Monday, October 27, 2014

Round Zucchinis Roasted with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

Fresh zucchinis, even those late fall ones are so perfect that they do not require much cooking. Just sliced and lightly fried in olive oil with herbs can be absolutely delicious. And today's recipe is based on this idea. It came to me when I found in refrigerator a piece of leftover Gorgonzola cheese that had to be used rather fast. I decided to use it with round zucchinis I bought at Friday market.

I also made a tomato sauce from fresh, barely cooked, tomatoes. Then I cut the zucchinis, baked them, and finished them with the cheese-walnut stuffing. A simple yet delicious fall dish was ready.

Round Zucchinis Baked with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
(Serves 6)

6 small round zucchinis,
2 large heirloom tomatoes,
1 small onion, chopped,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese,
2 tbsp chopped walnuts,
1/3 cup flat leaves parsley, chopped,
salt and pepper.

1. Blanch the tomatoes in hot water for a minute. Cool, remove the skins, and cut into small cubes.
2. In a frying pan heat 2 tbsp of oil and fry onion until soft. Add chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, mix. Spread the sauce on the bottom of an oven dish large enough to contain zucchinis.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
4. Cut off the tops of the zucchinis and cut each into eight quarters not going completely to the bottom so the zucchinis keep their form. Place them on the sauce and sprinkle the tops with with salt.

5. Bake the zucchinis for about 20 minutes until their tops are slightly transparent.
6. Mix crumbled cheese with chopped walnuts and parsley and divide between zucchinis pushing the stuffing gently inside. Season with pepper.
7. Bake the zucchinis for another 10 minutes, until the cheese melts.
Serve with fresh baguette.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Barley Salad with Pomegranate and Halloumi

The season for pomegranates, one of my favorite fruits, has just started. I have been experimenting with them again, adding to any dishes for their wonderful taste and health benefits. Today, then, a middle eastern style barley salad with pomegranate arils.

The green salad with barley that I shared some time ago, and made at home I do not remember how many times, has been one of the most popular salads I ever served. Although there are many ingredients in that salad I would mostly credit the barley for its uniqueness.

Barley is quite popular in Poland but I never saw it served as salad. But I like to use it for that purpose because no matter how long you cook it barley almost never becomes entirely soft and gives a nice texture to any salad. In this particular salad, pomegranate arils contribute the sweet and sour taste and extra crunchiness. I finish it with fried halloumi cheese, which makes this simple salad wholesome and tasty.

Barley Salad with Pomegranate and Halloumi
(Serves 4–6)

1/2 cup barley (cooked until tender),
1 bunch flat leaves parsley,
pomegranate arils from one medium pomegranate,
1/2 Halloumi cheese (about 4 oz) cut into slices and then smaller pieces,
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
juice from half a lemon,
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts,
1 tbsp chili flakes,
sea salt to taste.

1. Cook barley for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool completely. Transfer barley to a large serving bowl.
2. Remove arils from the pomegranate avoiding all white membranes and place in the bowl with barley.
3. Wash parsley and chop the leaves. Add to the barley.
4. Heat one tbsp olive oil on a pan and add halloumi pieces. Sprinkle with chili flakes and fry until dark gold. Cool.

5. In a small bowl mix the remaining one tbsp of olive oil with lemon juice and salt. Pour over the salad, add toasted pine nuts, and and gently toss.
6. Finish the salad with fried halloumi and serve.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Butternut Squash Party Dip

This squash dip is a perfect idea for all kind of fall parties. It can be made either from squash, which will be slightly sweeter and more intensive in color, or from a Halloween pumpkin.

The recipe is very simple but very healthy and the really worth sharing. First, the squash is baked then puréed in a food processor with all the additional ingredients. This particular one is made from butternut squash. I made it on the spicy side, by adding red chili pepper. I finished it with nigella (black onion) seeds that add an extra taste, which contrasts nicely with the orange squash.

The dip can be served just with pita bread but it tastes even better with sea salt or whole wheat crunchy pita bread chips.

Butternut Squash Dip
(Serves 6–8)

2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into cubes,
4 tbsp Greek yogurt,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1 tsp paprika,
1 garlic clove.
1 tsp red chili pepper,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1 tbsp nigella seeds,
sea salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Place squash cubes on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt and rub with olive oil. Bake for 20–30 minutes until soft. Cool.

3.Place the squash in a food processor, add garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, and paprika, and pulse until all the ingredients are blended. Taste and season more if needed.
4. Transfer the dip into a medium bowl. Add chili pepper, mix, and smooth the top.
5. Sprinkle with nigella seeds or extra chili flakes and serve.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Plum Pie with Pistachio Crumbs

This season in Poland, my grandmother used to make plum cakes. They were made on different bases but always were absolutely delicious. The smell of the freshly baked cake filled her whole house. The most aromatic were those made on the yeast base. They took some time to be ready as the dough had to rise for hours in a warm kitchen. Then she put the plums on top and covered them with sugar crumbs.

Sometimes, she made plums cake on a delicate, butter, short crust. I make excellent tarts using my grandmother's recipe but, unfortunately, I have never mastered her yeast cake. So when the fall comes and I see plums I think about the plums cake I used to have in Poland.

Last week, I bought beautiful Italian plums and made a plum cake which is a combination of a pie and my grandmother's cake. On a typical, unsweetened pie crust I put plums coated on sugar and covered them with sugar crumbs. But just for extra color and taste I added to them some chopped Iranian pistachios. Iranian pistachios have much stronger green color than the regular ones which comes out beautifully in the presentation.

Plum Pie with Pistachio Crumbs
(For a 9-inch bottom oven-proof dish)

1 stick cold unsalted butter,
1/4 cup vegetable shortening,
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour,
2 tbsp ice-cold water,
a pinch of salt,
1 tsp butter for the dish.

1/3 cup butter,
1/2 cup sugar,
1/3 cup flour,
1/3 cup green, slivered or chipped pistachios,
2 lb Italian (sometimes called Hungarian) plums,
2 tbsp sugar.

1. Place flour, salt, and butter cut into small pieces in a food processor. Pulse it until crumbles form. Add 2 tbsp cold water and run the engine quickly just until the moment when a smooth dough forms. Wrap the dough with plastic foil and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
3. Grease the oven-proof dish with butter. Roll out the dough to a circle of about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to the dish making inch-high walls.
4. Place the butter, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl and, working with fingers, make crumbs. Add chipped pistachios and mix.

5. Cut plums in halves, remove stones, and place in a medium bowl. Add 2 tbsp sugar and gently mix with plums so they are coated evenly.
6. Place the plums on top of the dough. Cover them with pistachio crumbs. Bake for about 50 minutes until the edges of the pie and the top are gold in color.
7. Cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.