Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chilled Almond Soup--From Spain

I used to think that there were very few cold soups in the world because, unlike warm soups, they cannot be made from anything. I also believed that I already knew most of them. But then I keep stumbling on new recipes for cold soups I have never heard of or expected that the ingredients that are used to make them can yield something so interesting and delicious.

I had one such discovery with the cold tomatillo soup, which now is on my regular repertoire for hot summer days. But my most recent discovery is the cold almond soup. I noticed it in a tiny Spanish cuisine book and then again in the culinary section of Metropolitan Home.

I tried this soup for the first time a month ago when the weather in Washington was unbearably hot. Incidentally, I also happened to be on a liquid diet at that time and was looking for protein-rich food that could be made liquid. Ground almonds in that recipe seemed a perfect solution.

So I must warn you that, unlike most other cold soups, this one in not particularly light. A small amount will make a very filling serving. But its unique taste made me reach back for this recipe already twice. You can use the regular skinned almonds but if you have Marcona almonds, which the original recipe calls for, I encourage you to use them. Their taste makes quite a difference.

Chilled Almond Soup
(Serves six)

1/4 lb one day-old firm white bread,
3 garlic cloves minced,
1 cup skinned, toasted Marcona almonds,
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,
1/4 green grapes, seedless,
1/4 cup crème fraîche or crema fresca,
1 and 1/2 cup water,
3 tbsp white vine vinegar,
sea salt and white pepper to taste.

Extra ingredients for garnish:
5 tsp of olive oil,
12 grapes cut in half,
12 Marcona almonds.

1. Put the bread in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let it soak for 30 minutes until soft. Squeeze it gently out in hands to get rid of the water but leave the bread still moist.
2. In a food processor purée garlic, almonds, and olive oil. Add grapes, bread, crème fraîche and water to make smooth purée consistency of heavy cream.
3. Season with salt and peeper. Cover and chill.
4. Before serving divide soup between small bowls, garnish with olive oil, grapes, and almonds, and serve.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spicy Potatoes with Turmeric--Healthy Indian

I love turmeric. And not only because of its delicate taste and intense color which so easily stains kitchen tools, but also because of its health benefits. Almost every time I open any magazine that discusses healthy foods I find an article raving about this yellow spice. Turmeric is claimed to have a very strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumor properties. Some studies show that turmeric can be as effective as steroids and ibuprofen in fighting arthritis. Others say that it can protect against Alzheimer or Parkinson diseases.

Besides all that we learn about turmeric it is a nice spice that enriches many dishes. It has been in my cuisine for ever and certainly ever since I first tried Indian recipes a long time ago in England. But it is worth mentioning that turmeric should not be abused as too much of it may cause a dish to have a bitter taste.

These Indian potatoes is a dish spiced with turmeric that I have been recently making very often. It is a simple vegetarian dish that served with green lettuce or fresh cucumber salad makes a nice dinner. Please try it, for whatever reason--health benefits or just its beautiful color and taste.

Spicy Potatoes with Turmeric
(Serves four)

2 lb (about four) wax potatoes,
1 medium onion chopped,
3 tsp turmeric,
2 tsp of panch poran spice (or 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp.fennel, 1/4 tsp mustard seed, 1/4 tsp onion seeds (nigella), 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds),
1 and 1/4 cup natural yogurt,
2 tbsp tomato paste,
2 tbsp of ghee or vegetable oil,
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves to garnish.

1. Peel off potatoes, cut alongside in quarters and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until not raw anymore but still firm. Drain them then on a colander.
2. Preheat oven to 350F
3. In a large frying pan heat ghee and add onion. Fry it until transparent.
4. Add to the onion all the spices, tomato paste, and yogurt. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes.
5. Add potatoes to the pan and mix until they are coated with the spices and yogurt mixture.
6. Transfer potatoes to an oven proof dish.

7. Bake for 40 minutes covered with a lid or aluminium foil.

Serve warm garnished with chopped cilantro leaves and green salads.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cauliflower Soufflé--Easy and Fluffy

I have always been attracted to all kinds of soufflés. Making them has been a culinary challenge and eating a reward. I have already tried to make the sweet ones, among others chocolate and lemon soufflés, and on my list is also a cheese soufflé--the king of spicy soufflés. Soufflé can be made of almost anything, including a whole variety of vegetables. The best for this purpose are the starchy and not too watery ones.

But there are two major problems when it comes to soufflés. They are based on béchamel sauce and that takes extra work and experience, and need to be served immediately after baking or will sit down while cooling.

