Sunday, 18 December 2011

Rice and Peas Please!

Risi Bisi al Forno con Pancetta Croccante
Oven Baked Rice & Peas with Crispy Bacon

Oh, I know what you are thinking and you are right, this isn't a particularly Christmassy dish to be signing off with this year- but alas- the only things I had left in the fridge were bacon, celery, a carrot an onion and the few leaves of parsley- and now it is EMPTY! Thank heavens I had some rice and frozen peas so I could make this thing work- and surprisingly tasty it turned out too!

I thought of doing a risotto, but decided against it and made this pilau-styled version using Basmati rice instead. I wanted to do something I could just push into the oven and forget about, something that would be warming and delicious and easy- though not necessarily in that order!

So- I popped my dish into the oven for 10 minutes- to get the oven warm and the dish hot. Then I popped in some finely diced bacon, celery, carrot, onion and garlic and back in the oven it went for 2-3 minutes to start it bubbling away. In the meantime I boiled some water, chopped a handful of parsley um finely, including the stems and prepared the frozen peas and bacon slices so that I could put everything together... the rest is very quick and easy!

Take the hot dish with the sizzling bacon, and other ingredients out of the oven and stir in the rice, peas and parsley Stir well and then grate with nutmeg,sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little chili and pour over some boiling water, just enough to cover the rice. Lay the bacon on top and then cover with aluminum foil and return to the oven for 15 minutes at a moderate heat.

The rice will steam nicely and take in all of the flavors of those finely chopped vegetables, onion and garlic. The bacon will cook and give off its juices into the rice and everything will fluff up nicely. After 15 minutes, remove the foil and return the dish to the oven for a further 3-4 minutes under the broiler to get the bacon crispy and delicious.

 A few more leaves of fresh parsley for looks and I was ready to rumble! The bacon was crispy and the top layer of rice had a light crunch to it too, but underneath the rest of the rice and peas was steamy-hot and delicious- mixing the parsley in was great- the leafy texture along with the crispy bacon and fluffy rice was excellent!

So having invited you to join me for my last meal online for this year, I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May your dreams come true, your meals be delicious and may your computers be tuned to this blog in 2012! Look forward to seeing you then!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Comfort and Joy

Pasta al Forno con Macinato di Manzo, Avocado + Pomodorini
Avocado, Ground Beef & Tomato Pasta Bake

Maybe it was cold outside, maybe it was just thrown together from my last few provisions before I leave for Sicily in a couple of days- but there was plenty of comfort in this simple supper, even though it would have been a joy to have shared it on this Winter's night! That is the Sicilian way- no matter how humble or how little, if a friend turns up, you offer what you have. All I have for you dear reader, are my photos and instructions... but I am more than happy to share those with you now...

I had an avocado, 3 cherry tomatoes and 2 of those left over mini- meatballs, uncooked,  from the other night. I figured, with a couple of handfuls of pasta, a little salted ricotta and some milk, I could make that into a meal... and boy, did I ever!

I put the pasta on to boil and crumbled the fennel seed meatballs into a dry frying pan and began to fry them. Once the meat was done, but not browned, I removed it and added finely chopped carrot, celery and garlic, sautéed them for 2-3 minutes to get them started and added half of the avocado, finely diced. I let that all sizzle away for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, so that the avocado began to lose its consistency and began to soak up the juices from the meat. This meant that I had a lot of wonderful flavors accumulating in that frying pan which I did not want to lose! So I added a little white wine and stirred it in well, which caused the avocado to begin to dissolve into a thick paste. I added milk, nutmeg, salt, pepper and Tabasco and kept on stirring, turning everything into a smooth, creamy sauce.

By now pasta was finished, so I drained it off and added it to the avocado sauce and mixed it in well. I filled my baking dish with the pasta- you can add as much sauce as you prefer, but I like my pasta to crisp up a little in the oven and so did not add so much. I then spread out the ground meat, the other half of the avocado in slices and the cherry tomatoes in halves.

