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Monday, December 29, 2014

Birchermuesli complet (Swiss-German)

If you've managed to make your own Muesli mix by now, the next step is to serve the full Muesli breakfast, the way it was intended to be served when Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner designed it. :)
This "full breakfast" includes a bowl of Muesli with milk or yogurt, a banana, a roll of bread with butter and a large cup of milk coffee. You'll love it, I promise. :) [And it will also keep you full whenever you have a long day ahead - tried and tested]. 
I just thought that for once, I should end my year of posting with a healthy and not that fancy recipe, instead of some complicated cake like the previous years. Enjoy! :)
P.S: Today was a very, very happy day <3 :).

Last year: Banana cheesecake with candied cherries.
Two years ago: Tiramisu (Italian).
Three years ago: Carrot and clementine cake with carrot-ginger marmalade, honey-cream cheese frosting and balsamic glaze.
Four years ago: Eggplant and spicy chicken bits with mascarpone pasta.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Muesli (Swiss-German)

Probably the best known breakfast cereal mix, Muesli was invented by a Swiss doctor, Maximilian Bircher-Benner at around 1900 for its health properties. Ever since, this lovely cereal mix has become a favorite all over the world, and one of the greatest things about it is how highly adaptable it is to personal preferences, if you make it at home.
It's very easy to make, you skip a ton of extra sugar and additives, and you also add almost any combo of cereals, nuts, dried fruit and even herbs and spices. Whatever suits your fancy :). Here's a basic recipe to get started. 

Last year: Crab starters with guacamole and black sesame.
Two years ago: Pumpernikel rounds with beef ham, mustard and cornichons.
Three years ago: Simple bundt cake with raisins (Romanian guguluf).
Four years ago: Pasta alla carbonara (Italian) and Ginger-lemon chicken breast with honey-spicy vegetable sautee.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Brændende kærlighed ("Burning love") (Danish)

Scandinavian comfort food at its best. A plate of buttery and fluffy mashed potatoes topped with fried bits of onion and bacon, and nicknamed "Burning love" by the Danes. I guess this supports that theory which states that we express affection by feeding people. :) [I know I tend to].
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Gorgonzola and white wine potato gratin
Two years ago: Prosciutto, chile and onion pizza.
Three years ago: Raw winter salad in preserved peaches (Romanian).
Four years ago: Smoked salmon on lemon-herb butter toast.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Risalamande (Danish rice pudding with whipped cream and almonds)

This is a rice pudding meant to be served on Christmas day, based on the left-overs of a more simple pudding, Risengrød. Basically the leftovers are mixed with freshly whipped cream and chopped almonds, with a single almond left whole and hidden somewhere inside the dish for one lucky person to find :). It's meant to be served cold and it's absolutely airy and delicious, especially if you whip the cream really well until stiff before incorporating it in the sweet rice.
The name comes from the French "rice with almonds" :). Enjoy.
More info on this dessert here.

Last year: Baked cod in tomato, bean and olive sauce.
Two years ago: Fennel, onion and Gouda quiche.
Three years ago: Simple tortellini soup.
Four years ago: Simple blackberry-almond treat and Italian orrecchiette with Parmesan cream, bell pepper and olives.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Risengrød / Risgrynsgröt (Danish and Swedish rice pudding)

This was a really nice and comforting rice pudding. According to, it's called Risengrød in Denmark and Risgrynsgröt in Sweden, and it's especially served on Christmas Eve - both to family members and, traditionally, as an offering to the Nisse or Tomte, a benevolent but touchy household spirit. 
A single blanched almond is added to the pot before serving; whoever finds it is likely to be married in the next twelve months. Leftovers are reserved and used to make a more elegant rice pudding (Risalamande in Danish) to serve with Christmas dinner the next day. Enjoy.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Dates filled with mascarpone and almonds (raw).
Two years ago: The Easterner (cocktail).
Three years ago: Breakfast braided bread with cheese and ham filling.
Four years ago: Avocado halves stuffed with salty cheese and tomatoes and Mexican nachos with four mixed dips (salsa, guacamole, garlic sauce, cheese fondue).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Porkkanalaatikko (Carrot casserole for Christmas) (Finnish)

