Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Saving Face (book) :-)

A Little Bit Moving...  
(but not in a sad way :-) )

Good Day to you all out there in Internet Land!

And so it came to pass that I decided to change the way I present my food and my "not-recipes"with all of you good people out there, whilst we all zoom past each other
whilst driving the information superhighway. 

Life always has plenty of surprises that it dishes out to us, though rarely does it hand us extra hours in the day to deal with them! Ain't that the truth! ;-)

What this means for me a this little blog is that I shall be focusing a little more on the Facebook page I have set up under the name The Saucy Chef for a while. I am doing this to improve my visibility on the internet and to see what happens.

At this point I am not sure if anything will change here at all... but at the same time I would be thrilled if you would look me up on Facebook, give me a like, tell your friends, stop strangers in town and tell them, shout it from the highest rooftops and spread the word all over the world. There- I've said it! 

In the meantime, here is a parting shot for this little message, just to reassure you that the cooking is not going to stop and that we will be having plenty of fun together in the future, be it here, there, on Pinterest.... or who knows? Maybe sitting at the same table one day... ?


Monday, 28 April 2014


Zucchine Tonde, Ripiene di Risoni, Pancetta, Limone, Dragoncello e Timo
Round Zucchini with Risoni, Bacon, Lemon, Tarragon & Thyme

No my friends, this is not going to have anything to do with some childrens cartoon show, it is nothing to do with fantasy... but it does have to do with a real-life, tasty meal and yes, it does have something to do with "a dragon"...

The dragon involved is the Italian term for tarragon, which of course you will know by now is called "Dragoncello"... I never get tired of reminding you good people of the fact each time I prepare a dish with it ;-) It is just such an adorable name for a herb!

This simple dish was made from 1 round zucchini, a couple of handfuls of risoni noodles, a handful of finely chopped bacon, 1 Spring onion, 1 lemon and plenty of tarragon and thyme... all down-to-earth and wonderful Springtime flavors!

My Vegetarian friends will be asking themselves if it is really necessary to include the bacon in this little creation of mine and of course the answer is no- you can prepare a completely meat-free version of this with no problems... but I do have to say you'll be glad that you did use the bacon if you follow my recommendations... because that little bit of bacon helps to bring out the best of all of the other flavors in a most delightful way! I mean... we are talking about bacon here, folks!?! What's not to love?!?

Simple as simple can be, the first thing we need to do is to cut the round zucchini in half and to scoop out the rather soft center and the seeds, simply using a tablespoon to do so... because as well as the fact that fact that the center tastes bland and squidgy once cooked- we need to make some room in order to be able to stuff them with!

Once we have hollowed-out the zucchini we can start the water boiling to cook the risoni- in they go, along with a good pinch of salt, and then on top of that goes a steam rack and the zucchini, so that they can steam whilst the risoni boil... good cooking begins with clever multi-tasking! It really does!

Whilst the risoni are boiling away- and they will take anything between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the brand, we can finely chop a stalk of tarragon and the Spring onion, and we can slice and finely chop 2-3 strips of lemon zest... we do want to have a nice, flavorful dish after all!

After the risoni had been boiling for 7-8 minutes or so, I added the lemon zest to the water and stirred it in, so that it could blanch, give off its flavor to the pasta and become a little less intense in itself... again- multi-tasking!

In the meantime, I started the little handful of bacon bits sizzling in a dry non-stick pan, crisping-up and bubbling away in its own fat. Once it was nice and brown, I added the finely sliced onion, lemon zest and tarragon and gave it a brief stir-fry together before draining the excess water from the risoni and adding them into the mix... hisss!

Of course, adding the risoni, moist as they are, brings up all of the good flavors from the bottom of the pan... and the fragrance that brings with it is really amazing and yummy! To make sure we take the best advantage of all the flavor that has developed in the pan, the juice of half the lemon and a tablespoon or so of olive oil will help everything to come together wonderfully and to infuse into the risoni... and the result IS really terrific!