I sprinkled the avocado and tomatoes with a little salt, ground chili flakes and a hint of lime juice, drizzled them very lightly with olive oil and then grated salted ricotta cheese over everything. Again- it is a matter of preference and I personally do not like lots of melted cheese on my pasta- but for sure you could add more cheese and more sauce and that would be equally delicious. I just think that sometimes less is more...

Into the oven it went for 20 minutes at a moderate heat- everything was warm and pre-cooked, so really it is just to bring everything up to temperature and for the flavors to combine a little better... and for you to set the table and pour some wine... and get ready to enjoy this delicious supper! Comfort food and a joy indeed!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Piccoli Pasticini di Frutta
Mini Fruit Pastries

I am almost to embarrassed to write these things up- but there you go- I am shameless and doing it all the same! I had a little leftover puff pastry in the fridge, 3 little figs, a handful of cumquat's... and a craving for something sweet! Good combination to create something in a hurry- the only other ingredients I needed were Cointreau and honey- and away I went!

I brought a small glassful of Cointreau to the boil and added a couple of tablespoons of honey and a little cinnamon, stirred it well and turned off the heat. I added the fruit slices and stirred them gently and then allowed them to cool whilst I prepared the pastry bases.

I cut out the pastry using my handy little ravioli tool- although of course, you can just use a small glass if you do not have a cutter- or indeed cut the pastry into squares or any other shape. I simply placed a slice of fruit in the center of each pastry base- you cant get any easier than that- really!

Off they went into a pre-heated oven at 170-180 °C for around 15 minutes- or until the pastry begins to puff up nicely. At that point, fetch them out and sprinkle them lightly with sugar. Now back in they go and under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until everything becomes a nice golden brown and the sugar caramelizes on the fruit slightly.

At least I admitted they were practically an embarrassment as far as the level of difficulty goes- but these simple little pastries are simply super-light, pretty and delicious. And what more do you need them to be than that?

Serve them as a little snack to accompany an espresso or cappucino, or serve 4-5 of them with some whipped cream or custard... but whatever you do- don't throw away those little bits of pastry-  have some fun and do something with them!

More Capers from the Old Country

Risoni con Polpettini, Pomodorini e Caperi
Risoni with Fennel-seed Meatballs, Tomatoes & Capers

Who needs weather like this? Cold, rainy, windy- just plain nasty is what it is! Especially when you have to walk home through it! And all the way I was thinking of what I was going to concoct this evening... and was thinking thoughts of Sicily again- where I will be flying in just 6 short days! But, impatient as I am, I set about giving myself a sneak-preview this very evening... and how!

Capers are a very typically Sicilian ingredient and delicious in any number of recipes. I especially like these huge, succulent ones- they are so much more aromatic than the little ones. Fennel seed is also very important in Sicilian "salsiccia" or sausage- my favorite kind!

So already the path was clear and the flavors were decided on... it was just a question of how I could manage to pull it all together... and I did it like this...

I started out by forming simple little meatballs of ground pork and beef in a 50/50 mix, finely chopped onion, finely chopped parsley, chili flakes, salt, pepper, fennel seed and a little salted ricotta cheese which I finely grated. I started frying the meatballs in a dry, non-stick pan and then added a stalk of celery in relatively fine slices. Once the meatballs began to brown I added the risoni and stired everything together gently, so that they got coated in the juices that were forming in the pan.

I added about a cupful of boiling water and continued stirring gently- similar to the way you would make a risotto. I then added the zucchini slices and seasoned with salt and pepper, a little crushed garlic, a handful of finely chopped parsley, a little nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon.

After about 10 minutes I added the cocktail tomatoes, a pinch of sugar and a squeeze of tomato paste. I added another cupful of boiling water and stirred until the tomato paste was dissolved and equally distributed. I then turned off the heat and allowed them to sit for 4-5 minutes... finished! I served it with a light sprinkle of olive oil and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice- delicious on a cold Winter evening! Who cares what the weather is like outside!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Fruity Beauty

Insalata di Finnochio, Albicocca, Fichi e Cumquat
Fennel, Apricot, Fig and Cumquat Salad

There isn't much of a story to this little entry- except to tell you that it was late in the evening and I was still hungry! Ravenous, I went to the fridge to see what would be reasonable to snack on. I didn't want to get cooking again at 10.30 pm, so my best option was to make a salad!

