Monday, December 27, 2010

Feta cheese omelet


I have to admit, I was not blogging too much lately. But I just came back to Greece few days ago and I was meeting with friends, picking up and dropping off people at the airport and of course...shopping! So, I really did not have time. Sorry for that! The truth is that I did not have time for cooking either. But I felt a bit guilty, so I went through old pictures and found out a picture of a fried double egg that I have on the head of this blog. Also, Arturinho was asking for this recipe from the beginning of my blog, so here it comes.

INGREDIENTS:
(for each omelet)

2 eggs

50gr Feta cheese, mashed
1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 small clove garlic, minced

3 slices smoked ham

1 small tomato

60gr mozzarella cheese, cut in 6 pieces

6 fresh basil leaves

some butter for frying

ground black pepper to taste
egg ring of any shape (optional)

1. Separate egg whites from yolks.

2. In a small bowl mix the egg whites, Feta cheese, onion and garlic. Spice with some black pepper. Don't add any salt as Feta is already salty enough.

3. In a pan with non-stick surface melt some butter. Place an egg ring (if using) in the middle and pour inside the cheese mix. Place the two egg yolks on top of the omelet. Close the lid, lower the heat and let the eggs cook until the whites are firm and cooked through.

4. On a plate arrange the ham. Place the omelet on top.

5. Cut the tomato in 6 pieces. In each basil leaf place a piece of mozzarella and a piece of tomato. Arrange them around the omelet and it's ready to eat.


Really nice way to wake up your beloved once in the morning! ;)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Apple pie


Apple pie was the first thing I ever baked all by myself. I was something around 11 I think. Before that I helped my mom bake many cookies and pies and cakes and...

My mom has this "cooking book" which is pretty much an agenda which my grandma filled with her recipes when my mom got married. Horrible, doctor's handwriting, sometimes impossible to understand, sometimes you guess. But one thing I know for sure. Whatever is in there, is tested and is SUPER good! So when we were baking the apple pie together with my mom I remembered on which "date" of the agenda it was and few weeks later decided to surprise her when she would come back from work. Once I was home after school I started it. I accidentally doubled the amount of the baking powder that I was supposed to add and that affected the taste a bit, but it was still eatable. Also it was a bit of a struggle to turn on the soviet oven. But finally it turned out fine. Not great, but for the first attempt not bad at all.

Since then I've made many different apple pies but this one always remains my all time favorite. Now I remember all the ingredients and amounts by heart and it really takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare it (plus baking of course).

INGREDIENTS:


4 eggs

300gr white sugar
350-370gr white flour

2 pinches baking powder

2 tbsp white vinegar

3-4 apples, preferably sour

2 handfuls black raisins (optional)

2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)


1. Beat the eggs with the sugar, until light and creamy and the sugar has dissolved.

2. Mix in the flour and half of the cinnamon.

3. Add the baking powder and the vinegar. Mixing them causes a chemical reaction, which releases air bubbles. Try to mix the pastry in such a way, so that you capture those bubbles inside. They will make the pastry grow in the oven. Set the mixture aside for about 5 minutes.
4. Lay a deep baking tray with foil or oiled baking paper. Slice the apples (don't remove the skin) and lay them at the bottom of the tray. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Throw the raisins on top.
5. Preheat the oven. Bake the pie for about 30-40 minutes or until you can stick a match in it and it comes out clean.

6. Let the pie cool and serve it with some sliced apples and whipped cream.

It's amazing and it's also a good solution when sudden guests are coming over. ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Glühwein


I couple of days ago an Austrian friend of mine wrote on Facebook: "Revenues, Transaction fees, annualized ROIs, NPVs, EPS, Discount rates, Balance Sheets, CF statements, Income statements, EBIT, EBITDA ........ I need a Glühwein!". Last year this same guy made the best ever Glühwein for our little Halloween party. So while reading his geeky status I figured that I'd looooove to have some myself. So I required a recipe and made it the next day with some leftover wine that I had. Much easier then I thought. It reminds me of warm Sangria actually, but without any juice added.

INGREDIENTS:

1 bottle (cheap) red wine

1 cinnamon stick

5-10 cloves
3-5 tbsp sugar (depending on if you prefer it sweet)
1 orange, sliced


1. In a large pot place all the spices and orange and add about 1 cup of wine. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and continue cooking until the sugar dissolves completely and the spices release their aromas.


2. Add the rest of the wine and cook for just as long as it's necessary to warm it up. Adjust the amount of sugar to taste. Serve with a slice of orange in the cup.

The original recipe did not require 2 steps, but rather mixing everything in a pot and cooking together. I did it in two steps in order to avoid boiling the wine for too long. This prevents the alcohol from evaporating, making the final drink stronger ;) Of course you could just follow the original recipe.

It's probably the most Christmasy drink that exists! It's so sweet and worm and it always reminds me of Christmas markets. Now that I'm going back home, I'm going to make it again and enjoy it the proper way, in front of a fireplace! And while the wine is cooking all the house smells cinnamon. Amazing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mushroom soup




I may have mentioned that I grew up in Russia, which means that soup was an every-day first course of the dinner. Any soup would do. The idea is that it's healthy, good for your stomach and it makes you feel full for a long time. It's just like a tradition there. And with a doctor mom, this was a must. So by the time I was 11-12 years old I fairly fed up with it. That's when my first attempts to cook something started. My mom was pretty fine with it as long as I would actually eat something healthy and not just "dry food" (meaning sandwiches, chips and all the other junk). I was quite happy about it, so I didn't eat any soup for few years, maybe just once in a blue moon.