This is a traditional casserole based on grated carrot, rice, eggs and cream, and a delicious topping of butter and breadcrumbs. It's served as a side dish in Finland, especially around the winter holidays. It may taste a bit bland if you prefer spicy foods, but as a side to Christmas roast or the main course of your choosing, you may find it charming. :)
Recipe source: here

Last year: Răcituri de pui (Romanian chicken and garlic aspic).
Two years ago: Amaretto chocolate truffles.
Three years ago: Vanillekipferln (Austrian vanilla crescent cookies).
Four years ago: Spicy turkey fillet in coriander-tomato sauce and Butter and smoked salmon pasta.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ostabrauð (Hot Icelandic Cheese Bread)

Since I planned to share more Scandinavian recipes here this month, it was about time to feature something from Iceland. And this something is just perfect for cold temperatures, and fast to throw together if you're preparing warm snacks for a little crowd of friends that drop by. Sliced bread buns go into the oven, topped with plenty of cheese and other toppings (like ham, pineapple rings and asparagus). Enjoy!
Recipe source: here and here.

Last year: Sărmăluțe în viță de vie (Romanian stuffed grape leaves).
Two years ago: Wood ear mushroom salad (Chinese) (raw vegan).
Three years ago: Bulgur pilaf with garlic.
Four years ago: Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) and Ragout with tarragon and white wine sauce (German).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lussebullar (Lussekatter) (Swedish Lucia breads)

These little buns are traditionally made and enjoyed in Sweden on the 13th of December, known as St Lucia's Day. The history of the Lucia buns (or light buns, since St Lucia is a saint associated with lights) is pretty cute. According to legend, on December 13, 1764, a gentleman in Sweden was roused in the middle of the night by a beautiful voice. He saw a young woman in white moving through his room singing. She had wings and was carrying a candle. She was revealed to be Lucia the Saint. She brought light, food, and wine as comfort on what was, in the old Gregorian calendar, the longest night of the year. She's still an important cultural icon and the holiday celebrating her is still very much alive. (A bit off-topic, I even had a perfume some years ago which was named in her honor and that was supposed to smell like "warm light". The model posing for the perfume's commercial was a very pretty Northern-type of beauty with almost whitish hair and very large eyes.)

Anyway, try the buns. They're not very sweet, but the saffron flavor is so intense and addictive you'll go through them faster than you planned. :)
Recipe source(s): here, here and here.

Last year: Ciorbă de burtă falsă (Romanian shiitake and chantarellus mushroom soup).
Two years ago: Crispy duck with five spices (Chinese).
Three years ago: Tapenade, wild mushroom and red onion galette (vegan).
Four years ago: Romanian and Moldavian "Tochitură" with polenta.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Brownie cake with cream cheese frosting and pomegranate tree

I say get creative with your toppings/decorations. With these simple moves here, the plainest brownie cake gets transformed into something elegant and beautiful. Its looks pretty and a bit Japanese cherry-blossom tree-ish, doesn't it? :)

Last year: Le fondant au chocolat (French chocolate cake).
Two years ago: Upside down pineapple cake (American).
Three years ago: Classic Pavlova (Australia and New Zealand).
Four years ago: Light and colorful field salad and Gottergetränk (Drink of the gods) (German hot chocolate drink).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Glühwein (German and Austrian mulled wine) (vegan)

Mulled wine is a nice tradition pretty much in every European country, but the German/Austrian Glühwein (which means something like "glow wine", from the hot glowing irons once used to make it) is definitely one of my faves. I especially love how easy it is to just pick up a bottle of the ready-made stuff from nearly every supermarket and just heat it up a little on the stove before serving it. But of course, just like in the case of everything else, the home-made / from scratch version of it is even more wonderful. And almost just as easy :).
More on the history of mulled wine in general and this kind in particular over here.