So the salad got made out of the same ingredients that I used for my baked pudding on Sunday- how cool? I love it when you can make 2 totally different dishes out of the same ingredients! This combination of fig, apricot and cumquats was transformed completely by having fennel added and being seasoned with crushed sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a little thyme and of course the delicious fennel leaves... yummy!

 I dressed it with a drizzle of olive oil, a little white balsamic vinegar, a few droplets of honey and a squeeze of lime. That makes for a pretty yummy and tasty late-night snack! And yes. a totally healthy one at that! So what's not to love? Go make it yourself!

It may be Winter outside- but in this little bowl of salad is a blast of sunshine. Here's one last shot for you... don't you wish you could just take a fork and try it right now?

What came first, the Eggplant or the Egg?

Uova al Forno in Involtini di Melanzane con Pomodoro & Pepe
Baked Eggs in Eggplant Rolls with Tomato & Pepper Compote

Wouldn't it be funny to cook an egg in an eggplant, I thought as I walked home from work this evening. And being as I only have a few days left before I leave home for the holidays, and have to use up some last bits and pieces in my fridge- that was exactly what I did!

I started off by slicing the eggplant into thin slices lengthways and frying them in a very little olive oil until they were half-cooked and soft enough to roll. I set them to one side and then went about slicing up some green and yellow peppers, a little celery and some cherry tomatoes. These went into the frying pan next, along with a little crushed garlic and spring onion, and I sautéed them in a little olive oil with oregano, parsley, basil, nutmeg, salt, pepper and chili. After 3-4 minutes of frying, I added a tablespoon of tomato paste and carried on stirring for another minute or two, before deglazing the frying pan with a little water.

I let the sauce thicken on a slow simmer for 10 minutes and then started to put my little dish together. I rolled the eggplant together, using 2 slices at a time for each roll/serving. I set these into an ovenproof dish and then started to fill the spaces in-between with the tomato/pepper mixture. I made sure that some wet into the rolls, so that the egg would not stick to the bottom of the dish later. It is a bit tricky- but it is doable and it is worth it! Just keep pushing the rolls back into shape if they fall over- lift them back up with a spoon and calm down- you can do it! It's only food!

Now carefully crack an egg into each eggplant roll and transfer your little creation to the oven, preheated to 170°, for 20-30 minutes until the egg is set. Yes, strangely enough it does take that long, but it also gives the spicy tomato and pepper sauce to come back up to temperature- and gives you time to chop some parsley as a garnish and to have a drink... though not necessarily in that order!

Once the egg is set and everything is ready, sprinkle with salt, grind with fresh pepper and serve immediately with some ciabatta or crusty white bread... and enjoy!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Money Bags!

Pasta Sfoglia con Zucca, Lenticchie & Pancetta
Zucchini, Lentil & Bacon Pastries

I came up with this idea, trying to think of something nice to make for New Years Eve. I will be celebrating in Sicily with my parents and sisters and thought it might be nice to do something different and fun using traditional ingredients. And the tradition in Italy is to have at least one lentil dish for New Year, as the lentils used to symbolize coins in the old days and therefore bring good fortune and wealth in the new year. Well I am not sure about that- but they do make for a nice dish or two on the 31'st!

I prepared the lentils by boiling them, together with finely diced carrots and celery for 30 minutes, in just enough water to cover them. After around 15 minutes, the water had reduced some, so I added a tablespoon of tomato paste and topped it up again- using boiling water, so as to not slow down the cooking. I seasoned the lentils with salt, pepper, a little crushed garlic, thyme, chili and a leaf of bay. I let them finish cooking at a low simmer whilst I prepared the other ingredients...

The zucchini, was one of those small, round ones. I cut 3 nice slices from one and popped them into a hot, dry non-stick frying pan with a little salt. There is no need for oil, as the zucchini will soon start to give off it's own moisture and will begin to cook in it's own juices. This way, it will be pre-cooked, so that it only needs to be re-heated in the oven later and also the flavor of course intensifies if you reduce the moisture and do not add other ingredients. I kept flipping it for 5-6 minutes until it began to soften...