Anyways, once upon a time, while I was already studying in Amsterdam, I was thinking of something to cook for dinner. And suddenly a soup came to my mind. I tried to get rid of this idea, still occupied by my childhood memories but it just would not go away. So, soup it is! Now, the problem was that I never cooked one in my life and of course I was too proud to call my mom to ask her. She would answer with that winning attitude "I told you one day you will appreciate it!". So I decided to figure something out myself. Back in Moscow we had this class at school where girls would learn how to cook, knit and sew and the guys were learning all those constructions and fixing the pipes and whatever else. Now that I'm thinking about it... Very unfair to divide the class, as if guys don't have to know how to cook and of course fixing the pipes could be sometimes useful for a woman as well. Anyways, at one of those classes we cooked a soup. So I tried to remember some of the basic ingredients. So... Potatoes, carrots, onions, chicken and whatever else you wanna add. Anyways, the soup turned out to be very good, I have to admit that I actually missed it and really enjoyed having it for dinner.

So now that I it is so cold and snowy outside I had a real craving for a mushroom soup. It is sooo easy to cook that I managed to actually prepare it in 2 TV breaks! Ok, I peeled the potatoes and carrots in front of the TV, which of course saved me some time but you pretty much need about 15-20 minutes in total. So here it goes:

INGREDIENTS:

2.5 liters water
1/2 chicken breast, skinless , boneless, cut into bites (optional, you could substitute it with a proper number of stock cubes for a vegetarian version)
3 cups mushrooms, washed and quartered
4 large potatoes, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled, cut in semicircles
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches rosemary
2 bay leaves
2-3 dry chillies (I like it spicy though, you could use just one or none)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt, pepper to taste

1. Cut the potatoes. Most people usually cut them into large cubes, but I follow my mom and cut them like for french fries, just a bit bigger.
2. Place a pot with water on a strong heat, add the potatoes, chicken, rosemary, bay leaves and chillies with some salt and let them cook.
3. Meanwhile warm up 1 tbsp of oil and fry the mushrooms until they are nicely golden.
4. 5 minutes after the water in the pot starts boiling add the fried mushrooms to the soup.
5. In the same pan that you used for the mushrooms warm up the rest of the oil and fry there the carrots along with onion and garlic until the vegetables are soft. Pour the mix into the pot with the soup.
6. Cook until the potatoes are soft and you could break them with a spoon. Add the parsley and adjust the seasoning. Let it cook for a couple of minutes more so that the parsley releases it's flavor. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool just a little before serving.

Another thing that I started using in the soup lately is ginger. Just finely chop a 2cm piece of ginger root and add it together with carrots and onions. It gives to the soup a really nice spicy touch and it smells wonderfully. But you could skip it and use any other spice that you like. Also if you wanna make it even healthier than it already is, don't fry the vegetables, and just add them raw to the pot. You could also avoid the oil this way, but believe me, frying makes it much more delicious and the oil gives a beautiful golden color to the stock.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Party crackers with shrimps and avocado


Christmas is getting closer and I thought that tonight would be the perfect chance to meet with some friends at home, in a nice christmasy atmosphere, just to have some beers and play some board games. Next weekend my sister comes to visit and we will be probably just going all around Amsterdam and after that I am going home to Greece for the holidays. So, this was probably the last opportunity to get together with some friends before Christmas.

Since morning I was thinking about inviting the guys over, but I was not in the mood for real cooking today, so I decided to prepare just some appetizers. There was this recipe that I found at one of my most favorite blogs. I was planing to prepare it since I first saw it and here it was, the perfect opportunity! It looks really fancy even though it's really easy to make. It took me something like 20 minutes to actually make 2 plates of this little snack. I think it is perfect for parties and little gatherings when you wanna make something different and impressive. Anyways, enough with the talk, here it comes.

INGREDIENTS:

30 shrimps, peeled and cooked
30 salty, thin crackers
1 ripe avocado
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
ground black pepper to taste

1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and run the spoon around it to remove the skin. Place the flesh in a medium bowl and mash it until it's smooth.
2. Add the mayonnaise and the lemon juice and mix well. Season with some black pepper.
3. On each cracker place about 1 tsp of avocado mix and top with a shrimp. Doesn't it look amazingly beautiful and yet ridiculously easy?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tzatziki


About 10 days ago I was hosting one of the multiple dinner parties. This time I decided to go with the Greek food. Sort of missed it lately. And of course it's not possible to have a Greek dinner without Tzatziki. It is a part of almost any order in a traditional Greek taverna and could be combined with any food, either fish or meat or even just bread. When I make it, I usually make a large amount and it's never too much! The only problem is that it has a lot of garlic in it, so if you plan to kiss someone after eating it... well you better don't!

INGREDIENTS:

500gr thick, Greek yogurt (Straggisto type preferably)

1 cucumber (you could remove the skin if you want, I usually keep it to add some color)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

salt to taste


1. Grate the cucumber on a large grater. Keep all the juices and put it in a medium bowl.

2. Add the yogurt, garlic and dill and season with some salt. So simple!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shrimp and Spinach Pasta


A couple of weeks ago a saw a nice shrimp pasta recipe at big mama's blog. And I remembered right away the shrimp pasta at Vapiano's, a chain of Italian restaurants. First time I tried it I really liked it and so I tried to recreate it at home with some changes. I think the original recipe was without cream and also walnuts are used instead of pine nuts. But I really like it with cream, it's more full (and more fatty as well!)

