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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pastel de Piña (Pineapple Tart) (Nicaraguan)

This sweet tart from Nicaragua, with a sour-sweet filling of pineapple, is obviously very similar to Argentina's Pasta Frola de Dulce de Membrillo (with quince paste filling), which also more widely-known abroad. This one was a bit more tropical tasting and with a stronger sweet-and-sour touch, so if you avoid things too sweet I'd suggest choosing this one over the other. It's also great if you ever do a Latin America-themed party where you want to have dishes from as many countries as possible (that's right up my alley) :).
Recipe source: Serious Eats

Last year: Ardî Shawkî bil-Bayd (Artichokes with scrambled eggs) (Syrian).
Two years ago: Ginger, apple and lime smoothie (raw vegan).
Three years ago: Oven-baked salmon with herb crust and caramelized baby carrots.
Four years ago: Pina colada cupcakes (muffins) and Brussels sprouts side with garlic, nutmeg, lemon and chives (vegan).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Elena Ruz (Turkey Tea Sandwich) (Cuban)

A delicious tea sandwich from Cuban cuisine, this sliced bun combines cream cheese with strawberry preserves and a slice of turkey ham. After it gets composed, the final touch is for the sandwich to get fried in a but of butter, until golden and heated and delicious. You may find the combination of ham and preserves and cream cheese to be a bit unusual, but you'll be convinced as soon as you take the first bite. 
The sandwich is named after Elena Ruz, a beautiful society debutante who lived in the 1930s' Cuba. After attending an evening opera show, she used to stop by El Carmela (a famous restaurant in those days) and ask the waiter to fix her a custom sandwich made after her instructions. You guessed it: the sandwich was in time named after her and here it is. :)
Recipe source: Saveur (and background info here). 

Last year: Banana and chocolate chunk cake squares.
Two years ago: Brownies with mixed seeds and vanilla.
Threeo years ago: Cinnamon and brown sugar palmiers.
Four years ago: Diet muffins with cranberries, dark chocolate and spices and Risotto with caramelized onions, artichokes and bacon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Café Cubano (Cuban espresso) (vegan)

The Cuban espresso is different from other espresso drinks because it adds the sugar (raw demerara sugar, to more precise) right in the making of the espresso, thus creating a sweet and very delicate foam that is its specific signature. The drink is not only special from this technical point of view, but it has become a huge part of the Cuban culture and social ritual ever since espresso machines started being imported from Italy or a large(r) scale. 
More on the background of the drink here.
P.S: It's great served with a sweet cookie or biscuit. Pictured above is a raspberry-almond heart biscuit. ;)

Last year: Kela ki subji (Indian banana curry) (vegan)
Two years ago: Simple broccoli, artichoke and bechamel souffle.
Three years ago: Moroccan preserved lemons (vegan).
Four years ago: Black olive dip (French Tapenade) and Concentrated orange juice caramel (vegan).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Raspberry almond heart biscuits

A quick and easy biscuit recipe using the same ingredients as pie crust. I actually had some extra left over, and I thought it would be nice to just roll it out, cut it with a nice cookie shape and top it with whole almonds and raspberry jam. The result was really delicious, not too sweet, but well-flavored. 
I like making this kind of biscuits at least once a week, because they keep well and they're just what was missing from my morning coffee or tea. Enjoy :).

P.S: I featured the heart-shaped biscuit today because in Romania we celebrate Dragobete, considered by many a pre-Christian celebration of love and romance, just as spring is about to set in. Truth be told, no one was actually observing this holiday anymore a few years ago, so it remained in our minds only in name (most of us had maybe heard about it as an old pagan rite that great-parents used to observe in rural areas decades ago and maybe not even then). It was more or less extinct in anything but name, but the last few years brought on a revival of the Dragobete, only as a cultural response to the growing number of people celebrating Valentine's Day (following the logic that if we must have such a kitschy holiday, the least we could do is celebrate our own instead of the American one). I personally couldn't care less about either of them, but a nice occasion to celebrate whatever you hold dear is always welcome. :)

Last year: Courgette and feta cheese tart.
Two years ago: Bulgogi (Korean fried beef with cellophane noodles).
Three years ago: Home-made Raclette bowls with wild mushrooms, lemon and capers.
Four years ago: Spaghetti and tuna balls and Orange and poppy seed muffins.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Risotto de quinua y pimientos amarillos (Quinoa risotto with yellow peppers) (Chilean and Bolivian)

