Thursday, 21 May 2015

Jewels of the Orient

Insalata "Gioielli d'Oriente"
"Jewels of the Orient" Salad- with Sumac, Yogurt & Lemon Dressing


"Well, that's a bit of a pretentious name for a salad!", I hear you cry... and you're possibly right! Maybe it is! But at the same time, the radiant red pomegranate seeds do look a little like rubies- and the diced cucumber could remind of of emeralds... so why not?!!

Such a simple salad to make but such a tasty one to eat and enjoy! Simple ingredients, a hint of spice and a lot of color, will make this an eye-catcher and and conversation starter at any dinner party... or just put a smile on your face when you fix it for yourselves... at least that is what it did for me this evening!


 

This is basically a simple "chopped salad" with very everyday ingredients, but by adding herbs and pomegranate, plenty of zest, a dash of yogurt and that tangy sumac, I transformed it into a slightly more exotic alternative to an everyday salad. Not that I would be opposed to eating something like this every day!

 

Take a look and see- here is the proof that this was indeed a very simple affair... no matter how complex it may look! The ingredients were: 1/4 of an iceberg lettuce, 1 small cucumber, 1 small red pepper, 9-10 cherry tomatoes, 1 lemon, fresh mint and basil, 2 tablespoons of yogurt, 1 tablespoon of sumac, salt, pepper and olive oil.

And the result was a lovely bowl of salad which would easily have yielded 4-5 side-portions, or 2 good-sized main portions. But this evening, I was obliged to eat the whole thing myself! Poor me! 


  

It almost seems a shame to toss this salad and to "mess it up" when it comes to serving... except that it may look rather different afterwards but still look amazing all the same- hehe! It's a winner- plain and simple!

 

Except for finely chopping/dicing the ingredients, there is not any other prep-work to be done here... except for dealing with that pomegranate! Which can seem a rather daunting task for most people... so let me explain how easy it actually is do it properly! This will make you a very happy camper- and also give you the opportunity to show off in front of your friends!

The way to do it is to top and tail the pomegranate, as you can see here. Take a close look now and you will see the individual segments of the pomegranate- those white membranes that separate the sections of the fruit. And all you need to do now, is to cut down these intersecting lines, from top to bottom- basically cutting each segment apart from the next. Don't worry- you will see what I mean in the next photo!


 

This is what happens when you then snap each section apart... ta-dah! Each segment, nice and clean and un-messy, ready to be lifted out and eaten and enjoyed, without banging, squeezing or damaging the fruit... or making that huge mess that most people make!

 
 
And now, simply begin constructing your salad! Lay the finely chopped lettuce leaves into your bowl first as they are the most delicate with regards to how soon they will soften after having the dressing added, and then build up the salad in layers.

I added the chopped cucumber, herbs and tomatoes next... but then all the fun stuff got added... well... almost!


 

What I did add was the pomegranate, the yogurt, sumac, lemon zest and a nice drizzle of olive oil, along with salt and pepper of course... but in my eagerness to take some nice photos... I somehow managed to forget to add the pepper- but as you can see in the final photos, I did remember right at the end! In any case... when you serve up your version... try to remember- lol!

 

Once you are ready to serve, simply add the juice of the whole lemon and a good pinch of salt, toss together, mixing everything thoroughly, making sure to dig down deep and really get everything well coated.

And true enough... once everything IS mixed together, that yogurt will blend with the lemon juice, oil, sumac, salt and pepper... and of course settle to the bottom of the bowl. But... it will indeed become a wonderful condiment! To scoop up, to drizzle on top... and to enjoy!


 
 
What a beautiful little bowl of salad- an absolute treasure- and every bit as precious as any jewels! Oh... and edible too!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bitter, Sweet, Savory...and Twisted

Pasticcini Salati di Fillo con Ricotta, Fave, Menta, Limone & Miele
Savory Filo Pastries with Ricotta, Fava Beans, Mint, Lemon & Honey

 

I love to try out new ideas, I love to eat good food... And I love most of all to do something different and either irritate or wow people... Never to be boring! Life is too short to eat everyday food!

As is ALWAYS the case, being single, if you ever buy anything like a roll of pizza dough or puff pastry... Or in this case file pastry... There is always going to be too much in one packet. Which means you will have left-overs. And then you come up with nifty ideas, like this one, to put them to good use!

