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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Frangipane tart with kiwi and starfruit (Italian)

The frangipane cream is one of my favorite dessert fillings. Dating back to early medieval times (some even say it was served to saint Francis of Assisi in 1226), it's a classic creamy way of enjoying your almonds :).  
In this crunchy tart, I paired the frangipane with a piece of starfruit we had on our hands (we picked it up in a weekend when we thought we'd hop on the train and go for a ride in Strassbourg and it was on sale in a pretty French market we visited there) and a kiwi, cut to resemble the pretty stars as well :).
It tasted crunchy-creamy, with a strong almond and floral white rum flavor balanced by tanginess from the citrusy fruits. Definitely make it when you get the chance.

Last year: Creme brulee (French).
Two years ago: Simple chocolate brownies with walnuts, Corn tortillas without masa harina (experiment) and Huevos rancheros (Mexican).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Obazda (German Camembert spread)

The Obazda (sometimes spelled Obatzda) is a traditional cheese spread from the German region of Bavaria. It is highly popular as a starter around here, available in casual biergartens and supermarkets all year round. 
It's delicious spread on crusty bread (especially pretzels, to stick with tradition) and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. 

Last year: Endives filled with cheese sauce and cherry tomatoes.
Two years ago: Zaansemosterdsoep (Dutch mustard soup), Mushroom, cheese and thyme crostini and  Pizza con pollo e mascarpone (Italian).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring potatoes with ramps and pine seeds

I was so glad when I found really really tiny new potatoes in the farmer's market, because that meant I could finally make this dish which I've had in mind for a long time.
The new potatoes are slowly fried in olive oil and have a wonderful companionship: chopped bacon for the unmistakable flavor, chopped ramps for their springy and garlicky feel, and pine seeds for flavor depth and crunchiness. 
I served them as a side dish next to roasted lamb back-straps in red wine sauce, like this:

If you're not interested in reconstructing all that, rest assured: they can go just as well on their own.  :)

Last year: Turpork (Romanian porcurcan).
Two years ago: Romanian Pasca (Easter cheese and egg cake) with raisins and Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower and potato) with rice and raita (Indian).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mint and pine sauce (raw vegan)

This is a sauce ideal as a pesto-like addition to red meat. Its freshness and intense flavor transform any dish in something more delicious and sophisticated.

I served it over roasted lamb back-straps, like this:

But feel free to use it as a topping for bruschetta, baked sweet-potatoes (or normal potatoes), as a dressing for salads or a nice addition to pasta etc.
Enjoy :)

Last year: Brussel sprouts, poppy-seed and emmentaler gratin.
Two years ago: Fried turkey pieces with rosemary, thyme, lemon and green garlic, Rosemary baked potatoes with green garlic, Three-cheese pasta with rucola, hazelnuts and sesame.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Roasted lamb back-straps in red wine sauce

What I like about lamb meat is its highly traditional background (back to biblical times), but also its continued use and presence in modern food culture. According to an article in Saveur (forgot when it was published, but sometime last year), it's still the most consumed type of meat in the world! (Ok, counted together with young goat meat, but still). I wouldn't have imagined that, would have guessed chicken or something. Or beef considering all the burgers. But then again, if you think about the Middle East AND many parts of the western world too (like Great Britain or France) that have lamb meat on the menu so often, it kind of makes sense. 
I confess that I was reluctant to it in my youth, but at least for culture's sake I overcame my initial wariness.

I cooked this with my mom sometime last year during the Easter holidays. Since Easter is approaching again (for us at least - we're Orthodox), I decided now it would be a good time to share the whole menu here. :)
The back-strap part of a lamb is one of the most tender and juicy you can get. Ours were a gift from Bogdan's grandma and were long marinated in a red wine and spice combination that left them even more tender and insanely flavored. 
The side-dish of spring potatoes with ramps and pine seeds matched the meat wonderfully.
But the real star of the dish that elevated it to a whole new level of goodness was the mint and pine sauce (sort of pesto-like) that we drizzled all over the roast meat pieces. You can see both of these wonderful additions in the picture above of the final dish.
If you plan to make this spectacular menu, it will be easier than you think and the fanciest roast lamb dish you've ever had. Enjoy :)

Last year: Sincronizadas with cheddar, turkey ham and guacamole (Mexican).
Two years ago: Ricotta and black olives crostini, Carrot, ginger and caramel marmalade, Quick fried banana breakfast (Kewra-flavored) and Simple black and white loaf cake (cozonacel).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mixed seeds and honey crunchy hearts

The lightest and healthiest possible crunchy snack - no fat, no sugar, just a little bit of honey and lemon zest to give flavor to the seeds and some egg whites to glue them together.
After making the mix, I just grabbed a heart-shaped cookie cutter and filled it repeatedly with the lovely composition, baked them in the oven really fast (they burn easily) and voila - crunchy snacks in less than 30 minutes total time :).
Recipe adapted from Delicioasa (who was at the time celebrating her baby girl becoming 1 month old about the same time with ours) :).

Last year: Baked Brie en croute with apples and thyme (French).
Two years ago: Simplest veggie noodle soup, Caramelized onion and green garlic pizza, Fruit skewers with molten double chocolate and Creamy pasta with green onions, muhrooms and ham (very light).