I added an extra little sprinkle of salt to the zucchini before spooning-in the risoni, as zucchini tends to be a little sweet tasting in itself and it would be a shame if it were to taste bland after steaming.

Also, the fact that I spooned the risoni into zucchini is simply a matter of taste and a bit of fun on my part and you could obviously slice or dice the zucchini and stir everything together- it would just have been a shame not to do so with this pretty, little green cannonball! 

I served the stuffed zucchini on top of the excess risoni, with a drizzle of olive oil, the leaves of 4-5 plucked sprigs of thyme and plenty of freshly ground pepper and have to say that the result was lovely! Nice, clean and simple flavors, mild and light and perfect for a Spring meal, whether for lunch or in the evening. 

The tarragon and lemon give a nice citrus/anise flavor and thyme gives a rich, herb  touch that goes well with the salty and smokey bacon... just a little of each thing goes a long way and the combination is a good thing... that I hope you will all enjoy as much as I did!

Go give it a go!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Little Twisters

Sicilian, Twisted, Stuffed Bread Rolls

I hadn't made these in a while and decided that tonight was the night... well, to be precise, I had never made this wonderful, twisted Sicilian bread on a small-scale before, as a roll and thought it would be a great idea for a casual, Springtime evening snack. 

First things first though... how DO you pronounce that name, I am sure you are thinking? Oh, it's easy! I mean... you DO all speak Sicilian dialect now, don't you? Haha! Ok- repeat after me- "in- fidge-you-lah-teenie"... that sould be pretty close to the real thing! Try to not pronounce the letter "i" at the beginning (because there isn't one in the actual name!), and to start with the "n" if you can. I know- it's a strange language and it's not really Italian any more... but I love it!

I am also pretty sure you are going to love these-here rolls! You could thrill a lot of people for sure with these at a buffet or party- they are such fun!

To make 3 of them this evening, I needed just 1 packet of pre-made pizza dough on a roll, 1 mozzarella cheese, 1 shallot, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a handful of finely chopped bacon, a handful of olives and you guessed it- a handful of basil! But you can use basically any filling you may prefer- it is all about the method here... so let's just get started and I am sure you will make up your own minds what you may want to do to prepare your own version...

Obviously, the ingredients need to be prepared a little... the olives removed from the stones and plucked into quarters, the shallot very finely sliced and the same for the cherry tomatoes- nothing that will take more than 5 minutes... and in the meantime, you can turn on your ovens to the highest setting to be ready to rumble as soon as the rolls are prepared...

Before we can start filling the rolls, we need to pre-cook the bacon and shallot, so into a non-stick pan they go for 5 minutes or so, until the shallot is golden brown and the bacon is beginning to get crispy. Once they have go to this stage they need to cool for a while and in the meantime, we can continue with the pizza dough... it's time to have some fun now!

Simply roll back the dough and starting at the outside edge, lay out the ingredients in a width of just 2" or so- just a little of each thing goes a long way and do be careful not to add too much mozzarella as it will just melt and make everything else too moist and squishy... unless you like that- which I don't! 

But hey! I know that other people do like that, so the choice is all yours... just remember- it will most probably all ooze out anyway! So... listen to me! :-)

Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and just a hint of salt- the olives and bacon already pack quite a salty punch as it is don't forget!

As I said, you can vary your filling... ham, peppers, capers, artichoke, different cheeses, different herbs... it's all good! Just don't over-fill and more or less you will find that everything goes!

Once the filling is all arranged and ready, simply fold the dough over-on-itself using the parchment paper that it comes on and then cut the dough just a half inch or so wider, so that you can then roll the dough shut. Once you have done that, squeeze the ends closed and get ready to have a bit of fun!

Once you have your "tube" of dough sealed, carefully begin to twist it, as you would if you were to be making sausages- just over-and-over until you have a number of "pockets" of filling along the length of it- very easy so far. 

The next step is also very simple... tuck-in one of the ends of the dough, to serve as the centre and then wrap the rest of the tube around it, just like a snail shell, in a little spiral and then tuck the other end slightly beneath the base of the roll. 

