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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Huevos Rancheros (Mexican)

This is a classic Mexican dish of beans, feta cheese, lightly fried salsa and sunny-side-up eggs. You''l love it for breakfast, you'll love it any other time of the day as well. Tastes yummy and spicy and hearty while remaining reasonably light. 
The slightly weird color of the corn tortilla in the picture is due to the fact that I experimented with creating tortillas out of corn meal in lack of proper masa harina. The recipe still turned out great anyways, though I'd always recommend buying the tortillas ready-made if you can't find masa. 
You can serve this next to any refreshing, lime-infused drink, although Mojitos (with or without alcohol are always the best) :). Enjoy.

Corn tortillas without masa harina (experiment)

I needed Mexican corn tortillas for a recipe and, of course, I wanted to do it myself instead of just buying a pack from the supermarket. After researching it, I found that it calls for masa harina, which can only be found easily (without ordering it by mail) in Mexico and South USA. Since I'm very far from either of those regions, I wanted to attempt to do them with regular corn flour (corn meal). And well... that's precisely what this was. An attempt. I wouldn't say a completely failed attempt, but I would definitely recommend buying them ready made from your grocery store. 
The source of inspiration was this (very good instructions if you happen to get some masa!).
I'm just posting this as a cooking experience for any of you who might be tempted to try to achieve a corn tortilla without the special lime-treated Mexican flour called masa harina. Definitely edible, but not worth making.

Simple chocolate brownies with walnuts

Ready to assemble in 10 minutes or so and baked in 25. Very chocolate-y, rich, crumbly and occasionally crunchy from all the walnut bits they're filled with. You'll love them. 
For us, these are the typical comfort-sweet thing we can just make without to much fuss and then have around to dig into whenever the mood strikes for the nest 2-3 days. They keep quite well too - the third day they were still moist and crunchy and delicious and we honestly couldn't tell the difference from when they were freshly out of the oven. After three days we can't guarantee but what we can say is that they won't last that long ;)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pizza con pollo e mascarpone (Chicken and mascarpone pizza)

This is one of my favorite pizzas. I had it in many Italian restaurants, sometimes also with a topping of sweetcorn (which we skipped here), but mainly the chicken and mascarpone combination is what makes this pizza so good. A really really must try. 
Another nice little bonus this recipe has, besides the great taste, is that it's a great way to use up leftover chicken, but you need to make sure you use leg meat and not breast file. The leg meat will stay moist through oven-baking, while the breast will get dry and hard to chew, so trust us on this one. We pre-cooked a chicken leg for this recipe by placing it in a cup of red wine and herbs, seasoning with salt and pepper and frying it on medium heat, covered, for about 30 minutes (turning midway).  Anyway, feel free to use any baked, roasted or fried chicken leg meat you have available. 
Another must of this recipe is the fact that tomato sauce would really ruin it. So as much as you're accustomed to having your pizza crust topped with tomato sauce, restrain yourself for this one. The whole point is to enjoy the single sauciness of the creamy mascarpone. 
Other than that, it's not a pretentious recipe and you'll have it ready without too much fuss. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mushrooms, cheese and thyme crostini

Easy as walking to the fridge and taking out the ingredients. It's a lovely, yet simple, combination of flavors. Although we usually recommend using fresh ingredients, in this case canned mushrooms work best (they're moist and don't get too dried up in the oven). Try this snack whenever you feel like munching on something crispy and yummy. :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Zaansemosterdsoep (Mustard soup) (Dutch)

So far, this is our favorite soup. Hmm or maybe fighting for supremacy with the French onion soup but anyway - the maybe first, maybe second in our soup priority list :). 
Anyway, after tasting this soup no one should be able to say anything bad anymore about the cuisine of Holland, which used to be reputed for being kind of bland. No way. Taste this soup and reconsider :).