INGREDIENTS:

500gr penne or shells pasta
200gr spinach, roughly chopped
30-35 medium peeled shrimps
3 large, ripe tomatoes, diced
1 cup sour cream, preferably low fat
3-4 tbsp green pesto
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Throw in the shrimps and cook for a couple of minutes. Fish the shrimps out and cook the pasta in the same water for about 10 minutes, until al dente.
2. In a small pan mix the cream, pesto and garlic and cook on a low heat for 3-5 minutes. Don't overcook it or the cream and pesto will start separating.
3. Drain the pasta and put it back to the pot. Add the spinach, tomato, nuts and top with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Serve with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chicken Rolls with Ham and Cheese Filling


Two weeks of no posting! Unacceptable! Luckily, it doesn't mean that there were two weeks of no cooking. But I was rather busy with interviews and some tasks, so I just couldn't find time to post all the nice recipes that I prepared these days. The bright side is that now I have enough material for a long period. So let's get started.

Few days ago I came back from a week in London, where I was visiting my sister. It was really nice. I got to meet some friends, some of which I haven't seen for ages. But with all the going out I didn't really have time for cooking, so most of the times the food options were limited to either some questionable British pub food (apart from the bucket of chicken wings that we shared with Mathias and they were great) and nice and colorful but always pretty much same Asian food from Camden. So, after a week of torture for my stomach I came back and was inspecting what was still uneaten in the fridge. What I found didn't leave much space for creativity. Apart from beer, ketchup and few eggs I found a bunch of oranges that were really close to going bad. I bought them just before leaving and my man was too bored to reach out the fridge and have some vitamins.

Anyway, the first day I was too tired to cook anything more complicated than just pasta. So I decided to deal with the oranges the day after. I was thinking what to do with them apart from just eating and I came up with a really nice idea of combining them with some chicken somehow. But then again, Stratis finds chicken breasts (well this is what I had in the freezer) by themselves too boring and I don't think that marinading them in orange juice would change his mind so I decided to spice the things up a bit. Ham and cheese would be just perfect. So after some thinking I came up with these chicken rolls, which I think were pretty good and slightly different from the usual grilled chicken with some salad on the side.

INGREDIENTS:

5 halves skinless, boneless chicken breasts
5 slices Gouda cheese (or any other cheese that melts)
5 slices smoked ham
10-12 small green olives, pitted
toothpicks or BBQ sticks for holding the rolls
juice and flesh of 3 orange
thyme, salt, black and red pepper to taste
2 tsp liquid honey

1. On a cutting surface place one half of the chicken breast like on the picture and then make a parallel to the table section on the left side but don't cut all the way through. At the end you should have something like a "sheet" of chicken.



2. Beat the chicken with a kitchen hammer or an empty wine bottle until it's thin and wide.
3. Place a slice of cheese and a folded slice of ham on the right side of the chicken "sheet" and top with a couple of olives.

4. Holding the filling inside with your fingers, roll it until you create a tight roll. With a couple of toothpicks fix the edges so that the roll does not fall apart. Place in a deep baking tray and proceed with the next piece of chicken. At the end season all the rolls with some black and red pepper.

5. In a small bowl mix the orange juice and flesh with thyme, salt, pepper and honey. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover with a foil and bake in the over for 30min at 200°C. Remove the foil, turn on the grill and bake for few more minutes until the chicken is golden. Serve with rice or a large green salad.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Greek Salad




In Greece when you order a Horiatiki (=vilage) salad, more popular abroad as Greek salad, you always know what you are gonna get. It could be bigger or smaller, better or worse but it is always the same salad, consisting of the same ingredients. Funny thing, while living abroad I met many non-Greek people who have absolutely different thing in mind when they talk about Greek salad. Some people use lettuce in it, some dice the tomatoes, I've even heard about using a watermelon in it! I was really curious to see what other versions there are, so I googled it and I figured out many combinations that were at least weird.

So I decided to post a recipe of the original Greek salad, the one that you will get in one of those nice tavernas next to the see. The only tricky thing about it is to find good, tasty tomatoes, the ones that smell like your grandma's garden! Apart from that it's only chopping and mixing and that's it. You could use more or less any amounts of the listed ingredients you like. Here I will post the amounts that I prefer, which create a balanced combination. So, here we go.

INGREDIENTS:

2 large, ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber about 20cm long
1 medium onion, cut in half rings
feta cheese, as much as you like (I use about 100 gr for this amounts of vegetables, but I like lots of feta in the salad)
10-12 olives (I like green olives, other people use, black or kalamata or even ksidates (=marinated in vinegar), they all work great!)
1/2 tbsp dry oregano
5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp wine vinegar (optional)
salt to taste

1. Cut each tomato in 6-8 pieces and put them in a large bowl. Never dice them, and don't try to make the pieces small. This way all the juice will remain in the tomato, instead of the bowl.
2. Cut the cucumbers into half-circle pieces, again not too thin. Add them to the tomatoes.
3. Add the onion and olives and place some pieces of feta cheese on top.
4. Prepare the dressing: mix together the oil, oregano, salt and vinegar (if using) and pour over the salad. Alternatively, you could just add the dressing ingredients to the salad directly and then mix everything in the bowl. Ready to enjoy!

