Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sunny end of 2011

I spent the last few days of 2011 in Cyprus, laying in the sun, enjoying the non-typical for New Year 20°C. If I look back at the last year, I should admit, it was not very easy for me. But the most important thing which happened to me was the launching of my blog. I know, it will sound very surprising in today's digital world, but it was only a year ago when I saw the first food blogs. I immediately knew that it was what I wanted to do. After wasting some time being nervous about my delay, I jumped into this new world and it became a significant part of my everyday's life.  
Yesterday I took part in the first quiz- solving in my life and I won. The mojito above was the reward for the winner. But the most important thing - it was a quiz about exotic fruis, so food is and should be a huge part in my life. And I am on the right track. I knew it.
Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Greek halvas

Greek halvasThere is a very sweet tradition observed in many restaurants in Greece.
They serve complimentary desserts to the clients along with the bill. And if you are lucky, this dessert is not fruit, but something really sweet and tasty. And if you are very, very lucky, this is a Greek halvas.
It is a really sweet dessert, prepared from semolina and sugar syrup. So I will not try to convince you that  it is low in calories. Because it is not. But once in a while it is a permitted sin, I hope. The amount of the key ingredients is easy to remember - 1, 2, 3, 4.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cold Leek Soup with Sauerkraut Juice

Cold Leek Soup with Sauerkraut Juice
One of the very popular winter appetizers in my country is called Army soup.
I don't know whats is the origin of the name, but it is most probably related to the fact, that this is an inexpensive, easy to prepare and simple dish. It is a cold soup and there is no boiling required.
 Sauerkraut juice, leeks and hot dry peppers are the main ingredients. Army soup has the reputation of one of the best hangover treatments, but I have never tasted these abilities. Sauerkraut prepared in Bulgaria differs a lot from the one from the any Central or Northern European country, which has sweet notes and is very finely shredded and very soft. Cabbage heads in Bulgaria are not sliced before fermentation which yields a harder product with definite structure which remains even after slicing. Sauerkraut and its juice have very typical taste - not only sour, but also tart and sharp.  
Sauerkraut and leek make a perfect match and the addition of roasted dried chillies gives the final touches of this dish. Lacto-fermented foods help boost metabolism, so this soup is good  for the people who want to loose some pounds. Spooning army soup in a company of glass of grape brandy is a  good idea for the winter evenings. 
Cold soup with leek

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Leek and Tomato soup

Leek and Tomato Soup
This is something between a soup and stew. It is a simple and rustic soup and my mother-in-law prepares it when she wants to recall memories from her childhood. Her mother made it before and the mother of her mother. There is nothing sophisticated in the ingredients or preparation, but it is rich and flavourful and we love it home. The key and surprising ingredient is milk which makes the dish lighter and supports butter into the melting-in-the mouth feeling.
Leek and Tomato Soup with Milk

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Warm welcome to December

Roasted Bacon
Well, it is the first of December, the official non-stop-eating-drinking-month. Lots of parties, lots of tables full of food, lots of bottles to be drunk.
And there are so many dishes waiting to be tasted... You don't want to offend your hosts, do you? So try the next meal they offer and don't make them sad, take some more. Take the silverware or use your fingers and start the huge December eating.

January will be time for regrets when the scales show the results of this carefree days and evenings. But it is still early to worry about this. 
December is not a proper time for diets. And it is not a good time to be a pig. Or a fish. Or a cake. Or any other food. Wish you a pleasant and festive moments! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pulled pork with pasta

Pasta Ragout
Long simmering of dishes is part of my winter cooking entertainments.
House full of nice smells, warm and cosy - this is something which mitigates my winter feelings. It is a good idea to have a pot full of pasta sauce on the stove.
This is a simple recipe, but it requires rather a long preparation time, so it is good for a weekend dinner. The long simmering of the meat makes it tender and juicy and easy to shred and the preliminary roasting gives the caramel flavour. The ingredients are quite similar to those ones used in Bolognese sauce, but it tastes different, more home-made and tasty. We enjoyed it much.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sausage meatballs with tomato sauce

