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Monday, January 31, 2011

Endive and bacon pasta

This is a nice idea if you want to consume more healthy endives but you're bored with the salads and you enjoy pasta :). The bacon gives it the necessary addition of smokiness, the capers something salty and tangy, while the grated Parmesan adds the little touch of Italian taste so well placed in pasta dishes. 
Not a saucy pasta (which can be a turnoff for some), but quite light.
Besides, we were lazy enough to not get out of the house to go shopping so we had to improvise with what was lying around, but thankfully (and as usually, I might add :D) everything turned out delicious.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter wheat berries soup with capers (vegan)

High source of fiber and winter veggies and a great way to use whole wheat. It tastes delicate and sweet with a hint of sour from the capers and a hint of spicy from the ginger used for the stock. 

Vegetable stock

Easy and flavorful vegetable stock, which you can then use for a great variety of soups, risottos, steak sauces and more. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bacon and eggs breakfast with a fresh touch (British)

The bacon and eggs breakfast, also known as English or European breakfast is an all-time classic. Very simple and basic recipe, but also very tasty and hearty. The name "bacon and eggs" was popularized in the 1920's, after physicians started recommending people to have healthier and heartier breakfasts (thus promoting this high protein-dish). Here, we had a classic and simple approach, topped with a little something fresh to balance the overall feel. Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fig salad with feta, rucola and cherry tomatoes

Figs are a wonderful winter-seasonal way to spruce up salads in the absence of fresher ingredients and especially if you're fond of sweet-sour combinations. Using them like this was inspired by The Atlantic's post about it, our approach was pretty minimalistic and the result was quite satisfying :). 
We intentionally meant to keep the ingredient list as short as possible (aiming at three and winding up with four... but still) so there will be no additional seasoning as salt is already contained in the feta and the combination of natural flavors is meant to be fully experienced and not dimmed by spicy tastes. This goes well with unsweetened tea (especially chamomile or maybe some other herbal tea, because of its hayride-recalling aroma). 
Note: if using dried figs (as we did) it's important to plan ahead and soak them at least a few hours before making the salad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Red pepper and pesto pasta with smoked salmon

The red pepper and pesto combination is a classic in Mediterranean flavors, along with the fresh thyme and garlic which we also used. But, wanting to spruce it up a little we added freshly grated ginger and smoked salmon. The result was a very warm and inviting plate of yum and nom. 
We recommend it with something tangy and fresh to balance the fatty taste of the pesto. We had this with a Bavarian-style white radish salad with lemon vinaigrette, for example.

Bavarian white radish salad with lemon vinaigrette (German) (raw vegan)

Apparently Bavaria likes white radishes too, thus having a salad of its own using them. And I thought white radish automatically meant Korean or Chinese cuisine :). Anyway, this is a ridiculously simple salad, sour, tangy and crisp, going lovely with heavier dishes to balance them perfectly. Ready in under 5 minutes or so.
Recipe source: Nadia Hassani's "Spoonfuls of Germany"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ricotta and cinnamon pancakes with raspberry sauce and pomegranate

A glorious and festive dessert our friends loved (and downed within some 15 minutes). Almost as festive and posh-looking as a cake, but without all the trouble. I must admit I'm quite proud of the ingenious pancake dough - combined with ricotta and cinnamon to make it taste warm and fluffy - and also of the general combination with the sweet sauce and the tangy freshness of pomegranate. Also, I think it looks hot. Enjoy :).