Now, one of the most important parts, how to eat it! You would think this is easy, but... Most of the non-Mediterranean people would simply transfer some of the salad from the common bowl to their own plate or maybe even use a separate salad plate. Wrong! In Greece we like sharing our food, whatever it is. When going out with friends we almost never order separate dishes, rather mixed plates for the table and then everybody bites from this and that, trying everything. I guess this is one of many ways that we have to bring people closer. Same goes to the salads. You will see in Greek restaurants people poking pieces of tomato and cucumber in the same bowl and at the end dipping pieces of fresh bread into the juices mixed with olive oil left in the bowl. I know that this might seem gross for many people but this is the way we enjoy our food. You should absolutely try it this way! Otherwise, it's not a Greek salad anymore! ;)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soutzoukakia Smirneika - Traditional Smirnean Meatballs


Smirni, aka Izmir, is a city on the south west coast of Turkey. Before 1922, nearly half of the city's population was Greek, consisting of mostly very wealthy people. In 1922 the relationships between Greece and Turkey worsened, leading to genocide or deportation of Greek population. In most of the cases, people who finally managed to reach Greece could not save any of their wealth. So the only wealth that they brought with them was their culture and of course the finest recipes. There are many recipes coming from Smirni, and I guess each Smirnean grandma has her own little secrets. The flavors of Smirni combine Greek and Turkish influences, they are spicy and aromatic, and it is just impossible to pass by without getting a wet mouth.

Probably the most famous Smirnean recipe is the meatballs. Spiced with cumin and cinnamon, they are (traditionally) fried at first and then cooked in a delicious tomato sauce. I really love them, and despite the first impression, cooking them is really easy. That is why I decided that this would be the main course for the Greek dinner party that I organized this Sunday.

INGREDIENTS:

For the meatballs:

1 kg ground beef
2 cups bread crumbles
2 eggs
1/2 cup dry red whine
1 whole garlic head, minced (YES one whole head, not just 1 clove)
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cups tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 head garlic, minced (Again, head not clove)
10 grains allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients for the meatballs until the mixture is uniform. Set aside for about 15 minutes to let the minced meat absorb the flavors of the spices.
2. Shape the meatballs in the size of two fingers. They should be sort of oval.
3. As I already mentioned, traditionally you are supposed to fry the meatballs in some olive oil and then use the oil from the pan in the sauce. I did it once like this and they were pretty heavy (not that this came as a surprise to me). So this time I actually baked them in the oven. I think this is the optimal, since it is much healthier and they don't lose any of their taste. So at this point place your meatballs in a baking pan and bake in the oven at about 200°C until they are crispy from outside and well done inside. Set aside.
4. Prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together in a large pot. The pot should be really big since you will add all the meatballs to it later. Cover the pot and cook the sauce for about half an hour at low heat.
5. Once the sauce is ready dip all the meatballs in it one by one. The best way is to try to place them one next to the other, as if trying to cover the bottom of the pot with them.
6. Cover the pot and cook on a low heat for another half an hour or maybe even a bit longer and they are done. Let them cool for few minutes and then serve with rice.

I know that the amount of garlic in this recipe sounds enormous and most people will be skeptical. In fact I also was, but I decided to give it a try and I don't regret it. If you are too afraid, you could try to cut the amount in half and see if you like it. If you do, next time try to increase the amount. I promise you'll love it!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Croissant with Banana and Chocolate


Last Friday we went out with an Italian friend of ours. After watching a movie, topped with a couple of beers and while the time was already past midnight I suddenly figured that I was a bit hungry. The fact that beer is a liquid bread didn't really help, and my thoughts were jumping from one nice food to the other. At some point I realized that I was already thinking about the great breakfast that I would cook the next morning. Banana and chocolate croissants! I have to admit that the idea of mixing bananas with Nutella is not mine. Back in Thessaloniki (my home city), while being a student, this was one of my most favorite sweet crepes from Valentino. Ok, maybe second favorite after Nutella with cookies' crumples. So I figured: "What's better than crepe with Nutella + banana? A croissant with Nutella + banana!!!". And here I was, in the middle of the night, slightly drunk and thinking about my breakfast!

INGREDIENTS:
1 pack of croissant dough, that makes 6 croissants

1 banana

6 tsp Nutella

1 egg lightly beaten (optional)

1. Preheat the oven at 200°C.

2. With a sharp knife cut the dough along the marked lines, so that you obtain 6 triangles.

3. Spread 1 tsp of Nutella over the surface of each triangle avoiding the top.

4. Cut the banana in half and slice each half in 3 pieces. Place one piece on each dough triangle, along it's short side.

5. Holding the banana inside, roll the croissant in a nice roll, starting from the short side of the triangle. Don't press to much. There should be some space between the layers for the croissants to "grow". Otherwise the croissants won't be puffy.

6. Brush the croissants with the beaten egg.

7. Place the croissants on a buttered baking tray and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are nicely golden and crispy.

8. Let them cool a bit and serve with some custard sugar.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Orzo


Orzo is a type of pasta. In Greek it's called Kritharaki and it looks just like rice. In fact, it looks so much like rice, that when I cooked it for my 30 year-old cousin who lived in Russia his whole life, I actually had to convince him that it is not rice!

Usually there are two different "sizes" of orzo. It doesn't really matter which one you use. The difference is mostly visual and of course the one that is bigger requires a little more time to cook. But you could always try and see if it's ready.