This risotto made with quinoa is considered by many as the staple / national dish of both Chilean and Bolivian cuisines. It's rich and delicious from the grated cheese and the butter, and greatly flavored with the aji amarillo (orange pepper) ever present in South American cuisines. If you can find aji paste at a specialty store it would be great, but if not, you can just use it raw; the risotto with taste just as delicious. :)
To be honest, I think I very much prefer this to regular risotto. Just try it and you'll see. It's absolutely delicious. I think even people who are usually not very keen on quinoa will love it.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Leek, potato and bacon soup (British).
Two years ago: Halloumi and chickpea salad with mint and oranges.
Three years ago: Bell pepper sticks with refried bean dip.
Four years ago: Tikka Masala chicken cous cous (British-Indian) and Czech poppy seed cakes (kolaches).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ensalada de quinoa con chonta (Central and South American) (vegan)

I wanted to explore the cuisine of Central and South America some more and this was one of my favorite discoveries while researching it. It's delicious and fresh and a bit tangy and I couldn't stop eating it. Also - which is something I can say about few dishes - I have repeated this one more than once. I keep a can of palm hearts in my cupboard especially for when the munchies strike and I quickly fix a bowl of this good stuff. Enjoy.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: The Sidecar (cocktail).
Two years ago: Pears with rosemary sugar dust (raw vegan).
Three years ago: Beefsteaks in apple juice.
Four years ago: Broccoli and pancetta orecchietteNoodle salad with black sesame (vegan) and Chocolate and stout cupcakes (Irish).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Shrimp pizza with cherry tomatoes and parsley

I'm a fan of most seafood and especially shrimps in almost any size or any method of preparation. And since everyone likes pizza (right? right?), then it was time to take my love of prawns further and put them onto a pizza base made of crispy wholemeal dough. To make the whole thing very fresh-tasting, I kept the heavy ingredients to a low (just grated mozzarella, but I chose a really good buffalo mozzarella so its full flavor could really be felt in the final dish), and added a lot of fresh ingredients (like cherry tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of chopped parsley). The result was delicious, light and perfect by my book. Enjoy :)

Last year: Flourless chocolate cake with choco-whiskey sauce.
Two years ago: Poulet Vallée d'Auge (Chicken, apple and Calvados cream stew) (French).
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: Chinese fried riceBroccoli and ham torte and Cardamom lassi (Indian).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Syrniki (Sweet Cheese Pancakes) (Russian-Belarusian-Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian)

These Russian pancakes made with fresh cheese and raisins are a popular breakfast or treat all-throughout the Slavic space. The exact name and recipe can be found in Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, but there are other countries in Eastern Europe which have a similar but different version. For example, in Romania, we make cheese pancakes without the raisins and with semolina flour, my mother's papanași which I've previously told you about :).
They're easy to make and delicious to enjoy. Next time you think about a treat for someone dear or only for yourself (by the way, if you like celebrating Valentine's Day, then I guess this makes the ideal breakfast in bed kind of thing), just whip up a batch of these and serve them with hot black tea (for the full Russian experience). :)
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Harissa and truffle potato puree with mozzarella-olive sauce.
Two years ago: Crispy cheese and guacamole tortillas.
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: Tirolese spinach and cheese dumplings (Austrian)Spinach and cheese crostini and The perfect fluffy fried bananas.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kuvana Krtola (Potatoes with yogurt and fresh cheese) (Montenegrin)

This may not look like much, but trust me when I say that it might be the best Balkan meze you'll ever taste (or at least from the non-spicy spectrum of food). If all over the world people seem to like the combination of potatoes and cheese and consider it the epitome of comfort food, this had to be true in the Balkans as well, right?
I initially heard about this dish from an acquaintance who's a travel expert and guide, who said this is what they would recommend first and foremost to anyone traveling in the Montenegro region. I looked it up afterwards and it was so simple to make that I just had to have it by the end of the same day. And I didn't regret it. Even if it's not a typical hard cheese like cheddar, the combination between freshly baked or boiled potatoes and freshly made cheese and yogurt is really good, and kind of refreshing. Try it.

Last year: Pizza Diavola (Italian-American).
Two years ago: Deep fried Brie with tamarillo relish.
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: Mashed potatoes with caramelized shallots and ParmesanPork in spice crust and Banana bread with nuts (American).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Blue Skies Cake (Orange cake with blue curacao frosting)

I've been dreaming to devise a cake inspired by my favorite cocktail (called Blue Skies, made of milk and Blue Curacao bar syrup) for a long time now. 
I finally created the perfect version of it: both milk-tasting and creamy (from the cream and mascarpone) and with a strong orange and blue orange flavor (because that's what the curacao flavor actually is - a blue orange syrup). The moist sponge below contains plenty of grated orange zest and candied orange peel, while the creamy top is full of cream, mascarpone and blue curacao syrup.

