Wednesday, December 18, 2013
As it often does in the most busy and demanding situations, my computer crushed again. And since I have not yet restored all my files, today's post is not about what it was supposed to be but about what is available. To bridge the gap, I will share a simple cookie recipe.
I am not a cookie person and I prefer to bake even the most labor intensive cake rather than cookies. But it is a cookie season and several friends have been asking me for cookie recipes.
These pecan cookies are classic and probably the most easy to do. My mother liked them when she visited us in the US and always enjoyed them with her afternoon tea. They are very sandy and crunchy thanks too the pecans, but not too sweet. Most of the sweetness comes from the small amount of the confectioner's sugar you dust on them. They can be made ahead and, as many cookies, stored in a cookie container for a couple of weeks.
2 sticks of unsalted butter, soft,
4 tbsp sugar,
1 tbsp vanilla,
1 cup tiny chopped pecans,
2 cups all purpose flour,
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar for dusting.
1. In a bowl of a stand-up mixer or using your hands mix all the ingredients, except the confectioner's sugar, until they turn into a smooth dough.
2. Make a 2-inch diameter log, wrap it in plastic foil and let it chill for about an hour.
3. Preheat oven to 300F.
4. Cut the dough into a 1/4 inch-thick slices
and place them on a slightly buttered cookie sheet.
5. Bake the cookies for 20-30 minutes until gold.
6. Let them cool down, dust them with confectioner's sugar and serve or store in a cookie container.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Maybe this salad is not an ideal choice for today's snowy weather, but I thought it would be a nice recipe to share after the recent fall holidays and before the upcoming Christmas, offering something lighter than a traditional food we eat during this time.
For a long time, I have been looking for the recipe that would use daikon radish which I always see in Asian food stores but have never tried. And finally I found one in my old vegetarian cook book. I was keen to prepare it all the more so that I bought a bag of organic tricolor carrots, which would add an extra nice presentation aspect to this salad.
With some modifications and extra seasoning the salad turned out very light, crispy, and refreshing and also very low in calories. Daikon radish is more delicate and sweeter than the regular small radish and is also more rich in minerals and vitamins.
A combination of all ingredients made this salad very Asian in taste. I served it just with smoked salmon which made it altogether taste a little bit like a sushi type dish with the salad perfectly complementing the delicate taste of the salmon. I think it could be also very refreshing and served over the summer with grilled steaks marinated in a wasabi sauce.
Carrot and Daicon Radish Salad
2 cups bean sprouts,
1/2 English cucumber, peeled,
3 carrots (three colors would look especially attractive),
1 small daikon radish (carrot size and length),
1/2 medium red onion, finely sliced,
1 inch of peeled fresh ginger root, finely sliced and cut into thin strips,
1 small red chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin slices,
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves,
Ingredients for the dressing:
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar,
1 tbsp light soy sauce,
1 garlic cloves, minced,
1 tbsp sesame oil,
3 tbsp rice bran or any light vegetable oil,
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted,
salt and pepper to taste.
1. Wash bean sprouts with cold water on a colander and drain. Put them in a large bowl.
2. Using a vegetable peeler shred the carrots and the daikon into thin strips. Put them in the bowl with the bean sprouts.
3. Cut cucumber in half, remove seeds and slice it into thin slices.
4. Place the cucumber in the bowl. Add sliced onion, ginger, chile and cilantro.
5. Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl, and pour it over the salad.
6. Toss lightly and serve.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I had no time to update my blog but I have been cooking a lot and eating so well over the past long weekend that writing about food seemed almost too much.
The idea of today's post came to me a couple of days ago. While watching the Italian movie "La Grande Bellezza" and looking at Rome's most beautiful landmarks, I started to dream about some of my favorite Italian dishes--vegetarian pastas and risottos.