As I told you, this weekend was a soup weekend. Soups were created fast and disappeared fast and everybody was busy with eating and/or cooking.
This dish is my son's absolute favourite and I always know, he will devour it minutes after I make it. 
I watched a chef preparing it on a German TV show some months before and it was described as an Italian specialty fast and easy to make. But as far as I saw on the net, Jamie Oliver has something very close to it. So do many other prominent or not so promiment housewifes around the world. Some people serve it as a pasta sauce, other with a thick slice of bread. My son Peter didn't want to wait the cooking time of the spaghetti (which is 10 minutes according to the instructions), so decision was taken.
I added some dried chilies to my plate. Do we like this "soup"? Well, yes, and as you can see, there was not much to put in the plate for my blog's needs. Peter was fast enough to win the competition. And not only he.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian wedding soup
It was a soup weekend.
I felt slightly under the weather on Saturday and the best medicine for the flu is a bowl of hot, steaming soup. Its smell is really appealing (imagine the little meatballs with the melting parmesan browning slowly in the oven, who can continue sleeping with such a tasty alarm). Children came to the kitchen still wearing their pijamas, asking: Mmmm, what are you cooking today, Mum? So I knew, I would have to share it with them. D. also didn't need an invitation to take his spoon, so the below mentioned amounts of ingredients were enough only for one meal for four hungry "Italians". We all liked it very much and I do not know whether the Italians really eat it on their weddings, but it is tasty and nourishing, herby from the spices and fresh from the spinach. 

Why exactly this soup? While watching Desperate housewives some weeks ago I heard for a first time about it (of course, Bree Van De Kamp prepared it and did I tell you, that I deeply admire her cooking success?). The net is full of recipes for this dish and the main ingredients according to them are meatballs (most often from ground chicken or turkey or from chicken sausage), small pasta and spinach. We prefer pork meat, so I used minced pork. 
I suppose, you can use whatever meat you like most of all.
This will not make somebody run from the wedding, you must be sure. 

Italian wedding soup

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Canned Apricots Cake

Apricots Cake
Canned apricots cake

 This is an easy, quick and elegant dessert. My mum prepared it when I was a child and I still accept it as something very special. It tastes better on the following day, when all the juice  is absorbed.
Apricots cake

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Warm goat cheese salad

Yes, goat cheese has a really strong flavor and many people hate it because of that. But we like it, so I prepare it often. This recipe is something between salad and appetizer.
Goat cheese pairs perfectly with the jam. Tangy meets buttery, sweet meets sour. And that is enough for a light dinner with a glas of wine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Diced potatoes fried in butter and duck fat

Well yes, just fried potatoes. It's a simple sidedish, but who does not like crispy golden potatoes?
The three tricks to achieve this crispiness are as follows:
1) Potatoes should be fried
 twice - first on medium heat until nearly done and after that on high heat until ready - just the way you prepare chips. This two-steps process creates crunchy golden crust and buttery inner core of the potato dices.  
2) You "prepare" the potatoes before frying by putting them in a bowl with 1 Tablespoon sea salt dissolved in cold water enough to cover them. The salt from the water will drain the liquids from the potatoes.
3) You put the potatoes in hot oil. The high temperature will seal their surface and will not allow them to absorb much fat.
Using the duck fat as an ingredient in this recipe is very optional. It has a special aroma which will not be everybody's favourite, but if you like its rich flavour, it will make the potatoes even crispier. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Candied kumquats

A friend of mine was on a vacation in Corfu, Greece and brought me some candied kumquats as a souvenir. Small whole fruits, soaked in syrup. I took a bite with a cup of coffee and I was intrigued by their taste - slightly sweet, slightly bitter and slightly sour. According to the Internet, kumquats are native to China, but they are widely cultivated in Japan and also grown in Florida and California the United States and on Corfu island in Europe
Kumquats resemble oranges, but they are smaller and oblong, about 3-4 cm in length. Their skin is thin and sweet and their center is rather tart, so unlike oranges you eat either the whole raw kumquat or only its peel. If you want to enjoy completely their taste, you should release the essential oils included in their skin, so you should "massage" them by rolling between your fingers before eating. But the best way to taste this bittersweet fruit is to try  it candied or made into jelly or marmelade. Candied kumquats could be served with cheese, chocolate or ice cream, but they are also a marvellous spread on a hot buttered toast or a perfect topping for duck, ham or veal fillet. Of course, you can enjoy their citrusy freshness straight from the jar. Vanilla bean with its sweet and wooden aroma is a perfect match of the kumquat, so it is a key ingredient of the jam. Kumquats have seeds, which should not be eaten (like those of the oranges), so most of the recipes call for slicing the fruits and discarding the seeds. But I like the bite-size of the kumquats, So I let them whole. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Carrot and Ginger Soup