Last year: White Russian (cocktail).
Two years ago: Chicken, rice and caraway soup (Asian-style).
Three years ago: Farfalle with cheddar cream, green apple and red onion.
Four years ago: German mustard cream pork chops and German apple and leek winter salad.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pytti panna (Scandinavian hash) (Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish)

Scandinavian comfort food at its best - a hash made of diced left-over veggies and meat, closely related to the British bubble and squeak, and topped with a delicious sunny-side up fried egg. Pyttipanna means "small pieces in pan" :). It's often called just "pytt", or sometimes 'hänt i veckan' ('happened this past week') - reflecting the dish's origins to be something you make with leftovers. In Denmark it's called "biskemard", which means something that's been mixed together.
The great thing about it is that it's so delicious that it's totally worth it to make from scratch. No need to wait for leftovers to make this goodie. Also, rumors say it's a great hangover food. Not that lil-o-me would know anything about that ;).
Recipe source: Mazi.

Last year: Köttbullar med Potatismos (Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes).
Two years ago: Onion-Gouda-bacon fritters.
Three years ago: Turkey fillet with chestnuts.
Four years ago: French onion soup with oregano, toast and emmentaler

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Baked aubergines with mozzarella and garlic-pomegranate-mint sauce

One of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. Make sure you use the freshest eggplants available, if you get bitter ones it will ruin the whole dish. 
It's easy to make, it just sits for a long time in the oven, but what pops out is pure heavenly comfort food. Enjoy.
Recipe source: Cătălina.

Last year: Pasta Arabbiata (Angry penne) (Italian)(vegan).
Two years ago: Grilled turkey breast with avocado-feta salsa.
Three years ago: Quesadillas with cheddar, bacon and cherry tomatoes (Mexican).
Four years ago: Cheese-stuffed mushrooms and cheese fussili with herbs and aioli; and Swedish-style salmon with vegetables and white sauce.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dulce de leche, marshmallow and banana layered cake + 4 year blog anniversary

The most interesting thing about this cake was its unique and intriguing combination of textures. The cake layers were moist but firm banana cake, the cream gathering up between them was a combination of dulce de leche layers and pillow-y whipped cream with banana and chewy marshmallow bits; while the top was slathered, as you can see, with dulce de leche and whole marshmallows to finish everything off.
The dulce de leche is, of course, intensely sweet, while the cream was almost not sweet at all, except for the occasional banana or marshmallow bit. The overall taste is thus balanced and contrasting and lovely :).
Sounds irresistible? Well, it really was. :)
Not too complicated to make, ready in about 1 h and a half or so, in a very relaxed pace.
Recipe only slightly adapted from Good Food

And as a post-scriptum, this cake is meant as a celebration for yesterday (Romania's National Holiday) and for today (which marks the 4 year anniversary of my blog). :)

Last year: Peanut butter marbled brownies + 3 year blog anniversary.
Two years ago: Cocoa macarons with chocolate cream cheese filling + 2 year blog anniversary.
Three years ago: Classic chocolate cream pie (American) + 1 year blog anniversary.
Four years ago: Complete meal salad with basil and Simple fried bananas with cinnamon and honey (Central and South American). (A.k.a. the humble beginnings). 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bagula (Fava, garlic and dill salad) (Egyptian) (vegan)

The simplest and most delicious thing you could ever do with fava beans. In Egypt, it's popular both as a side to main courses or as a snack / street food, on its own. 
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Carrot, ginger and orange soup (vegan).
Two years ago: Banana-hazelnut-honey smoothie (vegan).
Three years ago: Sticky sweet and sour chicken wings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Toad in the hole (British)

The Toad in the hole is a typical British dish consisting of sausages baked in a Yorkshire pudding batter. The recipe's source and etymology is disputed (it may have been called "Frog in the hole" at some point, and it's still not clear if the name has anything to do with the image of a frog sticking out from a mud hole), but it's origins are definitely pretty old, considering that there's a recipe for it since 1861. :)

I'm really not a fan of sausages myself, but when you cook for men... meh, you compromise. :)
Recipe source: here

Last year: Kolrābju Salāti (Kohrabi and apple winter salad) (Latvian).
Two years ago: Broccoli and coconut stir-fry (vegan).
Three years ago: Hummus (Middle Eastern).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gröstl (Austrian potato, bacon and onion hash)