Anyways, I was not really expecting to find this kind of pasta in Amsterdam, as it is supposed to be something very local. Imagine my surprise when I saw it while checking the Turkish stores in the neighbourhood. One of the many great things that I can find only there. That's why it feels like home. At the end, Greek and Turkish cooking have a lot in common. Well good for us, because I haven't seen any Greek store here around, so the Turkish guys really save me from missing mom's great cooking!

I was so happy that I found orzo in Amsterdam that I used the whole 500 gr pack of it. Of course the resulting amount of food turned out enormous for only two people. So you may as well cut all the amounts in half.

INGREDIENTS

500 gr orzo pasta
400 gr skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped in bites (You could prepare it without chicken for a vegetarian version. It is still very delicious!)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
1 green pepper, sliced
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp chilly flakes
2 tsp sugar
10 grains allspice
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves
salt and ground black and red pepper to taste

1. Cook the orzo just as you would cook a regular pasta, in a pot of boiling salted water, until it is almost soft. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pan heat the oil. Add the chicken and cook over a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.
3. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, green pepper and pine nuts. Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft.
4. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to boil. Add the zucchini, herbs and spices and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the orzo absorb the juices for few minutes.
5. Add the basil leaves and serve.

Alternatively you could put the mixture into a ceramic oven-proof dish, spread some mozzarella on top and bake in the oven for few minutes until the cheese makes a nice golden crust.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad


In my opinion Greek salad is one of the best on earth! It contains lots of vitamins from all the vegetables, good fats from the olive oil and even some proteins from Feta cheese. There is only one "but" about it. To make it good, you really need good, ripe tomatoes. Too bad it's impossible to find them in Amsterdam in winter. That's why after September I usually switch to green, lettuce-based salads. The problem with them is that they are... boring! I mean, what is so exciting about shredded lettuce, with some onions and olive oil - vinegar dressing?!

Luckily there is always a way to improvise a bit. This time I added an avocado and a grapefruit and it was great! Very fresh and juicy. To be honest I took the idea from a Caribbean cooking book (for one more time), and changed a bit the dressing. Stratis doesn't like neither the avocados nor the grapefruits. However, he liked the combination. The hilarious thing about it is that he thought that the red in the salad (grapefruit) was actually a tomato. Once I told him what it was he said: "If this fruit tastes like tomato, no wonder it's juice has such a bad taste". Well that's his personal opinion. I love anything made of grapefruit.

INGREDIENTS

1 large red grapefruit
1 large ripe avocado
5 lettuce leaves
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sweet mustard (optional)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and ground black and red pepper to taste

1. Peel the grapefruit, separate the pieces, remove all the membranes and place the flesh in a large bowl.
2. Cut the avocado around the length and separate 2 halves. Remove the pit. With a large spoon separate the flesh from the skin, then slice the avocado with a sharp knife. Place the slices at the same bowl with the grapefruits.
3. Cut the lettuce into large pieces and add the to the salad.
4. In a small bowl mix the oil, vingar, lemon juice, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix well and serve immediately.

Another great thing about this salad is that it is full of vitamins, particularly vitamin C which is very essential during the winter months.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grenki


I was lieing in my bed this morning, wondering if the weather would improve later on and if we would see some sun. It took some time to wake up completely and by the time I was up I was pretty hungry. I was thinking about some nice breakfast idea and remembered my mom's Grenki (very popular Russian breakfast). I think the English name for this is French toast. I literally grew up with this food. It was a typical weekend breakfast since I can remember myself. Some nice memories came to my mind. :) I wonder why I make them sooo rarely.


INGREDIENTS:

10 slices of bread
3 eggs
100 ml milk
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
some olive oil or butter for frying
sliced ham and mozzarella for serving
, optional (you could remove the ham for vegetarian version)

1. In a shallow bowl beat the eggs with the milk, salt and sugar.
2. Heat the oil or melt the butter in a pan with non-stick surface.
3. One by one dip the bread slices into the egg mixture from both sides (don't let them soak though) and place on the pan, few at a time. Fry on both sides until its dark golden. Remove from the pan, set aside and proceed with the next batch.

4. Arrange few Grenki on a pan, place a slice of ham and some mozzarella on each piece, cover and fry over a very low heat until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.


Alternatively you could serve Grenki with jam or honey. It is a great start of the day and it keeps you full for quite some time. My man sad that Grenki rock!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Potato Gnocchi - four in one


Since our trip to Florence I've been planning to make Gnocchi, which is basically a potato based pasta in shape of little bites. I tried 2 or 3 different version in different restaurants and really loved it. They have a nice texture of spongy dough and you can combine them with any sauce or just garlic flavored butter. They are (relatively) easy to cook and served with various sauces make a nice and diverse dinner. So today I finally dared and I think it was quite a success.

For Gnocchi:

1 kg russet potatoes, with skin
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (or a bit more) flour
salt, fresh ground pepper and nutmeg to taste

1. Cook the potatoes until you could easily stick a fork in them. Don't overcook them though.
2. Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them and peel the skin off.
3. Mash the potatoes until there are no lumps in them, but not too long or they might turn into glue.
4. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well. Pour in the egg and mix fast. Don't let the egg cook.
5. While mixing with your hands, gradually add the flour. Keep adding flour until you get a dough that is not sticking to your hands. It should be firm but not too hard.
6. Take some of the dough and roll on a floured board into a "snake" of about 1.5cm in diameter.
7. With a sharp knife cut into bites of about 2cm long. Dust with some flour and set aside. Continue with the next portion of dough until you use all of it.
8. Optionally you could shape your gnocchi by pressing them against a fork, creating little cuts on the surface. They look more "artistic" this way! But if you are bored or have no time you could skip this step.
9. In a large pot boil the water and add some salt. Carefully put the first batch of gnocchi in. Cook for few minutes. You will see that they are ready when they float on the surface. Don't cook them too long or they will absorb too much water and become very heavy and hard to digest. Remove with a slotted spoon just about half a minute after they start floating. Proceed with the next batch.