Greek Zucchini Fritters (Kolokitho Keftedes) with Tzatziki sauce

Now these were a real blown-away delicious and light treat that made our night with friends very tasty. The fritters tasted very very smooth and light and herbal-cheesy flavored, while the dip was pure  and airy with a hint of garlic and matched the keftedes perfectly. 
For inspiration we used various recipes the internet had to offer, taking the best of what each had, while also trying to keep it as traditional as possible. The dish was wonderful not not only hot, but also several hours later... and our two best friends, Vlad and Laura, kept downing them one after the other, at the same time complaining about how full they are. Although the delicious cinnamon and ricotta pancakes with raspberry sauce and pomegranate seeds that followed seemed to not meet any resistance ;). But about those, some other time.
If you can't find breadcrumbs (as we), it's easy to buy croutons and smash them with a garlic crusher or food processor. That being said, this really is a wonderful recipe (as most of Greek and, broadly speaking, Mediterranean cuisine) and you'll love it. Beyond bets. You will.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Spanish Tapas

When earlier this month Saveur did a guide on the magnificent Spanish Cured meats and then we found a little selection of the real thing to buy we knew that was our day and destiny called us to sample them. It was very quick to improvise and completely satisfying. The preparation technique of the meats was a crop of the simplest traditional ways we could research (garlic frying and wine-apple frying). As to the rest, we served the tapas with some store-bought sangrias and ciabatta smeared with jar-pesto (which is not Spanish, but we think it was a lovely combination). You'll love this, you'll see. 
First, let's cover up some Tapas history ;). It is said that, considering the fact that tapa actually means "cover" or "lid", they were initially a slice of bread that was given away in bars to cover the glasses so that flies would be kept out of them. But over time, the tapas became more and more elaborate and the tradition of delicious starter give-aways was rooted in almost every Spanish bar or restaurant. In some areas of Spain, mainly in the Andalusia region, they're still on the house!
Ok, ok, let's get right down to business now. So...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Red wine pears and Camembert

A wonderful tasting starter, refined enough to impress and easy enough for children to do it. Inspired by a similar recipe in the Romanian Marie Clare of December-January. You must try it, the sour flavor of the pears and the creamy and herbal aroma of the Camembert result into something truly beautiful. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) with parsley and fennel

The tortilla de patatas (torte with potatoes would be the literal translation) is perhaps one of the most known Spanish traditional dishes. Its classic version looks like this and contains only eggs, potatoes and very likely onions. Here, my idea was to improve the simple version by adding green bell pepper (also traditionally used in the tortilla in Spanish cuisine), red onions instead of yellow (their flavor is stronger and I personally deem it more interesting than the yellow type, especially in something like a torte - sometime soon I shall use a spread made mainly of red onions to fill pastry puffs, I'm sure you'll love it!), parsley and fennel. As you can see, you could easily call this Green Tortilla de patatas ;), not only because of its added ingredients which are mainly green (except the red onions), but mostly because of its very flavorful herbal aromas. Especially fennel. That fennel is something greatly flavored which we (I) absolutely adore.
Let me tell you a bit more about the glorious fennel. My favorite way to have it is in dried bits covered with white chocolate. I also enjoy its liquorish flavor in mint candy, in pickles and find it quite hypnotic to smell. Not to mention that it is one of the main ingredient in absinthe (the damned poison-drink of the damned French poets of the fin-de-siecle - one of my favorite times in the history of art, when the Victorian mentality became aware of its imminent death and started to slip into decadency and burlesque resulting a very goth and romantic-morbid combination). But I greatly digress. One more detail I love about fennel is that it's one of the herbs mentioned in a over 1000-year old English charm (infused with German paganism), the Nine Herbs Charm, where the Germanic god Wodin is invoked to use the power of nine herbs to smite away poison :). 
Also, in Greek mythology, Prometheus uses a fennel stalk to steal the fire from the gods and bring it to the people. 
One last mention: if you try to re-do this, don't be surprised if the final result will not be as compact as a classic tortilla de patatas consisting only of potatoes, eggs and maybe onions. All those herbs added tend to make its consistency softer and even fragmented, but also give it the wonderful herbal taste :). With that being said, enjoy!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Simple wellness salad with potatoes, apple, feta and egg

Another delicious and simple salad for when you're running behind on your intake of greens but also proteins. Ridiculously simple.