The other day, while collecting all the information on soufflés I found a very interesting recipe for a cauliflower soufflé. It was different than all the others and was made of just cauliflower and eggs without the béchamel base. I decided to give it a try. The dish turned out great. It was much lighter than any regular soufflé and it was easy to make in no time at all. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside served with green lettuce or tomato salad made a delicious summer, vegetarian dinner.

Cauliflower Soufflé
(serves four)

1 large cauliflower about 2lb,
4 medium eggs,
1 cup Gruyère or sharp cheddar cheese,
3 tbsp melted butter, plus an extra tbsp to grease the baking dish,
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg,
salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. Cut out cauliflower florets leaving the stem. Cook them until soft in a large pot of water with a tbsp of salt. Drain them well on a colander and cool down a bit.
2. Preheat oven to 400F.
3. Mash cauliflower using a food processor or potato masher. Add egg yolks, cheese, melted butter, pepper, nutmeg, and mix well.
4. In a large bowl beat egg whites until stiff. Incorporate them into the cauliflower in three batches.
5. Grease with butter a 9-inch round oven proof dish with higher walls. Pour the cauliflower mixture in it.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top becomes lightly brown.

Serve accompanied by green or tomato salads.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Exotic Corn Salad with Mango Dressing

Since grilled chicked was the last recipe I shared, today, I would like to post something that goes very well with grilled meats and fish, particularly chicken or salmon.

I came up with the idea of this simple salad last year, when I was wondering what to do with the champagne mangoes that still tasted good but were not too presentable. Inspired by the papaya dressing I made a similar dressing, using mango spiced up with lime juice and shallots. I poured it over some leftover corn and my new salad was ready.

This combination always intrigue my guests who try to guess what the salad is made of. It is also the salad that I am asked recently most often to make or bring. I take the whole credit and accept complaints if you do not like it, but I am sure salads with such ingredients must circulate around the world. Last year, when flying with Air France I was served a lobster accompanied by a salad made from chopped mangoes and corn. It tasted similarly although it lacked the sourness that makes my salad special. Then I proudly thought "Oh, they stole my idea". And you are welcome do to it too.

Corn Salad with Mango Dressing

1 lb (16 oz) of cooked corn kernels,
2 champagne mangoes or one regular,
1 medium shallot,
1 lime or a small lemon,
1 tbsp olive oil,
1/2 cup coriander leaves,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Peel off the mangoes, cut out the flesh and put in a food processor. Add chopped shallot, lemon juice, olive oil and make a smooth dressing.

2. Add chopped coriander leaves, salt and pepper, and pulse a few times.
3. Pour the mango sauce over the corn and mix it in.
4. Transfer to a bowl, decorate with coriander leaves and serve with meats.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chicken Tikka Kebabs--The Power Outage Improvisation

Chicken Tikka is my favorite grilled chicken dish. I like it because of the Indian spices, which add a lot of flavor, and the yogurt, which makes it always very moist. I usually buy a ready made tikka paste in the Indian spice store, add yogurt and marinate chicken breasts in it. It has a very intensive red color.

I was planning on buying a new jar for the rest of the grilling season but during the recent power outage, when my refrigerator was thawing, I had to improvise and make the marinate myself, desperate to save the most vulnerable chicken breasts.

I remembered the recipe from one of the magazines that I constantly browse. It was a simple recipe using traditional Indian spices but what made it particularly interesting was the generous use of whole cumin seeds.

Chicken Tikka Kebabs

2 lb chicken breasts, boneless,
1/2 cup natural yogurt,
2 onions,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
3 tbsp lemon juice,
3 tbsp oil,
2 inches of a fresh ginger root, peeled and grated,
1 tsp red chili pepper,
1 tsp red paprika,
1 tbsp cumin seeds,
1 tsp cardamon powder,
1/2 tsp salt,
1/4 tsp pepper.

1. Cut chicken breasts into medium cubes.
2. Mix yogurt, 2 tbsp oil, lemon juice, grated ginger, minced garlic, and all the dry spices. Mix well and let it marinate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
3. Peel off onions and cut in quarters. Stick chicken cubes on the grill skewers alternating with slices of onion. Drizzle with the remaining tbsp of oil.

4. Preheat the grill to 350 F. Place Tikka kebab on a grill and grill for about 10-15 minutes turning frequently and brushing kebabs with the remaining marinate.

