. It is great to have someone to have a language partner who is learning with you and cheering you on. To anyone else learning another language, I highly recommend learning with a friend or two.

Having lunch and practicing Dutch.
Having lunch and practicing Dutch.

Food Discoveries #2

Once upon a time I would only drink wine (usually red) and occasionally some vodka (loaded with cranberry juice). Then I discovered American micro-brews and eased into the world of beer drinking. In the Netherlands, you can find almost any style of beer: IPA, pilsner, stout, Trappist, lambic etc. Due to our proximity to Belgium and Germany, stores stock a lot of Belgian styles and German beers. Mike and I are on a mission to try as many of the beers available as possible.

Here are some of my favorites:

Palm Speciale Belge – This beer is a caramel color and tastes like a light amber. It drinks easy on its own or with food. Bonus: I can find it at almost any pub or cafe.

Belgian Wit – I love the light and slightly bitter/sour taste. This style is very refreshing.

Belgian Bruin – This style reminds me of a lighter stout, caramelly but not as dark.

So what are some things you eat with these beers? Well aside from drinking a beer with dinner the Dutch will have bitterballen, kaassoufflés, krokets, and maybe a loempia or two. Personally, I enjoy

kaassoufflés – cheese sticks wrapped in rice paper and deep fried served with sweet chili sauce

loempias -think spring rolls also served with a sweet chili sauce

Another one of my favorite Dutch snacks is Katjang Pedis, peanuts covered in a spicy sambaal mixture. I always try to have some Katjang Pedis or mixed nuts in the house.

Food Discoveries #1

One of my favorite things of traveling is trying new foods. Living in the Netherlands has given me more time to find and try new foods. Now it is a widespread opinion that Dutch food is not going to win any gourmand awards. However, I think the Dutch have the comfort food thing down. Here are some of my favorite foods so far.

Stamppot – This is the first Dutch dish I made and it is super simple and 100% comfort food. Stamppot is mashed veggies (with a healthy dose of potatoes or aardappels) topped with cheese and wurst or sausage (though I usually skip the wurst for my helping). I love how easy it is to make and it is the perfect lazy comfort food dinner.

A variation on the traditional stamppot. This one has cherry tomatoes, courgette, and basil.
A variation on the traditional stamppot. This one has cherry tomatoes, courgette, and rucola.

Erwtensoep (split pea soup)- This past year was the first time I tried split pea soup and I have to say I love it. The Dutch do their split pea soup thick making it a good hearty soup and very cozy on a winter day. It also goes nicely with brown bread and butter.

Fries – Ok, so fries are actually a Belgian creation but the Dutch do them well. Go to any town market and there will be a fry truck. The traditional toppings are mayonnaise (none of that Miracle Whip stuff) or speciaal (fritesaus, raw onions, and curry ketchup). You can also get joppie, tartare, curry ketchup, and a variety of other sauces depending on the fry truck. Since Dutch fries are very messy, no skimping on sauce, you eat them with a mini wooden fork. Of course, you can get them plain but really why would you want to?

Stroopwafels – You may have seen the mass produced variety of these in the US, however, nothing beats a fresh stroopwafel. Around the holidays you can get fresh stroopwafels from street vendors. (If you are lucky they are also available fresh year round at town markets.) They are filled with caramel and go wonderfully with coffee.

Oliebollen – Literally, oil balls but don’t let the name scare you. These are basically deep fried donut balls (I think the Dutch like to either mash their food or turn it into a ball) with some powdered sugar on top. Another popular variety has raisins. Sadly, you can only get them around Sinterklaas and Kerstdag (Christmas).

Oliebol