Sunday, March 23, 2014

Buttermilk Pancakes--American Breakfast

Buttermilk pancakes accompanied by a glass of milk are my younger son's favorite breakfast meal or an evening snack. I usually make a shortcut and buy organic pancakes which we preheat, whenever needed in a toaster. Then on the still warm pancakes he spreads a little bit of his favorite President salted butter and cream cheese on top, and he enjoys them deeply.

To honor his love for pancakes I decided to make them from scratch at home. I had an old recipe that I have always wanted to try. Surprisingly, the recipe worked from the first time. It was easy and pancakes turned out perfect. The only change I made after the first batch was to fry them on an almost dry pan since melted butter is already added to the batter. This way they became even lighter and more fluffy. In no time a whole plate of delicate pancakes was ready.

When I was making these pictures, I convinced my son to try my pancakes in a truly American way: with maple syrup, which was good idea in any event, because my pancakes are barely sweet. My other son enjoy them with his favorite Nutella spread. After the pancake feast I froze the rest and put them in a freezer for the upcoming week.

Buttermilk Pancakes
(Makes about 24 pancakes)

1 and 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk,
2 medium eggs, preferably organic,
1 cup sifted all purpose flour,
1 tbsp sugar,
1 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
1/2 tsp salt,
2 tbsp melted, unsalted butter,
1 tbsp vegetable oil for frying,

1. In a large bowl using a hand whisker gently whisk eggs. Add yogurt and melted butter.
2. In a smaller bowl mix flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Incorporate dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture and mix well using a hand whisker.
3. Preheat a large frying pan. Using a brush gently spread the oil on the bottom. Place about 1/8 cup of batter for each pancakes leaving fairly large space between, as they will expand.

4. Fry on the medium high heat until pancakes are dark gold. Turn them on the side and fry again until done.

4. Transfer pancakes to a plate, drizzle with maple or fruit syrup or any topping you like and serve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Carrot and Tarragon Savory Tart

Many sources fuel my culinary inspiration. One of them are dinners at friends who are good cooks and always prepare something new and interesting. I have learned to make from my neighbors the recipe for this savory carrot tart. Whenever their invite me over for lunch or dinner, dishes their prepare are always very good, so I often leave their house with a new recipe that I replicate at home. This tart is one of them.

I love tarts and they often feature on my blog. Tarts make for a simple and delicious one-dish meal that can be served either for lunch or dinner. Mostly vegetarian tarts can be filled with anything and be prepared partially some time ahead. So many more tart recipes will be appearing here soon.

I already ate this carrot tart twice but last time my neighbors made it I remembered to ask for the recipe. As it turned out the recipe was coming from the Eating Well magazine and it was a little bit healthier recipe than the tart recipes usually are. The tart was much lighter than other tarts I knew. Both the crust and the filling were made with yogurt, so the tart was low on butter and cream which other recipes call for. Fresh tarragon leaves added extra flavor to the delicate and sweet carrots.

I made small changes to the original recipe and by adding colorful carrot I think I made it the tart look even more appetizing.

Carrot and Tarragon Savory Tart
(For a 9-inch bottom tart form with removable walls)


1 cup all purpose flour,
1/2 cup whole wheat flour,
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter,
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,
1/4 cup low fat natural yogurt

1 and 1/2 cup grated carrot,
1 cup sliced red onion,
2 tbsp olive oil,
2 tbsp rice vinegar,
1 tbsp Dijon mustard,
1/2 cup low fat yogurt,
1/2 cup 2 percent milk,
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Gruyère cheese
2 large eggs,
2 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon,
salt and freshly ground pepper.


1. Mix both flour in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it makes crumbles. Pour in olive oil and yogurt and pulse until a dough starts to form.
2. Grease the form with a little bit of butter or oil and transfer the dough to the form. Push slightly on the bottom and make the wall. Chill in the refrigerate while preparing the top.
3. Preheat oven to 350F and bake the crust for about 15 minutes until set but still light.

1. Heat the oil in a heavy duty pan and add the sliced onion. Fry on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until soft and transparent. Add the grated carrot and fry for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, add chopped tarragon and rice vinegar and mix. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl whisk together yogurt, milk and eggs. Add carrot with onion and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper. At last, fold in grated cheese. Mix again.

3. Spread the mustard on the bottom of the crust and pour in filling on top. Spread it and bake the whole tart for another 40-45 minutes.
4. Cool for 5 minutes and serve with green salads.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wine Cookies from Tuscany--Otherwise Ciambelle

It is easy to fall in love with Italian food. But even among the dishes I tried I found some that I liked more than others. One of them were ciambelle--the Italian wine cookies.

Italian cookies are different than American. Not only because of different ingredients they are made of but also because they are barely sweet. I could eat many of them enjoying their taste without worrying about their sugar content.

I am not a breakfast person and eat hardly anything with my morning coffee but a cup of espresso and a couple of delicate sandy cookies will always be my sweet breakfast memories from Rome.

My favorite ciambelle came from Tuscany. They are made just with flour, olive oil, wine, and a bit of sugar. Wine, and in that particular recipe red wine, gives them the taste and acts as a rising agent. They are finished on top with whole hazelnuts. The brand I liked most also used whole wheat flour which made them even healthier, especially as a morning snack.

