Friday, July 30, 2010

The Berry Frenzy--Last Days of July

Are you craving for the taste of the summer? Just go to your local food store or farmers' market. Buy three boxes of fruits: blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. At this time, they are local, cheap, and sweet. First chill them in a refrigerator for a couple of hours, later mix them and put in the serving bowls.

For an interesting flavor add a table spoon of Creme de Cassis, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau Liqueur.

If you have a very sweet tooth, drizzle it with a spoonful or two of melted white chocolate or sweet condensed milk.

But if you really crave it--do both at the same time.

Now, sit back on a sunny deck and enjoy summer in your mouth.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pasta with Mushrooms for a Girls Night In

Everybody loves pasta. So do I. It's an easy dish and perfect for a casual evening with friends. I almost always serve pasta whenever I have girlfriends over for an evening of laughter, closet inspection, and wine tasting. It's best to prepare the sauce a couple of hours ahead, cook the pasta at the last minute, and have all the time in between to enjoy the company.

Advance preparation turned out to be very helpful last time I had a friend over. We started by opening a bottle of white wine. By the time I put the pasta on the stove the bottle was gone. Meanwhile, we had spent a couple of hours on gossiping, talking fashion, and a review of the latest sale wardrobe trophies; we had had so much fun, that I do not think I would have been able to cook anything from scratch at that moment. Luckily, all that was left for me to do was to cook the pasta, put the mushrooms on top, and sprinkle some freshly shredded Parmesan on it. That much I could still do.

This pasta is light and delicate in taste as sauteed mushrooms are used instead of sauce. It is simple to make and tastes even better if garnished with a freshly chopped sage.

Sauteed Mushrooms Pasta

1/2 box of Barilla pasta--for this dish I like to use the Gemelli type,
12oz white mushrooms,
12 oz shiitake mushrooms,
12 oz oyster mushrooms,
6-8 sliced garlic cloves,
2 tbsp of chopped flat leaved parsley,
1 tbsp of chopped sage leaves--optional,
1/2 stick of butter
salt and pepper.

1. Wash mushrooms and cut out stems.
2. Cut mushrooms in thin slices.
3. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry garlic slices in it until gold.
4. Add all the mushrooms and fry until gold.
5. Season with salt and pepper, add the chopped parsley.
6. Cook pasta al dente (for about 8 minutes).
7. Strain the pasta and serve it on a plate, put the mushrooms on top.
8. Shred fresh Parmesan, decorate with sage and serve with red wine.

We finished our evening late after midnight with a meringues fruit dessert, not very low in calories but quite scrumptious. I am going to publish the recipe shortly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fig Deal--the Easiest of Ways

I went this morning to my Trader Joe's just to do a little bit of food shopping. I am leaving on vacation soon and my other refrigerator is still broken, so I am quite limited in my seasonal grocery madness. But for the remaining few days I needed some items that my kids cannot live without. Of course I ended up buying more than I needed, but I hope this can also inspire you.

As I walked into the fresh produce section I noticed right away boxes of Californian figs. I love them in their peak. They can be then soft and sweet as honey. When I grabbed a box of them and a pack of prosciutto I knew what I was going to have for lunch. This combination is delicious--crispy salad, salted and smoky ham, and the sweetness of the figs. Anything better on a sunny afternoon?

Besides, did you know that the mineral content of figs closely resembles that of human milk? They are rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, calcium and iron.

Fig and Prosciutto Salad
Serves six

1 bag (4 oz) of baby Romain lettuce,
1 box (about 10 oz) of California figs,
1 pack (6 oz) of good quality prosciutto,
balsamic vinegar,
extra virgin olive oil,
salt and pepper.

1. Arrange lettuce on the plate, sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper,
2. Put the prosciutto slices on top.
3. Cut three figs and arrange them next to the prosciutto.

Enjoy with a piece of fresh baguette.

Useful tip:
This salad can be used as a started before any dinner.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blackberry Fruit Cake--Upside Down

Rhubarb seems to have been one of the recent food fads. Several well-known culinary blogs featured desserts made with rhubarb and some of them, like for example Lara Ferroni's rhubarb bars, have been presented in a very attractive way. I have nothing against rhubarb but I have never been really impressed with its taste or appearance. It was growing like a weed in the backyard of my family home in Poland. I liked to eat it raw, dipped in sugar, as many Polish kids did, but I was not fond of cakes or pies made with it. For that reason I will not include rhubarb in my posts, but if you like the idea of reinventing it, this upside-down cake recipe would work with rhubarb as well.