So today I decided to make a lasagna. In my home lasagna almost always means white béchamel sauce and vegetarian filling that would make all of us happy. Béchamel helps my vegetarian son, who does not like most vegetables, accept any vegetables if I put them between the sheets of lasagna.
After the trip to TJ I came home with a large bag of Tuscan kale (to make the dish as healthy and Italian as it could be). In recent years, kale became THE vegetable and is often called world's healthiest vegetable. It features in almost all healthy diets and especially those detoxifying, based on juices. It is super rich in many vitamins, particularly K, A and C, helps lower cholesterol and when included in a daily diet, it is reputed to lower cancer risk by mitigating the genetic predisposition to it.
Kale has a nice earthy and nutty taste and a slightly firm texture thanks to which this lasagna, besides being healthy, can also be very tasty and satisfying.
9 lasagna sheets,
10 oz kale leaves (one large bag), chopped,
1 medium onion, chopped,
2 garlic cloves, sliced,
2 tbsp olive oil,
4 tbsp butter,
4 tbsp all purpose flour,
2 and 1/2 cup milk,
4-6 oz shredded Pecorino cheese,
salt and pepper to taste.
1. In a large frying pan heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and fry on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until transparent. Add washed and chopped kale leaves and fry on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until kale twiddles.
2. Make béchamel. Melt butter in a medium pot over the medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Pour in milk and using a whisker make a smooth sauce. Bring to boil, while whipping continuously, and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat oven to 375F.
4. Use about 1/3 of the béchamel sauce to cover the bottom of an oven proof dish. Spread three sheets of lasagna on top of it. Cover the lasagna with half of kale and put half of shredded Pecorino on top.
5. Place the second layer of lasagna on top. Use a half of the remaining béchamel to cover it and spread the second half of kale on top of it.
6. Cover the kale with the third layer of lasagna. Pour over the rest of béchamel and spread the remaining pecorino. Cover with the aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let the lasagna bake for another 10 minutes until it turns dark gold.
Take out of the oven, let it cool down a little bit, cut and serve.
Monday, November 18, 2013
The recipe I will be sharing today is for a cake that was one of the first I ever made. For a long time, it was my favorite cake because it was different from what my grandmother had baked. All her cakes were absolutely delicious, of which I am even more convinced today than ever, but at that time this cake looked more intriguing and flamboyant than anything that she made. With time my view changed and I even adapted her crust--the best I have ever tried--instead of the original one, which was too hard for my taste.
I made that cake then for our guests and it always earned all the wows not only because of its taste but also the presentation. The crust was buttery and sour and juicy apples melted in mouth and the delicate and fluffy meringue stuck to lips.
I was reluctant to share this recipe for a long time mainly because I still did not find in the U.S. the apples that would be suitable for this type of cake. The cake is filled and baked with apple halves therefore they need to bake rather fast before the crust turns too brown. So far, none of the apples I tried here really stood up to the task. Although the cake tastes great anyway and everyone likes it, apples remain still too firm, not mushy. Having a comparison I miss that special softness and winey taste that the Polish apple varieties that were especially good for cooking have.
But because fall is a season for apples I share this recipe anyway. I used golden ginger apples type but if you have available sour apples that cook well this cake will turn absolutely amazing.
Apple Meringue Tart
6-7 medium cooking apples
2 sticks unsalted butter plus extra 1 tbsp at room temperature,
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour,
1 tbsp sour cream,
1/2 tsp baking powder,
1/4 cup plus extra 4 tbsp sugar,
2 tbsp dried raisins or cranberries,
2 tbsp sliced almonds.
1. Place 2 cups of flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter and working with hands quickly incorporate butter into the flour until crumbles form.
2. Separate the eggs. Place whites in a large bowl. Put yolks, sugar and sour cream in a small bowl and mix until well combine.
3. Pour the yolks mixture into the flour and quickly form a dough. Use remaining half a cup of flour to clean hands and incorporate the scraps into the dough.