Another wellness salad here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sweet pan-fried pumpkin with honey (vegan)

This goes great as a starter, next to some salted crackers or toasted bread smeared with pesto from the jar. You could also call it a light dessert (if you add more honey), but it's mainly a nice starter. Thyme goes particularly well with honey and lemon and I also had something similar in mind using carrots instead of pumpkin, but then I noticed others thought of it too and decided to go for the pumpkin.
Not to mention that it's quite amusing how off-topic and counter-seasonal I'm beginning to be: it's midwinter - towards winter's end and this dish has fall oozing from its every pore ;). I hope I don't begin cooking stuffed turkey and lard-baked roast in July!
And speaking of fall, this reminds me of Forever Autumn from Lake of Tears. Very soothing... :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Risotto with chicken strips and bell pepper

First of all, please admire the creaminess of the ready risotto. I am out of words on how to convince you that you have to try this, not tommorow and not soon but right away, that you have to have it now, now now... :) Let it touch your lips and tongue and melt away into pure Italian-tasting wine-flavored oozy parmesan creaminess. Not judging other kitchens, but (to us at least) it's way better than the middle eastern pilaf, although that's what we used to eat as kids and growing up and what's therefore packed for us with memories. The rice you choose for this should have round-shaped grains that will stick to eachother when boiled and not come apart like the long-grained rice suitable for salads. Also, the better quality your ingredients are (the wine, parmesan, olive oil etc), the more spectacular and creamy the result. If you want to keep the risotto vegetarian, you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken. 
To me, cooking this dish is like initiation. It takes you into another state of consciousness by requiring a continuum of concentration and good timing without rushing you. Just keeps you out there, in flavorland (you should see how this smells while cooking.... my two tom-cats were almost banging their heads against the kitchen's door!), while the rest of the world goes quiet for some time. I don't know if the saying "the journey is more important than the destination" applies for cooking (given that a not-so-good destination kindof spoils the fun of the ride, too), but this is definetly one of those dishes which, although not very fast, make the cooking experience almost magical. Seriously, the transformations in that frying pan in which the risotto blooms make you feel like you're performing magic tricks after magic tricks. It's quite a performance of visual wonders and tantalising smells. Time to stop the description here and get to the specific instructions already, but you have to try this now or in two hours or as soon as possible. It's risotto, for crying out loud! ;)

Simple chicken stock

Chicken stock is a basic ingredient in many, many dishes. It's better if you do it right before preparing your wanted masterpiece ;) but it's ok if you do it a day or two ahead and keep it in the fridge until needed. It shouldn't take you more than 20 minutes total time, and you can still use the meat and vegetables for somehing else. Here's the simple steps to glorious golden flu-antidote ;).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Romanian Bird's Milk ("Lapte de pasăre")

Now this is a touchy subject because there seem to be two completely different desserts in Europe called "bird's milk".  One is the Polish and Russian bird's milk, but it is not to be confused with what the Romanians and Hungarians call "bird's milk", while the French and English reffer to it as floating island. This is what my mother used to make for me when I was little (and for my cousin Noemi too - she was so amused by the dessert's name that at first she didn't believe it was actually called that!). Today I am visiting my parents and took the opportunity to make it with her again :). I am very warmed by the thought that through this blog of ours such traditional dishes - relevant not only to our story as a country, but most of all to us as sons and daughters who relate to certain foods and smells in a very emotional way - will be kept, will remain somehow "saved" for our sons and daughters and so on. :) Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Simple wellness salad (with endive, clementines, feta, pumpkin seeds etc)

We were inspired by The BBC Good Food magazine to make a simple salad with clementines and feta cheese served on a few salad leaves. But although it sounded like a nice idea, we felt more inclined towards a wellness salad (with a lot more greens and pumpkin seeds - although usually made with sunflower kernels). Third, an endive sounded nice also. But the endive is a little bitter and the way to cure that is marinating it in a little fresh orange juice. Which was the perfect opportunity to use clementines instead of oranges and combine the endive with the other two salads (but excluding the potatoes from the classical wellness salad). The result... as seen below. ;)

