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Dutch Treats! (September 10, 2002)


We're off to Holland in late September and we can't wait! From the minute we land at Schiphol, surely the world's most efficient airport, we're on the go enjoying every minute.

We love this tiny Low Country, with its tall, handsome multi-lingual inhabitants. The art collections are stunning, the historic cities and towns always fascinating; even the flat landscape is quietly beautiful, dotted with wonderful old farmhouses, windmills and small herds of plump, sleek cows. One-third of densely populated Holland is below sea level, and on this precious reclaimed land, intensive farming is very important. The Dutch excel at greenhouse vegetables, and their remarkable flowers are shipped around the world.

Oh, those flowers! Happily, we're arriving just in time to catch Floriade, the huge, Dutch floral exhibition held every 10 years. Floriade is set in a vast complex, conveniently close to Schiphol Airport in Haarlemmermeer, and will run to the end of October. It will be fabulous to the end, as the vast site is constantly updated for seasonal blooms with changing exhibits. If it's flowers, it's here, and you'll also get a chance to look at the world's largest solar roof, among other interesting developments! Oh, and wouldn't it be fun to meet Queen Beatrix, a patron of Floriade! We can't wait!

Along with flowers, cheese is a centuries-old trade, with several of the ancient cheese markets still in operation. One of our favourites is in Alkmar; we'll try and catch the "Cheese Express" train from Amsterdam to get there! We found out about this special train in the Lonely Planet Guide; we've always relied on LPs for excellent, detailed information, allowing visitors to travel an area as a local would do! While they're aimed at adventurous, budget-conscious travellers, they have detailed information for independent travellers of all ages, and list prices in a range from the most basic to nicely middle class.

Lonely Planet will be most welcome in Holland – it's a charming, wonderful country, but face it, Dutch cuisine is not the reason we're going, so finding interesting local eateries with good food will certainly makes the stay even more delightful. Doing some homework on the subject, We looked up Holland in the colourful new Foodlover's Atlas of the World, by Martha Rose Shulman, a flavourful culinary trip through 90 countries!

Ms. Shulman pointed out that in Holland these days a visitor has a lot of choices in the traditional well-cooked dishes. Breakfasts are huge and hearty, as befits the Northern European climate, lunches light, with dinner the main meal of the day. We were short on Dutch cookbooks, but found some good recipes that we know would be enjoyed in Holland!

It was such fun looking; Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets, by Deborah Madison, seemed to us to reflect Holland in many ways with excellent local produce and food proudly grown and lovingly cooked. Our old friend Anne Gardon, in her seminal Comfort Food Fast, had a lot of dishes that mirrored Dutch recipes; we chose two that you'll really enjoy.

Zest for Life, Olympian and restaurateur Diane Clement's excellent, classic collection, gave us the quirky tomato appetizer that we know the Dutch would love, if they're not already serving it at corner bars or in the popular beverage tasting houses known as proeflokaalen.

So on to Holland – who knows, this just may be one great culinary trip!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (128 KB)


James Beard's Crudités, circa 1974

This "Tomato Tomatini" from Diane Clement's Zest for Life is a perfect starter and ice breaker for any gathering, anywhere. The recipe calls for vodka, but hey... the Dutch produce most of Europe's tomatoes, the Dutch love their juniper-flavoured spirit, Jenever, sometimes called Dutch Gin, and we bet that this recipe can be made with either. Going to test it once we're there!

Provide for your guests:

  • A bowl of very small cherry or grape tomatoes, red or yellow
  • Small wooden skewers
  • A vodka glass ¾ full of vodka
  • A vodka glass ¾ full of French coarse crystal sea salt

Dip the cherry tomatoes in the vodka for a "martini punch", then into the sea salt for salty crunch. If you pierce the tomatoes with the skewers before dipping them into the vodka, you'll get a bigger punch!


Golden Pepper and Yellow Tomato Soup

Dutch hothouse tomatoes are shipped all over Europe, and for good reason. They got it right with ripe, flavourful fruits, these days available in a variety of sizes and colours. We know they'd love this tomato and pepper soup from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets. We certainly did!