I liked doing things this way this evening, because just cutting off what I need from the roll of dough as I went along, meant I had no unnecessary waste, no guess-work as to the correct width of the dough strip that I needed... and no extra mess!

Repeat the procedure, adding more filling, folding it shut, cutting it off, twisting it up and on again... one pack of pizza dough will make 3 n'figghiullatini... and considering how little of the other ingredients is needed, you can see what a great and down-to-earth snack this really is!

I used my now universally known frying pan method to make these too- pre-baking them in a non-stick frying pan until they are golden from below, before transferring them from there to the oven at the highest setting for maybe 10 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy from the top.

The great thing about these little rolls is that not only do they bake really quickly, but also for exactly that reason, the brief amount of time in the oven does not allow the tomato to overcook and become soggy or the basil to wilt away into a mess... These things are simply terrific!

So, that was my little re-cap on this wonderful little idea... and maybe you will enjoy trying them out sometime soon... after all- it's not really any more work than making a nice sandwich and the result is just a tad more interesting and exciting!

And it has they crazy, funky name again!


Thursday, 24 April 2014

Intentional International

Bulgur Piccante con Pomodoro & Insalata di Cetriolo
Spicy Tomato-Bulgur with Cucumber Salad

I love ethnic food- I love Indian, I love Asian, I love Oriental and of course I love Mediterranean... but of course what I love most of all... is doing my own thing and borrowing from each and every one of those culinary backgrounds... to me that is what makes the most fun in the kitchen!

This evening, as is so often the case, with a long working day behind me and little energy left to be spending on anything too labor-intensive in the kitchen, I opted to make something quick and easy but satisfying and just plain old delicious... 4 of my favorite things!

Bulgur is one of those great, "life-saving" ingredients, like couscous, pasta, potatoes or rice, that take only a little time to prepare, but are the most ingredient in many, many meals... it all depends on the way we use them and how we flavor them to make all of the real difference--

This evenings dinner was a combination if 2 cups of bulgur, 1 small cucumber, 1 cup of yogurt, about a dozen cherry tomatoes and plenty of basil, parsley, dill and chives and a teaspoon each of turmeric and tandoori powder...

And as usual, the main prep-work involved was plenty of chopping! All of those herbs as finely as possible and the cherry tomatoes too- lots of color and flavor going on right there- with plenty more to come besides!

To prepare the bulgur, I put the 2 cups of bulgur into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons each of finely chopped chives and basil, 2 teaspoons of tomato paste, and a teaspoon each of turmeric and tandoori paste. I poured enough boiling water over the ingredients to cover them by around 1" and then turned on the heat to full power, stirred everything through thoroughly until the water came up to the boil and seasoned well with salt and pepper. 

I kept stirring for a minute or so once the water was boiling, then added a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of sugar and a little squeeze of lemon and set the bulgur to one side to swell and soak up all of the water and juices from the tomatoes...

The cucumber salad was a traditional affair, made by peeling, halving and hollowing out the cucumber using a spoon, then slicing it and sprinkling it lightly with salt and letting it stand for 5-10 minutes or so whilst I chopped up the herbs and stirred together the dressing...

...and the dressing was made of 2 tablespoons of yogurt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, a pinch salt and white pepper, a half-teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon each of finely chopped parsley and dill.

I stirred all of these ingredients together well and then poured the dressing over the cucumber slices, stirred it through and let is sit and infuse for at least 10-15 minutes whilst I got busy forming the bulgur into decorative little "nuggets".

By the time the bulgur was nice and cool, it had also soaked up all of the liquids, either the water or the tomatoes, as was a moist but firm mass, ready to be served whichever way you please.

It would have been fine just as it was, but I decided to take a couple of tablespoons and shape it into individual little servings, scraping a spoonful from one spoon to the other and back again and gently pressing it into shape whilst doing so. I guess it is a case of trial and error when making these- but it is a lot easier than it might seem at first...

