Monday, 27 July 2015

Over the Rainbow!

Penne con Bietole Arcobaleno & Zenzero
Penne with Rainbow Chard & Ginger


How do you prepare an incredible pasta dish? Basically, by choosing a couple of simple ingredients that are fresh and in-season... And don't mess things up by trying to get too clever! Keep things simple, then things will work better, you will work less and your results will be so much better for it too!

The star of my little pasta dish this evening was clearly this beautiful rainbow colored Swiss chard- sweet, tender and delicious and begging to be transformed into something worthy... So I did my best to do just that!


I have to admit, that even though I love chard, I usually find myself thinking of it as a side dish to accompany some other wonderful thing... Which is kind-of a shame as it is pretty wonderful in itself! And especially in these beautiful colors!

So this evening I decided to base a pasta dish on the chard alone, but used a little ginger and garlic to emphasize and enhance the flavor... And as I said- by keeping things simple, I managed to come up with an incredibly good result! And you will too!


Choose young and tender chard if you can- you can see how small these stalks are in relation to that little shallot, the garlic and the ginger in the photo. To make 2 good portions of pasta you will need 1 small head of chard, or let's say 3 loose leaves of red, yellow and orange in my case. 1 shallot, just a few slices of garlic, about 1 teaspoons worth of chopped ginger and a little Parmesan to grate in top... Those were all the ingredients I needed other than salt, pepper and olive oil... And that is why I loved this so much!
And the other great thing is that it will not even take you 20 minutes to prepare... Another one of my quick as can be dishes that you can easily put together any night of the week without stressing yourself out any more than your day at work already has done!


Begin by finely chopping or grating the ginger and garlic, finely dicing the shallot, finely slicing the chard stalks and also the greens, but keeping them separate... And as soon as you have done that, you can start to boil some water for your pasta and heat up some olive oil for the chard!

Fry the chard, shallot, ginger and garlic in a little olive oil and season with salt, which will let the chard give off a little of its juices whilst it seasons.

Fry until it changes color slightly... Sadly it does lose quite a bit of color, but you should neither worry about that too much... Nor should you over-cook it though! It should still have plenty of bite to it... as it will be cooking for a further 4-5 minutes shortly!


In the meantime, pop the chopped leaves into your pasta water as soon as it comes up to a vigorous, rolling boil. This will cause the water to stop boiling for a while and by the time it comes back up to the boil, those leaves will have wilted- down considerably. At that point, add a good pinch of salt, pop in your pasta of choice and let it come back up to the boil and cook for 4-5 minutes.


Once the pasta is half-cooked, pour off most of the water, but keep enough to add a little more once you have poured it and greens into yor frying pan to mingle with the flavorful stalks.

Continue boiling and stirring for a further 3-4 minutes at a high temperature until the remaining water is absorbed.


Serve immediately, piping-hot, with plenty of freshly ground pepper and freshly grated Parmesan... And enjoy!

Make sure to stir it through thoroughly to get all of the flavors combined and to incorporate any of the juices that may accumulate at the bottom of your dish whilst you do so... It all just goes to become a nice, smooth and delicious dressing for your pasta... You're going to love it! I hope!!!

I like a nice tomato sauce as much as the next man... But something different and delicious as this is just fine by me too!

Hope you all enjoy it!


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Open Your Heart!

Carciofo Ripieno di Pomodorini Freschi, Mollica, Limone & Erbe Miste
Artichoke Stuffed with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, Bread Crumbs, Lemon & Mixed Herbs

I just happen to have had discussed how to prepare artichokes with a couple of workmates this week, and upon seeing the beautiful specimen you are seeing right here at the market, I decided I should make myself one all over again...

Just to maybe give them (and all of you good people too of course!), a little reminder of how to make them my favorite way... And also... Just because I can!

I adore artichokes... But I am not a fan of dipping them into vinaigrettes, mayonnaises of dips... As you may already know! My favorite way to prepare them, is in the old-fashioned way, stuffed with breadcrumbs and other good stuff, to make this beautiful blossom into something as delicious tasting as it is wonderful looking!


All I needed to prepare my gorgeous artichoke was: 1 lemon, 1-2 cups of breadcrumbs, 1 small shallot, 4 cherry tomatoes, a little Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, olive oil and some fresh parsley, mint and rosemary. Nice and simple!


I have to admit, I had never seen this beautiful variety of artichoke before and it caught my eye bey it's looks alone... There are so may of different kinds! And this one was gorgeous!

And the best part of the artichoke, as you can plainly see here, is the succulent and tender heart... Which you can see here!


The preparation of artichokes is pretty much the same whichever the size or variety... And you start it off by snapping off the outer leaves, cutting away the stalk and then peeling the stump with a sharp knife, then rubbing it generously over with a lemon to prevent it from discoloring.


