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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Goat-Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Because we absolutely loved our first time eating blossoms, we had to try it again as soon as we could.

I love this time of the year, the vegetables are getting better and better, their prices are dropping, and you can find really good produce in the farmer markets. One of the most abundant vegetables out there is the humble zucchini, that you can get for ridiculous low prices right now. 

Unfortunately, using this vegetable on an everyday scale isn’t really an option, so to spice things up, we also like to cook its blossoms. We showed earlier a ricotta cheese recipe, and we decided to make a goat cheese version, a recipe with a little bit more personality.

So, for 7 flowers, we used:

200 g of goat cheese (use a soft one, that you can work into a paste), 
2 green onions, 
2 tbs of chopped fennel leaves, 
1tsp nutmeg, 
1 chilli
flour and sparkling water for the batter

First and foremost, prepare the blossoms by (gently) removing each one’s pestle, which tastes terrible. No, really, they should have an emoticon for that, it is one of the most bitter things we’ve ever tasted. Oh, and check for ants, they tend to roam inside the flowers as well (or don’t, think of them as extra crunch J). 

Mix, the cheese, finely sliced onions, the chilli, fennel and nutmeg and fill the flowers, making sure the composition is well sealed inside. 

For the batter, you need to create a mix that has a slightly thicker density that a pancake one. Dip the filled blossoms in the batter, making sure they are well covered, then fry them in hot vegetable oil until they get a light brown color. 

For an extra visual effect, make sure you don’t cover the flowers with too much batter, so, when fried, the blossom will retain some of its original color (otherwise all you’ll see will be fried batter). 

Feel free to sprinkle some lemon juice on the flowers or any type of tangy vinaigrette that can bring some balance.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Express Post: These Are The Good Days

Family time...cherry picking...simple cooking...reminiscing...daydreaming...fresh air...perfect days!

Cherries at their best

Carp on the Grill

Amazing spicy sausages

"Poale-n brau". Sort of a fried pie with sweet cheese filling. Yum.

Colourful flowers

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Drinks: Special Ice Cubes for Cold Milk/ Coffee/ Chocolate Drinks

These little cold things are meant to impress your guest, to add more style to your drinks while also chilling them, which makes them perfect for summer.

Yesterday I tried 3 versions perfect for milk or coffee based drinks and also found out how difficult it is to take pictures of ice cubes without them melting instantly :

  1. For the first one, I just prepared a hot chocolate, let it cool down and filled 3/4 of the ice cube tray, the added some marshmallow pieces. Needless to say that this will go perfectly with "hot chocolate" but also with milk if you just want to give it a subtle sweet flavour.
  2. For the second one I just pourred cold milk until I reached half of  the tray, froze it until it sets then added chocolate or cocoa milk on top then froze it again. This creates a simple, but good-looking pattern. Also, my ice tray it is not actually for cubes litterary, because the bottom is not flat. But with a normal square bottom this method will be even more effective.
  3. The last one, the chocolate chip ice cube might be a great surpirse for your guests or kids, because when it melts in your drink, you get a chocolate chip. Who doesn't love chocolate chips? Just pour some milk, sweetened or unsweetened, then add a chocolate chip on top on each cube.
Making this was a lot of fun, I think they look great and there are many more possibilities. I hope will cool you off this  summer!

Mrs. G.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fried Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

My parents went to my granny's house this weekend and brought us some zuchini blossoms. To me honest it is the first time we tried preparing these, although we wanted to do it for a long time.

We chose a fresh recipe, one that will also be simple, just for us to understand the taste and the possibilities of these blossoms.

We had six blossoms with the tiny zucchinis attached. First, although we were quite scared of how delicate they seemed, we took out the pestles from each flower,  and washed them.

The filling:

200-250 g Ricotta cheese
1/2 bunch of mint
30 g Parmesan
chopped dry chipotle to taste
salt and pepper
Just mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

Because we used Ricotta the filling turned out pretty soft, so we found that the best way to fill the blossoms was with some baking sheet rolled into a piping bag with the end cut off. Of course, you could use a piping bag or even a teaspoon if you are the handy kind.