This very simple cake can be prepared in a KitchenAid stand mixer in about 5 minutes. It was the very first cake I made entirely on my own when I was 12, many years ago. It can be made with any seasonal fruits, almost the whole year around. It is a very basic biscuit cake, but fruits make it really special. It is very satisfying with a cup of morning coffee or on a summer afternoon. Yesterday, I saw beautiful ripe blackberries in my local food store and I immediately thought how delicious they would taste and look in that easy cake.

Upside Down Fruit Cake
(For 11'' baking tin)

4 medium eggs,
2/3 cup flour,
1/3 cup corn starch,
1 tsp baking powder,
1 cup powdered sugar,
4 tbsp of canola or any light cooking oil,
7 tbsp of butter,
1 tsp vanilla extract,
12 oz of blackberries, or any seasonal fruits--blueberries, sour cherries, plums etc.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Grease the baking tin with butter and sprinkle it evenly with plain bread crumbs (this will prevent the cake from sticking to the tin),
3. Use a mixer to whisk eggs with powdered sugar into a mousse-like mixture.
4. Melt butter, combine it with oil, and add to the mixture.
5. Mix together the flours, the corn starch, and the baking powder, and incorporate them into the batter.
6. Put the batter in a baking tin.
7. Put the fruits on top (they will sink into the batter).
8. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top becomes light gold.
9. Cool the cake, turn it cake upside down on a large serving plate, and dust with powdered sugar.

Useful tip:
If you use apples, you may wish to add cinnamon to the powdered sugar.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Green Beans from Brussels

Last November, I visited a friend in Brussels. She is extremely hospitable and rolled out a red carpet for me, although the circumstances of my visit were not very favorable. My friend was stressed about her job contract ending and her mother, who is an amazing cook and usually cooks for all their guests, had a major pipes exchange in her apartment. On top of that, it was raining all the time, as expected. But Brussels is famous not only for its never-ending rains but also for its restaurants. So, in addition to visiting my friend, I was also on a culinary mission.

When I was a teenager I had a crush on a boy who lived in Brussels. Every summer we met in Poland, and I was inhaling his stories about the life in the West he had in Belgium. Everything he talked about seemed fabulous to a young girl who had never been farther west than East Germany. I still remember some of his stories, including the one about how special the Belgian french fries were; they were so exquisite that he could not eat any others. Finally, almost thirty years later, I was there to verify his culinary tales.

My friend invited me to a restaurant located on Rue des Dominicains in the part of Brussels that is filled with places to eat, one next to another, with waiters waiting for clients on the streets and harassing every passing tourist. Although a reservation was recommended we were lucky enough to get a table without it. The menu was rich, but I knew what I wanted to order: the French fries, or rather Belgian fries that I heard so much about, perhaps with the famous mayonnaise dip. I also decided on lamb chops with green beans.

We got our portions. I took a bite of a perfect golden stick. Yes, indeed it was very good, maybe better than many others I had tried, but it was not mind-blowing. Or maybe I became so spoiled that simple fries, even the best in the world, were not able to impress me anymore?

The lamb chops were very good but the green beans which accompanied them were a revelation! These were the best green beans I had ever tried in my life! I ate the lamb and every last piece of the beans, but I left most of the world-famous fries. From then on, if anyone asks me about my culinary experience from Brussels, it will forever be about the green beans I ate there.

I was too shy to ask for the recipe, so when I came home I tried to figure it out. I think I got pretty close or accidentally created something equally good, because everybody who ate them was asking "What's in there? It's sooo good!"