By which time of course the lentils were ready, the liquid evaporated and also tasting intense and wonderfully aromatic. All that needed to be done now was to put these little treasures together! I took a strip of bacon and wrapped it around my fingers in a loop- it holds together wonderfully, which is handy, as of course the next step is to fill the bacon with lentils, on top of the pre-cooked zucchini slice. Which is tricky, but probably not as difficult as you think! Use a teaspoon and scoop some lentils into the bacon- as soon as you have "enough" in there, it should be a little more stable and less tricky!

I set the prepared bacon-wrapped lentils on top of the zucchini and set that in turn on top of a square of puff pastry and baked it at 180°C for 10-15 minutes until brown. Easy! And delicious! And perfect to be enjoyed hot or cold which should be perfect for the latest night of the year as you may well feel hungry after that midnight champagne!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

...a GRATE Little Soup!

Zuppa di Patate Dolce con Zucchine e Pomodoro Secco
Sweet Potato, Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomato Soup

Are you one of those people who thinks that it takes a long time to make a good and tasty soup? Do you think that the quick way to do it is to open a can? How sad! You would never catch me eating soup from a can- unless of course I am forced to do it as a survivor of a nuclear war or something. Nope- I make my own soups! And when I am short on time- I sometimes do something a little bit like this...

The whole secret here, is the preparation of the main ingredients and how I went about it. Those ingredients were, sweet potato, ginger, celery, garlic and onion and what I did with them was that I didn't chop them, but grated them. The great (grate) thing about it is that you needn't peel the ginger or the celery- you will find that the stringy sinews of the celery and the skin of the ginger do not go through the grater- so you have already saved time there!

Once they were grated, I added them, along with some finely chopped bacon, into a saucepan and started to brown them gently. You already have a great combination of flavors going right there, but I also added some grated nutmeg, chili and lime juice and then deglazed the saucepan with some boiling water- just enough to coat the potatoes. Stir well with a wooden spoon and soon the grated potato will begin to blend together into a smooth paste. Keep adding hot water a little at a time until you have a nice smooth consistency and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

Basically, that is all there is to it- except for the handful of finely diced sun-dried tomato and parsley that I added at the end. The only thing left to do now was to dish it up and enjoy! And I did!


"Pudding Inglese" Veloce, con Fichi, Mandarini Cinese e Albicocca
Quick Gingerbread Pudding with Fig, Apricot and Cumquats

Yes, the line with the "figgy-pudding" in everybody's favorite Christmas carol, gets me every time too! What IS a figgy pudding?!?! Like anyone knows! Well, if you look it up, there are in fact many traditional English steamed puddings with figs... it is that time of the year! But a steamed pudding is a complicated and timely affair... unless you get created and make a fake version... a little something like this!

I used a store-bought ginger cake- the kind of thing you would have for breakfast- a simple loaf with honey and a little ginger in it... a classic "ginger bread" if you like. I cut the sticky loaf into slices, cut the slices into cubes, and filled about 1 coffee-mug full of them into a bowl. This will make a pudding of 2 generous servings. I then poured a little warm milk over it, just to moisten it slightly and then beat it with a wooden spoon until it became a smooth paste. I added 1 egg and about a half mug of coconut flakes, some cinnamon and a little powdered ginger. I added a little Cointreau to that (which you can leave out if you are making this for children), but rum would also have been nice. And then I gave it a beating!

Whisk until smooth and add 3 teaspoons of baking powder. Whisk again and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes whilst you butter your baking dish. I also was bright enough to flour mine this time- duh! I really am more of a cook than a baker!

Once you have poured it into you baking dish, add the figs, cumquats and apricots... you could also use any other fruits, or add nuts and raisins- but I just like the look of these and the combination went really well!