At this point you could either serve them with the sauce or you could first fry them a little in some butter just enough to make them a bit golden. Personally I liked the fried version a lot, although my man preferred just the cooked version. I guess that's matter of taste.


For the serving I prepared 4 different version, the easiest being just dipped in some Crème fraiche and sprinkled with black pepper. Simple and delicious!


Here are the rest of the recipes. Of course you always use a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese.

Bolognese sauce:

500gr ground beef
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 tbsp dry oregano
10-12 grains allspice
salt, ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1. In a large sauce pan heat the oil.
2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for few minutes until the onion is golden.
3. Add the beef and cook until the meat is brown.
4. Pour in the wine, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes and the spices, cover and simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes.
5. Add the fresh basil and cook for 5 minutes more.


Pesto sauce:

5 tbsp green pesto
1 tbsp Crème fraiche
1 tbsp chopped nuts
some of the Cnocchi water

1. Mix all the ingredients except for water in a small bowl until the mixture is uniform.
2. Add some of the Gnocchi water and mix. At the end the sauce should be sort of liquid but still creamy.


Garlic flavored butter:

3-4 tbsp butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp dry thyme

1. In a small pan melt the butter.
2. Lower the heat, add the garlic, pine nuts and thyme and cook until the garlic is lightly golden.

You could prepare the sauces while waiting for the water to boil. This way you will have both the Gnocchi and the sauces ready more or less at the same time, so you could serve them immediately!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tuscany trip

It's been a while since I haven't been posting anything new. The reason is that I was in Florence, following my man at his first ever conference and God it was amazing! I had a wonderful week of walking around the picturesque city with impressive churches, narrow romantic streets, beautiful buildings and smiley people. The morning would start with a breakfast at the hotel, then a lot of walking around and shopping, then lunch, short nap and then evening going out with all the nice people from the conference. And yes, computer nerds ARE interesting and noooot even close as nerdy as finance people! :P It was great!

One of the best parts of the trip was the food. I used to think that Italian food was about pizza and pasta but I was sooo wrong!!! Tuscany cooking is very diverse, including many amazing combinations of meat, vegetables, cheese, spices and much more. Recipes are coming soon!

Normally I eat my meat well done. However, a friend insisted on ordering a bloody one, and I have to admit that after trying the Florentina steak I will never be able to be a vegetarian!!!

Of course it is impossible to upload all the food-pictures in one blog post, so for now just the most representative ones. Just look! Those people surely know how to eat, and eat good!

The market speaks for itself. You can't walk around the Mercato Centrale without immediately getting hungry. I challenge you to take a quick look:






But then you go to a Trattoria for a lunch or dinner and you are forced to chose out of many appealing options. Impossible!

Antipasti (starters):




Panini:


Pasta:


Gnocchi:


And of course deserts!!! Typical italian such as panna cotta (with wild berries sauce in this case):


or local ones, like Vin Santo (sweet Tuscan wine) with Cantuccini (local crunchy almond cookies that you are supposed to dip into the wine):


I was surprised to know that in Italy it is very typical to drink coffee directly after dinner. Usually espresso or in my case just a cappuccino:


and more cappuccino:


And one of the best of all, Italian Gelato. I would have it every day between breakfast and lunch!


After this trip I am thoroughly avoiding being anywhere around the scales. I think I will have a week of diet before weighting myself :P It's gonna be really hard, given all the nice ingredients that I bought and the new cooking book that I can't wait to try!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cinnamon and Raisins Cake with Chocolate Sauce


I love having people coming over! Yesterday Carsten came over and brought a new board game which despite all the complicated rules was very good. Something about 45 minutes before he came I decided to make a nice cake. However, the one that I was initially aiming for required half a kilo of almonds, which I didn't have so I switched to my second best option: raisins and cinnamon. And since Stratis would kill me if I would not add at least SOME chocolate I also made a chocolate sauce which I later drizzled over the top of the cake.

We were playing (or at least trying to understand the rules) and without noticing we almost finished it all. At the beginning I was worried about the consequences of eating so much cake at 11 in the evening (I usually try not to eat after 7-8p.m.) But I think I will cite Carsten's saying: "This is an advantage of being an adult. You could eat anything you want, whenever you want it. You could even eat ice cream for breakfast!". Actually, earlier that day I ate ice cream for breakfast, and I was going to exploit my advantage as adult twice that day.

At the end, I actually used my advantage again today, when I ate the leftover cake for breakfast and it was goooood!!!

