Sunday, 25 January 2015

Blooming Wonderful!

Carciofini Ripieni ca Muddica, a Lumia, a Menta u Capuliatu
Baby Artichokes Stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Lemon, Mint & Ground Sun-Dried Tomatoes


I love giving flowers as gifts, I really do- and yes, I like flowers in general- only, I never buy them for myself. Unless we are talking about zucchini blossoms, cauliflowers or these little beauties here, that is!

I am more of the "let's turn those into supper!" kind of guy that the, "hey- let me fetch you a vase for those!" kind, I suppose- hate me if you must!

But give me a little love and I will tell you how I prepared these beautiful little artichokes here!


They wouldn't make much of a meal, and would only make for a so-so starter, these little babies here, if you didn't make the effort to make them a little more special. And no, I do not mean dipping them into something! That is not the way I eat my artichokes- I am more of an "old school" kinda guy.


All it takes to transform simple little artichokes into incredibly tasty pieces of culinary art, is some fresh mint and parsley, a lemon for zest, juice and as a base for steaming and baking, a little Parmesan cheese, onion, bread crumbs and sun-dried tomatoes... in this case, wonderfully rich, ground sun-dried tomatoes that I brought back from Sicily. Eat your hearts out! Oh- and a little fruity olive oil of course, to make this flavor combination truly wonderful and complete!


See that richness? That color and variety of flavors right there? You are not going to get that from dipping bland artichoke leaves into and swirled-up and ultimately fatty dip! Just sayin'... 


Steamed to perfection and then toasted in the oven for a final, finishing touch, theses not only taste divine, but actually become relatively satisfying and filling, thanks to those bread crumbs- and just look at what a wonderful stuffing they turn into!


Begin by cutting away almost the top half of the artichokes and trimming and peeling the stem. Rub the cut edges and the stem with a slice of lemon, or drop them into lemon juice, to prevent them discoloring.

You are not being wasteful by discarding so much of the artichoke- it isn't edible and will only end up laying in your plate and looking nasty afterwards anyway.

Spread out the leaves, one by one, all the way to the center, where you can check to see if the
re is any "choke" there at all, but with some small ones, like these, you will be fortunate enough to find that none has grown yet.

For the stuffing, finely chop 2-3 slices of lemon zest, the herbs and the onion, grate a little Parmesan and if you don't have ground sun-dried tomatoes, simply chop up regular ones.

How much will you need? Well, of course, that all depends on how large your artichokes and your onion are etc... so I am just going to say that for my 3 artichokes I needed 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs and around 1 tablespoon each of the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and mix together thoroughly.

There you have your stuffing, there you have your artichokes... and now begins the fun!

Simply pull each leaf out from the center and either using a spoon or simply your hands, fill up all of the spaces in-between each leaf, from the outside working in, all the way to the center.

Don't worry- it is easy to do, not difficult and is actually a lot of fun! Just work right there in the bowl as it can be a little messy maybe, otherwise.


Set your artichokes on top of a steam rack, on top of some lemon slices, in a saucepan with a tight lid, add water up to the level of the steamer and allow to steam away for 30 minutes.

If you want to make full-sized artichokes, it is the exact-same procedure, but the cooking time will be more like 45-60 minutes.


After steaming, they will be tender and delicious and smell absolutely divine... but look a little sorry for themselves like these do here.

Add a nice drizzle of olive oil to each and then pop them into a hot oven, on the top shelf, for 10-15 minutes at 200°C until they become crispy and brown on top.


What a difference!


Colorful, incredibly flavorful and elegant enough to serve to guests as a part of a wonderful dinner... but simple enough to do that you can treat yourself to them at any time too! Just like I did!


And the best thing is, of course, that the bread crumbs soak up and absorb every bit of every flavor that has been stuffed into the artichokes- as well as the artichokes own wonderful flavor! They become crispy on the outside but remain soft, moist and juicy on the inside- how wonderful some of these "poor peoples dishes" can be!


Yes- that is the kind of flower that I like best! It smells amazing too!

Just Avoca-Do It!