Into a pre-heated oven it went, for 25-30 minutes at 180°C. And the apartment soon started to smell divine... hot gingerbread- yummy! It is best to eat this hot- just as you would an English pudding... and a hot (or cold) custard would really take this thing off the charts! As you can see from the picture... the fig softens up and becomes lovely and syrupy and sticky... mmm! And with the smooth apricot and the tangy cumquat- it is really a great combination... and one I hope you will enjoy as much as I did!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Flower Power!

Fiori di Zucca al Forno, Ripieni con Couscous Saporito
Oven Baked Savory Zucchini Blossoms with Couscous Filling

Maybe it was the surprisingly sunny and wonderful weather today, maybe it was just the fact that it was pure chance that I stumbled upon them in the first place, but when I DID stumble upon these wonderful little zucchini-blossoms, I just had to have them!

I had never made them before- nor had I even eaten them... so this was to be a cool little experiment! I know that they are often stuffed with some kind of cream cheese or ricotta and then deep fried- which sounds perfectly yummy, but I wanted to do something much lighter and just plain... different!

First thing I did, was to carefully get my fingers inside and to snap off the little stamen, which holds the pollen and un-yummy powder that you do not want to be eating. I then rinsed the blossoms off to make sure there were no bugs or critters in the folds of those delicate petals. Next step- Couscous!

To prepare the filling, I finely chopped spring onions, parsley and mint and added it to the couscous, which I then poured boiling water onto, stirred well and allowed it to cool and swell...  and THEN I set about preparing the other ingredients. I added finely chopped black olives, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, grated salted ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne, a little honey and a little nutmeg. I mixed this well and allowed it to stand for 5-6 minutes.

To fill the blossoms, hold them open and carefully spoon in the savory couscous filling. Don't over fill them- you will only get a really nice result if you are careful. Once you have filled the blossoms, give them a half twist to "seal" them and lay them on an oven tray. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake at a moderate heat for 10 minutes. After that time, carefully flip them over once and pop them under the broiler to finish things off and get them very lightly browned.

 I enjoyed mine with a few cherry tomatoes, which I gently fried with garlic, sliced basil and a little oregano... yum! A simple, delicious dish, filled with all the flavors of a Sicilian Summer... enjoy!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Open Sesame!

Polpette di Manzo e Cavolo con Sesamo & Patate-Dolce Fritte
Beef & Red Cabbage Sesame Meatballs & Sweet Potato Fries

So the question was: did I want to go out and buy rolls, so that I could use one to sandwich my burger in and then have the problem with what to do with the rest- or not? The answer was obviously "not", as you can see. Rather than making a simple burger and fries, I decided
to try something different with my last portion of ground beef- and I am glad that I did!

I decided I wanted to do something a little more spicy and quirky than a burger, so, thinking of the fillings I usually do when I make my Thai spring rolls, with shredded cabbage, I decided to use the last wedge of red cabbage that I had left over. I cut it into strips and then cut the strips into a very fine dice. I added this, along with some finely chopped spring onion, grated ginger, raisins, finely chopped parsley and some spicy paprika powder. I mixed these ingredients together well, added salt, pepper and a little squeeze of lime and then formed small patties out of the mix. The next thing I did, was to prepare a plate full of sesame seeds, which I pressed the meatballs into on one side only... and the next thing I knew, I was sizzling them away in non-stick pan with no added oil with the uncoated side down. This lets the fat escape and therefore eliminates the need for any extra. Fry at a moderate heat for 5-6 minutes before flipping them over. I then fried them for a further 2-3 minutes on the seeded side, then took them out and popped them into the oven to continue cooking whilst I prepared the sweet potatoes...

I sliced the sweet potato into fries and blanched them for around 1 minute in boiling, well-salted water. I then drained them, drizzled them very lightly with olive oil, seasoned them with ground sea salt which was flavored with fennel seeds, chili flakes, rosemary and a tiny amount of sugar and fried them for 2-3 minutes at a high heat. I then transferred them to the oven try that the meatballs were roasting in and carried on cooking them together.

After around 7-8 minutes in the oven, I turned on the broiler and gave everything a more pleasant golden color- and that was it! Spicy, savory and individual meatballs and some yummy and individual flavored fries... a perfect good-mood meal to kick off the weekend with! Enjoy!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Have You Done Udon?