Green Beans from Brussels

1 lb of fine, French green beans, can be frozen,
2 shallots,
1 tsp fresh coarsely ground black pepper,
3 tbsp butter,
1/2 cube of vegetable bouillon, or 1 tsp of Croatian Vegeta (it could be found at Eastern European groceries),

1. Boil 5 quarters of water with a tbsp of salt.
2. When water is boiling, throw the green beans in and cook for about 3 minutes, but no longer than 5 minutes; beans must not be raw, but should remain green and firm.
3. Strain the beans.
4. Chop shallots into as tiny pieces as possible or even grate them.
5. Melt butter and fry shallots until transparent on a large frying pan.
6. Add half of a crushed bouillon cube or a teaspoon of Vegeta, and throw the beans in.
7. Mix everything gently and heat up.
8. Season generosly with freshly ground coarse pepper and serve with meats.

Useful tip:
If you have cooked baby potatoes you can add them to the beans, mix together, and serve as one dish or with meat and salad.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Afghan Lentils--on the Exotic Side

One of the past weekends, my beautiful Afghan friend invited me for dinner. Our kids have a lot of fun playing together and I liked her cooking very much. My friend has lived outside her country since early childhood but she still favors her national cuisine over any other she tried. Her daily dinners are always Afghan and are always served with rice. She is open to new recipes, but most often ends up preparing something Afghan. Jokingly, she calls it "boring", but she finds it very comforting. The traditional food she cooks is in a contrast to her very modern look and style, which underscores her oriental beauty.

I do not think Afghan food is boring at all. As a matter of fact, I find it more exotic than for example Indian food, which I am more familiar with and also like a lot. Although spicy and sometimes heavy in oil, it is not as hot and rich as Indian food.

That day, a perfectly sunny morning turned into a rainy afternoon. Our plans had to change and instead of a grill on the deck we had our dinner indoors. My friend also had to change the menu at the last minute, which was OK by me. I was happy she decided to prepare Afghan food instead of ordinary hamburgers and hot dogs that she meant to prepare to please the kids.

The new menu--chicken, lentil, rice, bread, and cucumber salad made everybody happy. I was very excited especially about lentil, which is rich in protein and is an excellent substitute for meat, which my younger son refuses to eat.

We left late at night, after a very relaxing evening, not only very full, but also taking home delicious leftovers and a new recipe for lentil Afghan style.

Afghan Lentils

1 cup yellow mung lentil,
1 onion,
2 cloves garlic,
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup tomato sauce,
1 large fresh tomato,
1 and 1/2 - 2 cups of water,
2 tsp ground coriander,
1/2 tsp turmeric,
1/4 tsp cumin (optional, Indian influence, but brings the taste out and helps to digest),
olive oil to fry in,
salt and pepper to taste.

For garnish:
a piece of ginger, about 1 inch long,
a few chili peppers,
fresh chopped coriander,
3 gloves of garlic and 1 tbsp of oil.

1. Wash lentil and dry it on the colander.
2. Heat an oil in a pot, add chopped garlic,ginger and onion.Fry until onion is gold.
3. Add to the pan tomato sauce and tomatoe, and cook for couple of minute until all the ingredients are combine.
4. Put in spices--coriander, turmeric, chili pepper, and cumin (not used in the purely Afghan version).
5. Throw lentils into a tomato mixture, stir and add 2 and 1/2 cups of water (add another half a cup if lentils are still hard and there is not enough water for them to cook properly).
6. Cook for about 30 minutes, until lentils become soft.
7. Serve garnished with fried garlic, fresh coriander, ginger, and fried garlic.

1. Crush 3 cloves of garlic and fry them in oil until gold. Put them on top of the lentils.
2. Cut ginger in slices, chop coriander roughly. Add chili peppers and serve on a separate dish for anyone to spice up according to taste.

Useful tips:
Serve with rice or Afghan bread, any Middle Eastern, or Indian Naan.
Accompany with yogurt cucumbers salad.

Yogurt and Mint Cucumber Salad

A cucumber salad called "mizeria" is one of the oldest and most popular summer salads in Poland. It is served with a sour cream dressing and often also with dill. It is just another version of a Greek "tzatziki" salad which is made with cucumbers, yogurt, and garlic. Recently, a simple Afghan yogurt, mint, and cucumbers salad became very popular in my home. It is a wonderful accompaniment to many Afghan dishes. A refreshing taste of dried mint makes it even more desirable during a hot DC summer. But after all, this is yet another version of a cucumber salad, so popular in many cuisines.