The Austrian version of potato hash, it's something of a rustic dish and it's what you would expect to be served at a traditional restaurant up in the mountains next to a sky resort. :)
Made with potatoes, bacon and onions and served with fresh parsley, it's delicious and divine, especially when you crave comfort food. 
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Karbonāde (Pork Cutlets With Chanterelle Cream Sauce) (Latvian).
Two years ago: Butternut squash soup with chili and cream.
Three years ago: Middle Eastern pita bread (tutorial) (vegan).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Valeriana salad (Field salad) with almonds and kumquats (raw vegan)

Valeriana salad (sometimes also called field salad) is an old favorite of mine. It tastes "clean", which means it tastes like a basic fresh green, without any specific flavor - like, for example, rucola tends to have - but that doesn't make it plain; it just makes it a nice canvas for showing off other flavors. It also has some nice health perks, but don't overindulge in it at one time, since it can get you sleepy as a side effect.
For this salad, I've played with some nice Asian-inspired flavors: the central stage was reserved for the kumquats, but they were also accompanied by sesame oil, fresh ginger, almonds, red onion, rice vinegar and cilantro. I loved it. Give it a try. :)
Recipe adapted from here.

Last year: Kartupeli ar Dillēm (Boiled Potatoes With Dill Cream) (Latvian).
Two years ago: Khoresht-e-Fesenjan (Iranian chicken, walnut and pomegranate molasses stew).
Three years ago: Amaretto chocolate milk pudding (German).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Namoura (Lebanese semolina and coconut cake with rosewater syrup)

This Lebanese cake squares have a special texture, given sometimes by the coconut flakes, sometimes by semolina flour, sometimes by a combination of both (as in the version I made here). It's topped with almonds and soaked at the end in a very sweet rosewater or orange blossom infused syrup. That final touch gives is its trademark Middle Eastern taste and feel - not only through the flowery flavor, but also because a lot of desserts in the area are really sweet and soaked in syrup (think baklava or katayf). All in all, I really loved this cake and I think it's very approachable: it can work both as a everyday cake (fancied up a bit, I admit) or as a special occasion cake. Enjoy.
Recipe sources: many, notably here and here.

Last year: Nashi pears in wine syrup with walnuts and walnut cream.
Two years ago: Artichoke and cous cous stuffed mushrooms (vegan).
Three years ago: Red lentil ragu with basil and ajvar.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Batata harra (Lebanese spicy potatoes) (vegan)

The Lebanese seem to have a place in their cuisine for many delicious vegetarian mains and sides, and one of them is Batata harra, a fiery dish of cubed potatoes, red peppers, cumin, coriander, chili and garlic, all fried together in olive oil. 
It's unbelievably delicious and hearty for a vegan dish (but also reasonably light), it tastes different and more flavorful than most well-known potato dishes you might be accustomed to, and it's ready in a pinch. Enjoy.

Last year: Spicy chorizo and chickpea soup (Spanish).
Two years ago: Chocolate chip cookies with salted butter (American).
Three years ago: Irish soda bread (buns) with mixed seeds.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Loubieh Wa Hommus Bi-Ziet (Green beans with chickpeas in olive oil) (Lebanese) (vegan)

This was really, really, good. Fresh green beans are cooked with chickpeas, tomato sauce, cumin seeds, onion and garlic and lots of delicious olive oil. It's surprisingly easy to make and just as surprisingly comforting considering "comfort food" isn't what people usually associate with vegan dishes. I would include it in my top ten recipes I actually make it at least twice a week when the beans are in season. Do try, especially if making a meat-based main course of Lebanese or Middle Eastern origin. The beans could be a great side to it.
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Crisp rosemary flatbread (vegan).
Two years ago: Pork steaks with sage sauce and caramelized apples.
Three years ago: Winter tabbouleh with roasted eggplant and feta.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Yogurt flat-breads with caraway (gluten free)

A quick recipe for delicious and crisp flat-breads that uses wholemeal rice flour for its healthy and delicate properties and lots of un-ground caraway for flavor crunches. It's not at all complicated to make and the resulting breads go wonderfully with almost any kind of soup. Enjoy :)
Recipe adapted from: here.

