Thursday, May 23, 2013

Herbed Potato Salad with Green Peppercorns

Maybe because it was already many months ago that I last made a potato salad, this one tasted so good when I made it last week. I made it to accompany grilled meat. And because a long weekend, which traditionally starts the grilling season is coming up, I decided today to share the recipe for that salad.

Potato salads or salads with potatoes as their main ingredient are quite popular in many cuisines. But because they are so known I always look for a new and refreshing ideas on how to prepare them.

Last winter, I bought in an Indian spice store a large jar of green peppercorn pickles. Although I shared the jar with my friend I was still left with a lot. I added them to a fillet mignon steak sauce, but still the jar remained rather full.

Last week I decided to make a potato salad from baby potatoes I got at TJ. My herbs are already blooming in my herb yard, so I thought that a herb potato salad would be a great accompaniment to grilled meat I was preparing.

But although herbs were exceptionally fresh and I added a lot of chives, the salad seemed still too mild when I tasted it. Then green peppercorns came to the rescue. I added a generous spoon of them and the salad became instantly stronger, almost spicy when you bit a peppercorn. It tasted great with grilled beef.

Of course you do not need to buy a 27-oz jar or a yearly supply of peppercorns. A small jar sold in most food stores is absolutely enough. But it is worth trying as the salad season begins.

Herbed Potato Salad with Green Peppercorns

1 lb of baby potatoes or wax potatoes,
1/3 cup mixed fresh herbs such as dill, chives, oregano, tarragon and thyme, finely chopped,
3 tbsp low fat Greek yogurt,
2 tbsp mayonnaise,
1/2 tsp sugar,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1 tbsp green peppercorn pickles,
salt to taste.

1. Cook potatoes, let them cool and place them in a large bowl. Cut the large potatoes into small cubes.
2. In a small bowl pour in oil, yogurt, mayonnaise, sugar and pinch of salt. Whip all the ingredients using a whisker.
3. Add chopped herbs to the dressing. Mix again.
4. Pour the sauce over the potatoes, sprinkle with peppercorns and mix.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Very Spring Zucchini Pasta

To be honest, I have been waiting so intently for the zucchini blossoms to appear at my local market to try some interesting recipes, which I recently spotted in some Italian culinary magazines, that I forgot about the zucchinis themselves. So, maybe, before I buy these blossoms or, if and until, they finally bloom in my garden, I would like to share a zucchini pasta recipe. This is one of not too many vegetable pastas that my picky kids enjoy a lot, so I cook it fairly often.

Usually, I have been making it with large green or yellow zucchinis and dried basil leaves, a combination which in this vegetarian recipe works perfectly. I grate the zucchinis on a large hole grater and make a creamy sauce with them, flavored with dried basil. But, the other day, I got a bag of beautiful, small and green baby zucchinis and decided to use them instead.

This time I only sliced the zucchinis as they were tiny. And, instead of the dried basil, I used the more seasonal fresh basil, which is already growing in the pots on my deck. I also cooked the whole wheat pasta that becomes increasingly popular and easy to buy. It has a little bit stronger taste so it goes nicely with a delicate taste of the zucchini sauce and provides fiber, proteins, and even a good amount of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Zucchini Pasta
(Serves four)

1 box (about a pound) of Barilla multi grain penne or De Cecco whole wheat penne,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1 pound of baby zucchini or regular zucchini,
1 medium onion, chopped,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
1 cup table cream,
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tbsp dried,
shredded Parmesan,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook pasta according to the instruction. With whole wheat pasts, this will take a little bit longer than regular, about 11-13 minutes,
2. Preheat oil in large heavy duty frying pan and fry onion until transparent.
3. Cut baby zucchinis into thin slices or if yuo have the normale size zucchinis, grate them on a large hole grater. Add them to the pan with the onion. Mix and cook all the vegetables together on a medium heat until all the water from the zucchinis evaporates and they start to turn gold. Add minced garlic and fry everything together for about 2 minutes.

4. Finally, pour in the cream, mix and bring the sauce to boil. If it becomes too thick, add an extra hot water from the pot with boiling pasta.
5. Season the sauce with salt and generously with freshly griound pepper, add chopped basil and mix everything well together.
6. Drain pasta, pour the zucchini sauce over. Finish with shredded Parmesan and serve with red wine.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Coffee Parfait--A Perfect Dessert

I had very different ideas for what my next post would be about but, unfortunately, my computer crushed a couple of weeks ago and before I restore everything the way it used to be, I can only share the recipes for which finding pictures is easy. But I do not think anyone would regret to read about this wonderful coffee dessert, perfect for the upcoming warm days.

This dessert is not only delicious but also very simple. A classic of the French and Italian cuisines, with some variations very similar in taste to ice creams, it is made almost entirely in a stand-up mixer. This particular coffee version has been one of my favorite summer desserts ever since I tried it. Coffee parfait can be served at the end of a dinner with or instead of an espresso. Accompanied by an extra glass of Frangelico it is an absolutely delicious finale to any feast.

I like it so much because of the roasted hazelnuts--my most favorite nuts--which give it an extra flavor and crunchiness. I recently discovered at TJ roasted hazelnuts from Oregon which have an unbelievable taste and flavor similar to those I used to eat in Poland. But if you do not have hazelnuts, another version of this dessert, which is also very good, can be made with almonds and any Amaretto liqueur.

Besides their great taste, frozen desserts come very handy as they can be made ahead. I usually keep one or two in my freezer in case unexpected guests arrive.

Coffee Parfait

1/2 cup espresso coffee,
2/3 cup sugar,
4 large eggs yolks, preferably organic,
2 cups heavy whipping cream,
1/2 cup crème fraîche or additional heaving whipping cream,
3 tbsp Frangelico liqueur,
1 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts.

1. Brew the coffee, and put it together with sugar in a medium heavy-duty pot. Bring it to boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until it becomes thicker, more like a syrup. Watch the mixture as it has the tendency to over boil.
2. Put egg yolks in a mixer bowl and beat until pale. Add the hot coffee syrup and beat again until they are well combined.
3. Add to the coffee/yolks mixture crème fraîche and the heavy whipping cream and beat until combined and fluffy. Pour in Frangelico liqueur and beat briefly again.
4. Line 2 aluminium loaf pans (approximately 4 by 9 inches) with plastic wrap foil. Divide the parfait between pans and freeze for 8 hours.
5. Before serving, remove the parfait from the foil, place on a serving plate and decorate with hazelnuts. Cut it into inch-thick slices and serve with a small glass of Frangelico liqueur.