 

This was a double-whammy of a good idea, in that it used up both the remaining 6 sheets of filo pastry I had in the fridge from Sunday and the last of my fresh ricotta. Excellent! And it also turned out to be a great way to make use of the lovely, fresh fava beans I bought on Saturday...all to very yummy effect!


So, to make my 2 little tasty pastries, I needed: 6 sheets of fill pastry, 1 lemon, 1 onion, 4 tablespoons of fresh ricotta, 2-3 handfuls of fava beans, plenty of mint and some salt, pepper, olive oil and honey... And that's it!

 

And although this is a savory dish, what with the beans, onion, cheese, salt and pepper... It was the honey that made it special- it lifted the flavor and gave a great contrast to the tangy lemon... In short... It made these little pastries really terrific!

 

Shell the beans, also removing the pale "second skin" to leave only the sweet and tender beans themselves, finely chop the onion, either grate or chop the zest of half the lemon and cut a couple of nice, thick slices from the rest... And you are ready to go!

 

Put these ingredients into a small saucepan, add a good pinch of salt and enough boiling water to just about cover them and boil for 10-15 minutes until the water has basically evaporated away. In the meantime, turn on the oven to get it nice and hot and ready for action.


After 10-15 minutes, you will be left with perfectly cooked beans, soft and tender onion... And lots of wonderful aroma!

Remove the lemon slices and mint leaves and mash the beans down with a fork, ready to be added to the ricotta.


 

Add the beans, more freshly chopped mint and lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil and stir together thoroughly.

 

Lightly brush the film pastry with olive oil and then lay out 3 sheets. Spread relatively thinly and evenly with the ricotta filling- that couple of tablespoons that you have for each pastry should be enough... Trust me!

Now, quickly roll op the pastry and then whilst it is still soft and moist, shape it into a spiral and lay it directly onto a baking tray... And yes, move as quickly as you can as it does tend to dry out incredibly fast!


 

And of course... If the pastry DOEs happen to crumble a little... Like mine did here... Don't worry... That is what film pastry is all about, after all!

Bake at 180 C for 25-30 minutes until golden brown, beautiful... And delicious!


 

Whether you serve them hot or cold, give them at least 5 minutes to "rest" before you lift them from the baking tray, just long enough for the ricotta to settle a little, as it is rather soft and fragile immediately after coming out of the oven.

 

And that little drizzle of honey, really makes all the difference... So try it! You'll like it!

 

Beautiful, simple, different and delicious as always! Don't hate me! Thank me and go make this for yourselves... That's what this whole website is all about! And most of all... Share... And enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Old-School Dinners!

Frittata al Forno con Cicoria, Cipolla, Salsiccia Piccante & Pomodorini
Baked Chicory, Onion, Spicy Sausage & Cherry Tomato Frittata


It was time to use up the rest of that tender, yet mildly bitter wild chicory this evening... And as you can see, I clearly intended to use it well!

This is a little new-school, old-school dishes right here. New- school, because I added a little spicy sausage and this and that, which we probably wouldn't have done back in Sicily in the old days... Basically because people were too poor to have anything much else! And yet old-school, because otherwise it is basically simple greens fried-up with egg and a bit of bread-crumbs, to make a modest yet satisfying meal out of the little that you have.

And even if we are not quite as poor as the peasant farmers of yore... It was good enough then and it is still, more than good enough now!


 
 
And colorful and beautiful and delicious as my frittata may be, could I please have a round of applause for this beautiful plate? I brought it back from Lecce in Puglia, South Italy last year... And using it this evening... and seeing it in these photos right now is making me feel an aching to return! Ah, the South! Where the simplest of things are the most precious of all!


You can't simpler than this... For 2 good portions, you will need: 2 eggs, 1 small head of wild chicory, 1 onion, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, 1-2 tablespoons of bread-crumbs, a little milk, some spicy Italian cured sausage/ salami and a little salt and pepper.

 

It's going to take around 45 minutes to make, including the time you need to boil the greens in advance... But it is surely worth it! Traditionally speaking though, a frittata would most commonly be the most popular way to make use of left-over greens from the day before.