Tagliatelle Asiatiche Udon con Pollo & Verdure
Udon Noodles with Chicken & Vegetables 

I love Udon noodles, either in a steaming hot, spicy, lemon grass-infused broth, or in a pan-fried recipe like this one. I love the fact that they are very quickly cooked and that they have a wonderfully silky-smooth texture. You're not familiar with them? Well you had better try them out, 'cause you are missing out on something yummy if you don't!

To prepare this simple dish, I started out by slicing the chicken into bite-sized pieces and marinating it with sliced ginger, a little sesame oil, some lime juice and a little Sansho pepper to give it an unexpected kick. It is much better if you can do this in advance, but as this was a "spur of the moment" decision this evening, I had to make do with 20-30 minutes.

I cut the vegetables into slices- carrots, red cabbage, yellow and green peppers, spring onion and celery. Basically I used whatever I had at home- so you can vary when you get around to making your own version. So, now we are ready to go!

I started the water boiling for the noodles and in the meantime got my non-stick pan hot for the chicken. In went the noodles and in went the chicken and ginger.  After 1-2 minutes of cooking, add the rest of the vegetables to the noodles. They are not going to need more than 5 minutes total cooking time. so this will give the vegetables 3 minutes of pre-cooking, after which time you can turn off the heat.

Once the chicken is cooked, add the noodles and vegetables, a little sesame oil, some 5-spice powder, soy sauce, chili, honey and get stirring!

Whilst the noodles were finishing cooking, I toasted up some fresh sesame seeds to use as decoration. And I went about serving everything up! The noodles went into my bowl first, along with the rest of the ingredients and a few leaves of parsley. Cilantro would have been nicer, but the parsley added some freshness and went wonderfully with the chicken. A great finishing touch is to drizzle everything lightly with honey and to sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and a few tiny drops of additional sesame oil... delicious! Add a little more dried chili if you dare, (I did) and grab those chopsticks! It's time to eat!


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Yes We Yucatan!

Pollo "Pibil" con Cavolini di Bruxelles al Limone & Tortilla
Pollo Pibil with Lime Brussels Sprouts & Tortillas

I went a little crazy today in the creative department I guess and just dreamed up something which may or may not bear a resemblance to the real dish- but it sure tasted good! When I set about making it, I was not even aware that there is an actual dish from the Yucatan called Pollo Pibil. MY dish, was based on the puerco pibil recipe made famous in Robert Rodriguez's "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"- which is of course a pork dish. The pork takes 2-3 hours of slow cooking to be really good, but I wanted to try a much quicker version using similar spices and chicken- and wouldn't ya know it? It worked pretty well!

I started off by chopping some garlic, some celery and some chili pepper coarsely and adding them to the juice of a lime and a good splash of tequila. I liquidized these used them as a marinade for the chicken breast, which I cut into strips. I put it into a ziploc bag and let it soak in for 30 mins. Obviously, it would have been better if it had marinated longer- preferably overnight- but there you go! A spur of the moment thought and a lack of patience can also be a great source of creativity at times.

I started frying the chicken at a high heat and then added a couple of tablespoons of annatto paste. This immediately gave the chicken its incredible red-orange coloring. Once the chicken began to brown, I poured over the marinade to deglaze the frying pan and also because it was the base of the spicy sauce. I added a tablespoon of tomato paste to thicken the sauce up, some chili flakes and a shot of Tabasco... I wanted to give it a real kick! To make more sauce, I added orange juice and a little balsamic vinegar as the original Yucatan recipe calls for bitter oranges- the touch of vinegar works just fine!

I reduced the heat on the chicken to a very low simmer and prepared the Brussels sprouts in the meantime. I trimmed, quartered and boiled them for 5 minutes and then removed them from the heat. I popped them into a frying pan with a little grated ginger, butter and lime juice- which went to make a wonderful glaze for the sprouts. A sprinkle of cumin seed as a finishing touch and my pseudo-Mexican munch was ready to serve!