INGREDIENTS:

150 gr butter, softened
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups water
1 cup black raising
5-10 cloves
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 cups flour

For the chocolate sauce:

2 1/2 cups water or milk (depending whether you want the sauce to be bitter or milky)
1 cup sugar (you may use half white and half brown sugar)
3/4 cup cocoa powder

1. In a small pan add the raisins, cloves and water and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Remove the cloves and drain the raising reserving 1 cup of the liquid.
2. In a large bowl beat the butter with a mixer until it is white, light and creamy.
3. Constantly beating, add the sugar to the butter.
4. Add the eggs and beat until the liquid is uniform.
5. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, juice from the raisins and flour. Mix well.
6. Add the baking powder and vinegar and as soon as you see bubbles try to mix the dough in a way that the bubbles stay inside. At the end the mixture should be thick but still "runny". Something like this:


7. Pour the mixture in a buttered cake form and bake in the over for about 40 minutes at 220°C. The cake is ready when you stick a match in it and the match comes back without any liquid dough on it. Remove and put on a serving plate.
8. Prepare the chocolate sauce. In a heavy non-stick pan put all the ingredients and cook stirring constantly until all the sugar dissolves and the sauce becomes thick.
9. Let the cake cool, drizzle it with the chocolate sauce and serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eschovished Fish


I have to admit, I had no idea what does the word "eschovished" mean. I was looking for additional fish recipe to complete the Latin American dinner party menu and I found a recipe in a Carribean cooking book, liked how it looked and decided to try it. Later when I checked the meaning, I found that it actually refers to a particular way of marinading and cooking the fish, which is popular across the Caribbean islands, particularly in Jamaica.

I started preparing the recipe something about half an hour before the guests came so I adopted a "fast-version" of the recipe, which practically means that I skipped the marinading part. I also used a bit less vinegar than required, because honestly I was a bit afraid to use too much. But people liked it and so did I, which makes it... a success!

INGREDIENTS:

1 kg cod fillet
juice of half lemon
flour, for dusting
oil, for frying

For the sauce:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion sliced
1/2 red and 1/2 green pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup malt vinegar (I used white vinegar instead)
5 tbsp water
8-10 grains allspice
2 bay leafs
1 dry hot chilly pepper, whole
2 tbsp brown sugar
salt and ground black pepper to taste
parsley, chopped, for garnishing

1. If you decide to marinade the fish in advance, just sprinkle it with salt and pepper, place it in a shallow dish and pour over the lemon juice. Marinade for one hour. As I said, I skipped the marinading part.
2. Cut the fish in pieces and dust with some flower.
3. Heat some oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the fish until it is golden brown. Wile frying the pieces should not "overlap" so it may take a couple of rounds until all the fish is fried. Remove from the pan and set aside.
4. Make the sauce. In the same pan where you fried the fish add 5 tbsp of oil. Fry the onions until soft. Add pepper and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more.
5. Pour in the vinegar, water and all the spices and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
6. Mix the fish with the sauce and serve garnished with some chopped parsley.

At this point some of the original recipes that I found online require leaving the fish to absorb the flavors for a couple of hours. Since I didn't have the luxury of time I skipped this step too. It was still very tasty but I think next time I will try to prepare it well in advance, follow all the steps and see what is the difference.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Green Beans with Broccoli and Eggs


After making the salad for a Sunday's dinner I had about half pack of frozen green beans left in my freezer. Given that my freezer is really tiny I was thinking of a recipe that would let me get rid of the leftovers.

Hmmm... Green beans, greens beans... My mom cooks green beans with eggs and it's actually a really nice side dish. She uses the ones that are sort of flat, I think they are called snap beans. Well, I only had string beans but I decided to give it a try. And since I also had some broccoli, I just threw it in as well. Not bad at all!

INGREDIENTS:

200 gr any green beans, cut in 3-4 cm long pieces
1 cup broccoli (tips only), cut in bites
1 cup leak, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
4 tbsp lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large pan heat the oil.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.
3. Add the beans and water, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Add the broccoli and leak and cook for few minutes. Do not overcook it. The broccoli should be still crunchy.
5. In a small bowl beat the eggs with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
6. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and mix well, so that it goes everywhere. Cook for few minutes or until the eggs are hard and liquids have evaporated.

It could be served as a side dish with fish or stake, but I actually like it as a lunch just the way it is, without anything else. Light an healthy. Thanks mommy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Red Pepper and Green Bean Salad


Yesterday we had a little dinner party. It was nice to get together with people that I haven't seen for quite some time and I was really happy that I had the opportunity to cook for many people because this usually means that you could prepare many different dishes and all the food will be eaten and not thrown away!

Since I already had the Mexican Cod Caramba prepared, I decided to go with the Latin American cuisine. So, apart from the cod, I cooked Jamaican eschovished fish, Colombian cheesy potatoes, some home-made Guacamole and a Mexican pepper - green bean salad. I think the combination was pretty successful and the people seemed to enjoy it. :)

Here is the recipe of the salad. The rest of the recipes are coming the following days.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded
200-250 gr cooked green beans
1/2 red and 1/2 sweet bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
3-4 drained pickles, chopped
1/4 cup whole green olives, seeded
2 tbsp canned sweet corn, drained
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. In a b0wl combine the green beans, peppers, spring onions, pickles and olives.
2. Pour in the vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
3. In a large flat dish lay the lettuce. Arrange the vegetable mix on top, garnish with corn and it's ready to eat!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cod Caramba


One of my most favorite cuisines is Latin American, starting from Mexican and finishing with Brazilian, Colombian and Caribbean. Apart from being extremely tasty it is usually very healthy and colorful because of all the different vegetables used. So when I was thinking what to cook today, I automatically picked the Caribbean cuisine book from my book shelf. Whenever I decide to cook something from this book it is really hard to stop the decision on something. Everything looks amazingly delicious. So this time I just decided to open the book at some random page and cook whatever was there. I slightly changed the recipe, since I can't stand the real Mexican-spicy food (the original recipe requires some Tabasco sauce instead of chili flakes). But I would absolutely recommend this dish!