Next, trim at least the top 1/3rd from the artichoke and then, using a melon, scoop, remove the "choke" and again, rub the cut surfaces with lemon.

To prepare the breadcrumb filling, finely chop the herbs, shallot and lemon zest, finely dice the tomatoes, grate the Parmesan, season with salt and pepper and add to the breadcrumbs.


Stir together thoroughly and you are ready to rumble!

Spread out the leaves and spoon a little of the breadcrumb mixture in- between, starting from the outside and working your way in... And then fill the hollow in the middle with remaining breadcrumbs until it is full to the top.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top, add plenty of olive oil and then pop into your steamer to cook for between 45-60 minutes.

This was a slightly different version compared to my usual favorite, which I normally make using sun-dried tomatoes, because I decided to use fresh cherry tomatoes this time instead. And normally, I would tend to pop the finished artichoke under the broiler to become crispy and brown on top... But this time, I wanted it to remain juicy through and through and to be packed with the fresh, fruitiness of the tomatoes, which soaked wonderfully into the breadcrumbs along with the lemon and herbs... Delicious!

But get ready to get those fingers dirty!


 How gorgeous and flavor-packed does that look, huh? Pretty delicious-looking, isn't it?


After 45-60 minutes, depending on its size, the artichoke wil be so tender that the leaves easily pull away from the base...


...and that base, the heart of the artichoke, will be the ultimate treat and reward for all of your toils... And once you have finished licking your fingers after the enjoying the leaves, you can finally pick up a fork and enjoy the sweet and tender heart with a topping of tasty breadcrumbs... With a little extra olive oil... To die for!

Only, please don't! I would prefer you all stay alive and go out and try this instead... And then I hope you will all like it!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Mediterranean Eggcellence!

Frittata di Zucchine, Pomodorini, Feta & Rosmarino
Zucchini, Cherry Tomato, Feta Cheese & Rosemary Frittata


Keeping things simple, taking it easy and making a supper to die for was my intention after a really tough day at work today... And whaddaya know? I did all of that and am still alive and happy as can be! Now that's what I call a great recipe and a real success! Lol!

Nothing beats a frittata for making a quick and satisfying meal from whatever you happen to have left over in your fridge... In this case, the last couple of little zucchini and a half block of feta cheese. The result? Well, don't these pictures just speak for themselves?!?


Why stress yourself more with supper, when life is already stressful enough?! Or lunch for that matter! In just 15-20 minutes, you will have this wonderful dish ready, waiting and willing to brighten up your day!


2 eggs, 2 small zucchini, 1/2 block of feta cheese, 4-5 cherry tomatoes, 1 spring onion, some fresh rosemary, parsley, 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, 5-6 tablespoons of milk, a little nutmeg, salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil... That was all I needed to make a nice, big frittata, which was almost big enough for sharing!

I did say almost! Of course I ate it all!!!


Plenty of good flavors of a Mediterranean summer... Colorful and delicious- so what more you you want? Grab your pan and get busy!

Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters, the zucchini and spring onion into thin slices and chop the Rosemary up finely... Turn on your grill to have it ready, turn in your stove top and get your frying pan hot... And you're ready to rumble!


Begin by frying the zucchini, onion and rosemary together in a little olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and toss constantly to cook evenly.


After just 3-4 minutes the zucchini will begin turning slightly brown, but in the meantime, you can crack your eggs and stir them together with the chopped parsley, bread crumbs, a little salt and pepper and a generous grating of nutmeg to make a simple batter.

Spread the zucchini out evenly and then pour the batter evenly on top, then allow to bubble away and begin to set before adding the other ingredients.


Simply set the feta cheese, cut into strips, on top and scatter the diced tomatoes around them. Season with salt, pepper and more nutmeg and you are ready to transfer your frying pan to the oven, to continue cooking under the grill for 5-10 minutes until it is golden brown and delicious.

I think that is looking decidedly golden and scrumptious, don't you?

A few leaves of parsley are all you need to brighten it up and make it look as appetizing as it tastes... I would say that it looks pretty irresistible myself!

So why resist? Grab a fork and get stuck in!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Speedy Fresh Summer Sandwiches

Pane alla Brace Imbottito con Cetriolo, Feta, Pomodorini & Crescione, con Origano & Miele
Grilled Pizza Bread Sandwich with Cucumber, Feta Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes & Cress, with Oregano & Honey


All I wanted for supper this evening was a couple of cheese and cucumber sandwiches- that isn't too much to ask on a summer night now, is it? Well... It is if you don't happen to have any bread and that's for sure!

But being too hot, bothered, tired and reluctant to leave the house, I got a little creative, used a little common sense and improvised, just like I always do... And came up with this idea to make wonderful party sandwiches that can even be a part of your next grill adventure! I think you might just like it!