Yogurt and Mint Cucumber Salad

1 English cucumber or 3 Japanese cucumbers,
1 clove garlic,
1 tsp dried mint,
1 cup of European, Greek, or Turkish yogurt,
salt and pepper.

1. Cut cucumbers into thin slices,
2. Mix yogurt with mint, spices and garlic.
3. Pour the yogurt dressing over cucumbers, mix, and serve.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Arugula Salad and Roasted Potatoes--Simple Beginnings

It may seem odd to propagate such an ordinary food as potatoes and salad on a culinary blog that aspires to be sophisticated. But those who just start their culinary adventure may need to be made aware of such simple dishes. If done properly, they can enhance any dinner. They are perfect for a vegetarian palate but will also bring out the taste of any meat dishes

To start with, just a green salad. Arugula is my favorite: rich in iron and a with a characteristic peppery, strong flavor.

This salad can be eaten just with bread and prosciutto or served with dinner: at the beginning--the German way, as an accompaniment--the way we do it in Poland, or afterward--as it is done in France.

I have read and tried many methods of preparing arugula. In my view, any dressing with mustard kills the subtlety of its taste. And although the Italians serve arugula with balsamic vinegar, I prefer to use lemon juice instead. Walnut oil is the other important ingredient I use to bring out all its valor.

I also tried replacing walnut oil with hazelnut oil. Since it is less aromatic I topped it up with split roasted hazelnuts.

Please try it, both versions. I hope you like at least one and if anyone knows better way of serving it, please share it here.

Arugula Salad

1 pack (about 4 oz) of arugula, preferably wild,
1/2 lemon,
3-5 tbsp of walnut oil; the best is from roasted nuts,
2 tbsp or shredded Parmesan cheese,
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste,
2 tbsp of roasted almonds or pine nuts.

1. Place arugula in a salad bowl.
2. Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl, add salt and pepper and walnut oil.
3. Blend them together with a fork or a small whisker.
4. Pour dressing over arugula, mix gently.
5. Using a vegetable peeler shred a little bit of Parmesan cheese on the salad and top with roasted almonds or pine nuts.
6. Serve immediately or salad will darken as the leaves will absorb the oil.

Roasted Potatoes

There is nothing simpler than baking potatoes, but to make them really soft and still looking appetizing may be a challenge. I heard about a method of soaking potatoes in water before baking, but doing this for longer than 15 minutes washes out important minerals, like potassium, from them.

Not to talk for too long about such a simple subject, here is method that always works. I try to use baby or finger potatoes, which look nicest. For more bland dishes I bake them with garlic cloves and rosemary, for more spicy ones just in oil and salt. I believe that the pictures of what comes out from my oven can speak for themselves.

1 lb baby potatoes,
8-12 garlic cloves, depending on taste,
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
1 tsp of sea salt,
1 branch of rosemary or 1 tsp dried.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Wash and dry the potatoes, cut them in halves.
3. Place potatoes in the oven-proof dish, sprinkle with oil, salt, and rosemary.
4. Using hands toss the potatoes to make sure that they are evenly covered with oil.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until gold and soft); turn them over at least once to prevent burning.

Chilled Lemon Possets--Three-Ingredients Refreshing Dessert

Summer encourages social events. Kids are out of school. They do not need to be in bed early. There is no need to rush in the morning. There are no after school activities. There is no after work traffic surge. It is a good time, although the weather is exceptionally hot this summer, for a no hassle deck barbecue. Perfect time for casual meetings with friends. Fresh vegetables are at their perfect peak arvest taste which comes out best in simple dishes. All you need is grilled meat, cold salad, a glass of beer or chilled Prosecco and a simple dessert. It is all about spending time with friends at a leisurely conversation.

In that relaxed mood I think about one of the simplest and surprising desserts from my recipe book. It is of English origin. Unfortunately, I have it in a hand-written copy and cannot give an exact source.

It is easy and perfect for such a laid back event. It requires three basic ingredients, which blend nicely into a surprisingly delicious dessert. It can, or rather should, be made a day ahead.

Judge for yourself.

Chilled Lemon Possets

2 lemons,
3 cups extra heavy cream,
11/4 cup sugar.