After drooling about it for days we finally gathered up the ingredients and time to make it - although, as you'll see, it doesn't require any fancy stuff nor does it take more than half an hour - and were thrilled. It tastes like pure delicate, sour-ish, creamy heaven. 
We recommended you to try it as soon as possible and to serve it with some freshly toasted buttered bread or home dry rustic-style crackers (like dried bruschetta snacks or such), as we did.
Adapted from Crazy mother cooker

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower and potato) with rice and raita (Indian)

The Aloo Gobi (meaning potato and cauliflower) is a classic Indian vegetarian main course. Very spicy and curried, with a little addition of peas, it tastes buttery and melted and lovely although it doesn't contain fat almost at all. It's best served with plain basmati rice (as bread) and a nice fresh raita, pictured above to the right. The raita is a typical Indian yogurt sauce that accompanies a lot of meals. You'll make everything quite easy enough, you'll see.
Adapted from Mark. I added more spices traditionally used in the Indian cuisine and modified the quantities a bit after researching the dish around the internet. Still, his version is the one ours resembles most, so we'll give him the proper credit. His site is full of other awesome stuff, by the way. Enjoy this lovely Indian dish with plain herbal tea and candlelight :).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Romanian Pasca (Easter cheese and egg cake) with raisins

The Pasca is such a staple in Romanian houses not a single Easter holiday goes by without having the two main desserts on the table, which are this and a good loaf of cozonac (here's an example of the original version of cozonac and the faster and easier version). In most of my years spent at home with my folks, I used to purposefully annoy my mom when she asked me, year-round, what I wanted for dessert. I would answer "Pasca" although I knew all too well it's something we do, traditionally, only on Easter and that there are plenty of other yummy desserts we could have. I would especially say that on Christmas just see her roll her eyes at me :)
Back to this wonderful dessert, you need to know that it's basically a pie dish filled with a combination of sweet cheese (but not cream cheese like in the New-York style cheesecake, it has to be slightly more chunky and crumbly, more like cottage fresh cheese) and fruits (usually raisins, but other dry fruit and nut combinations are practiced). It's not very sweet (the whole thing only has a few spoon of sugar, but it tastes sweet because of the delicate cheese and fruit mixture.
This is a very basic and easy version of the pasca, and while I didn't have access to the fresh cow milk cheese one is supposed to use for this, I improvised quite well and I can honestly say I couldn't feel much difference from the original in the end. Enjoy your Easter holiday and be sure to give this a try :).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Three cheese pasta with rucola, hazelnuts and sesame

Now I don't think there's anybody out there that's not a fan of cheese and pasta (or, in general of cheese and carbs) combinations. To create the cheesiest pasta dish :D I used a very special aged cheese, deeply flavored and a little spicy, some emmentaler, some sour cream as the vessel and topped it up by sprinkling grated Parmesan on top. For a hint of freshness, but also flavor depth, rucola (arugula) was added. For a little crunchy touch, the dish still needed sesame seeds and ground hazelnuts. The result was perfect. Really cheesy :D - with strong and different cheese flavors - a little fresh and crunchy at the same time. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rosemary baked potatoes with green garlic

We love rosemary potatoes. And this is one of our favorite ways to make them: baked and with no oil or fat whatsoever. The other method, which we'll present at a later time, calls for making more of a rosemary-olive oil marinade for the potatoes before cooking them. 
Both ways are great. So here's the first :).
A little advice: don't use more rosemary than the prescribed amounts. The stuff is great, but very powerful and it can ruin a dish if used in excess.

Fried turkey pieces with thyme, rosemary, green garlic and lemon

This tasted truly like a summer in a Mediterranean herb garden. The lovely green garlic which we can only find in the spring, with fresh thyme and rosemary and a good squeeze of lemon created a really flavorful crust. Quite fast to throw together. Delicious, you'll see. 
I think we're getting a little fix on turkey, duck and goose lately. But hey, can't hurt :).
To maintain the flavor range (which is odd, as we usually favor contrast), we served these with a lovely side-dish of rosemary baked potatoes with green garlic. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Simple black and white loaf cake (cozonăcel)

Easter is almost here and for us it's the first we have to spend away from home. Hopefully the last too. As consolation for this, we decided to go with tradition on almost every meal we'll have these days, which means, as far as sweets are concerned, Romanian pasca and cozonac (click the links if you want to see how we make some versions of the originals). 
Because we've already done a semi-sweet cozonac (linked above) at some point in the past and other activities kinda' press on our time, we decided to make this black and white loaf cake instead on cozonac. „Cozonăcel” means little cozonac :).
For people like us, a long way away from home where someone in the family makes these or you can buy them from staple cafeterias, for people who would like a taste of Eastern Europe Easter cake or a taste of home but are not that skilled in the kitchen or don't have enough time for the yeast-rising dough, this is the closest they'll get to it. Enjoy and have a Happy Easter, wherever you are.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quick fried banana breakfast (Kewra-flavored)

