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.