In order to fry them we used a simple batter made of 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of sparkling water. You can always add more water  or flour if necessary. The point is that the batter should be thick enough to stick to your finger when you dip it in, but thin enough to drip slowly.

After dipping them in the batter, fry them in vegetable oil until they turn golden and crispy, about 3 minutes on each side. We served them with lemon juice on top, this dish could go with a sour note, so you could prepare a vinaigrette or a salsa.

This was a really nice suprise, we must say. The filling was very fresh and light and the blossoms are definitely a seasonal ingredient that we will look for from now on.

Oh...and the tiny zucchinis attached to them were exceptional. Now, that is something worth mentioning.

Mrs. G.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Beef Burgers, Corn on the Cob and Spicy Broccoli Salad

… or how to smoke your neighbors out of their apartments and into yours…. Or how I discovered I need a new grill.

Good news everyone! (welcome back Futurama) We cooked again and it was delicious, and with a very nice feedback from our neighbors that, despite the smoke, asked us what we were cooking. This recipe feels like it should be cooked outside, but we managed to pull together nicely (sort of) with our trusty, old grill.

For the burgers: 
500 grams of minced beef meat, 
1 large egg, 
1 tbs of chopped fresh thyme, 
salt, pepper, 
spicy smoked paprika, 
1 tbs of mustard, 
4 tbs of bread crumbs. 

Mix all the ingredients together by hand, until they are all evenly distributed. Next, make some golf sized balls of the meat, that you flat into patties of about 2 cm thickness. Put them on a plate, sprinkle with olive oil and put in the fridge (this helps the ingredients bind). Cook the burgers of a very hot grill, medium heat, for 4-5 minutes on each side.

For the corn, drum roll please: you put it on a very hot grill and turn it when it starts to get some nice charred marks. For the corn, I mixed up some butter with some dried chipotle flakes, salt and dried garlic powder and topped the cob with this mix. 

The spicy kick and the also slightly sweet and smoky texture of the chilli went really well with the charred corn and the garlic taste, definitely something I will cook again.

For the salad: 
200 grams of broccoli flowers, 
200 grams of green beans (I used both yellow and green), 
half of a large, ripe tomato, 
lemon juice, 
olive oil, 
salt, pepper, 
dried chipotle flakes (or a fresh medium hot red chilli, finely diced), 
2-3 garlic cloves. 

Creating this may require some timing so, try and get everything to the finish line in about the same time. Boil the beans in salted water until they are just al dente, max 15 minutes, it takes considerably less if the beans are freshly picked or very young; remove from the water and set aside. 

For the broccoli, boil them in the green bean water for 2 minutes, leave them to dry out a bit, the coat them with oil and chipotle flakes and grill the broccoli flowers on the super hot grill until you get some nice marks. Cut the garlic into fine slices and fry them for 30 seconds in hot olive oil, quickly remove from the oil, the garlic will continue to cook even then and you want to make sure you get some nice (tiny) golden garlic chips. Cut the tomato, put the broccoli, beans and garlic on top and sprinkle some chopped sour weed (sheep's sorrel, red sorrel, field sorrel), after which pour some lemon juice and olive oil on the salad (don’t forget the salt and pepper and the red chilli, if you’re using that). 

The heat from the beans and broccoli will almost melt a very ripe tomato and sourness of the sorrel will bring a very nice kick to the dish.

Plate everything and grab yourself a nice, cold beer, you deserve it. After all you’ve made the neighbours notice you, and that can only be good…. Right?

Take care,
Mr. G.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Express Post: The Thrill to Grill

There is something about warmer weekends that sparks in us the mood for outdoor cooking. After several rainy weeks we can now think about barbecues and careless cooking, whether it is all about skewers, kebabs, burgers or just fish, vegetables or some simple corn on the cob.