I got many different recipes on how to make ciambelle. The one I tried was exactly the same as the ciambelle I ate in Rome. I made a large batch of them, which I stored in a jar and enjoy every morning.

Ciambelle--Wine Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting,
1 cup whole wheat flour,
1 cup olive oil,
1 cup red wine,
1/2 cup sugar plus extra 1/4 cup for the top,
1 cup whole, roasted hazelnuts,
a pinch of salt.

1. Sift both flours into a large bowl. Add sugar and salt and mix well. Pour in wine and olive oil and knee a dough.

2. Preheat oven to 400F.
3. To make cookies take out a pieces of dough and roll out into a long about 1/2 inch thick snake. Cut it into 10-inch long pieces and close to make a circle. Dust with sugar and place on a baking sheet. Put on top 4-6 hazelnuts.

4. Bake the cookies for about 30 minutes.
5. Let them cool down and put them in an airtight container for future consumption.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Polenta with Porcini Sauce

I had never tried a true Italian polenta until my recent visit to Italy. When I went in Florence to a restaurant recommended to me by locals, I noticed a polenta dish on the menu. It sounded particularly interesting to me because it was not with the usual tomato sauce, which I am not a big fan of, but it was served with porcini. Without a second of hesitation I ordered polenta and waited anxiously to try it. Where should it be better prepared than in the heart of Tuscany?

It took 15-20 minutes before my dish was ready, which was just enough for me to enjoy a glass of local white wine with Tuscan bread. When polenta arrived, the dish was a generously large and pretty appetizing--lightly fried with an aromatic sauce on top. And it tasted even better.

Today, I decided to repeat the dish at home and use my supply of dried porcini from Poland. But, warned by my Italian friend that polenta is even more labor-intensive than risotto, I decided to take a shortcut and used a ready-made organic polenta (you can get it most Italian food stores or at Trader Joe's). I just made a good sauce from scratch. I was not disappointed at all and added polenta to my family's dinner menu.

Polenta with Porcini Sauce
(Serves four)

1 lb ready-made polenta,
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms,
1 shallot,
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream,
3 tbsp butter,
2 tbsp flat leaves parsley,
salt and pepper to taste,
freshly grated Parmesan to finish.

1. First wash the porcini in cold water and then soak them in a cup of room-temperature water for about an hour.

2. Cook porcini for about 30 minutes in the water they were soaking. During the cooking about half of the water should evaporate.
3. Preheat oven to 375F.
4. Grease a baking form with one tbsp of butter. Cut polenta into 1/2 inch-thick slices and spread in a baking dish. Put small pieces of butter on top.

5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until polenta becomes slightly gold on top.
6. Melt the rest of the butter in a heavy duty frying pan. Add chopped shallot and fry on a small heat for about 5 minutes. Add porcini with the water and cook together for about 5 minutes.
7. Add heavy whipping cream to the porcini, season with salt and pepper and cook additional 5 minutes or until it becomes thicker.
8. Pour the sauce on top of the baked polenta. Finish with a little bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Polish Sauerkraut Salad--for Health Reasons

I admit that I have never planed or imagined to post today's recipe but it came up as a kind of emergency response. A friend of mine has been on a long-term antibiotic treatment. Because of that she has been suffering from stomach problems despite high doses of probiotic supplements that she has been taking along with her medications. After many complaints, her doctor advised her recently to add sauerkraut to her daily diet as a source of natural probiotics--good bacteria that can protect her intestinal tract from being totally sterilized. So she bought the best sauerkraut from the Whole Foods and called me for suggestions on how to prepare it.

Coincidentally, I have just read an article about how American doctors have been opening up to fermented food, known in other parts of the world, as a source of good bacteria that the processed food cannot provide. Sauerkraut was on that healthy list next to the so well-known in Poland half-sour pickles (in brine), sour milk (kefir), or Asian kimchi.

There is basically only one classic recipe for raw sauerkraut salad I can think of--a simple salad that we serve with meats, mostly pork chops in bread crumbs, or fish. When I compared some Polish recipes they all looked very similar and included onion and carrot. Some also added apple, but even without them the salad is sour enough, so you can skip the apples. However, hardly any of these recipes mentioned caraway seeds which in my home have always been added to all cabbage dishes to help digest them and neutralize the rather vigorous stomach reaction that cabbage sometimes causes. I love the taste of caraway seeds, particularly in this salad, but you either love them or hate them (like fennel seeds) so it is up to you. Either way, today's sauerkraut salad is a real trove of healthy nutrients as besides the probiotics it is also rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins B and C.

Polish Sauerkraut Salad

2 lb sauerkraut,
2 large carrots,
1 medium onion,
1 tsp caraway seeds,
2 tbsp sugar,
4 tbsp vegetable light oil (canola, rice bran, or grape seed),
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaved parsley, freshly ground pepper to taste.

1.Drain the sauerkraut on a colander and place in a large bowl.
2. Peel off and grate the carrots on a grater with large holes.
3. Peel off and chop the onion.
4. Add carrot, onion, parsley, and caraway seeds to cabbage and mix.

5. Season the salad with sugar, pepper, and oil. Mix again. Let marinate for 20 minutes and serve.