It's all very simple stuff, plain and ordinary ingredients... But just look at how wonderful and delicious this looks! Inexpensive, tasty and filling, whilst still being basically very light and healthy, this makes a great snack for a slow night in or a party with friends... And it is one more reason to always, ALWAYS a have a roll of pizza dough in the fridge! How many more times do I need to remind you of that?!?! 

So, what are you going to need to make 6 little snack-sized sandwiches? Not much! You will need about 1-2 of a roll of pizza dough, /2 of a cucumber, 1/2 of a block of feta cheese, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, 1 spring onion, some fresh cress, a little dried oregano, salt, pepper, honey and olive oil... And around 20 minutes of your time!


So, whilst not being much more than a simple cheese and cucumber sandwich, with just a few more ingredients and the bread being freshly "baked" on my griddle pan... The finished result was way, way more than just that! Summer between 2 slices of bread, I would say!


Obviously, you will need to cut yourself 2 equal sized pieces of dough from the roll, large enough to fit your pan... Or your hunger!


Place the dough into a dry, hot pan or into your grill until it begins to puff up and swell, then flip it over to brown from the other side too... It will take just 3-4 minutes from each side.

Once the bread is finished and golden brown, set it to one side to cool, slice the spring onion in half lengthwise and then scorch it from both sides in the hot pan... Because nobody likes to eat raw onion and this just tastes infinitely better!

Lay out the cucumber in thin slices first, season with salt and pepper, then cover with crumbled feta cheese, plenty of dried oregano, a little pepper and a good drizzle of honey.


Next, add the sliced cherry tomatoes, again salt and pepper, again plenty of oregano and also the toasted onions on top.


Scatter generously with cress and drizzle with olive oil... Then get ready to put a lid on things and to grab your knife! It's time to eat!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Red Hot Green and Gold!

Zucchine Piccante in Padella con Farina di Ceci, Rosmarino, Yogurt & Sumac
Pan-Toasted Spicy Zucchini with Gram Flour, Rosemary, Yogurt & Sumac

Yes, yes, we all like zucchini- but to be brutally honest, they are rather bland and tame and are far from filling. Unless you decide to do something about it, that is.

And sure, we have all made zucchini stuffed with meat or rice... But being as I had neither one, nor the other of those ingredients at hand, I needed to think of another solution...

As if that was a problem for me! Ha!

I based this idea on an Indian dish I once made, called "besan sabji", which basically consists of sliced bell peppers, which are toasted in gram, or chickpea flour and spiced-up to make them even more delicious.

The gram flour of course makes the vegetables much more filling, gives them a deep, nutty, wholesome flavor and makes for a much more satisfying meal... and needed little more than a hint of herbs and spices to elevate a couple of humble and plain little zucchini up to much greater heights of deliciousness!

All that I ended up using to make one decent serving, was: 2 small zucchini, 1 spring onion, 1 hot chili pepper, 4 tablespoons of gram flour, 1 sprig of Rosemary, salt, pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of sumac and a little plain yogurt to serve on the side / on top.

It took just 10-15 minutes to transform a couple of zucchini into a spicy meal... Healthy, fat-free, spicy and delicious, this was perfect as a light evening meal... But a spicy and tasty one at that!


Preparation is simple- just slice up the zucchini, onion and chili as thinly as you can and pluck and chop the rosemary up finely too.


Add 2 tablespoons of gram flour to the zucchini, chili and onion, season with salt and even though the chili is in there, a little pepper. Stir everything together thoroughly and turn on your stovetop... You're ready to go!

Dry roast the zucchini in the flour, stirring constantly, so that each slice gets nicely coated and keep stirring until you begin to get a nice, nutty aroma of roasted chickpeas developing.

Whilst the zucchini cooks in the frying pan, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of gram flour together with 2 tablespoons of yogurt and a little water, until it is of a smooth but not too runny consistency.

Pour this over the contents of the frying pan, allow it to come to the boil and keep on stirring.


Keep the heat relatively high and soon enough, the gram flour will thicken up and dry out and begin to turn deep gold n brown.

Keep stirring and scraping, tossing and turning the zucchini until it becomes nice and golden brown from all sides.


Check the seasoning for salt and add if necessary, but keep stirring and you will see that it soon enough will begin to crisp up and become golden brown... And so delicious!!!


And a last drizzle of yogurt and a sprinkle of sumac are the finishing touches to make this little meal complete!


Of course the chickpea flour will clump together and the slices of zucchini, obviously will stick to it... But those lumps make for nice bite-sized bundles of chewy flavor... I swear, you might almost think you are eating little meatballs! This is so cool and with the chickpeas, a little bit like falafel of course... And what's not to love about that!?!