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Monday, March 30, 2015

Kisir (Bulgur wheat salad with tomatoes and pomegranate) (Turkish) (vegan)

A lovely, lovely salad / main course from the Turkish cuisine, popular especially as a street food, with lots of fresh goodies and herbs (mint and parsley) and a truly delicious overall feel. I fell in love with it after seeing it first at Mazi, and have made it many times since. You must try this at once. Enjoy :).

Last year: Orange and poppy seed cake with chocolate topping.
Two years ago: Red onion, garlic and olive Flammkuchen.
Three years ago: Cous cous and pomegranate spicy salad (vegan).
Four years ago: Caprese skewers (Italian)Pork, bell pepper, carrot and broccoli stir-fry (Chinese)Basic carrot cake bars (American) and White fish (pangasius) fillet in cream-wine sauce

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saenggangcha (Korean ginger tea) (vegan)

Brew your own ginger tea out of fresh ginger. A valuable lesson from the Korean cuisine is that this tea can ward off colds, fatigues and general mood drops anytime. (Anyway, I, for one, didn't really need any excuses to enjoy a tea I already loved in its packaged form in the first place.)
Recipe source: here.

Last year: Pajeon (Korean green onion pancakes).
Two years ago: Eggplant, pomegranate and chickpea cous cous (vegan).
Three years ago: Mechouia salad (roast vegetables and tuna) (Tunisian).
Four years ago: Zucchini and coconut muffinsMelanzane alla parmigiana (Italian) and Pancetta and artichoke pizza.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Walnut, coffee and mascarpone cupcakes

The creamiest dessert for all those who like individually-sized treats and are in love with coffee and walnuts in your sweets (as I am, of course). Also, they look cute, don't they? :) 

Yes, I'm kind of over the cupcake craze too, but I still can't resist their homey afternoon-ish charm when I stumble upon a recipe that suits my tastes so well. So give them a try :).
Recipe vaguely adapted from here.

Last year: Sweet potato spicy wedges with guacamole (Mexican and Tex-Mex).
Two years ago: Sticky banana and maple syrup cake bars.
Three years ago: Cheddar and leek muffins.
Four years ago: Asian white fish (pangasius) fillet with sesame noodlesRuladă de pui cu spanac (Romanian chicken and spinach roulade) and Green pasta and pesto souffle (gratin).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ful Medames (Stewed Fava Beans) (Egyptian and generally Middle Eastern)

Considered by many to be the national dish of Egypt, this quick meal of stewed and mashed favas with boiled egg wedges and brilliant seasonings is something you should really try at least once. Most of the time shortened to just "ful", the dish is a staple across many Middle Eastern countries and regions. :)
Recipe source: Saveur.

Last year: Strawberry and cream biscuits (scones).
Two years ago: Paprikás Csirke (Chicken Paprikash) (Hungarian).
Three years ago: Mini Nutella and walnut pies.
Four years ago: Caribbean romance (cocktail)Mousse au chocolat (French chocolate mousse) and Carrot bread (with walnuts).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bacon Panzanella (bread and tomato salad)

A nice spin on the classic tomato and bread Italian salad, Panzanella. If I start thinking about ways in which that oh-so-wonderful invention could be made better, there are plenty of paths to take, but bacon has to be the first choice. It just has to. Sure, asparagus and egg, or green beans and capers are all great things to try, but if it's a deep autumn chili evening and all you crave is comfort food, bacon is the way to go. 
So if you haven't tried bacon Panzanella so far, now's the time. Go. 

Last year: Irish nettle soup.
Two years ago: Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes and greens).
Three years ago: Turkey pieces in emmentaler sauce.
Four years ago: Orange caramel pastry windmillsParmesan cream potatoes and Vegetarian chili tacos with avocado salsa (Mexican).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Panzanella (Italian bread salad) (vegan)

The ultimate savory treat to have in summer, a Panzanella is more than a salad, but not quite lunch, a delicate combination of tomatoes, plenty of good olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, cucumbers and crusty bread to soak up all the juices. Simple and delicious and perfect for summer, the Italian way. 
There are plenty of spin-offs being made and enjoyed on the classic combo, but first you must try and love the basic version before we can move on to more complicated or composite panzanellas. Enjoy :)
Recipe source: many, an example here

