Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pecan Cookies--Winter Classic

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.

Pecan Cookies

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

Asian Carrot and Daikon Radish Salad

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
(Serves 4-6)

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

Lasagna with Kale--World's Healthiest Vegetable

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.

Kale Lasagna
(Serves four)

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.