As a side, I simply toasted some triangles of tortilla and called it a day. So this is a pretty low-calorie deal compared to many Mexican meals- and that's gotta be a good thing, no?
Don't worry- that was a very ironic and rhetorical question! It was pretty delicious! Alternatively you could serve it with rice or even steamed potato or yucca- but for my Speedy Gonzales version, tortillas were the crispy and tasty way to go!

Monday, 5 December 2011

New Skool Wrap

Tortilla con Frittelle di Ceci, Cavolo Rosso e Peperoni
Chick Pea Fritter Tortilla with Red Cabbage & Peppers 

This colorful little dish, may be wrapped in a whole grain tortilla, bit it isn't your regular Tex-Mex fare. Nope, I came up with these little chick pea or garbanzo fritters myself, based on the traditional Sicilian potato fritters with mint and parmesan cheese that I love. We also have fritters in Sicily called "Panelle", which are made from chick pea flour, which is boiled in the same way that polenta is, poured out and allowed to cool and set and then deep fried. So of course I had to invent a combination of the 2 ideas and a healthy version at that. Was it difficult? Nah! Totally easy! And I am guessing you want to know how, right?

I started off with half a can of chick peas. I drained them and mashed them into a smooth paste- you can do this easily enough with a fork, as I did. I added half the amount in dried breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1 spring onion finely chopped, about a tablespoonful of freshly chopped parsley, the same of mint, the same again of grated salted ricotta, some nutmeg, paprika, caraway seeds, cayenne, salt, pepper and a little finely chopped ginger. Mix everything together into a smooth paste. At first, you will think that the mixture is too soft. Let it stand for 5 minutes and see how much moisture the breadcrumbs soak up. In my case, 5 minutes later the paste was firm and wonderful to shape into little patties. Here's a little tip for you- it is easier to shape the patties if you dip your fingers into some water first.

Fry in a very little olive oil and a couple of cloves of garlic to mildly flavor the oil, for 6-7 minutes on each side until they are a lovely golden brown.

I served them with shredded red cabbage and bell pepper. The cabbage was marinated in that yummy sweet Thai chili sauce, lemon juice and a little sea salt. The white sauce you can see, was a mix of cream cheese, lemon juice & zest, olive oil, grated ginger, salt and pepper. I sprinkled it with some of those toasted, ground paprika flakes for a little extra kick and enjoyed the combination of all of these good, fresh flavors immensely!

These little fritters taste great either hot or cold and are a great, satisfying alternative to a meat filling. If you are that way inclined. This evening I was! Maybe after reading this, you will be too!

Chip 'n' Kale

Patatine" di Cavolo
Kale Chips

If you are in America, you may already be familiar with kale chips... I am not- so I wasn't! I have been reading so much about them lately, that I thought I would give them a go. I liked the sound of a healthy, unusual and natural snack and found it hard to imagine how it could work to make chips out of kale- or what they might taste like! I know!

Kale chips are very mildly bitter, very, very crispy, intense, complex, extremely light and totally different. They are oven-baked, so that means that they are basically dehydrated- which by default means that the flavor intensifies. With some coarse sea salt, or better still a flavored salt like I prepared, I like to think of them as a very adult and classy "foodie" snack. Go ahead and give them a try... you know you want to!

The method for making these is incredibly simple. Wash and dry off the kale and tear it into small pieces. You can cut it, but I just think it is nicer torn. Then, coat it very lightly with olive oil... you only need a little! You will see that the dull green leaves immediately take on a nice sheen and the oil seeps into them. Again- less oil is more in this case! Now sprinkle them lightly with salt. Plain salt is fine, but I ground up some sea salt with a few caraway seeds, a little paprika, a little pepper and yes, a pinch of sugar. This really works well with the kale!

Spread it out on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes at a moderate heat- that's about as long as it took for me. It becomes incredibly crispy and feather light- a totally new sensation when you eat them- they just melt in your mouth! I have to say I was immediately hooked and will be trying a version with salt and vinegar next, which I think should be better still!

But for a first attempt I was pretty thrilled- and I think you will be too!