It really tastes like the cocktail I named above :). It's perfect! (at least to me). If you're fans of any cocktail with a slight lagoon-blue color that means you love the curacao flavor too. Which also means you'll love this cake. Enjoy (with a mug of Blue Skies) :).
Because today my little girl Mira will turn 3, and 3 is a magical number in traditional Romanian fairy tales, I think this was the most appropriate thing to post today. :)

Last year: Sholezard (Iranian rice pudding with saffron, almonds and rosewater).
Two years ago: Ti ki burfi (sesame seed burfi) (Indian).
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: Pickled mustard and Marliesentorte (German hazelnut, chocolate and cream cake).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Classic grilled cheese (British and American)

Words can hardly describe how comforting warm grilled cheese can be. An American and British classic, it consists of simply a grilled (or fried or toasted) sandwich with cheese between the bread slices. After the quick cooking, the bread becomes crispy and toasty and the cheese is melted, making it the ideal comfort food (and a traditional companion to tomato soup). :)
There are multiple variations stemming from the original recipe, with lots of extra topping and ingredients which can be added to the cheese, but this is the basic, classic version. Enjoy. :)
Recipe sources: Smitten Kitchen and Jeff Mauro

Last year: Turkey bites with vodka sauce.
Two years ago: Smoked salmon pizza (Italian).
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: Bacon-wrapped baby cornSpicy chocolate truffles and Pissaladières (French caramelized onion tarts).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kumquat vodka (vegan)

Because kumquats and because vodka. And also because when you'll be using this wonderful potion as an extract for cookies, or as an ingredient for cocktails, or when you'll be using the delicate kumquat slices inside as the improved grown-up version of candied kumquats, you'll thank me. So get to it.
Recipe adapted from here.

Note: You can totally transform this into a liquor by stirring 50 g sugar into the infused liquid after a few days. :)

Last year: Tuna parsley fritters with mustard Bechamel sauce.
Two years ago: Tortellini and vegetable souffle.
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: Chicken with cream and mushroomsSingapore noodles with chicken and Mexican-style scrambled eggs.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Rice waffles with cream cheese and chia seeds

Another lovely way to serve chia seeds, in case you were wondering about how to incorporate more of those into your diet. To me at least, this is a most delicious snack I dig into during the day, especially if I'm too busy to cook anything (and many days, this is my breakfast). To turn this into a desert, just drizzle a bit of honey over it. I like it with or without just as much. Enjoy.

Last year: Guacamole de granada (Guacamole with pomegranate) (Spanish-Mexican) (raw vegan).
Two years ago: Chili and lemon fried shrimps.
Three years ago: Sprinkle butter cookies (Italian).
Four years ago: White rice pudding with rosewater and almonds (Turkish)Florentine pie (with spinach and egg) and Bramboraki (Czech potato pancakes).

Friday, January 30, 2015

Potage de garbanzos con chorizo (Chickpea, potato, spinach and chorizo stew) (Spanish)

This is a hearty yet kind of light stew from the Spanish cuisine, perfect as comfort food for slightly colder days. It's a bit soupy too, but not enough to be labeled a soup. It contains tomatoes, potato, sweet potatoes, spinach, chickpeas, onion, garlic and flavorful chorizo slices. It's cooked on low heat with a bay leaf, to give all the flavors some time to get to know each other better. :) And it's really, really good. Enjoy.
Recipe sources: various, but mostly from here.

Last year: Turkish baklava.
Two years ago: Endive and apple salad with poppy seed vinaigrette (raw vegan).
Three years ago: Dagaiku imo (Japanese sweet potatoes with honey and sesame) (vegan).
Four years ago: Winter wheat berries soup with capers (vegan) and Endive and bacon pasta.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Patatas alioli (Spanish)

This is a variation on the patatas bravas dish, both being some of the most well-known and loved Spanish tapa dishes (entrees). Instead of the fiery tomato sauce accompnaying the main version, these potato cubes are served with a garlic mayo sauce. Sometimes, both sauces are combined in the same serving, like in this version from Saveur
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Avocado "fries" in Parmesan coating (raw).
Two years ago: British country apple cake.
Three years ago: Creamy potato and artichoke salad (very light).
Four years ago: Bacon and eggs breakfast with a fresh touch (British) and Vegetable stock from scratch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Patatas bravas (Spanish) (vegan)

