Friday, September 26, 2014

Light Garlic Soup—from Spain

Weather became finally cold enough, at least in the evenings, to think about a bowl of hot soup. All the garlic soups I ate were rich and creamy. They usually either included cheese, cream, eggs, flour, or sometimes, all of them in one recipe. But this garlic soup is very different. It comes from Spanish cuisine. And, when I was making it, I even had doubts if these two basic ingredients used in it—chicken stock and garlic—can really produce anything tasty.

In less than half an hour the soup was ready. When I tasted it, I was surprised how light and good it was. Definitely garlic surfaced in the taste but not too strongly. It had also a very intriguing taste coming from a little bit of sherry added to the soup. I served it with a piece of toasted wholewheat French bread, which added some substance to the delicate texture.

I tested the soup on my son who is a big soup lover. And he liked it a lot. So, today I give you a bowl of light soup that can be a nice start to the upcoming cold season.

Light Garlic Soup

6–8 garlic heads (should make about 1 and 1/2 cup of clean garlic cloves),
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,
6 cups chicken stock,
1/3 cup sherry,
1 tsp red chili peppers,
1 tsp ground cumin,
a pinch of saffron powder (if you use saffron threads soak them in the stock for about 20 minutes, then discard them),
salt and pepper to taste,
6 slices of French or Italian country bread.

1. Separate and peel off garlic cloves. In a heavy-duty pot heat the olive oil and add garlic cloves. Cook them on a low heat for about 15 minutes, until they become soft. Do not let them to turn brown. When garlic becomes soft (almost buttery) remove it from the oil and keep aside.

2. Add chili pepper to the oil and heat for about a minute. Pour in chicken stock, sherry, cumin, and saffron. Let it simmer for about 3 minutes.
3. Crush cooked garlic with a fork and add to the chicken stock. Cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes. After that time garlic should almost melt in the stock but if, there are some bigger pieces left, purée them with a hand blender.
4. Season the soup with salt and pepper as needed.
5. Toast the bread and put one in each of 6 bowls. Divide the soup between bowls and serve hot.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Avocado Tartar with Wasabi Sauce

Avocados are among the best vegetables in the US. This opinion is shared by local lovers of great food and many visiting foreigners.

My favorite way of serving avocado, with the addition of fresh tomatoes, comes from the Latin American culinary tradition. Unfortunately, my son does not like fresh tomatoes and wherever possible I need to find a creative way of omitting them, even in the dishes where they are almost essential. And today's post is a byproduct of these efforts.

Some time ago, at our friend's house, he ate avocado served just with cucumber and soy sauce. Ever since this is how he asks his avocado to be made. So today's post is the dish I came up with to suit his taste. It is entirely vegan and has some Japanese influence. It could be a great accompaniment to a slice of smoked salmon, grilled tuna, or eaten alone. I serve it often as lunch dish for him but served with salmon it can make a nice dinner party starter. For fish it can be a bit more sour, or spicy if you like it to have a stronger wasabi taste.

The only difficulty with this dish is the same that is always a bit of a problem with avocados—to catch them at the right moment so they are not too hard, or too mushy, or already turning black. Then you chop them, pour the dressing over, and a simple healthy dish is ready.

Avocado Tartar with Wasabi Sauce

2 large avocados,
1 Persian cucumber, or 1/3 of an English cucumber peeled and cut into small cubes,
2 tbsp chopped chives,
1 tbsp black sesame seeds or toasted sesame seeds,
juice from 1/2 lime,
1/2 tsp wasabi sauce,
2 tsp soy sauce,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cut the avocado in half. Separate the halves, remove the stone, and peel the avocado off. Cut each half into small cubes.
2. Place cucumber, avocado cubes, and chopped chives in a medium bowl.

3. In a small bowl mix lime juice, salt, pepper, and the wasabi paste until it turns into a smooth dressing.

4. Pour the dressing over the avocado-cucumber salad and mix gently.
5.Sprinkle the top of tartar with soy sauce and sesame seeds, and serve.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

South Indian Rice and Yogurt Salad

This is one of my all time favorite salads. I had it ready for one of my first posts but somehow never found the right moment to publish it. When I made it this summer for a BBQ dinner, my friends loved it so much that I finally decided to share this recipe.

This rice and yogurt salad comes from the South Indian tradition and was invented to use old yogurt, which in India is usually home made. It is also an excellent idea to use any leftover basmati rice, which in my home I cook at least once a week.

I discovered it thanks to my neighbor who prepares it often when yogurts gets too tart. Once, after trying it, I asked for the recipe and since he was just making it that day, he offered to bring some for me. I could not have enough of it. Then when I was pregnant, not at all into cooking, and suffering lot from morning sickness, he made this dish often, leaving at the door. Nothing could have tasted better those days. Delicate rice, sour yogurt, and especially fresh ginger, which is known for soothing the stomach and nausea, were a prefect combination and this was a dish to dream of. Still, whenever some stomach problems occur, this salad is a good remedy and a dish I crave.