4. Roll out the dough on a working space slightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin transfer the dough into the greased tart form. Make nice edges and chill the dough in a refrigerator for at least an hour (you can keep it refrigerated for up to a week).
5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
6. Soak the raisins in a warm water. Meanwhile peel off the apples, cut in halves and remove the core. Place the halves of apples at the bottom of the raw tart. Using a fork run a strips on top of the apples ( it will help to bake the faster and evaporate the extra moisture)
7. Place the tart in a oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the crust is gold and apples become softer.
8. Beat the whites until soft peak. Add a tbsp of sugar and beat until whites become shiny. Follow gradually with three remaining spoons of sugar.
9. Drain the raisins from the excess of water and sprinkle on top of the apples. Cover the apples with meringue, spread it using a spatula and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the meringues become gold.
10. Let it cool down a little bit and serve.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Those who, like me, still have a Halloween pumpkin sitting on the front porch or keep its leftovers in a refrigerator, will find today another idea on how to use it: another soup.
There are many pumpkin soup versions and everyone has one's favorite. I like this one for two reasons-- it is easy and not sweet. I am not a big fan of pumpkin in a sweet version. The more spicy the pumpkin is the more I like it.
This particular soup however is rather delicate and only garlic and a little bit of nutmeg add the necessary yet not an overwhelming spiciness to its taste. Easy to make, this soup is a nice and warming fall dish.
Cream of Pumpkin Soup
4 cups peeled and seeded pumpkin, cut into small cubes,
2 medium potatoes, peeled off and cut into small pieces,
one medium onion, chopped,
4 cups vegetable broth (or water),
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg,
1/2 tbsp cream,
2 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste,
2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves,
1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onion and fry until transparent. Add potatoes and pumpkin. Cook them in oil for about 2 minutes stirring until the vegetables are coated with oil.
2. Add vegetable stock or water and cook for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
3. Puree the soup with an electric hand blender. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Pour in cream and bring the soup to boil. Let it simmer for about a minute. Turn off the heat. Let it stand for another 5 minutes and serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Ever since I learned about fried sage leaves they have become my favorite garnish for many dishes. Each year I cannot wait until fall to make the familiar and try some new dishes with fried sage leaves. And although sage can be harvested almost the whole year and can sustain not too harsh winters, nothing tastes better than fall dishes finished with sage leaves. I like particularly all pumpkin family vegetables to be enriched with the sage aroma.
Today's recipe comes from the Italian cuisine. It is a snack featuring sage as a main ingredient. It reminds me a little bit of another Italian speciality--fried zucchini blossoms--that are almost nothing than just a snack but at the same time taste so good and sophisticated that makes them more remarkable than just a snack deserves to be.
The other week I harvested a bunch of the sage leaves and made my first batch of fried sage with mozzarella. It was a delicious snack, which even my picky son complimented. Sage leaves were very crispy, mozzarella almost running, and everything was coated in a delicate, fried batter.
If you are a lover of fried zucchini blossoms, here is another dish to fall in love with. Serve it as aromatic fall party snack with a glass of wine.
Fried Sage Leaves with Mozzarella
About 30 large sage leaves,
7 oz (usually 2 balls) of mozzarella, preferably, mozzarella bufala,
4 tbsp all purpose flour,
1/8 tsp dried yeasts,
1/4 cup dry white wine,
2 cups olive oil for frying.
1. To make a batter separate eggs. Place yolks in a medium bowl and whites in the other. Add flour, yeasts, salt, and white wine to yolks and beat together until smooth. Set aside for about half an hour.
2. Cut mozzarella into slices than cut into halves (to make about 15 pieces).
3. Place each piece of mozzarella on one sage leave and cover with another. You can use wooden toothpicks to fasten mozzarella and leaves together.
4. Beat the whites and fold in into yolk mixture.
5. In a small heavy duty pot heat the oil until very hot. Dip sage leaves with mozzarella in the batter and place in a bubbling oil. Fry on each side until dark gold.