INGREDIENTS:

600 gr cod fillets (you could use half raw and half smoked fillet too)
1 cup fish stock or water
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green and 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 zucchinis, diced
150 gr canned sweet corn, drained
3 small tomatoes, diced
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp hot chili flakes
100 gr tortilla chips (better unsalted)
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
slat, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper


1. In a baking tray lay the fish and the fish stock or water. Bake in the oven at 200°C until the fish is cooked and the flesh breaks easily. When ready separate the fish into large flakes and keep it hot. Leave the juices in the tray.
2. In a large pan melt the butter. Add onion, garlic and peppers and cook over low heat until the onions is soft and transparent. Stir in the zucchinis and cook for some more minutes.
3. Add corn, tomatoes, chili flakes, salt, black and cayenne pepper. Cook for few minutes, then add the mixture to the tray with fish. Mix well.
4. Crash the tortilla chips (not too small), mix with the cheese and sprinkle over the fish. Cook under the grill until the chips are crunchy and slightly brown.

If you have all the ingredients in your fridge (I had to visit the store) its really a matter of 30-40 minutes to prepare, so you could absolutely cook it during the week to make a really nice and different dinner.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Home-made Rum and Raisins ice cream


Since I was little I remember myself trying to recreate an ice cream. It is one of the things that I always considered impossible. The first time, I saw at some old cartoon a robot-nanny mixing in a special device incorporated into her chest, milk, butter and sugar and turning all that into vanilla ice cream cones. I took that for granted and tried it myself! I mixed all those in a glass and put it in the freezer. The result was (obviously) disappointing! But please, give me a break! I was something like 5 or 6 :P

Through the years I tried freezing fruit juices, mashed water melon and even juice mixed with milk. Nothing ever worked! In best case scenario I would get frozen fruit cubes. So with the time I gave up on my dream to make my own ice cream. Of course that was before the Internet-era (omg, am I that old?!).

Once I was googling for summer desserts and I accidentally found a recipe for a Rum and Raisin ice cream. Given that this is one of my all time favorite flavors, of course I had to try it right away. And God it was amazing!!!

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp rum or rum essence (well if you use a bit more there is no harm!)
125 gr raisins (again if you are raisin - fan feel free to add a bit more)

75 gr sugar

125 ml water
3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla essence or 2tbsp vanilla sugar

450 ml double cream (it is important that you use a thick heavy cream (at least 30% fat), otherwise the ice cream won't be creamy enough)

1.
In a small bowl mix the raisins with rum or rum essence and set aside ti marinade.
2. In a heavy sauce pan add water and sugar and and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for few minutes.
3. In a bowl whip the egg yolks with vanilla essence or vanilla sugar until creamy. Keep beating the mixture and pour the hot syrup.
4. Let the mixture cool for some minutes and then add the raising with all the liquid.
5. In a separate bowl whip the cream until just stiff (you could use a mixer but don't beat too much, otherwise you'll get butter) and then add it to the eggs and raisins mixture.
6. Pour the mixture in a shallow container and place in the freezer. After about 1 hour, or when the ice cream is partially frozen return the ice cream to a bowl and beat well. Return to the container and freeze for 1 more hour. Repeat this step one more time and it's ready to eat.


This ice cream is sooo easy to prepare (well maybe just a bit messy) and it is sooo good that it's impossible to maintain it in your freezer and not to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With all the consequences of course. Again, don't try to count the calories, I think it's better when you don't know!

PS: The picture is not really mine, because it's been some time since I haven't made this ice cream. I borrowed the picture from Comemberu blog, which uses sort of similar recipe for this ice cream.

Chow Mein


I always wanted to get myself a good wok. And each time in the store I would find excuses, that the ones offered were either too expensive or of a poor quality or a combination of both. That's why I was really happy when for my birthday Katja and David got me a wok! (Thank you guys!) Of course the very next day I had to try it. It proved to be a very good one.

In order to decide what to cook I checked one of many cooking books that I have (in fact I have a whole collection of them!) and I found the following recipe, which I adjusted according to my taste and the ingredients in my fridge. This is what I got:

INGREDIENTS:

500 gr egg noodles, cooked according to the package directions
3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped

1 red chilly, chopped
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced

20-25 uncooked large shrimps or tiger prawns, peeled
100 gr green beans

1 medium-size carrot, chopped

100 gr baby corn, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp bamboo shoots, sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
black pepper, freshly ground

1.
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok.
2. Add garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for 1-2 minutes over a high heat.
3. Add chicken, shrimps and beans. Stir-fry until the chicken and shrimps are cooked through. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Heat the rest of the oil in the same wok. Add green beans, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms and bamboo shoots
. Stir-fry for few minutes.
5. Add the noodles and toss to mix. Season with soy sauce, oyster sauce and black pepper.
6. Add the chicken - shrimp mixture. Reheat and mix well with the noodles.

I actually changed the original recipe, which required 2 lap cheong (air-dried Chinese sausage) and a bit different mix of vigetables (green beans, beansprouts, garlic chives). I also added more soy and oyster sauce, I think the original amount was not enough and the food was a bit dry. Finally, it was really good and if you eat reasonable amount (pretty hard for me!) it's not heavy at all!


Bon appétit!


PS: The recipe was adopted from the book "Around the World in 450 Recipes".