This is one of the best known Spanish tapas (entrees) you can find in any taperia or bodega. Small potato cubes, around 2 cm in size, are fried until golden and crispy, and then they are covered in a fiery tomato sauce. The name "bravas" refers to their fiery character.
Another well-known version of the dish is patatas alioli, which replaces the spicy tomato sauce with a garlic mayo. Sometimes, both sauces are combined, like in this version from Saveur.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Moroccan tomato salad (raw vegan).
Two years ago: Three cheese pan potatoes.
Three years ago: Linguine alla putanesca (Italian).
Four years ago: Red pepper and pesto pasta with smoked salmon and Fig salad with feta, rucola and cherry tomatoes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tapa de sardinas (Sardine tapas) (Spanish)

If you use high quality sardines, preserved in olive oil (and almost resembling duck confit in the process), these sardine tapas may very well be the best appetizer you ever had. 
These oil-preserved sardines are spiced with salt, pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice, and laid on baguette slices fried in olive oil. A generous dose of freshly chopped parsley adds some extra yumminess. 
Recipe sources: here and here.

Last year: Chicken, olives and preserved lemons tagine (regional variation with liver) (Moroccan)
Two years ago: Cheddar and beer soup (British-Scottish).
Threeyears ago: Tandoori chicken skewers with field salad and lemon raita (Indian-style).
Four years ago: Ricotta and cinnamon pancakes with pomegranate and raspberry sauce and Bavarian white radish salad with lemon (German) (raw vegan).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Simple yogurt muffins

Simple muffins made with yogurt. You can either have them as a staple for breakfast or use them as a nice base to get creative with in order to develop delicious cupcake toppings and fillings. I suppose no one actually needs any suggestions in this department - I mean, think of all the fruit and chocolate or nut combinations you can muster - from cherry and marzipan to blueberry white chocolate or cardamon carrot cake, why not? :) 
All I'm saying is that sometimes it's really good to have a basic and clean yogurt muffins recipe to start improvising with. Well, this is it. As a bonus, they're all great on their own, and the crust they develop on top is crispy and slightly caramelized, just the thing to kick-start your mornings. :)
Recipe slightly adapted from here.

Last year: Strawberry and poppy seed four layer cake.
Two years ago: Kohlbrot mit wurstchen (German cabbage and sausage bread).
Three years ago: Mini cheesecakes in ramekins, with honey and lime.
Four years ago: Easy Spanish tapas (with deli meats) and Kolokitho Keftedes (Greek zucchini fritters) with tzatziki sauce.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Red onion and chili bhajis with mint-garlic raita (Indian)

Bhaji is a generic term for Indian fried snacks. Here, the bhajis are made from red onion and chili, with a spicy chickpea flour batter, and they're served alongside a mint-based raita (yogurt dipping sauce). If you're a fan of Indian food, this is the thing to make on a relaxed afternoon. :). Best enjoyed with friends.
Recipe source: here

Last year: Za'atar dip (sauce) (Jewish and Palestinian) (raw vegan).
Two years ago: Ginger cake squares (crispy base, fudgy topping).
Three years ago: Onion-tamarind soup with herb butter baguette.
Four years ago: Tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) with parsley and fennel and Red wine pears with Camembert.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Garam masala (home-made) (Indian spice mix) (vegan)

The garam masala spice mix is one of the most used in all Indian cooking, as you're surely aware if you've tried your hand at some recipes from that area. It's usually bought ready-made, but if you make it at home it will be much more flavorful and intense, as spices tend to fade out after grinding.

I've bought an electrical spice grinder and thought I'd have some fun, and this is the first thing that was on the list. The result was even better than I anticipated. :)
The ingredients sometimes vary from area to area and from kitchen to kitchen, but a common recipe has been reached and this is it. Enjoy.

Last year: Peanut butter and bacon sandwich (American).
Two years ago: Breakfast pizza with bacon and egg.
Three years ago: Dukkah-coated turkey wraps.
Four years ago: Sweet pumpkin strips, pan-fried, with honey (vegan) and Simple wellness salad with potatoes, apple, feta and egg.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mixed bean salad with pumkpin seed oil (vegan)

Pumpkin seed oil is a delicate and intensely-flavored wonder. It can be added to most savory dishes to make them go from bland to addictive in mere seconds. If you've never tried it, it's well worth investing in a little gem of a bottle of it. It's not only crazy flavorful, but also beautifully colored in hues ranging from emerald green to an almost-black. 
This bean salad is perhaps the dish that benefits most from the wonderful flavor of pumpkin seed oil (the same goes for beans in general, actually). Soaking the onion firsthand in the pumpkin seed oil with a bit of salt makes for the most insanely flavorful morsels that give the salad its je-ne-sais-quoi, so please don't skip the step and just toss everything together as I know you'll be tempted to do. It will be worth the extra 10 minutes wait, I promise. And it will still be ready fast. :)
Recipe only slightly adapted from Adi Hădean.