There are different variations of this salad but I am particularly sentimental about the simple version my neighbor makes. There is a very unique flavor in it coming from the fresh curry leaves. It is the only ingredient that might be more difficult to obtain, but worth trying, as this salad gets a very intense and unusual flavor thanks to carry leaves.

This salad can be eaten in room temperature but during a hot summer I like it cold, straight from fridge.

Rice and Yogurt Salad

1 cup raw Basmati rice,
2 and 1/2 cups plain yogurt,
1 green chili pepper,
1 inch-long piece of fresh ginger, grated,
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped,
2 tbsp vegetable oil,
1 tsp brown mustard seeds,
2 tbsp black lentil (urad dal),
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder,
a few curry leaves.

1. Cook, drain, and cool the rice, or use leftover rice.
2. Place the rice in a large bowl. Add grated ginger, chopped chili, coriander leaves and yogurt. Mix gently.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add mustard seeds, dal, asafoetida powder, and curry leaves.
3. When the mustard leaves start to pop, add the mixture to the rice. Mix again. Let it stand for 20 minutes and serve in room temperature or let it chill before serving.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Another Cabbage Salad--with Ketchup Dressing

As promised last time, today, cabbage salad.

Since it is about a sixth cabbage salad on my blog I do not really have much more to rave about. However, to convince those who have not found their way to embrace cabbage, I would like to mention an article from one of the health magazines I recently read. Once again it, quotes a study proving that cruciferous vegetables, which include Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, and of course all kinds of cabbage, are a powerful remedy against any inflammations in our bodies. Consumed daily, they help prevent heart disease and other problems caused by inflammation.

My cousin showed me this recipe many years ago. Back then I made it quite often. It came back to me recently after an international summer party I was invited to. There was a huge bowl of coleslaw salad to accompany pork that was roasted in a sputnik-like device. And I noticed how a mountain of that simple yest excellent coleslaw disappeared to the last shredded cabbage leaf.

This particular salad really is a simple coleslaw made of cabbage and onion. It also has a typical coleslaw dressing, to which an equal amount ketchup is added. Ketchup not only lightens the dressing but also adds extra sweetness and lycopene to that already very healthy salad, which can be served with grilled meats, cold meats, or sandwiches.

Cabbage Salad with Ketchup Dressing

1/2 small cabbage, shredded,
1/2 medium onion, sliced,
2 tbsps fresh chopped parsley or dill,
1/4 cup mayonnaise,
1/4 cup ketchup,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Place shredded cabbage in a medium bowl. Add onion and herbs. Mix thoroughly.
2. In a small bowl mix mayonnaise with ketchup. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the cabbage and mix.

3. Let it marinate for 1/2 hour. Serve in room temperature.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fava Bean Spread

During my recent visit to Poland I noticed that fava beans had become very present at farmers' markets. Some sellers offered them in pods but most often they were sold in bags, already shelled. Fava was displayed in large quantities at every stand and seemed even more popular that cabbage. I also saw fava beans on the menu of many restaurants, among them at the restaurant offering molecular cuisine.

Inspired by this newly discovered popularity of fava beans in my native country, I decided to post today a fava bean spread, which I had made just before I went to Poland.

Since fava bean has always been very popular in the Mediterranean cuisine, I decided to use in my spread some of the quality ingredients of this region. I cooked fava, puréed it, and seasoned it with olive oil, lemon juice, and thick Greek yogurt. You cannot ever go wrong with such ingredients so the spread turned out very tasty. At a midsummer party we threw in our garden, it become a big hit and many guests asked for the recipe.

Fava must be double shelled so the spread is smooth and delicate. You can husk it after cooking or use the frozen double-shelled fava bean, which you can buy some food stores. This spread can be served on a fresh baguette or on crispy crostini with extra shredded asiago cheese on top. You can also use it as a dip with baked pita chips or grissini.

Fava Bean Spread

1 lb fava beans, double shelled,
1 small garlic clove
2 tbsp lemon juice,
3 tbsp olive oil,
3 tbsp cup Greek yogurt, or Lebne Kefir Cheese,
1/2 small red onion,
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, optional
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook fava beans until soft. For double-shelled it will be about 5 minutes, for other about 20 minutes, after which you cool the beans and husk from white skins.

2. Place beans in a blender, add lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic and purée until almost smooth.
3.Add yogurt or Lebne cheese, season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. You can also add chopped mint.
4. Transfer spread to a medium serving bowl, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and decorate with slices of red onion.

Serve at room temperature as a spread

or a dip.