This here is a quick way to make a lovely fried banana breakfast or treat with a little rum, Kewra blossom water (or rosewater, or orange blossom water or whatever perfuming dessert flavoring of the kind you have), yogurt and almond flakes. It'll be ready in no-time and greatly flavored.
I personally love the Kewra blossom water (it's usually used in Indian desserts such as barfi) :)

Carrot, ginger and caramel marmalade

It's sweet, it tastes like caramel (with a touch of lightly burnt sugar), candied orange peel, soft sweet carrots and spicy ginger. It's ready quite fast too. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ricotta and black olives crostini

Yeah I know it looks like an intermediary picture. We were in such a hurry to dig into these crunchy crostini that we forgot to take the final picture. So what? :)
Adapted from Saveur (with more olives and stronger tangier lemon flavor). Enjoy.

P.S: For me these are a quick and lovely way to use up any leftover ricotta.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Creamy pasta with green onions, mushrooms and ham (very light)

A springy idea for creamy pasta with greens and a little ham and very much on the light side of meals ;). We really, really loved these. You will too because you'll make them very soon. If you know what's good for ya' (promising, not threatening tone :P).
Adapted from here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fruit skewers with molten chocolate

This is a lovely, fresh, healthy way to come up with something sweet in no time. Although it's so easy to make it looks impressive nonetheless so one more reason to try it as soon as you can.
Anyway, this is done with ingredients most likely present in almost any home - just some assorted fruits and a little piece of milk chocolate and white chocolate, for contrast :).
It was delicious.

Caramelized onion and green garlic pizza (with rucola)

Since you already know how much we adore caramelised onions, this pizza here was bound to happen sooner or later. And what better time than the lovely mid-spring outside? :)
Another lucky find and recent passion of ours (besides red onions and caramelized onions in general) is the green garlic (only available in spring), strong flavored and with a soft consistency that doesn't require any peeling :). 
So here's how we married them :D.
Also, we felt like the regular tomato sauce wouldn't really do it for this pizza, so we replaced it with the more delicate and flavorful pesto (just a thin smear) ;). Enjoy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Simplest veggie noodle soup (vegan)

This is one of those basic soup that don't require anything fancy and that are ready in no time. It's not spectacular, but with the right spices and a noodle nest it makes a soothing concoction to enjoy before a heartier meal.
Not to mention its major advantage that is ready in maximum 15 minutes. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tofu Parmigiana (Italian)

Finally a good way to serve your tofu in a way that actually makes it taste good :). 
I know it's said that it's healthy for you - except if the soy is GM and even if it's not it shouldn't be eaten too often because it totally screws your hormonal balance - but I've always found plain tofu rather... plain. Boring. Maybe the salted one would go if I was really, really hungry, but not even that one. Who wants to eat their salt doses for 3 days in one meal anyway :) ?
But the Tofu Parmigiana recipe does it for me. It's like domesticating the tofu (ha!) :).
A simple treat of breaded tofu shallow fried and then oven-baked with a bit of tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, oregano and olive oil until it gets browned and crispy on the outside and moist and soft on the inside.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Ratatouille from the movie Ratatouille :) (vegan)

Don't know 'bout you but I'm a big fan of zucchini and aubergine (easy to figure out if you're an old visitor-friend of our virtual kitchen). And, also, I find the idea of a animated furry mini-chef kinda sweet (yeah, my critical sense is getting tired, I know) so... from here to making the same ratatouille that was prescribed in an animated movie by a talking mouse (I must be losing it.. :D)... just a step :). 
As for the more general idea of a Ratatouille, the dish is typically French, Occitan (Provence) to be more precise and has a loooong history :)
I got a little inspired from various other attempts to recreate the dish, ranging from Good Food to the Smitten Kitchen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fennel and walnut ricotta-filled muffins

When I saw this recipe for ricotta-filled semi-sweet muffins with fennel flavor and roasted walnut topping I just had to try them. Of course, I twinkled it a bit every here and there. Took extra time to make compared to most other muffins, but the extra effort to roast and break up the fennel seeds and walnuts was worth it. 
A notable fact about them is that they're not your average sweet dessert, their sweetness is more like a hint... They're perfect to enjoy with jam or honey for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. 
Here goes nothing :).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Coffee marinated chicken