1. Stir together cream and sugar and bring it to a boil.
2. Boil for 3 minutes carefully as it may spill; stir continuously.
3. Take off the burner and pour in all the lemon juice.
4. Stir again.
4. Cool down the mixture.
5. Stir one more time and finally divide between 6 to 8 small ramekins; this desert is very sweet and tart at the same time so even a small amount can be satisfying.
6. Chill in a refrigerator for a minimum 4 hours, preferably over night.
7. Before serving decorate with grated lemon peel and biscuits.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Roasted Salmon in Green Sauce--Metropolitan Home Farewell Party

Not many signs of the economic crisis are noticeable in the Washington DC area where I live. I know people who, despite the ongoing recession, find attractive job opportunities. I do not see fewer luxury cars in my neighborhood than before and when I take my son for horseback riding classes in Great Falls VA I still spot a Ferrari or two. But, from the perspective of my kitchen, I do see how the recession has touched America. Not only bagged salad is not so fresh anymore and does not last until the expiration date but, sadly, some of my favorite magazines, I've been subscribed to for many years, closed out.

At first, these were the newer ones that I had not yet got too attached to. Last year however I received a letter from Conde Nast cancelling Gourmet magazine, which as a passionate cook I read regularly. I got even more depressed when at the beginning of this year the same happened to Metropolitan Home magazine.

It was a very modern and sophisticated monthly. I had been subscribed to it for almost fourteen years, from the very first month I came to the U.S. It shaped not only my architectural taste but also contributed to my culinary development. I often found there interesting and inspiring recipes that have remained on my menu forever. One of them was a salmon dish that I prepared for my guests many times, always with a great success. Whenever I make salmon this way, I use the whole half of the fish, but any amount would work.

Roasted Salmon in Green Sauce

2 lbs of raw salmon without skin,
4 tbsp olive oil,
2 tbsp lemon juice,
1 tsp course see salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Green sauce:
1/3 cup chopped chives or spring onion,
1/3 cup chopped dill,
1/4 cup chopped tarragon,
1/4 cup small capers,
4 tbsp olive oil,
3 tbsp lemon juice
peel grated from one lemon

Preparation of the salmon:
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Grease baking pan with 2 tbsp of oil and place salmon on it.
3. Pour over remaining oil and lemon juice.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Bake until salmon is gold on top,between 30-40 minutes.

Preparation of the sauce:
1. Mix all the herbs and capers.
2. Add lemon juice and oil.
3. Grate lemon peel.
4. Mix the sauce and pour over the hot salmon and serve.

I serve this salmon most often with baby potatoes, roasted or baked, and always think about my favorite MH magazine.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Baked Feta from Alzace

I got this recipe last winter from a friend of mine, who got it from her family living in Alsace. That is how recipes travel around the world. The moment I heard about this dish I knew it would be one of my favorites. I made some modifications to it, since the original recipe was too generous with oil, but still please do not be surprised with its amount, as feta during baking also releases its own fat. You are supposed to dip a piece of bread in the oil and eat it together with feta.

It is a simple, delicious accompaniment to a glass of red wine, as an aperitif or a dinner appetizer.

I also added extra spices that are worth trying. Instead of herbs I put sometimes just sesame seeds and always a sprinkle of chili flakes and pepper.

It is another recipe that I share because many people after trying it, ask me how to prepare it. I make it in a big oven-proof dish and serve on small aperitif plates, or bake it in small ramekins, and serve directly from them.

Feta baked with herbs
Serves 6-8 people.

1 pound Feta cheese,
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence, but just oregano or sesame seeds will do as well,
12 garlic cloves,
1 tsp chili pepper flakes,
freshly ground pepper,
1 cup good quality Extra Virgin olive oil.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Cut feta in slices about 1/4 inch thick and spread them in an oven proof dish or put them in small dishes or ramekins, if used.
3. Put garlic cloves around feta slices.
4. Sprinkle it with herbs and, lightly, with chili flakes and pepper.
5. Pour olive oil on feta; it should cover it almost entirely.
6. Bake until feta is gold and garlic soft which should take about 25-30 minutes.
7. Serve warm with a baguette, any white bread, or Middle Eastern bread.

It was a hit during the World Cup final!

A Tea Party? But the English Way Only--with Salmon Sandwiches

In Poland, where I was born, a tea party would be about a glass of black tea with a slice of lemon in it, served with various kinds of cakes and sweets.