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon (cocktail)

This cocktail is basically plain champagne infused with a hint of absinthe (which I have a theoretical and aesthetic passion for), and it has been named in honor of "Death in the Afternoon", written by my beloved Hemingway. :)
It's not as sweet as I generally like them, but the name and the story make up for anything. Anyway, it might be just the thing for people who, unlike me, prefer their drinks without a ton of sugar and cream in them. :))
Recipe source: here

Last year: Blueberry and carrot smoothie (raw vegan).
Two years ago: Coffee-marinated chicken, Fennel and walnut ricotta-filled muffins, The Ratatouille from the movie Ratatouille and Tofu Parmigiana (Italian).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Asparagus, mint and lemon risotto

I loved the idea of a creamy risotto in a fresh tasting and green-feel version, with lemon zest and mint leaves, ever since I first saw it at Jamie Oliver's. That was a long time ago (right before we started learning how to cook together) but I never forgot about it and eventually had the time and mood to make it.
The result was just as nice as you can imagine given the ingredients. :) Fresh tasting, green-herbal flavored and perfect for spring or summer.
Recipe pretty much adapted from Jamie Oliver.

Last year: Elder-flower-rum cream tartelettes with raspberries.
Two years ago: Salmon Smorrebrod (Danish), Upside-down banana cake with raisins and walnuts and Chinese-style pork sesame balls.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Casa Dragones guacamole (Mexican) (raw vegan)

Another guacamole recipe I love, for the sake of variation. This one is a little more spiced up and comes from the Casa Dragones restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. :)
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Green pasta with red peppers and wild duck ham.
Two years ago: Aubergine and zucchini pizza, Marinated pork chops with balsamico glaze and Pasta peperonata (Bell pepper rigatoni) (Italian).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Avocado salad with carrot-ginger dressing (vegan)

Since spring is finally here I thought I'd best start posting some healthier stuff, and since salads are the go-to when it comes to predictably healthy stuff, I went with one. But the choice was not only laziness-backed, as you'll see this is no mere salad as soon as you get a first taste of that awesome dressing.

What makes this salad's topping a really special dressing is the fact that it's so full of flavor you can hardly believe it. We actually used it as a dip for tortilla chips afterwards and it worked beautifully as a dip too. :) 
The salad underneath said lovely dressing is not to be ignored either: though it might sound rather plain, the combination between avocados and green leaves is not to be underestimated, especially when accompanied by such a lovely dressing.
The only thing that stands between this salad and a raw vegan version of it is the toasted sesame oil, but I would highly encourage you not to replace it with cold-pressed sesame oil because much of this salad's flavor and personality will be lost with it.
Recipe source: the lovely Smitten Kitchen

Last year: Tandoori oven-baked chicken (Indian).
Two years ago: Chicken and broccoli stir-fry with oyster sauce, Gougeres (French cheese puffs), Hazelnut and coffee chip cookies and Surimi and asparagus noodle salad.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Milk and poppy-seed muffins

The basic recipe for poppy-seed muffins which can be used to create the loveliest cupcakes. Of course, the muffins are so lovely you can definitely have them on their own for breakfast or a snack anytime. What makes them really special is their strong almond kernel flavor, which they get from the almond extract in the batter. If you don't have any on hand, you can replace it with Amaretto liquor or some other almond-infused alcohol. Trust us, it will be that little detail that really makes a wonderful difference between delicious, but ordinary muffins and exceptional ones. :)
Recipe adapted from here

Last year: Brie, potato and thyme pizza.
Two years ago: Potato salad with pesto and mozzarella and Egg, avocado and bacon breakfast spicy bagels.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bouneschlupp (Green bean and ham soup) (Luxembourgian)

I went to Luxembourg sometime during last fall (taking along the husband and a good friend) for an anthropology workshop and I was charmed with this lovely city. The medieval background is something I'm most sensitive to when it comes to falling in love with a place, and Luxembourg has plenty of that :).

I decided to present here something from their local cuisine, which is a rich blend of the cultures intermingled in the area and then a little more :). What you see above is one of the staples of Luxembourgian cuisine, the Bouneschlupp, a green bean and ham creamy soup. Not too complicated to make, hearty and with a charming day-to-day pub feel to it.

If you ever have to occasion to delve in Luxembourg, take it. If you're any little bit like me, you'll love it. :)
I particularly liked the Adolphe Bridge in the center of the town (pictured below), the historical tour with the tram (where we could hear Melusina's voice explaining the surroundings to us), and the complex system of walls and fortifications.

Last year: Crispy pizza crust (vegan).
Two years ago: Pickled red onions and Linguine alla matriciana with zucchini.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Garlic, chili, lemon and olive spaghetti (vegan)

I tried a variation on the classic aglia e olio spaghetti and I was very pleased with the results. Adding olives and some lemon brings just the right amount of salty and sour to a dish that was already delicious on its own. A disarmingly simple combination that will be easy to make and will taste exquisite every time you make it. Enjoy :)

Last year: Apple tart with honey and almond flakes (very light).
Two years ago: Tortellini with white wine sauce and tofu, Simple artichoke dip and Aloo Baingan (Indian)(vegan)

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