Serves 4

  • 1 lb. yellow or orange tomatoes (500 g)
  • ½ cup white rice (125 mL)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (25 mL)
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves plucked from stems
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika (5 mL)
  • or ½ tsp. smoked Spanish paprika (2 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste (15 mL)
  • 1 quart Vegetable stock (1 L)
  • Slivered opal basil or chopped marjoram and parsley for garnish

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Slice an X at the base of each tomato. Plunge them, 2 at a time, into the water for about 10 seconds, then remove and set aside. Add the rice and ½ tsp. salt (2 mL) to the water, lower the heat to simmer, and cook until the rice is tender, about 12 minutes. Drain.

Chop the onion. Mince the garlic with a pinch of salt until mushy. Dice the pepper into small squares, removing the seeds and membranes first. You should have about 2 cups. Peel and seed the tomatoes, reserving the juice, then dice the walls and mince the cores.

Warm the oil in a soup pot and add the onions, peppers, saffron, bay leaf, thyme and paprika. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion has begun to soften and colour, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, then stir in the tomato paste and 1 tsp. salt. Give it a stir and add ¼ cup water. Stew for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes, their juice and the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup with the rice, then ladle it into bowls. Or make a mound of rice in each bowl and spoon the soup around it. Season with pepper and garnish with the fine slivers of basil leaves or marjoram chopped with a few parsley leaves.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a chilled Fino or Manzanilla sherry, Sercial Maderia or a white medium-bodied white wine with good acidity, preferably a Sauvignon Blanc: Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire or Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) or, from Ontario, Creekside Sauvignon Blanc or Cilento Sauvignon Blanc.


Barley au Gratin

While potatoes are a staple in Holland, they also grow and enjoy a lot of barley and other grains.

This delicious recipe from Anne Gardon's Comfort Food Fast may not be exactly Dutch in origin, but we bet they make a wonderful version using Edam cheese, which is what we did!

Serves 4-6

  • 4 cups grated raw squash, carrots or sweet potatoes (1 L)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream or sour cream (125 mL)
  • 1 tsp. dried herbs (5 mL)
  • 2 cups cooked barley (500 mL)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs (125 mL)
  • ½ cup grated flavourful cheese (125 mL)
  • Butter

Combine the vegetable, eggs, cream, herbs and barley. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a well-greased baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese. Sprinkle over the top, and dot with butter.

Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 30 minutes. Place under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the top is golden.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a light or medium-bodied red wine: Beaujolais, Valpolicella or New World Gamay.


Quick Apple Pie

Dutch cuisine is still a bit conservative, but it's well prepared, and it's hearty. Dinner is the main meal of the day; you may start with an aperitif, usually soup, followed by fish or meat, with potatoes and abundant gravy. If that hasn't stopped you cold, dessert follows, and the Dutch make amazing, rich concoctions with apples. While this version came from a French-authored, North American cookbook, Comfort Food Fast, we know that this would be a big hit in Holland.

As Anne Gardon says, "The pie is best served warm ... after the main course while your guests are relaxing or eating fine cheeses, assemble and bake the cake." Another small slice of Gouda? Why, thank you!

Serves 4

  • 3 phyllo pastry sheets
  • ½ cup butter, melted (125 mL)
  • ¼ cup sugar (60 mL)
  • ¼ cup ground almonds or hazelnuts (60 mL)


  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (30 mL)
  • 4 cooking apples, peeled and cubed
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (60 mL)
  • ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds (60 mL)

Spread 1 sheet of phyllo pastry in a pie plate, brush with the butter, and sprinkle with half of the sugar and ground nuts. Spread another sheet of pastry over the first, brush with butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar and ground nuts. Place the third sheet on top, letting the excess pastry extend over the edge of the pie plate.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a skillet, and cook the apples over medium heat until just soft. Transfer the apples to the pie shell. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and toasted almonds and fold the excess pastry over the filling. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 15 minutes, until golden. Serve warm.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a sweet dessert wine: Sauternes or Barsac from Bordeaux, Select Late Harvest Vidal from Ontario, Riesling Beerenauslese from Germany.


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material, recipes and photographs:

Raincoast Books, for Zest for Life, by Diane Clement, photography by John Sherlock.

Raincoast Books, for The Lonely Planet Guides.

Firefly Books, Ltd. for The Foodlover's Atlas of the World, by Martha Rose Shulman.

Firefly Books Ltd. for Comfort Food Fast, by Anne Gardon. Photography by Anne Gardon.

Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc., for Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets, by Deborah Madison. Photography by Laurie Smith.

Floriade information:

Flower photograph courtesy Floriade.


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (128 KB)




More Gourmet Recipes