Yes, I know the concept sounds strange. Yet it's better than you think - the coffee taste is the main vessel that carries with it many other spices and flavors - and it's also deliciously fragrant. It smells like a well spiced chicken steak, but also of finely roasted golden pieces of coffee, freshly ground and basking in the sunlight. Really, it smells divine. 
Serve this on plain white rice for a lovely combination of flavors and textures. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chinese-style pork sesame balls

A mix of pork tenderloin, veggies and herbs, finely ground and generously covered in sesame seeds and then roasted, served with soy sauce and dark rice wine vinegar. Tastes like a crossbreed between Beijing Rice, spring rolls and roast pork strips (all from typical restaurant Chinese cuisine). 
Quite fun to make :)

Upside down banana cake with walnuts and raisins

This cake is studded with banana pieces glazed with honey (on top of the cake) and full of walnuts, raisins and more bananas (mashed, this time) in its fluffy center. Great as breakfast, served with plain yogurt or sour cream. 
Not complicated to make at all :), almost as easy as the regular loaf pan cake. Just a little extra work setting those banana pieces on the bottom but that's it. Yummy bits coming right up.
Inspired from the Good Food magazine, Romania issue, March 2011. And of course, inspired by the need to get rid of all those extra bananas riping in the fridge... :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Salmon Smørrebrød (Danish Sandwich)

Typically a Smørrebrød (literally bread and butter) is made with dark rye bread, unless the main topping is salmon, which traditionally calls for white bread. This is a lovely way to make an open sandwich with lots of salmon cured ham, cherry tomatoes and carrots (one of the main vegetables used in Scandinavian cuisine). 
Very, very easy. So easy I'm even wondering if I should post this as a recipe at all. But nonetheless delicious. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pasta peperonata (Bell pepper rigatoni) (Italian)

A traditional Italian recipe which we adapted from Jamie Oliver. Light, greatly flavored from all the peppers and Parmesan cheese, this is the stuff to feast upon with no regrets for either the time spent making them or the few calories gained by eating them. We followed the original directions for 4 servings and ended up finishing it... although we're just 2 :). The Stanley Kubrick films we were watching in the meantime, which aren't the most appetizing films out there :P didn't seem to affect our pasta-ravaging spree in any way :). You must make this as soon as possible.

Marinated pork chops with balsamico glaze

A very easy to make flavorful steak. Prepare the marinade and dip the meat the evening before making these, leave for at least 12 (if not 24 hours) in the fridge to soak up all the flavors and then gently fry it, adding some balsamic red vinegar at the end and creating a luscious glaze overall. 
The taste will be tangy and sourish and will require a less sour sidedish (or bread, rice, pasta whatever) but the combination will surely be spectacular. We've had it with Aloo Baingan (spicy but warm and sweet-ish). Enjoy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Aubergine and zucchini pizza

Although I'm not vegetarian, my favorite pizza in the whole world (and I've been around a few places) is the "Vegetarian pizza" from "Mamma Mia" bistro next to my Faculty in Bucharest. For years I've ate there almost everyday and most times that was the pizza on the menu, followed by a slice of one of their delicious cakes and tarts (sort of like in the movie Blueberry Nights). 
Can you imagine what it means for a picky spoiled brat like me to eat almost the same thing for lunch everyday? It means that pizza was darn good. 
This was an attempt to recreate the home taste away from home and folks, I believe I've succeeded and extra. This was really, really good (to me at least). The eggplant and zucchini baked flavors are spiced up with thyme, olive oil, caraway fruit and the overall crispiness. Give it a try.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Surimi noodle salad with asparagus

A lovely way to use crab sticks (fingers) in a noodle salad. Full of healthy proteins and fiber and fatty acids. The combination of tastes is very warm and tangy, while remaining light. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hazelnut and coffee chip cookies

Chocolate-chip cookies are old news. They should move over and make room for our new sensation - coffee chip cookies :D. For all the coffee lovers out there who like a bit of flavor tang in their sweets. These biscuit-shaped cookies are warm, with a slightly soft consistency in the middle while crunchy on the edges, with a lovely coffee flavor and hazelnut crunches.
The secret to achieving the coffee chips and the overall coffee flavor is to use instant coffee granules, that mixed through the dough will not dissolve, but remain somewhat whole. In addition, a tablespoon of liquid strong coffee is added to make the flavor spread beyond the coffee chips. You'll really enjoy this at breakfast or as a tea afternoon treat. 
Also, for cookies, these are quite light. Not the lightest possible, but not a scandalous treat either. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gougères (French cheese puffs) with caraway (cumin)