In America--we all know--it is a political rather than a culinary affair.

I was surprised to learn that in England a tea party was all about sandwiches. A long time ago, when I lived in London, I was invited to a tea party. I ate there most delicious sandwiches, which were served with a cup of tea in a Victorian style china.

Every time I visit London I cannot resist buying a big triangle of a toast bread sandwich, with salmon spread or hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise spread, looking for that familiar taste that is just a nostalgia impossible to resurrect.

It reminds me a story that an old French lady told me about an unforgettable coffee aroma she remembered from the maternity ward. No coffee smelled ever again the same to her anywhere else in the world. It was not so much about the coffee but this one special moment that made it so exceptional.

London then was my first longer foreign adventure. For the first time in my life I was living there on my own, working, learning a new language, discovering the western world, different cultures and ethnic food. Over there I saw for the first time ever a Rolls Royce and a Ferrari, and hand-made Oxford shoes. I bought there my first cashmere sweater. I fell there in love with the Indian cuisine and tried for the first time in my life kiwi, mango, and avocado.

For all these reasons it was unforgettable time in my life and because of all these memories I love to visit London as often as I can. I love to see and discover how much the city has changed and become more sophisticated than when I landed there for the first time twenty years ago.

A couple of years later, when I moved from London to Geneva, I met a Portuguese friend Romy who used to live in London as well. She invited me once for a lunch and prepared for us simple sandwiches and tea. I put a piece of the soft triangle in my mouth and yes, I tasted again this sandwich from the English tea party I was guest once.

It was all about this smooth salmon spread--spicy from the mustard, crunchy from the cucumber, and aromatic from dill and spring onion.

I do not make it as often these days and put it rather on slices of baguette than toast bread, but every time I do it, it tastes equally delicious, especially with a glass of white wine or a cup of tea.

I often prepare it for my guests and serve with aperitifs. Here is the recipe I got from Romy. I treasure it and have been using ever since.

Salmon Spread

250 g smoked salmon,
1 tbsp butter,
2 tsp oil,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1/4 cup light cream,
1/2 tbsp coarse mustard,
2 spring onions cut in small pieces,
1 tsp chopped dill,

1. Put salmon in a food processor.
2. Run the machine on pulse until the salmon is cut into small pieces.
3. Add all the remaining ingredients and let the blender work until everything turns into a smooth paste.
4. Scoop the paste out from the blender, spread over bread and serve decorated with cucumber slices.

Useful tip.
I sometimes serve salmon made this way as a starter before dinner. I use then a little bit of spread, and decorate with slices of smoked salmon, cut cucumber and dill.

My secret.
In London I always finish up this sandwich feast with a whole bar of mint Aero chocolate. So yummy and so English.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Melon Invasion--Very Sunny Fruit Salad

Melons are now everywhere. They are deliciously sweet but somewhat bland. However, they can be combined with any exotic fruits, especially the more fragrant ones, to make interesting and light fruit salads.

I like most to serve desserts that I make myself and which show my creativity. But sometimes on a sunny day and after a spicy dinner a chilled fruit salad is the best choice. Particularly, when my guests are the weight-watching and calorie-counting types. I love all the seasonal fruit salads with fruits at their peak, especially raspberries and blueberries, but this salad is perfect to complement a spicy Indian meal, or other exotic dishes. Easy and healthy.

Sunny Fruit Salad

1 cantaloupe or any melon you happen to have,
2 kiwis, green or gold,
1 mango,
1 lime,
2 branches of fresh mint,
2 tbsp white port, optional.

1. Peel melon and remove seeds. Cut into regular cubes.
2. Peel kiwis, cut in four pieces and make also small cubes.
3. Remove peel from mango and cut out flesh from the front and back of fruit, avoiding a hard part around the seed. Cut the flesh in long stripes.
4. Squeeze juice from the lime.
5. Put all the fruits in a glass bowl,season with lime juice, porto, if used and decorate with mint leaves.
6. Mix gently.
7. Chill in a refrigerator for about 30 minutes and serve in individual glass bowls or on plates.

