Thursday, April 26, 2012

The best chocolate muffins

I spent some time recently to try different chocolate muffin recipes. Main requirements to the chocolate muffin - it should be soft, it should have a lot of butter as an ingredient, I want to feel the chocolate with all my senses. This is the first recipe which meets the criteria - that's why I call these muffins the best chocolate muffins. Yes, I know, tastes differ, but believe me, it is a good and easy recipe. Two little tips: Take care not to overmix the batter; use a flexible spatula to gently fold ingredients together. Take care also not to overbake the muffins - they should remain soft in the middle. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Scrambled Eggs with Pepper, Feta and Tomatoes (Mishmush)

I used to think, scrambled eggs with peppers, Feta cheese and tomatoes is strictly Bulgarian dish. Called Mish-mush in Bulgaria, which means 'mixture', it is an easy to prepare dish, which is good for a light lunch or a quick dinner. As with many other dishes I tried to google a description of the ingredients only to be sure that this is a Bulgarian national cuisine dish. And that is what I found:
Menemen is a Turkish dish, served for breakfastIt is a fresh tasting combination of vegetables - peppers, onion and tomatoes and simple spices (salt and pepper) with scrambled eggs. 
Shakshouka is a beloved part of the Israeli cuisine, which came from the Lybian and Tuinisian cuisines.
Different names, nearly same ingredients and taste. Obviously, this is a dish, which traces back its roots to ancient Ottoman empire centuries agoAnyway, I still accept it as a Bulgarian national cuisine dish. Prepared in a cast iron pan, it is served with lots of fluffy bread to mop up the sauce. My Granny prepared it with roasted and peeled peppers, I prefer it with fresh ones, most of them hot peppers. To bold the spiciness I even serve it with some red hot peppers flakes sprinkled above. You can omit the onion and the hot peppers if you don't like it to be too spicy or if you serve it for breakfast. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grilled Portobello mushrooms with ricotta and garlic

Do you like the taste of Portobello mushrooms? I do. But most of all I like the name. Portobello. 
Sounds like something interesting, trendy, exclusive, not for everyone. It reminds me on the vibrant Portobello road in London with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and colorful houses. The antiquity market held every Saturday and the Portobello film festival every August, Notting hill with its high quality housing and private parks. Fashionable place, fashionable name. 
Now the naked truth. Name portobello is a marketing trick. Portobello is a mature form of crimini or white button mushrooms - plain unexpensive mushrooms with a trivial name. If a crimini has a diameter of cap more then 10 cm (4-6 inches), cap becomes a flatter appearance and mushroom is too big to be packaged as a crimini. That is the time Portobello arises - good tasting mushroom with a dense meaty texture. What a difference a name makes. 
The power of marketing has always make me wonder how little things change the whole perception. One of the gourmet items born on the desks of the marketing specialists, hired to raise the sales of a product. Anyway, it is a really tasty mushroom. The taste is earthy and rich and vegetarians like it as a good meat substitute.
Served with ricotta cheese and buttery garlic, it is a good company for a glas of white wine. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tiro salata (Spicy feta cheese spread)

TirosalataThe Greek word 'τύρι' means cheese. Tiro salata is a mixture of Feta and Myzithra (similar to ricotta) cheeses, olive oil and hot peppers. Sounds good and tastes good. This traditional spicy appetizer is served in nearly every restaurant in Northern Greece where we spend our summer holidays. It is a good meze for ouzo, beer or retsina and it is quick and easy to make at home. The hot banana peppers could be roasted or fresh. If you use roasted peppers, which are easier to incorporate into the cheese mixture, you should roast them on the grill until charred on the outside, then place in a plastic or bag and allow them to sweat until cool enough to handle. After that the skins could be easily removed and you'll be left with  succulent roasted hot peppersI use fresh peppers. The tiro salata does not look so homogenous, but it is fresh and tasty and I can feel better the spicyness.
Tiro Salad

Thursday, April 05, 2012

No bake chocolate cake with walnuts and green figs

My Mom has a birthday today. Yesterday I decided to surprise her preparing a little birthday cake. And as you probably know, I am an obsessive chocolate eater. I always have a bar of chocolate in my office. And in my purse. And I also have a whole drawer full of different kinds of chocolate at home. My Mom is not such an addicted chocoholic, but she is definitely a passionate chocolate lover. So, my wondering what to prepare for my Mom's birthday lasted no more than five minutes. Something with lots of chocolate, with chocolate as the only ingredient if possible, but I highly doubt that there is such recipe. So the closest to this idea was something with only two ingredients - chocolate and heavy cream. No bake chocolate cake recipe I saw here made me want to try it immediately. After thinking five more minutes, I decided to add something from me - a nut layer, prepared from freshly roasted walnuts or almonds, mixed with sweet green figs. No sooner said than done. I took some walnuts, roasted and chopped them and mixed them with some preserved figs, also chopped. I lined a pan with this sticky mixture, pressed it good with my fingers and poured the chocolate-cream mixture over it. One night in the fridge and today-taraam! - here is your cake, Mom! Happy birthday! I love you so much!
P.S. We tasted the cake already. Mom says this is the best sweet thing she has ever tried. Melting chocolate pleasure accompanied by a crunchy nutty taste. 
I totally agree - this is a must-try recipe.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Tsatsiki - yogurt and cucumbers appetizer from the Balkans

Tsatsiki or tzatziki is the worldwide popular name of a Greek dip, consisiting of yogurt, grated cucumber, some minced garlic and a little olive oil. In Bulgaria there is a salad with same ingredients, but cucumbers are diced small in Bulgarian version and the texture is little denser than the Greek one. Bulgarian name is little funny - this salad is called Snejanka, which is the name of Snow White in Bulgarian, probably because of its white color. On the other hand, people can easily feel its garlicly flavour, so if Snow White had it on her table, no dwarfs would be around her, much less a prince. Anyway, if you don't have kissing in your schedule, you can enjoy this dish, beacuse it is tasty, healthy and easy to prepare.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise

I bet, you could not write the name of this dish if you are not french. Well, if you can, congratulations. I could not. I could not even pronounce it. But I can prepare it, I can enjoy it at lunch time, for dinner or even as a breakfast on early Saturday or Sunday mornings.   
Bouillabaisse is a French seafood stew, which home is supposed to be Marseille, but it is widely served in the coastal little ports of Southern France. It was once a cheap fishermen meal, which seafood ingredients depended on the daily catch. So, different kind of fish could be included, the most important thing is to put at least four varieties, every one of which delivers its own taste. Fish should be lean and fresh. The way I prepared the recipe is based  on the one from here. I added orange peel and wine.
There is a little rule conserning the serving of bouillabaisse - seafood in one dish and soup in another. But it all depends on you and your personal preferences. I like the fish to be hot, so I spoon a ladleful of soup onto it.