6. Dry on a paper towel, season with sea salt, and serve warm.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Last month, for the first time ever, I bought a spaghetti squash and it became my latest food addiction. Spaghetti squash makes a wonderful, very easy, and all vegetable dinner dish. It is very delicate and after cooking, when scrapped with fork, creates spaghetti-like strings. Not only it can make a vegan, low calorie dish but also just with one serving provides a lot of valuable nutrients, such as beta carotene, folic acid, potassium and vitamin A.
Trying to get an opinion on the best way to serve spaghetti squash I looked for different suggestions and recipes. Most of them called for traditional pasta sauces on top. But I find Alfredo or meat ball sauces too heavy for such a delicately tasting vegetable, whose taste should be enhanced by but not lost in the rich topping.
Following this principle, I first made a delicate tomato sauce with shallots and parsley. I used fresh tomatoes which I cooked briefly. The dish turned out to be delicate and quite different than a typical pasta dish. You could still taste squash while tomatoes added extra sourness to the mild taste.
But today, exploring further the potential of the spaghetti squash, I have tried a different idea. I like to use sage for dishes made with squash family vegetables. I did so for gnocchi, pumpkin ravioli, or risotto. So I took a bunch of fresh sage leaves from my herb yard and fried them in butter. I drizzled squash with sage-infused butter and finished with fried sage leaves. I think this combination turned out to be absolutely perfect--a delicate squash, strong sage flavor, and contrasting textures of the soft squash and crispy sage leaves.
Spaghetti Squash with Fried Sage
1 spaghetti squash (3-4 lb),
1 bunch of fresh sage,
1 stick of butter,
freshly grounded pepper and salt.
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut squash in half and using a spoon or an ice-cream scoop remove the seeds.
3. Place halves of squash on a large baking form, skin up. Poke it a couple of times with the fork to pierce the skin.
4. Bake for about 40 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare sage. Melt the butter in a small heavy duty pot, on a high heat. When it starts bubble add sage leaves, turn the heat to medium high and fried until leaves twiddle and turn dark green. Drain the leaves on the paper towel. Reserve the butter.
6. Remove the baked squash from the oven. Turn it flesh up and using a fork scrub the spaghetti-like flesh out.
7. Place the squash spaghetti on a serving plate. Drizzle with butter, finish with sage leaves, and season generously with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Today, a very simple Italian dish, which I have been making quite often recently.
There are many varieties of dishes featuring stuffed tomatoes--raw or baked. They can be stuffed with different fillings cold or warm. This one is probably my favorite version of roasted tomatoes stuffed with just rice and herbs.
But, as it often happens with simple dishes, the taste of the dish depends on the quality of the ingredients and, in this case, tomatoes. My first dish was made with smaller, campari type of tomatoes. It was wonderful as campari tomatoes are usually sweeter and more red than others. But they are also smaller and harder to stuff and you also need more of them per person. Second time I tried tomatoes on the vine. The dish was good but tomatoes were a bit more watery and less sweet. Third time, I used just the local larger tomatoes, which were very ripe, and this was the best combination of size, color, and taste.
Tomatoes are often stuffed with rice, typically Arborio. Lightly cooked Arborio rice also makes the stuffing in my version. But because roasted tomatoes are more of a fall dish than other fresh tomato dishes, I also used a lot of more fragrant herbs than just basil, which is often paired with tomatoes. A little bit of Parmesan, 30 minutes in the oven, and a wonderful and light roasted tomatoes dish is ready.
Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Herbed Rice
8 ripe medium tomatoes,
1/2 cup Arborio rice,
1 garlic clove, minced,
3 tbsp mixed, fresh herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley),
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese,
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
1. Cook Arborio rice for about 5 minutes, drain on a colander.
2. Cut off the tops of the tomatoes and set them aside. Take the bottoms and using an ice cream scoop, or a grapefruit knife, hollow them out and set aside. Put the scooped out tomato flesh and juice in a medium bowl.