Last year: Smoked trout quiche Provencal (French).
Two years ago: Cream of wild mushroom soup (American).
Three years ago: White chocolate and blueberry cupcakes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Masala chai (Indian spiced tea)

Spicy black tea with a bit of milk and sugar, all in the masala style. The spices used are fresh ginger, cardamom, peppercorns and cinnamon. A cup of this will warm up and beautify the coldest days. And you know the saying (and if you don't it's about time you did, 'cause it's one of my favorite sayings), "Where there's tea, there's hope". :)
One recipe source (though incomplete, as one person pointed out in the comments) is Saveur; so here is an alternate.

Last year: Red lentil and sausage stew (British).
Two years ago: Savory hazelnut bread (vegan).
Three years ago: Fettuccine Alfredo (Italian).

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kaeng khiao wan (Green curry with chicken) (Thai)

One of the best dishes you could possibly try from Thai cuisine and from Asian cuisine in general. It's also the most easy to find in most take-aways and the easiest to cook with the aid of prepared jars of green curry sauce, which you can now find in most supermarkets. But the good news is that this curry is actually so easy to make from scratch (and so much better), that once you try the method described below, you won't go back to the jar ever again. Ok, only if you're in a hurry. And the recipe is good for the pre-made sauce too. Just do it :).
Recipe source(s): here and here

Last year: Pignoli (pine nut cookies) (Italian).
Two years ago: Arancini carbonara (Fried risotto balls in carbonara style) (Italian).
Three years ago: Chicken liver parfait with sage and red wine.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tiramisu pralines (Italian-style)

A praline made in the tiramisu fashion. It's like a softer truffle made of tiramisu (ground savoiardi biscuits, coffee, amaretto, mascarpone and cocoa). Need I say more? :)
Recipe source: here

Last year: Salată orientală (Romanian potato salad).
Two years ago: Risotto carbonara (Italian).
Three years ago: Plăcintă cu dovleac (My mom's pumpkin pie, with puff pastry) (Romanian-Moldavian).

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Saltimbocca alla romana (Italian)

The saltimbocca (which means, literally, jump-in-the-mouth) is a traditional Italian dish which has spread to the neighboring regions as well, and although it's called "alla Romana" (Roman-style), it most probably originated in Brescia. 
It consists of thin beef steaks (minute steaks), wrapped in prosciutto and fresh sage and cooked in wine and butter. It's simply and utterly delicious and not as heavy as it might sound (or as other beef dishes tend to be).
Recipe source: Maya

Last year: Fondi di carciofi (Bacon-wrapped artichokes) (Italian).
Two years ago: Coconut, carrot and brown sugar cake slices.
Three years ago: Chickpea, avocado and pesto salad.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sărățele (Romanian cheese straws)

This is my mom's recipe for Sărățele. I already featured a simplified version of them before, but it's nothing compared to the authentic one here. 
The straws are made from a butter and egg dough rich in grated cheese, cut into strips and brushed with beaten egg. Some minutes later in the oven they transform into golden crunchy salty and flavorful snacks that remain tender and crisp for 4-5 days, so making larger batches is perfectly fine. My mom always makes them for holidays (like Easter and Christmas) and our little toddler Mira seems to be crazy for them too (and she's a very shy and picky eater when it comes to most other foods but these).

Last year: Kashmiri chai (Indian cardamom tea).
Two years ago: Zucchini, bean and cheese quesadillas
Three years ago: Baked Camembert with rum raisins (French). 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hawaiian pizza (Canadian)

Although it's called Hawaiian, this pizza was actually invented in Canada and is an important part of the country's cuisine. Found in almost every pizza joint across the world, the sweet and salty combination of light ham and pineapple bits quickly became a classic.
Here I made it on wholemeal crust for a healthier and crispier base :).

Still, a note (to self and to others), I think the ham and the pineapple pieces should not be added at the beginning of the baking (as I did here), but 10 minutes before the end, to avoid the charred edges of the ham (pictured above). Unless, of course, you like your ham a bit charred-crispy around the edges, in which case I take it all back :).
Later edit: this is a better picture from another time I made it :).

