Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tomato Pancakes with Herbs and Goat Yogurt

I was raised in the culinary tradition where pancakes were always served sweet. In my quest to get to know other cuisines I have discovered that very often they are savory and can be made almost from any vegetable.

My latest discoveries were pancakes made from corn and today's recipe--tomato pancakes. In a book about Greek cuisine I found out that fresh tomato pancakes are served in Santorini. I could only imagine how wonderful they can taste made from sweet ripe tomatoes and served on a hot evening with a glass of wine.

The original Greek recipe is very simple and plain, easy to make. It includes tomatoes, some flour, and parsley. To make them a little more aromatic, I added some basil and Greek oregano, for that extra flavor of Greek islands. I also served them with a dollop of goat cheese yogurt, which goes well with tomatoes, and is lighter than goat cheese. Because the season for tasty tomatoes is about to start, today I propose to you my tomato pancakes.

Tomato Pancakes with Herbs

(Makes 16-18 pancakes)

Ingredients: 2 lb Roma tomatoes, 4 spring onions, finely chopped, 1 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped, 1 tbsp Greek oregano, chopped, 1 tbsp basil (Greek, if available), chopped, 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup goat yogurt or Greek yogurt to serve, olive oil for frying.

1. Place a grater in a large bowl. Cut off tomato tops and grate tomatoes on a large holes grater until you get to the very end and just skin is left.
2. Add chopped spring onions and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add a cup of flour and baking powder and make a thick creamy batter. If tomatoes are very juicy add extra flour.
4. On a large heavy duty frying pan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil until very hot and pour a full tablespoon of batter for each pancake. Fry on each side until pancakes become gold.

5. Place the pancakes on a plate with paper towel to remove extra oil Repeat with the rest of batter, adding oil to the pan as needed.
6. Serve pancakes warm with goat yogurt on top.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Jerusalem Artichokes Soup

Just before the season for Jerusalem artichokes (aka Sunchokes) ends, here is a recipe for a soup made from those artichokes. There is probably no simpler, practically, two-ingredient, and at the same time more intriguing soup. Because it is so easy I served it many times to my friends and each time I was asked for the recipe.

The recipe is similar to some Italian recipes for the chestnut soup, where chestnuts are cooked with cream or milk, and turned into a purée. And that is what this sunchokes soups is too. Artichokes are cooked in milk, puréed, decorated, and the soup is ready. The whole taste comes from earthy artichokes, sweet milk and crunchy, aromatics pistachios. The idea could not be simpler and the result more tasty.

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, peeled, and cut into small cubes,
6 cups whole milk,
salt and pepper to taste,
2 tbsp chopped pistachios,
2 tbsp pistachio oil.

Preparation: 1. In a large heavy duty pot bring to boil a cup of water, then discard it; this is just to prevent milk from burning.
2. Pour in milk in the pot and bring to boil paying attention so it does not overflow.
3. Add chopped artichokes and bring everything to boil. Turn down the heat and cook the soup on a low heat for about 30 minutes, until artichokes are soft. Pay attention so milk does not spill or burn. It may curd though, which is fine.
4. When artichokes are soft season the soup with salt and pepper and blend into puree.

5. Divide the soup among small soup bowls. Drizzle on top with pistachio oil and decorate with pistachios.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Steak and Mint Thai Salad

During the grilling season which has just started, I often have some day-after steak leftovers. They are perfectly fine but often not plenty enough for the whole dinner. Just recently, I got an idea on how to use them. They can be turned into a wonderful salad which can be served on the next day for lunch.

This is the salad that my Thai friend shared with me one of those days when she was teaching me Thai cuisine. At that time we grilled steaks for that purpose, which of course would taste even better but those leftovers can be great too. Spring is a season when herbs start to pop up in the gardens, and this salad also calls for a generous amount of fresh mint.

I love this salad because although made with meat, it is also very fresh and crunchy, like many Thai dishes. It is nutritious but at the same time light and aromatic thanks to vegetables and herbs. A perfect lunch on a warm and sunny day.

Steak and Mint Thai Salad
(Serves four)

2 grilled beef steaks,
1/2 red onion, sliced,
1/3 cup cilantro leaves,
4 spring onions cut into inch long matchsticks,
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves,
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves,
1 cup thickly sliced cucumber.

For the sauce: 2-4 chilies depending on your taste,
4 limes,
1 tbsp soy sauce,
1 tbsp sugar,
1 garlic clove minced,
4 tbsp olive oil.

1. Cut steaks into thick slices.

2. Prepare all the vegetables.

3. In a medium bowl mix beat soy sauce and sugar until sugar melts. Add lemon juice, minced garlic, lime juice and thinly sliced chilies.

4. Mix steak slices with vegetables and herbs. Pour over the sauce. Toss gently, and serve.