Last year: Red beans and rice (Creole Louisiana version).
Two years ago: Smoked trout, fennel, apple and beet salad.
Three years ago: Garlic soup with chorizo and mustard (Czech).
Four years ago: Cream liquor cocktailGreen apple and peanut butter muffins and Brie, walnut and caraway salad.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vodka lavender chai (vegan)

There's something really special about all chai drinks (spiced tea drinks), but when you also add alcohol, the result is better than any regular cocktail you might get. This specific combination here also features the delicate flavor of lavender flowers, for a hypnotic-like effect. Cheers to floral chai cups with a bit of alcoholic spice!

Last year: Spanakopita triangles (Greek-style).
Two years ago: Dill and cottage cheese bread.
Three years ago: Fondant pan potatoes (French style).
Four years ago: Pricomigdale (Romanian walnut biscuits)Salata z Boczkiem (Polish wilted lettuce salad with bacon vinaigrette) and Smoked salmon and cucumber starters.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sprouts, bacon and almonds

Another delicious way to prepare Brussels sprouts so they're not as boring as they're rumored to be. It works perfectly as a side, but also on its own. (Anything with bacon is good enough to be served on its own, right?)
Recipe adapted from here.

Last year: Mohnstrudel (Poppy seed strudel) (German).
Two years ago: Tomato soup with mini mozzarella and chili.
Three years ago: Simple coconut brownies.
Four years ago: Smoked salmon salad with egg, rucola and avocadoOrange bread with chocolate swirl filling (Romanian cozonac, low sugar version)Wild and red rice with bell pepper and almonds

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Creier pane (Breaded pork brain) (Romanian)

One of the less known delicacies of the Romanian cuisine, this dish consists of delicate lobes of pork brain, cooked until just done (by boiling or steaming), then dipped in beaten egg and breadcrumbs and fried until crispy and golden. To many foreigners, it might sound unusual or plainly disgusting, but you don't know what you're missing, so give it a chance. If you manage to find pork brains at a meat store or in a delicacy shop, don't hesitate to get it - the dish is very easy to prepare at home. It would work also with calf brain, but pork is the staple.

Sometime in spring 2014, I was the field guide for two Norwegian researchers and we had a wonderful time doing some field research in villages around the Jiu county :). I remember my time with them in that research fondly. Well, since I was being one of the two guides, recommending food was also part of the ritual, and this dish was one of the most "adventurous" options I encouraged them to try from a local restaurant's menu. One of them built up the courage to try it and was pleasantly surprised. The thing most noticeable about it is the texture: the brain matter is so fine to the taste and its mouth-feel is so soft, it will compare to few things you've ever tasted. Give it a try. 

Last year: Kelewele (Spicy fried plantains) (Ghanaian).
Two years ago: Sfințișori moldovenești (Mucenici) (Moldavian/Romanian).
Three years ago: Simple coconut brownies.
Four years ago: Italian sunset (cocktail)Amaretto (almond liquor) cupcakes and Chicken and avocado salad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Supă cu găluște (Semolina dumpling soup) (Romanian)

This is one of the most common soups in Romanian kitchens, and most of my childhood it was my absolute favorite thing from my mom's food rotations. 
Large pieces of chicken and vegetables are boiled in a broth for an hour or so until the liquid becomes very flavorful, and then the solids are removed and reserved for another use (in our home, the chicken pieces would then get fried in a pan and the result was much more flavorful then a simple fried chicken that skipped the veggie soaking; and the vegetables - mainly parsley root and parsnip and carrots - would get mashed with a little butter and served as a side for the fried chicken pieces). With only the clear soup remaining on the stove, large semolina-based dumplings are then added and softly boiled until just right. It's served hot and if you try it, it will be the best thing you've ever eaten. 
Making the dumplings can be a bit tricky - if the dough is too hard, the dumplings will be hard and chewy and not very good, but if you make it too soft they will disintegrate and form a mushy mass throughout the whole soup. It will still be tastier than the hard dumplings you would get in the first case, but definitely not too pretty. Luckily, you don't need to fret about getting it right, since you have my mom's recipe now :). 