You may want to keep that in mind for the future... Because left-overs can always be turned into something wonderful... As you can see right here!


 

So, begin by rinsing and then boiling the greens for 15 minutes or so, until they are nice and tender. Then, pour off the hot water and rinse under plenty of cold water to immediately cool them down.

Once they are cool enough that you will not burn your sensitive little fingers, wring out all of the excess water they will still be soaked in and then set to one side.

But before you get busy with the rest- make sure to turn in the oven to get it nice and hot and ready!

 

Next, fry the sliced onion together with some thinly sliced hot and spicy salami... No extra oil or fat of course as the salami has plenty of its own and it is this that is going to infuse the sweet onions with flavor. Fry until transparent and beginning to soften up and set to one side to cool.


Now, simply beat the eggs together with a good glug of milk, a pinch of salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of bread-crumbs. These will help to soak-up any remaining, excess moisture and to make the batter more stable when frying/baking.


I chose to use a much smaller pan, so that my frittata would be a little thicker and definitely recommend you do so too... It makes for a much more pleasant result!

Arrange the ingredients in your pan... Lay out the greens first, simply in a spiral and then add the onion on top of them. The reason it is best to do it this way is that you, a.) end up cutting through the stalks as you go when you come to eat it and b.) because this way, it will be more firm and stable once it is done.

Next, add the tomato and salami pieces nicely and evenly all the way around. Take this extra few minutes and you will get a pretty result and also, something that is more pleasant to eat, where you get a perfect mix of all the flavors you have added with every bite... You know it makes sense!


 

Next, pour the egg/milk/bread-crumb batter over the top, also nicely and evenly, and then pat down with the back of a spoon so that the batter squeezes and fits into event nook and cranny.

Fry on the stovetop for 2-3 minutes until the base is set and then transfer to a hot oven for a further 15-20 minutes or so.

If you do not have a small frying pan with a metal handle, simple cove the handle well in cooking foil, like I do... And you should be just fine!


 

And isn't that just a beautiful sight? absolutely delicious and appetizing... Even if I DO say so myself! Haha!

 

There is maybe a conspicuous lack of cheese here, for most people's tastes anyway... But I simply didn't have any suitable cheese in the fridge... And as you know, I am not the greatest fan of melted cheese anyway.

But most importantly... It was just delicious, just the way it was! And if it isn't broken, I don't see why I should try to fix this combination either!

Monday, 18 May 2015

There's No Taste Like Home!

Spaghetti, Cicoria, Pomodorini, Pancetta & Ricotta Salata
Spaghetti with Chicory, Cherry Tomatoes, Bacon & Salted Ricotta

 

Ok, I may be a little biased, being Sicilian and all that... But there is no better food on earth, when you are tired out and hungry and really up to too much more work in the kitchen. And trust me, after 12 hours at the office and the long walk home, that was pretty much the way that I was feeling this evening!

So pasta is was to be, a simple bowl of spaghetti with a few greens and tomatoes. Nothing much more than that. And that is the beauty of pasta dishes... They can turn out to be pretty magical without too much hocus pocus... If you know how to make them so!


 

Being Sicilian, it goes without saying that I love those bitter greens... Tuscan kale, cime di rapa... And of course, Italian, wild chicory! And all it took was a few stalks of it, to infuse this dish with one of the rich flavors of the deep South... And after all... There's no taste like home!

 

For one nice bowl of spaghetti, I needed just 4-5 small leaves of tender chicory, 1 small onion, a handful of sweet, little cherry tomatoes, a small handful of finely chopped bacon. oh, and the spaghetti of course and a little salted ricotta to grate onto it right at the end.... That along with salt, pepper and was all it took... And a supper time dilemma was solved in just 25 minutes or so.

 

Twirl it, taste it, eat it and love it... It's as simple as that and so simple to make as well! Read on... It will only take a minute!

 

Start off by boiling the chicory, which I cut into bite-sized pieces, for 5-6 minutes at a rolling boil, before adding the spaghetti. Continue cooking for 5-6 minutes and in the meantime, take care of the tomatoes and onions... And bacon!

 

Fry the bacon and onion together until the onion becomes translucent and the bacon begins to brown, then add the halved cherry tomatoes and plenty of freshly ground pepper.