Serve with the Naan bread or rice and salads.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hazelnut and Nutella Semifreddos--To Celebrate the 4th of July

Fourth of July is a very special day to me. And not because it is a national holiday but because it is Max's, my older son's birthday. The whole nation celebrates that day with him and he gets the most wonderful fireworks.

Almost each year we go to or organise ourselves a Fourth of July party, which culminates in admiring the fireworks sparkling over the Washington Capitol. I also typically make his birthday cake decorated with fruits in national colors--blueberries and raspberries. I like to make that cake as it is very light and great for this usually very hot day.

But Max is not a big fun of cakes and he never tastes it except for some of the fruits. So this year I decided to make something just for him--a dessert with Nutella, the ingredient that he loves most. I spotted that recipe in More magazine. I thought that combining Nutella in the dessert that reminds chocolate ice cream, which he likes a lot, would be a perfect. And on top of that it would be, half-frozen, as the name suggests--a perfect dessert for the hot days we experience.

Hazelnut and Nutella Semifreddo

Ingredients for the dessert:
1 jar (13-oz) of Nutella spread,
1/2 cup whole milk,
2 tbsp hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico),
1 tsp vanilla extract,
1/4 tsp salt,
2 cups heavy whipping cream.

Ingredients for the chocolate sauce:
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped,
1/4 cup cold water,
1/4 cup sugar,
1/4 cup light corn syrup,
1/ 2 tsp vanilla extract.

1. Heat a heavy duty frying pan and roast hazelnuts turning them constantly, until their skins become burned. Cool them down and with hands remove the burned skin.

2. Line the 12-muffin tin cups with aluminium cupcake foil liners.
3. Place Nutella in a food processor, add milk, liqueur, salt and vanilla and run it until the mix becomes smooth. Add 2/3 of hazelnuts and pulse until they become crushed into very small pieces.
4. In a large bowl beat heavy whipping cream until almost stiff. Fold it in the Nutella mixture in three portions.

5. Fill up the muffin cups and decorate with the remaining hazelnuts on top.

6. Freeze for 4-6 hours, until they are very firm. Remove frozen desserts together with the aluminium liners from the muffin tin and place in a large Ziploc bag. You can store them like that for up to two weeks.
7. To make the chocolate sauce combine water, sugar, corn syrup in a small pan and stir over the medium heat until the chocolate melts and the sauce becomes smooth. Cool down slightly and add vanilla. Cool completely and transfer to a small jar until it will be used.
8. Shorty before serving spread the chocolate sauce at the bottom of each serving plate. Remove semifreddos form the freezer and place them on the plates. Let them soften for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Asian Eggplant Salad--Szechuan Style

I love eggplants in all their incarnations and I am very determinated to convince people who do not like them that they are worth trying. When I found this recipe on pages from the Metropolitan Home magazine. I thought I had to make it one day.

It seemed a wonderful summer dish that can accompany grilled meats or be served alone with bread or rice.

The other day I bought Asian eggplants, perfect for this recipe. They are longer and thinner than their Italian cousins, but similar in taste. I think that if the Asian eggplants are not available they can be replaced with the Italian eggplants. All excited I went to the kitchen and in no time my salad was ready.

The dish turned out better than expected. This naturally mild in taste vegetable got a lot of flavor from the added Asian spices. It was very refreshing. I let the salad stay over night in a refrigerator. On the next day, the spices infused the eggplants even more and the salad tasted even better. Here it is to try.

Asian Eggplant Salad

3 Asian eggplants or about 1lb, if you use a different type,
1 red bell pepper,
1/4 cup soy sauce,
2 tbsp rice wine,
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar,
2 tbsp sugar,
1/2 tsp salt,
1/4 cup rice bran or vegetable oil,
6 garlic cloves, minced,
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger,
2 tbsp fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped,
coriander leaves for garnish.

1. Trim the ends of the eggplants. Cut them lengthwise, then in half and then in thick sticks.
2. Remove the ends and the seeds from the bell pepper. Cut it into sticks similar to eggplants.
3. In small bowl mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt.
4. Preheat a large wok or a heavy duty frying pan on a very high heat. Add oil and add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Stir fry for about 20 seconds. Add eggplants and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes, until they begin to turn brown.
5. Add to the wok bell peppers and fry for another 2 minutes.

6. Swirl in the sauce to the wok, reduce heat, and cook until eggplants are tender.
7. Cool down, refrigerate for at least two hours. Serve cold decorated with fresh coriander leaves.