P.S: A regular large deep plate of soup usually contains 4-5 large dumplings, but in the picture above there's only one because I used a small(er) bowl as a serving dish. I usually enjoyed adding croutons to the soup bowl after finishing the dumplings and my mom joked about it being my milk-and-cereal dish, since it tended to be a staple of mine. 

Last year: Ghanaian tomato and peanut soup (vegan).
Two years ago: Espresso and walnut iced brownies.
Three years ago: Simple coconut brownies.
Four years ago: Amaretto colada (cocktail)Easy home-made Raclette (French-Swiss) and Pasta with spicy mascarpone sauce, mushrooms and artichokes.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Coconut almond chia seed pudding (vegan)

Are you wondering how to include more chia seeds into your diet? I did too, and found this easy and delicious solution (great for convincing my kid to have some as well). You can make it an evening before having it for breakfast and just let the seeds soak overnight in the fridge, or you can make it 10 minutes before serving it directly, however you want it :).

Recipe vaguely adapted from here.

Last year: Camembert and caper Flammkuchen.
Two years ago: Artichoke crostini.
Three years ago: Sweet potato, wild mushroom and guacamole wraps.
Four years ago: Orange jam&liquor Linzer torte (Austrian/German and Hungarian)Goat cheese salad with paprika dressing and Easy chicken tacos with guacamole.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Za'atar latkes (Jewish)

Za'atar is frankly one of my favorite things to put on (and in) latkes, and the taste match is balanced and perfect. If you usually have your latkes with a dollop of cream, rest assured that the za'atar and the cream aren't mutually exclusive and you can actually serve these with cream too.
Whenever you have a batch of latkes just waiting to be adorned with various toppings, do give this one a try, its spicy in a subtle way, delicious, and most importantly, it's fit for a Jewish cuisine-themed get together, because the topping doesn't stray outside of the area's specificity. 
Also, my suggestion would be to not simply decorate existing latkes with this spice, but to go full in and add the spice to the latkes mix before frying them. This flavor shouldn't be simply in latkes only as a back-up idea for when you'd like an extra variety of toppings; give the za'atar a more mainstream role and you'll love the result. :)

Recipe source: here (the source only mentions putting the spice in the latkes, but I really wanted to add more on top as well, so bear that in mind if you're looking for super-authenticity). :)

Last year: Fluffy American pancakes (basic recipe).
Two years ago: Mexican hot chocolate.
Three years ago: Three cheese pasta with bell peppers and cranberries.
Four years ago: Blue skies cocktail (Blue curacao milk)Fastest home-made crackers (Romanian sărățele) and Oeufs Cocotte (French baked eggs).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Latkes (Jewish potato pancakes)

The most well-known dish of the Jewish cuisine and perhaps the one which has seeped into the food of other peoples the most. The history of latkes is rich and fascinating, and while I won't recount it here for lack of space and time, it's enough to say that making them central to Jewish cuisine and culture would be somewhat of an understatement. 
While everyone knows its Jewish origins, it's hard to encounter a latke-free celebration in today's USA even in completely Gentile gatherings. Of course, the delicious character of these bite-sized appetizers probably contributed to this as well: if just one dish had to be chosen from any food culture, the latkes would be the most difficult to resist from the Jewish cuisine. What's there not to love about potato based fried finger-food, right?
What sets latkes (also called potato pancakes) apart from any other potato appetizers or fried potato snacks is their special texture. The type of texture you can achieve only by grating raw potatoes into long and thin strips before mixing them with other ingredients and finally frying them to perfection. Many European peoples have their own versions of potato pancakes (such as the Czech bramboraki), but none really compare to the latkes, especially when you make them the base of various delicious toppings. 

Recipe sources: Saveur, Smitten Kitchen and Bobby Flay (to name only the most prominent ones; I researched and tried the recipe extensively until I mastered it). :D

Last year: Grilled Romaine salad with honey-mustard dressing.
Two years ago: Spaghetti aglia e olio e peperoncino (Italian) (vegan).
Three years ago: Mini chicken skewers (oven-baked) with satay sauce (Indonesian).
Four years ago: Peanut butter hot chocolate milkChicken with peanut butter sauce (Thai) and Pigs in a blanket (British).

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