The possibilities seem endless, but what is there to do in an apartment? :))

Mrs. G.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Silk Handkerchiefs Pasta with Pesto Genovese

There are moments when I am deciding what to cook when I feel like I have to do something incredibly traditional, something extremely old-school, and when I get it right, for me, it’s an incredible accomplishment. 

This recipe is truly without the shadow of a doubt one of the great classics and, although this type of pasta may not be used on a big scale such as spaghetti or tagliatelle, it has an incredible elegance and beauty to it.

If you want to try this, I beg of you, do it all yourself: the pasta, the pesto, create it from scratch, don’t cut any corners by buying lasagna strips of pasta or canned pesto, trust me, the result will be worth it.

For the pasta, I used 250 grams of type 000 flour (for reasons beyond my understanding the 00 type has gone missing from stores) 1 egg and 2 yolks. The process of working the dough is the same as before, the difference being that the resulting dough will be more compact, robust and with a silkier feel (and also, more yellow). 

Be careful though, the pasta can be rather heavy on the stomach, so be prepared with some good, chilled Soave Clasico. You want to roll your dough until it is thin enough to be blown of the table. Just try and blow under the pasta sheet to see if it lifts; if so, that’s the thickness you need (in case you’re using a pasta machine, roll it up until the 9 mark). Take your pasta sheet and just break it into tiny squares, in a handkerchief like shape (or just cut it like that, breaking it is more fun), and boil it in salted water for 2-3 minutes, that’s all it takes.

For the pesto: 90 grams of basil leaves, 30 grams of pine nuts (toasted), 1 garlic clove, 70 grams of grated Parmiggiano, salt and good quality olive oil (I used the unfiltered kind for my pesto). Put the washed and dried basil leaves (be careful with them when washing, make sure you let them dry and not try and force the leaves, they lose their flavor like that) in a large enough mortar and start crushing them with a circular move with  a pestle, for 1 minute. Add the garlic and pine nuts and keep crushing them with the pestle until the garlic is nice and mashed in the pesto.

After this, add the cheese and crush some more, adding olive oil in the end to bring everything together. The amount of olive oil used should be enough to bind the ingredients and not take over the basil or be in such a quantity that the pesto is submerged in it. 

Regarding the salt, you can go 2 ways: use some coarse salt when adding the garlic, it will help you crush the ingredients better, or, if you’re scared you’re going to go overboard because of the cheese being also salty, wait until the end and added it there. 

So, a superb classic Italian that, for me at least, brought a very nice feeling of accomplishment when completed, hope it does the same for you.

Have a great weekend,
Mr. G.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lemon Drizzle Cake

If you're ready for something sweet but also sour, buttery and moist, this recipe is perfect. It makes a great breakfast, you can serve it in the afternoon with tea or better yet, spoil yourself with a decadent dessert if you add it some cream and/or berries.

For one loaf you will need:
Recipe from the book "Carte regala de bucate"- Principesa Margareta a Romaniei
225g room temperature butter
225g sugar
225 all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2-3 tbsp poppy seeds

For the syrup:
2 lemons juiced
100 ml water
200 g sugar

  • With a hand mixer mix the sugar and butter until you get a white cream. 
  • Add the eggs one by one and keep mixing.
  • In a different bowl, mix the dry ingredients, the flour with the baking powder and the poppy seeds.
  • Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones.
  • Pop it in the heated oven in a bread tin and let it cook for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • While the cake cooks you should prepare the sauce. 
  • In a small sauce pan mix the water, sugar and lemon juice and simmer it for 10 minutes
  • As soon as you take the cake out of the oven pierce the whole top with a fork and pour the hot sauce on it.
  • The cake will absorb the syrup and it's gonna go from great to amazing in a couple of minutes.
  • Let it cool in the tray before cutting it.
Extra: If you like lemon zest, you can add the zest from 1 lemon in the cake dough after you add the eggs.