Keep sizzling them away until they begin to Caramelized and turn lovely and golden... And so rich with sweet flavor!

 

After the spaghetti has boiled for 6-7 minutes, add it to the frying pan with quite a bit of the water it has been boiling in, to deglaze the frying pan and to pick up all of the good flavors that have developed there from the bacon, onion and tomatoes.

This will of course infuse them into the spaghetti whilst it finishes cooking for the next 3-4 minutes, until it has all been absorbed and the spaghetti is silky- smooth and ready to be enjoyed!


 

Serve with freshly ground pepper and freshly grated salted ricotta... Rich and flavorful and delicious... And was I right, or was I right? SO simple!

 

Toss gently together before you begin, in order to get that salty, smooth and delicious ricotta coating everything lightly... If you add too much, you may well ruin the dish, as it IS very rich and salty... But if you just add a touch... It will enhance AL of the other flavors and make this simple dish into something utterly divine! Trust me!


So no matter how long your working day has been or how tired you are... You can always rustle up a little something like this... And you will be glad you made that little extra effort... Word!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Simply Grilliant

Cotolette di Maiale alla Brace con Ripieno di Mela, Cipolla, Zenzero & Ras el Hanout su Insalata alla Menta
Grilled Pork Cutlets with Apple, Onion, Ginger & Ras el Hanout Filling on a Minty Chop-Salad


Let's put a couple of pork chops on the grill! That's not something you hear people say that often, is it? Nope, it is usually the typical steaks, burgers and sausages that end up being grilled... Which is wonderful and fine... But you can also do something a little different now and again... No?

Well... Yes indeed you can! This was a simple idea, but it turned out really well, with the pork being juicy and flavorful... And yes, different and delicious as well!


 

I wanted to do something with pork and apple, as it is such a classic combination and is always wonderful. I decided to try using Ras el Hanout, rather than curry, which was my first thought, just to be a little different and added some fennel seeds as I also love the way they taste with pork... And already my plans were halfway hatched.

 
 
My ingredients to make and accompany 2 lovely little cutlets we really: 2 lovely little pork cutlets of course, 1/2 of a small iceberg lettuce, plenty of fresh mint, a few cherry tomatoes, 1 small onion, 1/2 an apple, about 1" of ginger, 1 tablespoon of Ras el Hanout spice, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.

 

A lovely, alternative, light, Summer meal- just a simple affair, with a hint of spice and a lot of freshness! What's not to love? Go grab your griddles and grills, guys and gals!

 

Prep-work in this case means simply finely chopping the apple and onion... And VERY finely chopping the ginger! You can also grate it, but- you know me... I like to show-off my chopping skills! Until I cut one of my fingers! Lol!

And next, using a very sharp knife, carefully cut a slit into each cutlet, making a little "bag" ready to be filled with al of those tasty goodies!


 

Pop the onion, apple and ginger, together with some salt, pepper, the fennel seeds and the spice, into a small saucepan along with a pat of butter and fry until the onion becomes translucent.

At that point, add just enough water to cover everything and then continue to cook until the water has evaporated away and everything is cooked through, but still has a little bite. Set to one side to cool and get ready to have some fun filling those cutlets!


 

Once the filling is cool, it should have absorbed all of the water and of course all of the flavors... And it will be smelling simply wonderful!

 

Spoon plenty of filling into each cutlet, but don't over-fill them- you don't want it all spilling out again after all! Seal with a simple cocktail stick, grab your griddle, add a drop or two of olive oil and get ready to let sizzle!

 
 
Cook for 2-3 minutes from each side, until the meat is no longer pink and you have some nice scorch-marks... Season with salt and pepper- and except for that simple salad, you are all ready to go!

 

To make the salad, simply chop both the lettuce and the mint leaves finely, pop them into a bowl, sprinkle them with salt and gently "mash" them through with your hands a little. Add a little olive oil and lemon juice, a touch of pepper... And you are ready to serve!

 
 
And of course, a few cherry tomatoes add a nice splash of color and a hint of fruitiness that makes everything a little brighter and nicer still.

 

That filling is lovely and sweet and tangy, with a great hint of spice, which transforms the otherwise relatively bland pork into something special indeed... I think you're going to like it!