Tortilla con Avocado, Feta, Pomodorini & Erbe Miste
Avocado, Feta Cheese, Cherry Tomato & Mixed Herb Tortilla

Late for breakfast, yet too early for lunch- aaargh! I hate the expression, but I guess the term for that little meal of the day is known as "brunch"! And that's what you are looking at right here!

Low in calories, high in flavor, easy to make and quick enough to rescue you when you need a quick, filling fix of flavor- so healthy and good for you too!


Again- here is a great, filling meal, made from "next-to-nothing" as they say, which will easily satisfy 2 people and has all the flavor you need to let you enjoy all the goodness it has!


This was all it took except for 2 flour tortillas- 1 ripe avocado, 9-10 cherry tomatoes, a half pack of Feta cheese, some lime juice and mixed herbs- basil, mint, thyme and oregano in this case.


It's just a simple sandwich, but has such delicious, bright, fresh flavors, that it is an absolute delight to eat. The avocado has quite a bit of fat of it's own, which makes it smooth and creamy tasting to eat, without you needing to add any unnecessary dressings or anything- but at the same time, they are healthy fats that will actually do you good!


Yep- you get twice as much as this from that simple list of ingredients! A little food goes a long way, if you are savvy about how to prepare it!


All you need to do is to dice and scoop out the avocado...


...than season with a good pinch of salt, plenty of ground pepper and the juice of half a lime. These simple ingredients will absolutely make the most of the avocado's own flavor, the juice will make the avocado soften and become creamy and delicious... and the whole thing suddenly comes to life!


Dice up the tomatoes, crumble up the cheese, chop up and pluck the herbs... and you are ready to go!

Set the tortilla into your dry frying pan, spread out the ingredients generously on half of it, add the herbs and a last bit of ground pepper and turn on the heat.

After just 1-2 minutes, the tortilla will become soft enough for you to easily fold shut- and just a minute or so later, you should easily be able to be carefully turn it over, to become toasted and brown on the other side too.


As you can see- the interior is still raw and fresh and delicious, but the tortilla has crisped-up and become firm enough to be able to pick up and eat easily... as well as having that bit of toasted aroma that makes it even more delicious!


And you KNOW that THIS has just GOT TO BE awesomely delicious now, don't you?

I made sure to take a big bite, just to be sure... and yep! You can relax... it tastes just great! Try it for yourselves- and enjoy!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Isn't it Pretty in Pink!

Insalata di Radicchio Rosa, Puntarelle, Arancia Sanguina & Limone Dolce
Pink Radicchio, Puntarelle, Blood Orange & Sweet Lemon Salad


I have since discovered, that the beautiful pink leaves I believed to simply be some kind of obscure, pink lettuce of some kind, was indeed what is known as "Rosa del Veneto" and is a variety of radicchio... so it is no wonder that I enjoyed it so much!

Slightly bitter, but not quite as much as radicchio or endives, but much lighter and crisper, this was a wonderful discovery and great in combination with the other lovely ingredients tonight...


My beloved "puntarelle", spectacular, Sicilian blood oranges and THE most amazing, Israeli sweet lemons- what a combination! And how could I do anything other than turn them into a beautiful and refreshing Winter salad?


1 head of pink radicchio or lettuce, 1 small head of puntarelle, 1 blood orange, 1 sweet lemon, a little hot mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano... and faster than fast could be, I had a beautiful salad, easily enough for 4 servings and so easy to make! I liked it! And you and your guests will too!


With every bit as much flavor as it has color, this is a super-healthy and refreshing salad which will liven up any Winter spread- so get out there and make the most of that produce whilst it is in season and you have the chance!


Wash the greens (and pinks!) and spin them dry, then slice up the "pods" of the puntarelle as thinly as you can manage.


Cut the orange and lemon in half and squeeze half of each to make the dressing, then peel the other half and cut out the individual segments to use in the salad.


Add 1 tablespoon of hot mustard, 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and a good pinch of oregano to the juice and blend together well to make the dressing.


Cut the segments out of the orange and lemon and set them to one side, ready to add to the salad.


Simply lay out the pink leaves first, nice and decoratively around your serving dish and then lay out the puntarelle slices and leaves on top. Scatter the orange and lemon pieces evenly on top and drizzle generously with the dressing, before adding a good extra sprinkle of dried oregano... delicious!


