Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Just a Little Egg-citement!

Frittata di Spinaci, Pomodorini & Camembert al Forno
Baked Spinach, Cherry Tomato & Camembert Frittata


Don't hate me for it... but I do love to try to make a point of proving that I really think I am right when I claim that usually less is more when it comes to mealtime!

That doesn't mean less flavor of course- but usually much less in the way of ingredients as you might think and often times a whole lot less hard work.

Case in point- this beautiful frittata. If I were to show you the ingredients alone you would not be very impressed... but I am pretty sure that you will have found the this picture pretty delicious-looking, no?

That is exactly why I am talking about.  


Small, satisfying... and perfectly formed! More filling than you might think and less fattening than a regular fried egg dish, this was also much more fun than a regular omelette- and how!


As I already said- these ingredients hardly look like they are going to make a decent meal... but they do! Oh, but they do! 2 eggs, a half of a Camembert cheese, 1 cup of spinach (yes, this was frozen), 1 Spring onion, 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, a little fresh thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg and a little olive oil. The End.


Just look at how rich, juicy and delicious this little beauty is!


I cut the tomatoes into quarters, the cheese into small strips, sliced up the Spring onion, plucked the thyme... and turned on the oven. And then I started putting my little dish together.


First I fried the Spring onion for a minute or so, then added the spinach, salt pepper and nutmeg and briefly stir-fried it to get the flavors blended and both ingredients half done. Of course, the spinach, being frozen, was already blanched- so it really didn't take more than 2-3 minutes.


I then took the spinach off the heat and added the breadcrumbs, which absorb any excess moisture- both now and during baking, but also help to cool the spinach down again at this point- which is really convenient because it means we can add the eggs and stir them in more or less straight away.


Once the spinach and eggs are well blended, add half of the Camembert, making sure that it does not all clump together too much if possible, so that you get it nicely and evenly mixed.


I greased my baking dish with a little olive oil and sprinkled it generously with bread crumbs before pouring the egg/spinach/cheese mixture inside, then pressed in the tomato pieces. I sprinkled the thyme on top, seasoned with more salt, pepper and nutmeg and the remaining cheese and popped it into the oven at 189°C for 25-30 minutes until it was beautifully golden brown.


A little something like this!


Sometimes, it can be as simple as that! Why worry, why fuss and why work more than you need to? Just use simple, good ingredients and let things take care of themselves!


Just cut into that good food, take a bite... and enjoy!


And the fact that it happens to look gorgeous makes it even better still, right? You betcha!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Wining and Dining

Melanzane, Finocchi, Patate & Pomodorini in Umido al Vino Rosso
Eggplant, Fennel, Potato & Cherry Tomatoes Stewed in Red Wine


Ever curious, ever adventurous... and ever brave in the kitchen, this evening I went out on a limb and tried out something a little bit crazy!

I had half of the eggplant I used yesterday evening left-over and waiting to be put to good use in the fridge... I had an open bottle of wine... and I had an idea!

The Sicilian-styled cauliflower cooked in red wine is now one of my favorite dishes- so much so, that this evening I thought that I would risk making another vegetable dish stewed in rich red wine... and voila! For a first attempt it really wasn't half bad!

The fennel of course adds a nice sweetness and the potatoes added a little "bulk" and helped thicken the wine and juices into a sauce- but the tomato and herbs blended together wonderfully to make this really rich and delicious! And so easy! All you need is about an hours time... patience... but that's not too hard to do with a glass of red to sip on!


So- I made this from one half of a large eggplant, 1 small bulb of fennel, 2 Spring onions, 2 small potatoes, 4-5 cherry tomatoes, 1 glass of red wine, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and a little fresh parsley and thyme. And yes- garlic would work well in this... but I didn't have any!


And how would I describe it? Hmmm. If you like caponata or ratatouille, if you like eggplant in general, if you like antipasti with a slice or two of bread before your Italian meal... you will probably like this!

The wine makes it of course a rather "heady" affair, but basically it simply tastes typically Mediterranean and rich- definitely a grown-up kind of dish with a sophisticated and nuanced flavor. It has a touch of tanginess from the wine, fruitiness from the tomatoes and vibrancy from the herbs... so get your taste buds ready!


Prep work here is obvious and simple- everything get chopped into bite-sized pieces... very easy!


I began by frying the diced eggplant, potatoes, fennel and Spring onions and thyme in olive oil, until they just started to brown.


I then added the tomatoes and seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper and just a pinch of sugar.