Well, soup again. But autumn and winter are definitely soup-seasons in my family. So there will be voices again: "Isn't there at least one clean spoon in this kitchen? When will the washing mashine be ready?" That is all because we enjoy the cream soups several times a day in small amounts and there is always a pile of used cups and spoons around the sink.
This soup with silky texture is rich and creamy. It has an intense orange color and a natural sweetness due to the carrots. The ginger and garlic give their delightful tastes to the soup and also serve as immune boosters. They bring "heat", but if this heat is not enough for you, you can chop and add one hot pepper and sprinkle it over the servings. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Linguine with shrimps and cherry tomatoes

I have a memory of sitting at a table of a fancy Italian restaurant at the centre of Luxemboug. It is lunchtime in summer and for me it is vacation, but for most of the people around me it is just the lunch-break from work. So, they are wearing elegant suits and women wear pearl necklaces and even teenagers are with Louis Vuitton bags. I spent an hour over a glass of wine and a bowl of linguine with prawns in front of me, watching the people around. And although the sauce for this pasta is rather Mediterranean style, it will always remind me on the lux-life in Luxembourg.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon)

The weather is cold and what I need for tonight's dinner is a French onion soup - perfectly simple and not pretencious, but delicious and warming the heart and the body. Moreover, it is a calming recipe to prepare. That is because the classic French onion soup calls for good caramelized onion: the chemical reactions which occur during the process of caramelization bring up the flavor. Caramelization should take at least 30 minutes and the end result is a nutty and sweet taste and brown color of the onion. So if you want to achieve the required perfection, you should stay behind the stove and stir the onion regularly and observe the whole process. This will blow away the bad thoughts and will restore the soul. And the taste of the soup after that and the blissful faces of your table companions will do the rest to make you really happy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Linguine with peas and mint

This dish will always remind me on TriBeCa, New York. We tried it in a small cosy restaurant there back in 2010 and we immediately fell in love with it. I still remember the table outside, the cool breeze and the stars - it was romantic and we felt a part of the artistic atmosphere of the city. We were enjoying our dinner with a bottle of white wine and long talks. I made it couple of times after that, only for special occasions and even if not just a perfect copy of the original, it is a precious page in my recipe box.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate lava cake

Same ingredients like yesterday's chocolate tart (except the salt), but different amount of them and different result. Chocolate lava cake is a popular French dessert, served worldwide. Its consistency makes it so popular, and namely the soft runny chocolate centre. 
Legend says it was a result of a chef's mistake - the cook took the individual chocolate cakes too early from the oven and the chocolate oozed out when cut in the middle. The right baking time which determines the consistency is around 10 minutes, but it depends on the oven you use and don't bother - if you overbake slightly, you will have just a moist cake.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11 wishes on 11/11/11

Yes, I am supersticious. I believe in all the signs we see around us, which are answer of our questions, in "coincidences" we experience so often, in people's faith, in wishes come true. 
My children like to throw stones in the sea making wishes.
I will do the same today, even virtually. So I wish: 
  1. Health for all my beloved ones and for me. I hope we will be long time together;
  2. To improve the quality of life of my beloved ones the way I can - by playing, learning and growing with them; 
  3. To find my place in the huge world;
  4. To find my own balance and to keep the harmony in my soul;
  5. To have the ability to read signs around me to show me when I am on the right way;
  6. To interact with colorful people who share my interests, to meet new people, who will influence my life in a positive way; 
  7. To have many reasons to smile every day and to enjoy the pleasure of every single moment;
  8. To slow down the stream of my thoughts, to calm down and to learn how to wait;
  9. To see new places I haven't been before;
  10. To trust in me more;
  11. To remain myself, no matter how high the burdens are.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Candied hot peppers

I did not believe my eyes when I saw recipe with such name on the net. Candied hot peppers? Sounded strange even for me, the lover of hot peppers in every possible variations. Than I got curious about the different ingredients which could be put into the jar. I wanted to achieve a little bomb of tastes - sour, sweet and hot. Of course, it is not the best time to find good hot peppers at the farmer's market - it's already cold, the season of good, really hot peppers is well behind, but decision was taken. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fabada Asturiana - Giant Beans with blood sausage and Chorizo

Fall is in the air, so it is time for warming and comforting dishes. I mean something hot, really hot and nourishing. I tasted this dish about ten years ago in Spain where we spent some days at the end of December. According to the Internet, there is such typical Spanish dish, called Fabada Asturiana. It is a warming stew of large white beans and sausages (blood sausage and Chorizo should present according to most of the recipes). There is a roasted garlic included and its creamy and nutty and caramel touches play an important part of the whole symphony of tastes in the dish. The following recipe is written from memory and it included the ingredients I suppose were included years ago in that Spanish restaurant. The smell of the different ingredients is really intoxicating.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Baked Brie with jam and walnuts