3. Drain extra juice and pour on the bottom of a round oven-proof dish. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the juice.
4. Preheat oven to 375F.
5. To make the stuffing, mix the rice with the tomato juice and flesh, adding a second tbsp of olive oil, herbs, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the tomato shells with the stuffing, cover them with the tops, and place in an oven-proof dish.
6. Drizzle the tomatoes with a third tbsp of oil and put in a hot oven.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until tomatoes are roasted. Serve warm.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Passion fruits are my favorite fruits, distinguishable for their intriguing look and flavor, a rare seedy texture, and a very strong sour taste. They come from South America but their flavor and taste remind me of other remote parts of our planet. Among others, they grace the famous Australian Pavlova dessert and give flavor to some white wines from Australia and New Zealand.
When I lived in Geneva I experimented with passion fruits a lot. They were inexpensive and always available. In our Washington area passion fruits are very seasonal and hard to get. So I have learned to replace the fresh passion fruits with their frozen pulp or bottled juice.
Last week, however, while shopping in my local Safeway in the exotic fruit section, I noticed a small pile of passion fruits. A cashier was surprised that such these inconspicuous fruits cost three dollars a piece and even more so that I took five of them. But having access to them only occasionally I buy a few, scoop up the pulp, place in a small container, and freeze for couple of months until a special occasion comes.
But today, without a special occasion, I share a recipe for a light passion fruit-yogurt mousse. It is a bit complicated dessert, as I bake the biscuit base myself, but I believe that, at the end, it is very delicate and rewarding.
Passion Fruit and Yogurt Mousse Cake
(For a 10-inch form with removable walls):
3 eggs at room temperature,
3 tbsp all purpose flour,
3 tbsp. sugar plus 3 tbsp sugar extra for the syrup.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the cake form with butter and dust it with flour.
2. Separate eggs. Beat egg whites until almost stiff. Add gradually, one by one, three tbsps of sugar. Fold in gently three yolks and, at the end, the sifted flour. Gently mix the batter and pour it in the baking form.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes until it becomes gold. Let it cool completely.
4. Remove the cake from the form. Spread a large piece of aluminum or plastic foil on the bottom of the form, make sure that the foil is large enough to overhangs the rim of the form. Put the cake back in the form.
5. Mix sugar with 1/2 cup hot water. Cool to room temperature and using spoon sprinkle evenly all over the base.
14 oz (about 1 and 1/2 cup) defrosted passion fruit pulp or juice,
2 tbsp unflavored gelatin,
2/3 cup sugar,
1/2 cup 2 percent Greek yogurt,
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 passion fruits,
1 lemon jello pack or one sachet of Dr. Oetker clear glaze.
1. In a small bowl, mix gelatin with 3 tbsps of cold water and let it soak in it for 5 minutes. Put the pulp or juice in a medium pot, add sugar, heat the pot until sugar melts and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Add gelatin to the juice, mix well, and let it stand aside until it cools down to room temperature.
2. Beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff. Mix gently with yogurt. Fold in a half of the cream-yogurt mixture to the passion fruit mixture. Follow with the second part, mix gently again, and transfer the whole mousse on the pre-soaked base. Smooth the top and refrigerate for 4 hours until it is set.
3. Cut passion fruits in halves and using a teaspoon scoop out the flesh. Spread it on top of the mousse.
4. Prepare jello according to instruction and before it sets spread on top of the cake. If you use Dr. Oetker's clear glaze, just add 2 tbsps of sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice, and cover the fruits. Cool down again until everything is set.
Before serving remove the walls of the cake form. Peel off the foil. Cut and serve and enjoy.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
I had a very different idea for today's post--something sweet for a weekend--but because of heavy rains my local farmers' market was canceled and I could not get good apples for my recipe. And since I like to cook and talk about seasonal food, today it will be about squash.