Mrs. G.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beef Strips with Worchester Sauce Coating and Oven Baked Vegetables

Talk about a long title. Nonetheless, it was the only (reasonable) title that I could think of without sounding silly (not that is a genuine concern of mine). Again, this dish is one that represents one of my core beliefs about cooking: versatility. This meat you can cook and use for salads, serving as steaks, sandwiches or wraps and it’s super easy to make (you can also cook it in advance and store it for a day or two), and the vegetables make it justice with a simple saffron yogurt dressing (oh, yeah, the title could have been longer).

So, the meat, use a 3-4 cm thick piece of beef, that would be nice to be flat and even. Season your meat with some pepper, toss it in your dried herbs of choice (you can use rosemary, thyme, parsley, coriander, tarragon) and pop it in a preheated pan with 2 tbs of olive oil. The reason for using a less thick piece of meat is because we are gonna turn it once every minute or so for about 5 minutes, so we kinda make sure that the heat stays in all the time and it doesn’t dissipate through the meat. 

So, on high heat, meat in, turn it every minute for 5-6 minutes, depending on your desired taste and meat size and then add a generous amount of Worchester sauce (4-5 tbs). The thing is the sauce will caramelize very fast, and you need to make sure you coat the meat with it on both sides. After that, take the meat out and let it rest. 

For the veggies, it’s a matter of choice, I went with carrots, courgette (both diced), onion (sliced in rings), and I also used 3 garlic heads (I used a sort of baby garlic, not that it was small in size, but it was very young, without all of layers formed, it has a much sweeter taste with a bit of a green, grassy take). Mix everything (except the garlic) with some olive oil, salt and pepper and put them (including the garlic) in an oven, on high heat, for 20-25 minutes, after which you just have to put the veggies on a plate and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top. 

For the sauce, heat a up a tiny amount of water (couple of tbs), put in a pinch of saffron and let it infuse for 3-4 minutes. Then, in a pestle squish and bash with a mortar the contents of a baked garlic head (you’ll have a sort of a baked garlic puree, one of the most delicious things ever discovered), then put in the saffron infusion (condiments included), 1tbs olive oil, 150 grams of yogurt (I used the greek type, with 10% fat) and mix everything into a beautiful dressing for the meat.

And, hey, if you don’t feel like sitting at the table for this dish, then don’t: just grab yourselves a tortilla wrap, put the meat, veggies and sauce in and take it on the go, either way, it’s delicious. 

Mr. G.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Farfalle with Bacon, Peas and Ricotta

You may recognize this recipe as it was shown by Gordon Ramsay in one of his shows and, after trying it myself, I have to say it’s a very nice, very easy pasta dish that you can cook up with minimum effort. 

  • For 250-300 grams of farfalle (3 portions) I used 
  • 300 grams of bacon (go for pancetta if you have it, I used bacon because, in my opinion, this dish is about great results with minimum fuss)
  • 175-200 grams of peas
  • 150 grams ricotta
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 75 grams cream
  • salt
  • pepper 
  • olive oil

Cut your bacon into cubes and drop them in preheated pan for about 5 minutes, until they get a golden brown color. 
Add the finely chopped garlic and cook for another minute. 
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to the package instructions and, with 4 minutes before them being done put the peas in the water (I used canned peas that proved quite easy to cook). 
Drain your pasta-peas mix (keep a couple of tbs of cooking water just in case) and drop it on the bacon-garlic combo, then put in the cream and mix until everything starts simmering. 
Cook this whole combo to thicken it up (or add cooking water if you think it’s too thick), serve it on a plate and add small portions of the ricotta on the pasta. 
Drizzle some olive oil on top, mix in the cheese and enjoy. 

I’m not really sure if this was exactly the way Ramsay did the recipe (am I allowed to say his name on the internet? I feel like he knows… Chuck Norris style….), but you can always try and mix it up (try some sage or parsley, maybe some pine nuts). 

In all, one great easy recipe for a relaxing afternoon. Good job Mr. Ramsay! (I feel the sudden urge to shut down my computer and pull the internet cable out……)

See ya next time,
Mr. G

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strawberry Crumble

Apparently this year was a great one for strawberries, growers obtained both quality and quantity and the markets were full with these flavorsome fruits. Thing is, when I can find something in abundance, I tend to forget about making dishes that require those/that ingredient(s). 