Brie has the reputation of one of the best French cheeses. I don't know whether this is true, but it is at least one of the best known. I like its nutty, truffle-like taste and this recipe lets this taste celebrate. Baking makes the soft texture of the cheese get creamy and runny when pressed with the knife. The flavours of the cheese develop. The jam provides sweetness, which makes the salty taste of brie even more obvious.
I saw the original recipe here and I made only few changes replacing the puff pastry with a phyllo dough and it was absolutely delicious.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The heart of the beet

I like the deep red color of red beet and its natural sweetness. Thiny sliced steamed red beet marinated in olive oil and vinegar with some pressed garlic cloves is good enough as a healthy addition to the autumn menu in my home. But cut into interesting shapes with a cookie cutter and with some tasty additions like pistacchios (salty), dried cranberries (sweet) and sour cream (sour and milky), it is a tasty and beautiful salad or sidedish.

Quince Jelly

Quince Jelly
The morning of three queens
I like quinces. Their dignified appearance make them the queens of the world of fruits.  You can't eat a quince from the tree - it is too hard and too tart to be consumed raw. So if you want to taste them you have to make an effort to prepare them with the respect they require. 
Quince JellyI like the shape of quinces - every one is so different. They seem to be created for the table of a painter or a photographer; it will be such a waste of beauty if you don't capture the moments of their glory. Their delicious smell fills the house with autumn scent. And their transformation into a jelly is so tasty - it goes great with cold meats or as a spread onto a toast with a piece of feta cheese.  
Quince JellyQuince Jelly

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Broccoli cream soup with blue cheese

This soup is nutritious, rich in fiber and easy to prepare. But before putting the broccoli heads in the pot, I decided to give them a five minutes of glory. Aren't they beautiful? 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Beauty all day

Morning Beauty

Afternoon Beauty

Avocado dip with feta cheese

  • 1 avocado
  • 250 g sour cream
  • 50 g feta cheese
  • 2 garlic clove
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and hot pepper to taste
Mash the avocado, add the feta cheese and the crushed garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and add the sour cream and the olive oil. Mix well and serve with some hot pepper. 

Grilled avocado with melted parmesan

I love the taste of avocado and I am always ready to explore new recipes with my favourite ingredients, but I never dared to grill it. So, i saw a recipe here  and this is my variation:

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Pizza with Chorizo,prawns and Mozzarella

I often say, if I have lived in Italy I would be very very fat. And the reason for that does not lie in the fact that the food is unhealthy or too rich in calories, not at all. But I would eat too much in this Mecca of food - I adore everything from pizza and spagetti to gelato and all the sweet temptations of Italian cuisine.  So I make pizza often at home and I always use a pizza stone. Putting the stone in the preheated oven an hour before the actual baking makes a pizza with nice golden crust. Neapolitan kind of pizza dough makes thin crust pizzas with a puffy end crust and the filling with prawns and cheese gives the salted taste of sea and joy. My recipe is based on the recipe from hereI like the idea of mixing the flavours of prawns and cheese. Cheese enhances the taste of the prawns and makes them more beautiful.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Salmon soup with vegetables

Ok, how is it possible to eat something and to lose weight?
Salmon is supposed to be the fish which makes this miracle happen. But even if you don't think about calories all the time, salmon should be mentioned. It is a healthy food. Salmon contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the health and help prevent against heart disease, circulatory diseases and many other types of illnesses.
So, enough good reasons to serve it at least once weekly. 
Violeta and I are salmonholics (I know there is no such word, but how can you describe the constant craving for salmon in every possible variation?).
This soup is a very simple dish, easy to prepare and not sophisticated. But we love to eat it on Saturday or Sunday mornings, it gives us a comforting and flavorful beginning of the day. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Chorizo with Prawns - one of the best Spanish tapas

Prawns look a little bit scary watched from too close. 
Crazy eyes, large antennaes and especially - the large sharp rostrum, the part on top of their head which probably helps them to live better lifes, but has caused me a lot of pain while being not attentive during their preparation.  
But nevertheless, although looking scary and kind of ugly, prawns are healthy, low-calory food loaded with protein and containing nearly no fat. 
One of the first times I tasted prawns was about ten years ago when we went to a tapas bar and ordered Chorizo with Prawns. I still remember those tapas. The combination of the rather delicate taste of prawns and the bold, spicy and smoky flavour of Chorizo is hard to forget. And today we are going to talk a little bit more about this.