 There's a whole lot of flavor going on right there- all bitter-sweet and delicious!


It's almost as pretty as a picture- your right... but it's not a picture- so just grab yourselves knives and forks and enjoy!

Brighten up your Winter mealtimes!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Spiced Up Simplicity

Cavolini di Bruxelles & Carote Arrostiti alla Tandoori con Riso Aromatico
Tandoori Baked Brussels Sprouts & Carrots with Aromatic Rice


Bye-bye boredom- hello flavor! That was the message for my simple little vegetables this suppertime- and whoever would have thought, that with just a little bit of spice and imagination, 2 such humble vegetables could be come so delicious and fun?!?

Coated in yogurt, then spiced and finally baked in a very hot oven, these sweet carrots and Brussels sprouts took on and developed a lot of great and spicy flavor, that made them worthy of being seen as more than simple side-servings!


I served them with some simple, but flavorful rice- boiled with ginger and curry leaves and then sautéed with butter, turmeric and Spring onions... and what a wonderful and colorful combination it turned out to be!


To make this dish I needed equal quantities of carrots and sprouts, a little yogurt, a little ginger, some Spring onion, turmeric and tandoori powder, a little cumin, a few curry leaves, a little butter and a dash of sesame oil.

I am going to presume- and I very much hope, that you will be able to judge the quantities of each ingredient that you will need! I am not even about to begin saying how many carrots- it all depends how big yours happen to be! Same goes for the sprouts or the onion for that matter! Just look at the pictures and you will see all that you need to know- this is seriously no-risk stuff here!


The result is rich in spice and flavor, yet mild- it is aromatic and flavorful and healthy and inexpensive- and it is a whole lot of fun to make and eat, too!


Cut the carrots into thick slices and the sprouts in half and pre-cook them before start having all the fun! That means, drop the carrots into boiling, well-salted water for 2-3 minutes, then add the sprouts for around 3 minutes- this gives them both time to absorb some boiling water as well as to begin cooking.

Drain the vegetables well and then add a little sesame oil, yogurt, salt, pepper and a good sprinkle of tandoori spice. Stir them together well and then add a second sprinkle of spice- once that has been well integrated, add a last sprinkle- and turn on your oven and your rice cooker!


It is best to add the spice a bit at a time, so as to make sure that the vegetables get covered from all sides- if you add it all at once, it will be a lot more difficult to get it to spread evenly all over.


Once the carrots and sprouts are well coated, they can go into the oven, at the highest setting, for 15 minutes, to get nice and toasted from one side... in the meantime, you can boil the rice before flipping the vegetables over to finish- good timing is an important part of preparing a meal as you all know!


I boiled my rice in a rice-cooker, with 4-5 curry leaves, 3-4 small slices of ginger and a pinch of salt. After 15 minutes it was good and I turned off the heat, took of the lid and let off the damp so that the rice could cool off a little.


At that point, the vegetables were ready to flip over, so that they could get nicely crispy and brown from the other side before I got back to the rice.

To fry the rice, I added a pat of butter to my frying pan, the rice, some finely chopped Spring onion and a light sprinkle of turmeric powder. Once everything was nicely mixed and the rice lovely and golden and beginning to brown slightly, I added a few drops of sesame oil, stirred it in and turned off the heat... in just 3-4 minutes the rice was ready... and so were the baked vegetables too!


Rich, roasted, ever so slightly frazzled around the edges, they really did have a flavor and a hint of smokiness about them that you might have got from a real tandoor oven... only, you would never be able to stick your carrots and sprouts to the walls of a clay, underground oven now, would you? haha!


The touch of yogurt turns to a light crusty layer on the vegetables, which helps trap the moisture inside and keep them juicy and sweet and delicious- a really wonderful combination with the tangy richness of the spice!

Nothing that exciting to make to be honest... except for the taste- which is something worth getting excited about... and I hope you are eager to find out for yourselves, because I am confident that you are going to like it!


Who knew that such simple vegetables could taste sooo good? I did- that's who! And now you do too!