The airy and cheese-flavored French snack, here in a caraway-spiced version. Little golden spheres of pastry, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Not very complicated to make. Just try this classic French appetizer anytime you feel like a light cheesy crunchy snack to nibble.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chicken and broccoli stir-fry with oyster sauce

An easy stir-fry with chicken and broccoli glazed with oyster sauce and infused with ginger and roasted onion. A simple combination of light ingredients that will warm your plate and your mood :).

Egg, avocado and bacon breakfast spicy tartines

The ultimate breakfast treat or hearty snack to enjoy during the day. Scrambled spicy eggs are topping freshly made bread (or freshly toasted) covered in asian-infused mayo and half a crispy bacon slice and avocado pieces. Delicious and sunny and full of energy. Guaranteed to restore a smile in almost every circumstance ;).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Potato salad with pesto and mozzarella

Something easy to throw together and a nice way to use up any additional pesto you may have. Combining boiled potatoes with the delicious sauce and balancing with fresh cherry tomatoes, tangy capers and mozzarella cheese creates a wonderful combination of flavors. Flavors that remind one of Italy, of sun-bathed hills and of the lovely spring outside.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Linguine alla matriciana with zucchini

The pasta alla matriciana is a lovely Italian combination of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, herbs and bacon. Adding braised zucchini only makes it more springy. A lovely explosion of forms and tastes, spectacularly creamy considering its lightness. Enjoy.
We had it while watching Little Nicky - I had forgotten about it but it's so funny it should never get old :).
Recipe adapted from here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pickled red onions

Well, if you know us by now you probably noticed how much we love red onions. And pickling was bound to happen sooner or later, so here it is, folks. Ready in under 10 minutes, keeps the lovely red color, can be stored for months - enjoy!
After you finish eating the pickles you can use the remaining liquid as a replacement for plain vinegar in salads - it will be way more tangy and spicy than the regular.
Adapted from David Lebovitz.

Aloo Baingan (Indian) (vegan)

A delicate and spicy combination of potato (aloo) and eggplant - aubergine - (baingan). Typically it's served as a main vegetarian course, but can also be a lovely side dish. The two vegetables are slowly roasted until they're soft (but not fried in the Western sense) and imbibed with all the spices used in the beginning with the Chaunk technique. 
The Chaunk method requires the slow frying of spices in a little oil (or ghee - clarified butter) before starting to actually cook the main ingredients of the dish, to ensure the cooking fat is imbued with spices and that these condiments release their full flavor under heat before sticking to the food itself. It is very important to follow the specific steps in preparing a Chaunk, because the order in which the spices are fried is not arbitrary if you want to release the full flavor. That is why you should make sure you have them all prepared before heating the oil.
I have experimented with three different versions of the Aloo Baingan (here, here and here) and I believe I've come up with the perfect one. Not too spiced up to the point where you can't feel the taste of the actual food (or your tongue for that matter), but spiced enough to feel strongly Indian and curried. Fried enough so the veggies are not raw but golden and delicious, but also not too long, so the eggplant retains its creaminess and the overall flavor. The Chaunk combined with tomato paste added before the potato and eggplant coats the latter, so they become shrouded in a spicy film that slows the frying and allows the dish to come to flavor perfection. All in all, this will require a bit of time but the result will be greatly worth your while. Enjoy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Simple artichoke dip

A quick fix of artichokes, delicious and fresh and just waiting for you to dip tortilla chips or grisini or toasted baguettes in it. Enriched with Parmesan and mayonnaise and ready in no time.

Tortellini with white wine sauce and tofu (vegan)

This is an idea to use for that really special pack of pasta that you have and don't know what to do with it (in our case a lovely assortment of tri-colored tortellini). You know... that pack of pasta which is too good to need much adornment and which you feel it would be a shame to cover up with a thick sauce. 
All we used here is a wine and olive oil sauce, with a little red onion and garlic, slightly caramelized. Served next to some plain tofu spiked with salt and pepper. Feel free to skip the tofu, the pasta is very good without it too.

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