More on the history of this pizza here.

Last year: Barmbrack (Irish cake loaf for Halloween).
Two years ago: Zucchini cream soup (vegan).
Three years ago: Chocolate banana bread with white chocolate chips.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pasta Frola de Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Tart with Lattice Top) (Argentinian)

A pasta frola is one of the most popular sweet pastries (or pies, like in this case) from the South American cuisine in general and from the Argentinian one in particular. This kind of sweet confection is so popular that there's even a saying there, "La vida no es una pasta frola", which translates to "life is not a pasta frola", meant to warn about the less sweet part of life, I guess :).

A pasta frola always comes with a sweet filling, often fruit-based, and with a shortbread cookie-like crust. It was imported at first via the Italian cuisine (which had a huge influence on the Argentinian and Uruguayan food cultures), but it is now almost a nation dessert for Argentinians. The most popular kind is this one, Pasta frola con dulce de membrillo, filled with the quince jam used for so many other South American and Spanish foods. 
Recipe source: here

Last year: Creamy white bean dip / spread.
Two years ago: Broccoli, chicken and cheese casserole.
Three years ago: Potato, cheese and mushroom gratin.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

El submarino (Argentinian hot chocolate)

"El submarino" means "The submarine" and it's a popular kids' treat in Argentina, referring to the sunken piece of chocolate in the hot milk. 
The drink is flavored with vanilla, a bit of sugar and, of course, the lovely piece of chocolate.

Perfect for evenings. Just stir and melt and watch the dark chocolate magic unfold itself in the milk. Sip away :)
Recipe source: here

Last year: Wild rice risotto with peas and basil pesto.
Two years ago: Belgian brownies.
Three years ago: Polish buttermilk drink (Kwasne Mleko Ze Szczypiorkiem).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Saumon et poireaux en papillote (Salmon and leeks en papillote) (French)

All things "en papillote" are basically wrapped in a package. Sometimes just a baking paper package, other times a crunchy phillo package (like in this case).
Lean and pink salmon fillets were covered in a creamy fresh leek spread, then wrapped and baked. The result was a crispy and delicious dinner. 
Enjoy :)

Last year: Hoddeok (Korean pancakes) (vegan version).
Two years ago: Grilled cheese (halloumi) and veggies on bulgur (Greek).
Three years ago: Scottish cardamom griddle scones with butter and honey.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mini poppy-seed croissants (savory)

We like having some puffy croissants around to munch on between meals or to serve with our favorite cream soups. This time, we were inspired by an older version with Gouda cheese and decided to go for the poppy-seed crust :)
While many of you might be slightly intimidated by the idea of making your own croissants - trust us, it's easier than it looks. It takes a while, but not a lot of effort: most of the time you can just go about your business while the wonderful yeast works its magic and makes the dough rise :). Give it a try!

Last year: Glazed duck with orange sauce and vegetables (French-style).
Two years ago: North Croatian deer goulash.
Three years ago: Scottish cardamom griddle scones with butter and honey

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kataif / Kadayf (Turkish-Greek)

This dessert is the Greek and Turkish variant of the generic Arabic sweet usually called Kanafeh (or kunefe or similar names). It consists of very thin vermicelli noodles (or shredded yukka dough) and ground walnuts, layered and soaked in a concentrated sugar syrup, and then baked a bit until golden brown. It tastes very sweet (much like Arabic-Turkish and Greek pastries in general, just think of the well-known Baklava) but flavorful. It's also surprisingly easy to make. Give it a try.

Last year: Pumpkin and sage soup.
Two years ago: Potato, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs creamy salad.
Three years ago: Scottish cardamom griddle scones with butter and honey.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Duck liver, orange and parsley crostini

A lovely example of finger food ideal for a small party. A thin baguette is sliced and oven-roasted to create the crunchy crostini base. Home-made duck liver pate, infused with orange and white wine is then spread on top. To finish off the flavor combination and add a bit of green crunch, parsley leaves decorate the crostini. All the hints and tastes come together in one small crispy and creamy bite. Enjoy :)

Last year: Fig and blue cheese tart in walnut crust.
Two years ago: Duck eggs with broccoli and prosciutto.
Three years ago: Scottish cardamom griddle scones with butter and honey.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pico de gallo (Mexican) (raw vegan)

Pico de gallo is a simple lightly spiced salad usually served in Mexico with hearty main courses, or used to stuff birds before cooking them and so on. It tastes fresh and bright and can be a great side dish to almost anything. If you want to fix yourself a light Mexican meal on a quick weekday, try this as a salad next to a serving of made-ahead Arroz Verde, for example. Enjoy :)
One recipe source (though the Internet is full of others): here.