Last year: Orange and wine infused chickpea and mushroom stew (vegan).
Two years ago: New York-style pizza crust (puffy and thin) (vegan).
Three years ago: Dukkah (Egyptian and generally Middle Eastern) (vegan).
Four years ago: Simple chicken stock and Chicken risotto with bell pepper.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tamarillo and red wine rice pudding

Another lovely thing to make with tamarillos (I previously shared a deep-fried Brie recipe with tamarillo relish). 
Make a sweet topping with the fruit's flesh and some red wine and use it on a bed of creamy vanilla milk rice. :) A bliss for lazy evenings or nostalgic breakfasts. Enjoy!

Last year: Lemon and condensed milk cream tart.
Two years ago: Authentic carbonara (Italian).
Three years ago: Tuna and clementine creamy spread.
Four years ago: "Lapte de pasăre" (Romanian "bird's milk" dessert, my mom's recipe).

Thursday, January 8, 2015

French garlic soup with mint

Yes, we're big fans of garlic soup. We've tried it and keep having it in lots of styles and versions. Here we tried it in a classic French way, with whole cloves, served with fresh yogurt and mint leaves and fresh oven-baked herb butter baguette. Very delicately flavored, very light, doesn't leave any garlic breath behind, keeps the cold away.. what more could one ask for :) ?
Adapted from "Ma boitte de recettes" via Cătălina

Other garlic soups I'd recommend:
Czech garlic soup with chorizo and mustard (the way they do it in Prague).

Last year: Pear salad with walnuts and Gorgonzola (American).
Two years ago: Kedgeree (Anglo-Indian or Scottish).
Three years ago: Tapenade (olive paste) bread rolls.
Four years ago: Tabbouleh (Lebanese and generally Middle Eastern bulgur wheat salad) (vegan) and Simple wellness salad with endives, feta, clementines and pumpkin seeds.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Spaghetti with Garlic and Cumin (Italian-Moroccan)

A really special dish that combines the spirit of both Italian and Moroccan cooking into one fast meal. It's not really traditional per se in any of the two countries, but it was imagined and created by a child of both cuisines, and it feels so authentic to both that I'll gladly list it in each of them. :)
P.S: Don't know about you, but I'm mad about garlic and cumin! And to get to enjoy those flavors in their fried intense form, tossed with spaghetti and Parmesan was really terrific! :)
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toasted bun.
Two years ago: Peanut butter cookies (American).
Three years ago: Cranberry and walnut scones (Southern USA style).
Four years ago: Zucchini and caraway salad with parsley and lemon salad.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Lemon pepper cod with basil-garlic rice

A light and fast to make idea for a lunch you can make without much fuss. There's no reason to eat boring stuff even though you're in a hurry :).
The cod fillet is rubbed with lemon pepper and some lemon juice and pan-cooked in very little oil. The bed of rice is infused with a bit of garlic and basil for extra flavor. The result is a healthy lunch in no time at all :)
Note: the instructions and ingredient list are for one serving, but the recipe is easily doubled or tripled and so on if you decide to be unselfish and share :).

Last year: Palak dal (Indian lentil and spinach curry) (vegan).
Two years ago: Mint and carrot tzatziki (raw).
Three years ago: Eggplant croquettes (fritters) with spicy-sour yogurt sauce.
Four years ago: Fast baby pasta with creamy Parmesan and pea sauce and Pasta con pomodoro (Italian simple tomato sauce pasta).

Friday, January 2, 2015

Australian Flat White

A very lovely and foamy coffee drink which is a common way to have it in Australia. The so-called flat white is made by combining an espresso shot with sugar or sweetener and a very generous layer of freshly foamed milk. Since I'm a big fan of foamed milk - the more the better - this kind of cup-a-joe is ideal for me :).
Recipe source: the above wiki link and also Saveur.

Last year: Nutella hot chocolate with hazelnut liquor
Two years ago: Spinach and chickpea soup with chorizo.
Three years ago: Pollo alla cacciatora (Hunter's chicken stew) (Italian).
Four years ago: Fried carp with polenta and garlic sauce (Moldavian/Romanian).

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