Next came about 1 tablespoon of tomato purée, which I stirred in well and allowed 1-2 minutes in order for it to lose any bitterness it might otherwise bring... As one does  ;-)


I then deglazed the saucepan with 1 glass of red wine and stirred it in to bring up all of the flavors from the base of the saucepan and to dissolve the tomato purée and begin turning it into a sauce.


I then added 1/2 a glass of water and brought everything to the boll. I reduced the heat to a slow simmer, made sure all of the potato pieces were beneath the surface and then put on the lid and let it gently cook along.

After 30 minutes or so, I added 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and then let it simmer away again for a further 20 minutes... Basically until the potato was tender.


With a few sprigs of fennel greens as a garnish, my rich and wonderful stew was ready... all it needed now was a hunk of crusty bread to go with it!


And of course a sip of wine to keep it company! But it was all in a very good cause!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Slice Me, Nicely...

Melanzane al Forno con Ciliegini, Erbe Miste & Scamorza Affumicata
Baked Eggplant with Cherry Tomatoes, Mixed Herbs & Smoked Scamorza Cheese


It was too big for me to eat all by myself, but too beautiful for me to resist... so I decided to do somethings simple, but to make the very most of it and to make it as delicious as possible. Well, mission accomplished, I'd say!

And the best part... I still have other half to look forward to, to make something else delicious later in the week! Hehe!

Using a few herbs and some cherry tomatoes , a little smoked Scamorza cheese and a bit of ingenuity, I transformed these wedges of relatively neutral eggplant into something rich and delicious- yet light and healthy! No frying, no excess fat, just the right amount of olive oil to give great texture and flavor and a nice change from the usual preparations... and still traditional and Mediterranean tasting- yep! This was a good idea I had, I must say!

Should you want to try this out, all you will need is an eggplant, some thyme, mint and parsley, Spring onions, cherry tomatoes and a little cheese... Again- this is not a recipe where you need exact measures! All you need to see is the method and you will be fine. And as for the cheese- any that you prefer will be fine- just be wary of salty cheeses like Parmesan, Grana Padano, Feta or suchlikes and be careful when seasoning. Otherwise... just have fun with it!


It's true- this did take quite a while to cook at a little over an hour- but for me, it was well worth the wait, as the result was so flavorful and as I mentioned, it was so light tasting and delicious!

Plus- once you have done your prep-work, you can just push it into the oven and relax and let it take care of itself!


I cut my half eggplant into 3 wedges- of course, it all depends on the size of the eggplant you have- but I will leave that up to your better judgement!

Then, make lots of cuts all down the length of the eggplant wedges, going nice and deep but being careful to not cut through the peel. Sprinkle a little salt into those cuts to make sure the eggplant gets nicely seasoned and also that it loses some of its bitterness.


Cut the cheese into thin slices, chop the Spring onions and herbs up finely, cut the cherry tomatoes in half... and then have some fun!

Start off by sprinkling some of the herbs and onion into those slits and then slide in just a small slice of cheese into each. Lay the tomatoes all around and also cover in plenty of herbs, onion, salt and pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add enough water into the baking dish to cover the tomatoes about halfway, then cover tightly with foil and pop into a hot oven, at 180°C, to steam/bake for 45-50 minutes.


After around 50 minutes, the eggplant and tomatoes will be basically cooked, the cheese will be nicely melted and most of the water will have evaporated away.

Turn up the heat to maximum and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes until it is lovely and golden brown... and serve as soon as you cant resist to any longer!


This would make a great side to a meat or chicken dish... or alternatively, be a great light meal in itself with a little fresh bread to go with it. Whichever way you enjoy it- the main thing is that you hopefully DO enjoy it! And of course there is only one way to find out... so get into the kitchen!


I think life is to short to not go out there and try something new- especially in the kitchen! What beats having little edible adventures, after all? Don't dream it... eat it!


Buon Appetito!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Keeping it Simple

Risi-Bisi, Carciofi & Menta
Risi-Bisi with Artichoke & Mint


Risi Bisi- funny name! Just means rice and peas of course- talk about simple food! But some things simply work well together, which is probably why there are probably dishes that are based on rice and peas the whole world over.

This is not a risotto, it is made with long-corn rice and what makes it so nice in my version is the combination with mint and artichoke and the use of fresh garden peas. And it tastes so much more exciting than it sounds!

I love dishes that use only a few, good, fresh ingredients and I love to get the most out of each individual flavor. I also like to rely on those flavors to make dishes special, rather than to always resort to using those obvious flavors, such as garlic or Parmesan cheese, to make my meals taste good.