Last year: Cocoa and chili biscotti (Aztec-style biscuits).
Two years ago: Cajeta cake squares (Molten caramel cake).
Three years ago: Scottish cardamom griddle scones, with butter and honey.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Arroz Verde (Green cilantro rice) (Mexican)

The green-colored cilantro rice (its name literally translated as "Green rice", by the way) is one of the most common sides you could include in a Mexican meal. Pretty easy to make, it's obviously delicious enough to eat on its own, without a main course. Traditionally it's made with chicken stock, which gives a lot in terms of the overall final flavor of the dish, but I guess you could replace it with vegetable stock to keep the dish vegetarian. (Your loss, anyway :P). 
The cilantro flavor is quite enough to make the dish unforgettable, but garlic and chili peppers also contribute to it. Enjoy :).
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Aztec hot chocolate.
Two years ago: Rosemary, Gruyere cheese and potato bread.
Three years ago: Tagliatelle with Gorgonzola and spinach sauce.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hummus, scallion and kalamata pita pockets (vegan)

This is a nice and fast vegan snack for when you have left-over pitas and/or hummus and you also want to keep it vegan. Click on the links in the above sentence if you want to see my recipes for making your own, or just use store-bought. I'm not judging :)
Spreading things inside the pita's pockets is actually the way these breads were intended to be eaten, and hummus is very often the spread of choice in Middle Eastern kitchens, followed by various combinations of veggies and meat bits. This time, I added green chili, scallions and natural (kalamata) olives and it was perfect and pretty light. Enjoy :)

Last year: Hasselback potatoes (Swedish).
Two years ago: Salată de varză (Romanian white cabbage salad) (raw vegan).
Three years ago: Simple strawberry, cream and rice crispies treat.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Black Russian (cocktail)

The simple version of this strong and sweet coffee-flavored cocktail. When cream is also added, the drink becomes a "White Russian".
While this cocktail didn't originate in Russia, it's called a Russian because it contains vodka :).
More on the history of the drink here.

Last year: Cheddar and oat scones (British).
Two years ago: Mexican rice with vegetables (vegan).
Three years ago: Sweet potato and prosciutto starters.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Grated pumpkin pie with crunchy spice star biscuits

I fantasized about making this pie for a long time until I finally got my head around to actually making it. The crust is filled with grated pumpkin flesh mixed with some sugar and chopped nuts. An extra piece of crust is rolled and cut in little star shapes, which are then dredged through a spicy sugar mix. After they get the sweet-spicy treatment, the stars are placed on top of the filling.

The result is just as lovely as I imagined it would be :). Enjoy.
Recipe inspired from here.

Last year: American pumpkin pie (from scratch).
Two years ago: Lemon pepper grilled chicken.
Three years ago: Fritata with bell pepper and Tirolean sausages.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kastaniencremesuppe (Chestnut cream soup) (German)

This cream soup made of roasted chestnuts, butter, onions, dark rye bread and sour cream is a rare traditional German treat, served in the most exquisite of guesthouses (that's how restaurants which serve traditional food are called). I sampled it a few times, and then decided to make it myself. It's pretty fast to make, it tastes really special and earthy and I've come to associate its smell and taste with the idea of fall itself. 
To make it, you need a handful of pre-cooked chestnuts. Either take the time to roast them yourself, or buy them pre-cooked (but do expect them to be a bit pricey). Anyway, it will be totally worth it. ;)