Another wellness salad here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tabbouleh (Lebanese and generally Middle Eastern) (vegan)

The classical Middle Eastern parsley salad in its (almost) traditional version. For a more spicy and posh version, with cinnamon and all-spice added, check out Saveur's version. Our approach wanted to stick to the original, but there is still, indeed, a twist ( a mischievous and bald move I might add when dealing with lack of an ingredient). To keep it short, the stores were out of fresh mint leaves. And the recipe called for bulgur wheat soaked in warm water. So.... we soaked it in a strong mint tea.... :D... and were amazed of how much the wheat tasted like the real thing. And mixed through the salad, almost no one would suspect almost anything ;). And, given the Orient's long and astonishing tradition with tea brewing, we might even cheekily add that our version is even more traditional than the ones who soak the wheat in plain water.
Returning to the terrific salad, it should be pointed out that it's packed with vitamin C, some fiber and the lovely flavors of lemon, caraway (also known as Persian cumin or meridian fennel) and mint. One extra bragging point (except the mighty ingeniousness of the tea-soaking technique) is the fact that in spite of their spice-centered enhancing of the recipe, the people from Saveur totally missed the caraway fruits part. Not that we wouldn't admire them a lot but... the more we do, the prouder we feel about this. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Zucchini and caraway salad, with parsley and lemon cream salad

Oh - all bragging (mostly) aside - this was a (probably accidental) stroke of genius. Caraway and zucchini are a classic great match, but no one could have been prepared for the match-made-in heaven between the sweetness, fried-baked taste and warmth of the left salad and the tangy fresh crunchy sour taste of the salad on the right. And by crunchy we mean a different sort of crunchy (like fresh leaves crunchy), because the caraway seeds in the zucchini have their own planet of roasted oriental tasting crunchiness. Not to mention one being warm and the other cool. To keep the bragging short, this appetizer dish goes together like love and marriage, the horse and carriage etc etc. To get not only to food heaven, but to food nirvana, don't mix them, but serve a mouthful of each alternatively. Literally. That way each will definitely spring up the other's taste.

You can serve them directly like this, or use them as spreads on little pieces of grilled bread, tortillas or focaccia. Either way - delicious. And ridiculously easy and fast to make.

Simple tomato sauce pasta (pasta con pomodoro) (vegan)

This is the mother of all pasta sauces, the classical Italian pomodoro (Italian word for tomato) recipe. In more elaborate versions, people add all sorts of things to it - from other types of cooked or raw vegetables to cheeses and meat - but usually, if at least half the filling is pomodoro, its taste overpowers everything else. 
Nonetheless, whatever you intend to do with it - put it on pasta like we did here, or pizza or meat or mashed potatoes and so on, you need to know, once and for all, how to make some home-made pomodoro closer to the original than the awful (to your health and taste buds) stuff in supermarkets. 
Although basic for other elaborate sauces, this thing is surely good enough to eat simple, but for perfect results make sure you choose the best quality ingredients you can find (the pasta, tomato paste and olive oil.... and perhaps the sugar are the most important). Most people forget the sugar part, but that's the best traditional trick the Italians use to mellow away the tomato's acidic bite. The sauce won't taste sweet but flavorful. Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fast baby pasta with creamy Parmesan and pea sauce

This shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to prepare and cook. Very easy to make and deliciously cheesy from the Parmesan and Camembert combination. And the baby pasta (smaller version, boils in just 2-3 minutes) is a great solution any time you're in a hurry. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moldavian fried carp with polenta and garlic sauce

This is a recipe from Moldova (Romanian historical region) and it is Miriam's dad specialty. He performed it for us during our winter holiday when we visited our parents. The carp is commonly found here and it's a white meat fatty still-water fish very used in Romanian kitchens (as is polenta). The combination of the two (and the garlic sauce) is a replica of what our grandfathers used to put on the table in the past hundreds of years. Simple, but valuable to us in its ancestor-ish charm. Ready in 30-40 minutes.

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