Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dip from Roasted Peppers and Walnuts

Dips can nicely enhance your dinner party starters or add flavor to whatever accompanies a glass of wine or an apéritif, if this is all you serve. I have been making several different dips recently and noticed that the original ones that are home made are always very popular among my guests.

Today's dip can also be used as a sauce to accompany grilled meats. It comes from the Middle Eastern tradition and is made from roasted bell peppers and walnuts.

I served it with Arabic flat bread or pita bread. It has a distinct taste thanks to the peppers, which should be slightly charred, and a bit crunchy texture because of the generous amount of ground walnuts.

My son enjoyed this dip so much that he used it just as a spread on a grilled pita bread. Any way you choose to serve this dip—on meats, breads, crostini, or pita chips—it is a very satisfying recipe, and it can be entirely made in a food processor.

Roasted Peppers and Walnuts Dip
(Serves 6-8)

4 red bell peppers,
2 garlic cloves,
1 slice of white bread, toasted,
1 tsp chili pepper,
1/2 tsp ground cumin,
1/2 tsp salt,
3 tbsp lemon juice,
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
2 tbsp flat leaved parsley, chopped,
ground pepper to taste.

1. Turn your oven on broil and heat it to 425F. Place the peppers inside the oven and roast them until the skin becomes black. Turn upside down and roast them on the other side.

Place the charred peppers in a paper bag or a container with a lid and let them cool. Peel of the peppers and remove seeds.
2. Place garlic, walnuts, bread, and peppers in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

3. Stir in the salt, ground pepper, cumin, lemon juice, and oil, and pulse again until all the ingredients blend nicely.
4. Transfer the dip to a bowl, add chopped parsley, mix, and serve.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zucchini Blossoms Omelette--Easy Brunch Idea

Let's then say that this is a kind of lazy post because of the busy time I have before a long trip on vacation. And it is even hard to called today's recipe a recipe. It is more of an idea that I would like to share.

My beloved zucchini blossoms got frostbitten in the late spring. Last year, I had plenty of them, this summer I harvested only a few. Before I had enough to make any dish of them some already turn into small zucchinis and any dish of stuffed blossoms that I dreamed of unfortunately became impossible.

So when last Sunday when I woke up after a long party all I dreamed of was an omelette for brunch. I looked at my only pot of zucchinis and their yellow flowers and decided to make an omelette with them. I fried the blossom with small zucchinis, poured eggs on them, and a delicious brunch was ready in no time. Served with a crisp baguette, it could not taste any better.

Zucchini Blossoms Omelette

4 eggs,
3 tbsp whole milk,
10-12 zucchini blossoms with small zucchinis, if possible,
2 tbsp chopped chives,
2 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Heat the oil in a medium heavy duty frying pan. Spread the zucchini flowers with zucchinis on the oil and fry them on high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Turn the heat down to medium.

2. Crack the eggs and put them in a small bowl. Pour in milk and using a fork whisk them about 10 times.
3. Spread the eggs on top of the zucchinis blossom. Using a wood spatula keep pushing the eggs from the walls to the center, spreading liquid eggs to the wall until the omelette becomes set. Season top with salt an pepper.

4. Using a spatula fold the omelette in half and transfer to the plate. Finish with chives and serve.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes and Bell Peppers Spaghetti Sauce

Summer is a tomato season and tomato is my beloved summer vegetable. For the past few weeks local tomatoes have been coming to our stores, fresh from the field, absolutely the best. Because in my house pasta is among the most loved dishes I decided to make my own tomato sauce from scratch. I thought about a sauce made with roasted tomatoes, which is a bit denser and more smokey in taste than just a regular tomato sauce.

In Italian cuisine there is a classic recipe for pasta with roasted tomatoes. Tomatoes, or often cherry tomatoes, are roasted then thrown on hot pasta. My kids love tomato sauce however not so much tomatoes themselves, especially when the skin separates from the flesh. Therefore I roast tomatoes and turn them into a smooth sauce. I also add roasted bell peppers for extra sweetness, and onion and garlic for the aroma, then I pureé all the ingredients in a food processor, or press them through a food mill. Sauce made this way can be reheated at any time and served on spaghetti. Then I add Parmesan and some basil on top, for extra flavor and my pasta is ready.

Roasted Tomatoes and Bell Peppers Spaghetti Sauce
(Serves four)

1 lb spaghetti,
2 lb very ripe Roma tomatoes,
2 red or yellow bell peppers,
1 medium yellow onion,
2 garlic cloves, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste,
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves,
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut tomatoes in quarters and place them on a large baking tin.
3. Cut bell peppers in halves and remove seeds. Cut them into quarters and place on a baking tin together with tomatoes.
4. Peel off the onion and cut into quarters. Add it to tomatoes. Add also garlic cloves.
5. Drizzle all the vegetable with olive oil, then using hands mix all the ingredients so the vegetables are covered with oil. Bake for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are slightly charred.

6. Remove vegetables from the oven and let them cool down. The skin on tomatoes and peppers should be slightly burned and easy to remove at that stage. This is necessary if you use food blender. If you use food mill you do not need to peel them off as the skin will stay in a food mill, anyways.
7. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl.
8. Heat the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and pour over the spaghetti. Finish with fresh Parmesan and chopped fresh basil leaves.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Carrot Salad from Tunisia

There are cooked carrot dishes or raw carrot salads. But the recipe I would like to share today is for a salad that is made from cooked carrot and, as all salads, it is served cold. It comes from the Tunisian culinary tradition.

I have been reading about this salad in different Mediterranean and African cookbooks and always had the impression that it was worth trying. Last week, I bought a large bag of organic carrots and turned them into a bowl of cooked carrot salad.

It is a simple salad but the several recipes for it I read differed somewhat in that they called for slightly different spices. I tried the oldest recipe, which seemed most classical, and made some additions to it.

Cooked carrot, marinated in all the ingredients, turned out light, slightly spicy, and very aromatic. I think that using harissa (Middle Eastern spicy paste available in most oriental food stores), which has more flavor than cayenne pepper that is used in some recipes, made big difference. I also liked it better with cilantro rather than parsley. In some recipes, this salad was finished with yogurt but mine was made with feta cheese which I also liked better.

The salad can be made ahead, which makes it a great party salad. I marinated mine overnight. It is a perfect summer dish and a great accompaniment to grilled meats, especially those prepared in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean style.

Summer Carrot Salad from Tunisia

1 lb carrot, preferably organic,
1-2 tsp harissa, depending on how spicy you like it,
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice,
2 cloves garlic, minced,
2 tsp ground caraway seeds,
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped,
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
1/2 cup Feta cheese,

1. Peel off the carrots and cut them into thick slices. Place in a medium pot, cover with water, add 1 tsp of salt and cook for about 20 minutes until soft but still tender. Drain the water if any is left and cool the carrot to room temperature.

2. In a small bowl stir garlic, harissa, lemon juice, caraway seeds, olive oil. Mix all the ingredients.

3. Transfer cooked carrot to a cutting board and chop it with a knife into smaller pieces. Transfer it to a medium bowl, drizzle with dressing, add chopped cilantro and mix. Let the salad marinate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
4. Before serving sprinkle with crumbled Feta pieces.