Last year: Autumn chestnut and beetroot salad. (October seems to set me in a mood for chestnuts).
Two years ago: Fig, rosemary and mascarpone tartlets.
Three years ago: Spicy Guinness mustard (Irish).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Beef and bamboo shot soup (Filipino)

This is one of the best Asian soups you could have. It's not too spicy (for those of you who are reluctant to Asian cuisine because of this), but full of flavor from the slow cooking of the beef and the bamboo shots (I really love those) and the ginger and the pepper and the fish sauce :). (I got enthusiastic all over again just by reading this list). The point is that the ingredients are simple and few (again, for an Asian recipe), but the result is amazing. Do try it.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Crispy chili beef with broccoli (stir-fry)
Two years ago: Green tree (cocktail).
Three years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shopska salad (Bulgarian salad)

The most well-known product of Bulgarian cuisine. During the early communist times in Bulgaria, the regime wanted to create a "local" cuisine impressive enough to woo foreigners that visited the country. Some dishes were created by the hired chefs and were usually named after certain areas and regions of the country. Many of these dishes were salads, but somehow only the Shopska salad survived the era. After you taste it it will be obvious why so. The combination of flavors is no-brain simple, finger-snapping-ly fast to assemble and drop-dead delicious :).

Last year: Mushroom and baby corn soba noodles (vegan).
Two years ago: Truffle potato mash and Salată asortată (Romanian assorted salad) (raw vegan).
Three years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bob chorba (Bulgarian bean soup) (vegan)

Bob chorba is one of the most well-spread Bulgarian national dishes. The vegetarian version (presented here) is sometimes called the "monastery version" because convent communities often keep a meatless lent. Nevertheless, sometimes various kinds of meat are added to the soup. You can find out more out the accepted variations and ingredients by following the wiki link above. What I liked most about this soup was the touch of fresh summer savory (a type of thyme) and of fresh mint. It really gives the regular bean soup an interesting and delicious touch which you've never encountered before in a bean soup. Enjoy.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Caviar on mashed potatoes (Russian).
Two years ago: File Marajoara (Steak with melted cheese) (Brazilian).
Three years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Polenta, apple and dried fruit country cake (Italian-style)

This is a no-added-sugar and low-fat version of a country home cake typical to the South of Italy. Made with polenta flour, stale bread, olive oil and apples and sweetened with dried fruit like raisins and figs. A healthy alternative to richer cakes, perfect to serve at breakfast or as a mid-day snack, accompanied by milk, coffee or tea. 
Recipe slightly adapted from here (I added a little rum to moisten the fruits).
P.S: I cooked this on a spontaneous visit and all I had to take pictures with was a very old camera. In case you were wondering about the low quality pics.

Last year: Alivenci (Polenta cream cake bars) (Moldavian and Romanian).
Two years ago: Mascarpone marbled brownies.
Three years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dulceață de gutui (Romanian quince jam) (vegan)

Da yum. Quince jam isn't really that well-known in the Western world, since quinces themselves are sort of an exotic fruit, but both the fruit and the confection couldn't be more at home in the Romanian traditional kitchens :). 
The great thing about the jam is that it's made with regular sugar and not pectin-enhanced sugar, since the fruit is already naturally rich in pectin and the jam jellies up with no artificial help. This is as good and natural as jam gets, people. And it's insanely flavorful. And it's also a key ingredient in some foods, like sauces (the Italian mostarda vicentina) or tarts (the Argentinian pasta frola). So get yourself some quinces and get canning. Enjoy.
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Chicken and pomegranate molasses stew (Middle Eastern-style).
Two years ago:Penne alla vodka (Italian-American).
Three years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gnocchi al Pesto (Italian)

Gnocchi are a type of soft potato-dough pasta or dumplings very loved in the Italian cuisine and Italian-influenced cuisines all over the world. The Italian immigrants often held on the gnocchi as a strong part of their "home" comforts and culinary identity, thus popularizing these little soft treats in whatever country they went to. 
A really delicious way of serving them is by slathering in rich freshly made pesto genovese (basil pesto). Easier to make than it seems. Enjoy.
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Pizza Margherita (Italian).
Two years ago: Pickled carrots in salt brine with honey and mustard (vegan).
Three years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

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