For the sake of my photo I decided to serve these up together, but basically, what we have here are 2 nice side-dishes for and Summer grill party, if you so will... and I'm sure that you will!

The turmeric and tandoori spice give the tomato paste and finely chopped cherry tomatoes a whole new spicy contrast and one that goes wonderfully with the mild and "creamy" cucumber salad.

This is perfect Summer food- plain and easy to make, fun and exciting to eat and so convenient to prepare beforehand and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it... and the best part is, if either of these 2 delicious dishes has the opportunity to spend a couple of hours resting in a fridge somewhere, it will wake-up fresh and vibrant and delicious come suppertime!

Serve with an extra sprinkle of fresh herbs, a nice drizzle of extra yogurt and a dusting of tandoori spice to make it extra beautiful and delicious- because if you make your food a feast for the eyes too, you're going to enjoy it a whole lot more!

And your guests will too!


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Summer Fazool!

Insalata di Pasta, Fagiolina & Ciliegini
One-Pot Cherry Tomato, String-Bean & Pasta Salad

There is something great about those "one pot" meals... actually there a couple of good things! Not only does it mean that you have less washing-up to do... but also that all of the flavors are captured and reduced down, becoming richer and tastier too! Like I said... there are a couple of good reasons to cook this way!

The thing is, that usually when we think of a one-pot meal, we think of a soup or stew or something along those lines. We don't usually think of lighter cuisine or of Summer dishes... but this evening, as you can all see... I did :-)

I based this dish on one of my favorite methods for cooking green beans... in fact, this is the exact same method for the exact same beans... just with pasta added!

To make it I needed 1 1/2 handfuls of pasta and 3 handfuls of string beans- you always want to have twice as many beans, as the pasta will at least double in size. Apart from that, I needed a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, a clove of garlic, a shallot and a little fresh parsley... so it is not only quick and easy, but also pretty cheap!

The great thing here is that the prep-work is really simple- top and tail the beans and cut them in half, peel and squash 1 clove of garlic, peel and halve 1 shallot, bring your water to the boil, add salt and then the pasta, beans, tomatoes, onion and garlic all together... basically that's it!

The pasta I used was Fusilli, but you can basically use any pasta you may prefer, although I would personally stick with a short type of pasta shape rather than say spaghetti, linguini or such-likes... but that's just me :-)

About 10 minutes later, the pasta was cooked, the tomatoes were tender and their skins had split, the shallot was tender and craving attention and the little clove of garlic was also soft and ready to be taken care of too!

So, of course the next thing to do was to remove the shallot and the garlic, as they were going to add all of the real flavor to our simple little pasta dish... and how!

And yes, you guessed it- the way that I prepared them for adding to the finished dish was
very, very complicated... haha! I simply crushed them down using a fork! No need to fuss here, no airs and graces- just a little bit of effort and before you know it, you will have a rich and tasty base-flavor to build on

Next came the little cherry tomatoes, whose skins had burst and were easy to pick away... and so pick away was exactly I did! Here is the evidence!

I am not usually fussy about the tomato peel being part of a dish... but in this case, with everything so convenient, away they went, leaving the tomatoes naked and delicious and ready to go!

All that needed to be done now was to gently stir all of these ingredients together, with some extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and a nice, generous pinch of finely chopped parsley. You may also like to add either a small splash of vinegar or a little freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice to give the dressing a slight bit of "tang"... but otherwise that is it! You are finished, your pasta is finished and your supper is ready to be enjoyed!

One other nice thing about this dish is that it tastes equally good, whether served hot, lukewarm or cold from the fridge... the choice is yours! And the washing-up, as I already mentioned, will be finished in next to no time at all... which is one final reason why you will absolutely love this one-pot wonder!  

You may want to give this a try next time you think of making a pasta salad and give those stodgy mayonnaise-heavy dishes a miss! This is lighter, easier and simply much, much nicer! And I am pretty sure you are going to love it! 

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Cold Asian Summer!