Useful tip:
This fruit salad can be made a couple of hours earlier and pulled out of a refrigerator at the last moment.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Crispy Radish Salad

I got this recipe almost thirty years ago from a Polish-German lady who was spending her summer vacations every year at the same Baltic town I went to with my parents. It was a revelation. This salad was crunchy and fresh while most salads I knew at that time were made from cooked vegetables. All ingredients needed to make it were readily available in Poland during the summer months except for ricotta salata. I used quark cheese (Polish farmer's cheese) instead but I had to first dry it for about a week. A very firm and dry feta cheese could also be used, but an authentic ricotta salata would always be better.

You will enjoy this salad with a sandwich for lunch or as a side dish with an afternoon grill. Kids like it because it contains all the crispy summer vegetables that they like to munch on.

Crispy Radish Salad

2 large firm heirloom tomatoes,
1 English cucumber,
1 bunch of radish,
3 cloves of garlic,
1/2 cup chopped dill,
1/2 lb ricotta salata,
1 cup of fresh or sour cream,
1 tsp of sweet paprika,
pepper to taste.

1. Peel off cucumber, cut into small cubes.
2. Slice tomato, cut into small cubes.
3. Cut radish into small cubes.

4. Finally cut Ricotta Salata the same way, into tiny cubes.
5. Chop dill.
6. Mix all the vegetables in a bowl.
7. Squeeze or grate in garlic cloves.
8. Add pepper, paprika and cream.
9. Stir gently and put aside for 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to mix.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cold Beet Soup--Nothing Cooler than That!

It has been unbelievably hot since May. Temperatures often exceed 100F. On such days there is nothing more desirable than a cold soup.

Almost each hot climate cuisine has its own cold soup for hot days. The most famous come from the countries where summer dominates any other season. We all know Spanish Gazpacho, Greek lemon chicken soup, French Vichyssoise. But not everyone would believe that there are also cold soups in a traditional Polish cookbook, although summers in Poland can often be rainy and cold.

We have our own list of cold sweet soups made from our summer fruits starting with strawberries and cherries to apples. But my favorite has always been the cold beet soup although it is more labor intensive and not sweet at all. In Polish it is called "Chlodnik" which could be translated as something like a chiller or a cooler, and it is based on beetroots, but should not be confused with another famous soup called Barszcz, which is served hot and mainly during during winter months.

Everything in this soup is about summer. All the ingredients are fresh, crispy and aromatic.

During my deck dinner parties I have served cautiously this soup to the most culinary cosmopolitan guests about three times already and, to my happy surprise, whenever the summer heat comes back to DC, my friends ask for my Chlodnik again.

The recipe is simple, but it involves a lot of chopping and two special ingredients--young beets and cucumbers is brine. Exactly for that reason I wrote about cucumbers in brine in one of my previous posts.

Beets have become very popular and many cooks experiment with them, so now they are also widely available. You just need to cut them-from roots up to leaves, into small pieces and cook. This can be messy, but some shortcuts can be made to skip these steps, which I admit I did sometimes myself.

Instead of making your own cucumbers in brine you can use Kosher Dill Pickles, which you can buy at most food stores. You can also replace the fresh beets with the canned ones.

Cold Beet Soup
1 bunch fresh beets,or 2 cans,
1 English cucumber,
4-6 small kirby cucumbers in brine,
1 bunch of radish,
1 bunch of dill,
1 bunch of spring onion,
32 oz European, or Greek yogurt,
salt, pepper.

1. If using raw beets wash them and cut off above the roots.
2. Cut the stalks up to the leaves in small pieces,about 1/4 of inch.
3. Cut beet roots in slices, then in pillars and finally into small cubes.
4. Cook all chopped parts in 4 cups of salted water. If you use canned sliced beets just cut them into small cubes (please see the photos), saving all the juice.
5. Similarly, cut radish, salted cucumbers, and fresh ones in small cubes.
6. Chop dill and spring onion.
7. In a large pot combine all the vegetables and cooked or canned beets and mix gently.
8. Add yogurt and mix again, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
9. Chill the soup for minimum 2 hours, but leave preferably over night in the refrigerator.
10. Serve cold with a dollop of fresh or sour cream.

Useful tip:
We serve this soup with cooked young potatoes garnished with fried onion and bacon, or simply alone. Some people also put a hard-boild egg in Chlodnik.