This was the case with this crumble, that was planned for a couple of weeks, but always postponed on the consideration that the strawberries aren’t going anywhere. 

Unfortunately, they did and I could only get my hands on some berries that were not quite ripe, but packed enough flavor for this desert. I’m not much of a dessert man, if you don’t count melting sugar and spreading honey on a piece of bread, this is only my second dessert recipe (the first one being this).

I saw this being done by Nigella Lawson and I thought this is way too simple not to give it a go. Ingredients wise: about 500 grams of strawberries (cleaned and cut in half – only if you want to, depends on their size), 200 grams of almonds (50 grams diced with a kitchen knife and the other 150 grams grinded to a flour-like consistency), 75-100 grams of caster sugar (you can add more if you feel the fruit needs it), 50 grams of muscovado, 75 grams of butter, 130 grams of flour, vanilla extract, 1 tsp baking powder.

I used 2 ceramic dishes for this recipe, you can go for a tray, but I liked the look on the crumble and it was nice to have separate portions. So, put the fruit in your oven proof dish, sprinkle the caster sugar, vanilla and crumbled almonds on top, give it a bit of a whack to make sure the ingredients are even spread. Now, mix your cold butter with the flour and baking powder, using the tip of your fingers to create something that looks like oatmeal cereals. Put that on top of the strawberries, and try to seal in the margins. Mix the almond flour with the muscovado sugar and sprinkle that on top. 

Pop that in the oven until it turns to a golden color in the center and on the edges the strawberries begin to bubble. We served this with some whipped cream and it was delicious. Now, there could be some changes to the original recipe and I think I’m gonna try doing this next time with a little kick form some balsamic vinegar, see how it goes. 

Mr. G

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jamon Serrano Covered Turkey Roulade

I’m not a fan of cooking roulades, rolls or whatever you wanna call them. But I have to admit that they look nice on a plate and they give the possibility of pairing some interesting options as filling. In this case, I chose turkey meat because it is basically flavorless and thus, great for choosing strong spices or other ingredients to improve the dish. So the ingredients: about 400 grams of turkey meat, 4-5 mushrooms finely sliced (I used champignon), 1 medium onion, finely diced, 3-4 cloves garlic, 200 grams bacon, asparagus, jamon slices for covering the meat rolls, I used about 100 grams, thyme, olive oil, salt pepper.

So, about the turkey, I had an almost square piece of breast meat, that I cut in 2. For each piece, I cut it in the middle, but not all the way through (think it like it’s a book), then I tenderized the meat (to be read: beat it with a meat hammer which is also to be read rolling pin), reducing its thickness and creating 2 sheets of meat. 

For the filling, I diced the bacon, fried for 6-7 minutes on high heat, then added the onion, mushrooms and garlic, salt (taste your bacon, it may not be necessary) and pepper.

Cook this until the mushrooms have lost almost all their water (10-15 minutes). This is important because, otherwise, the water will come out of the roulade and flood the tray you’re cooking it in (or you can just cook the roll on a grill on top of the tray). Bacon wise, I diced the meat into medium chunks, you can try with a smaller size, it should give you a crispier outcome.

Before putting the filling in, I used the mortar and pestle to mash a couple tbs of thyme leaves into a paste to which I added some olive oil, and I rubbed the inside of the turkey meat with the resulting paste. After that, I put some filling on the meat (leave it to cool before this, it will make handling it a lot easier), and, in the middle, an asparagus spear that has decorative value when you slice the roll (I used the white type, green works better me thinks). Roll your turkey meat, and the cover it with some thin jamon slices (you could use prosciutto, pancetta, spek, or any other cured ham smoked or not) all the way around.

 Put this in the oven for 30- 40 minutes on high heat, and leave it to cool for 10 minutes when getting it out.
 We served it with tabbouleh, as shown in the previous post you can enjoy here

Have a great day,
Mr. G.
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