All I learned about squash--either from others or by experimenting--I did while leaving here in the US. My favorite is still the delicate squash flan which in fact is spicy but delicate in texture and which my guests always enjoy. Recently, I also came up with a nice recipe for pierogi with squash filling. But, since this is a long weekend, you may prefer this is easy salad, especially if it is your turn to make it, rather than kneading a dough for pierogi, which unfortunately are quite difficult and messy to make.
There are many squash salads and I noticed that each year they are becoming more popular and squash is increasingly appreciated as the vegetable that is most rich in vitamin A, for its reputation to lower your cholesterol, and its low-calorie content.
Actually, this salad is quite rich and nutritious and it can make for an entire vegetarian lunch dish. I have never seen a recipe that would be exactly as this one but, like many other squash salads, it includes onion and feta cheese, which spice up the delicate and sweet squash.
Butternut Squash Salad with Herbs
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes,
3 tbsp olive oil,
4-6 shallots, peeled and cut in quarters,
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar,
2-3 tbsp chopped parsley leaves,
1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme leaves,
1 small garlic, minced,
1/2 cup roasted, chopped walnuts,
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp red chili pepper,
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Put the squash in a medium bowl. Mix oils and 2 tbsp of vinegar, pour over the squash and rub it in the sauce.
3. Place the squash on a large roasting pan, salt gently but not too much as feta will add extra saltiness, and bake for about 30 minutes until the squash becomes soft and brown and shallots almost caramelized.
4. Remove the squash from the oven, sprinkle with thyme and let it cool.
5. In a small, bowl mix chopped parsley, garlic, walnuts and chili pepper and toss with squash. Divide squash between 4 plates.
6. Drizzle the salad with an extra tbsp of vinegar, sprinkle with feta and pepper, and serve with white breads.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Looking back to my over 300 my recipes shared on this blog, I have realized that leeks are one of the most popular vegetables on my list with four different dishes devoted to them. But I cannot help myself and each fall leeks come back to my mind. Perhaps because, this time of the year, years ago, we were harvesting them in our yard in Poland and stored them in a cold cave for months and ate them when not many other vegetables were available.
By saying this, I might have scared those who check this blog and do not like this vegetable, especially that this certainly is not my last leek recipe. I would like to try one day an Italian dish, which also calls for leeks. But since young leeks are needed for this purpose, I will rather wait with that dish until late summer next year.
Today, however, I will talk about a cream leek soup. I made it this week for my younger son who although considers himself vegetarian still does not like many vegetables. So I decided to make this really simple soup and I puréed it to make it difficult for him to detect what vegetable it was made of. Just in case he had something against the leeks.
If you have leeks in your refrigerator, and have no time but crave for a bowl of hot soup, this should be your choice. The soup was made in less than 20 minutes and was rated with three stars (three out of three) by my picky son who devoured two bowls of it in no time.
Easy Leek Soup
3 medium leeks,
3 tbsp butter,
4 cups vegetable broth,
4-6 slices baguette (I used whole grain),
1 tsp red chile pepper flakes,
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg,
sea salt and freshly ground pepper,
Italian parsley leaves to garnish,
1. Cut out about 1/3 of the most green leeks parts and discard them. Cut the remaining parts in halves and wash them thoroughly until all the soil is washed out from between the leaves. Slice thinly all the leeks.
2. In a medium heavy duty pot melt the butter. Add sliced leeks and fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
3. When the leeks become transparent pour in vegetable broth, bring to boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Put on top of the soup slices of baguette and let the soup cook for another 3 minutes.
5. Remove the pot from the heat. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and, using an electric blender, purée the soup.
6. Return the pot to heat, bring the soup to boil, turn the heat off and let the soup infuse for about 5 minutes.
7. Divide the soup among four medium-sized bowls, sprinkle with chile flakes and chopped parsley, and serve.