Pasta di Grano Saraceno, Germogli di Piselli, Frittata Semplice & Verdure Miste
Soba Noodles with Pea Sprouts, Egg Roll & Vegetables

No, I am not referring to the weather conditions in the title of this post... I am referring to the temperature of the food :-) This evening, I decided to make another meal using cold, Soba noodles, which are totally delicious and which I am growing more fond of by the minute!

I made this as an alternative to anything fatty and fried, as a refreshing Summer dish that is packed with flavor but low on calories, as a quick and inexpensive meal and a veritable banquet made of the simplest of ingredients... My kinda meal! 

What looks and tastes like a real treat ( and IS in fact a real treat!) was made from 1 portion of Soba (buckwheat) noodles, 1 egg, 2-3 Mu-Err mushrooms, a handful of radishes, mint and coriander, 1 handful of pea sprouts, 1 Spring onion, 2 baby carrots, the juice of 1 lime a little ginger. As I already said, simple stuff... but what a feast it all becomes!

The first thing I did was to soak the dried Mu-Err mushrooms in boiling water for 10 minutes, (which I will not dare to bore you with) and to boil the Soba noodles for 3 minutes until soft and then to drain them... but first- the fun stuff!

Strangely  enough, I do actually really enjoy chopping-up vegetables... and that is exactly what needs to be done- the carrots into thin slices on the diagonal, the radishes and onion into very fine slices and the ginger into a very fine dice.

By the time I had chopped the veggies, the noodles were done and so I added about 1/3rd of the Spring onion to them, along with a pinch of the finely chopped ginger, a half teaspoon of 5-Spice powder, a drizzle of sesame oil and a nice squeeze of Hoisin sauce.

I especially like to add the onion to the noodles whilst they are still hot, as it doesn't cook them, but reduces any harshness in their flavor. The seasoning also fares better whilst the Soba is hot as the heat tends to extract the flavor from the ingredients. In any case, now is the time to mix and stir everything ell together and then to set them to one side to cool whilst we prepare the rest.

The next ingredient is that lonely little egg- which deserves a little bit of company, don't you think? I added another 1/3 of the Spring onion to it as well as a pinch of ginger and a light sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

I simply used a fork to beat the egg together and made sure not to mix it too thoroughly as I like to have a mix of egg yolk and egg white in the finished result- it just tastes much more interesting than being a boring, uniform yellow- but that's just MY preference of course!

I fried the little omelette for just 2 minutes from either side and then set it to one side to cool down. Once it was cool, I rolled my simple little omelette up and then cut it into 5-6 bite-sized sections, ready for serving up... but first- those other vegetables needed briefly taking care of!

I sautéed the sliced mushrooms, carrots, radishes, ginger and spring onion in just a touch of sesame oil. Again, I kept the heat set high, so that I didn't have the ingredients in the pan for so long and managed to get them nice and lightly browned off in just a matter of minutes.

After allowing the vegetables to cool, it was time to serve up all of my little goodies- the noodles, fresh pea-sprouts, egg rolls and mixed vegetables together with the fresh mint and coriander to sprinkle generously on top.

I added a nice squeeze of lime juice to the noodles, as well as some tasty, savory Hoisin sauce and roasted sesame to knock the flavor right out of the ball pitch! It was so terrific!

Just a brief word about those pea-sprouts... which were something new to me and just a little tastier and yummier than regular bean sprouts, in as much as that they had a distinct asparagus-like flavor to them... how cool! That, combined with their sweetness and fresh crunch made them a perfect combination with the other ingredients.

A great addition to the egg rolls was a squeeze of Sriracha hot sauce- always a winner- but especially with this dinner!

And there you have it- maybe not authentically Asian (whatever IS that I make? I am Sicilian after all!), but nonetheless delicious, healthy, refreshing, easy, cheap and made in next to no time! Sound familiar? Sure- it's like most of my dishes! But that's ok, because I know what I like... and I hope that you like it too!

Life can be complicated... so I say- let's keep dinner easy!