Don't get me wrong- garlic and Parmesan are great! But where is the fun in taking the easy way out all the time and doing the same thing over and over? There is more to Italian food than that!

1 artichoke, 1 teacupful of Basmati rice (or similar), 1 shallot, 2 handfuls of fresh peas, fresh mint and parsley, salt, pepper, olive oil- the end! How much simpler could you want it? You could add garlic if you wanted... but... I didn't!  


This is a very healthy meal- light, low in fat, but so much higher in flavor than you might think. Trust me on this- you do not need chicken stock, butter or saffron- all you need to do is make sure that all of the flavors that you have get absorbed into the rice. Period.


Trim the stalk of the artichoke, pluck away the tougher, outer leaves, cut away the top half and discard, then cut it into quarters. making one deep cut, beneath the "choke", simply lift it out and discard it- and your artichoke is ready to go! You can squeeze a little lemon juice over the cut surfaces to stop them going dark if you like, but basically, you can skip doing that as it is about to go straight into a pot with boiling water!

Shell the peas, finely chop the shallot- and basically you have done all of your "hard work"- hurray!


Pop the artichokes into plenty of well salted water and boil for 30 minutes.


After 30 minutes, add the peas and continue boiling for a further 10 minutes. Soon, that water will be filled with the sweet flavor of the peas as well as the rich and slightly bitter flavor of the artichokes... and that is a good thing!


Remove the artichokes and the peas from the water and add the rice, straight in there, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes with the lid on.


Depending on how much you are preferring, either use separate pans if you have more than one artichoke... or do what I did and fry the artichokes together with the shallot and peas in a little olive oil, with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Add the peas and shallot, along with plenty of finely chopped mint and parsley into the rice, stir everything through thoroughly and allow to sit and steam together, with the lid on, for the next 5-10 minutes.


In the meantime, the artichokes will have fried and become nice and golden around the edges and are ready to serve! Along with a little more freshly chopped mint and parsley, a last grind of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, you have a winning combination right there on your plate!

It's a classic combination in a million and one Italian kitchens... artichokes, mint and peas are just meant to be together- so who am I to keep them apart? I was just doing my good deed for the day- hehe! Thankfully I was able to eat it too!

Mini Monkey Bread!

Piccolo "Pane" di Banane Piccolini, Cocco, Uva Secca, Fiocchi d'Avena & Burro di Arachidi
Little Baby Banana, Coconut, Oatmeal, Raisin & Peanut Butter Loaf


Not quite an actual loaf, not really a cake, not too sweet and obviously not savory... this little breakfast creation is just the right thing if you have just a bit of a sweet tooth but like to stay healthy... like me!

There is so much natural sweetness and moistness in the ingredients here, that there is no need for anything added- except for that last drizzle of honey of course! We can't be doing without that!


This is like baked oatmeal, but just a little bit better- a little less dense and a little lighter in texture, but still satisfying and delicious.

And of course, rather cute with those little itty-bitty oh-so-sweet, baby bananas!

So- it didn't take much to make this little "loaf" (surprise-surprise!)- as you can see, just 1 teacupful of oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of coconut flakes, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a handful of raisins, 1 teaspoon of baking powder- a little honey to drizzle over it at the end... and 45 minutes to prepare!

This was so wonderful, straight from the oven... I am quite sure it would have been nice cold as well... only... I ate the whole thing!

To make it- turn on the oven before you begin and then put the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir them together until they are well mixed.


Next, mash 3 bananas down with a fork and add the tablespoon of peanut butter and the egg and mix together well. Don't worry if you have a few lumpy in there- how could lumps of banana or peanut butter not be good in something like this?


Now add the moist ingredients to the dry, add a handful of raisins and stir together well- just using a fork is fine for such a small amount of batter.


Once the mixture is ready, let it sit for 5-6 minutes whilst you prepare your baking dish by buttering the sides lightly and coating it with coconut flakes.


Now cut a few more bananas in half and press the slices into the batter- like so!


As the bananas would otherwise turn brown and a little unsightly after baking, I added a final sprinkle of coconut before popping my baking dish into the oven for 25-30 minutes at 190°C

Look's pretty delicious after that sun-tan, doesn't it? haha!


And a little attention is always required after getting brown... like a little kiss of honey! It soothes everything- even this sweet-toothed bear! Yummy!


Not too moist, not too dry, not too sweet... just right! This is the kind of oatmeal the bears saved for themselves... no wonder they let Goldilocks eat their porridge! haha!