Friday, 30 May 2014

Glorious Technicolor!

Insalata Piccante di Lenticchie Gialle, Pomodorini & Verdure
Spicy Yellow Lentil, Tomato & Vegetable Salad


Spicy but simple, fresh, colorful and fun, this is a alternative to those same-old, same-old Summer salads- and especially to... heavens forbid- those awful and clumsy "rice salads"... we can do better than that!

I decided to use these yellow lentils, also known as "Moong Dal" in India, which is probably where they are most commonly eaten, because they a little more unusual, a lot more fast cooking and obviously, a lot prettier than many other lentils. So, if you don't already have these at home- off you go to your Indian supermarket! You are going to enjoy these... word!


There is nothing Indian about this dish- it is simply a tasty, filling, refreshing salad, given a bit of an extra "kick" by some ground chili flakes and lime juice- which makes it also into a good side dish for a steak from the grill for example... it is a very versatile Summer salad.


 To make 2 nice servings, I needed 2 cups of yellow lentils, 2 small carrots, 4-5 of the small inner stalks of celery, 10 cherry tomatoes, 1 Spring onion, 1 lime, little parsley and a good handful of cilantro.

Seasoning was simply salt, pepper, chili flakes and a good pinch of fennel seeds... simple stuff as always.


I am sure that just one look at this picture will tell you just how refreshing and delicious this salad is... at least I hope so!


Luckily for you, the prep-work for this is just as simple as it ever is for any of my dishes- simply peel and thinly slice the 2 little carrots, the small, pale, tender stalks of celery and the Spring onion and you are already, ready to rumble!


And again here I used what must be a very familiar method to cook this dish by now, pouring just enough boiling water over the lentils and then simmering them away for 4-5 minutes in a frying pan rather than a saucepan, until the water has been soaked-up during cooking, or evaporated away.

Once that has happened and the frying pan is dry once more, add the thinly sliced carrot, celery and Spring onion, season with a good pinch of chili flakes, salt, pepper and a nice sprinkle of fennel seed and add enough boiling water again to just cover the ingredients.

Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, pop on the lid and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes and in the meantime, get busy cutting those cherry tomatoes into quarters.


Once the lentils have cooked for 20 minutes in all- 10 minutes on their own and 10 minutes with the celery, carrot and onion, they can be served-up, hot, lukewarm or even chilled- the choice is yours and it all tastes good.

Spoon-out the lentil and vegetable mix first and then scatter this generously with coriander and parsley leaves, then lay out the cherry tomato quarters on top, followed by a good scattering of the intensely flavorful, tender leaves from the middle of the celery.

Drizzle with the juice of half a lemon, a good splash of olive oil and the last touch of salt and pepper to taste... and that's all!


 Not simply colorful- but simply good food!


 Grab your sunglasses, grab a fork- and enjoy!


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Wrapped-Up for Springtime!

Involtini Primavera Vietnamese con Gamberetti
Vietnamese-Styled Spring Rolls with Shrimp


Oh, they are not as good as the real thing, I know- and I do need to practice wrapping these little parcels of tastiness a little more... but it was such fun trying to make these Vietnamese-styled spring rolls this evening!

And they were so yummy to eat!


Although they were not wrapped so tightly, and I didn't have any pork belly to add, as would normally be the case, there was plenty of goodness inside and with some yummy Hoisin and sweet Thai chili sauce, they were not too bad for a first attempt!

Read on to find out how this Sicilian guy improvised his Vietnamese dish!


The ingredients I used were, of course the rice-paper wrappers and glass vermicelli, some cucumber, carrot, sugarsnap peas Spring onion and lettuce, as well as coriander and mint to add that freshness that really makes these taste of Spring in the first place.


With just these few simple ingredients and a couple of dipping sauces, you can make a totally healthy and delicious meal that is a lot of fun too... I prefer these to those deep-fried Spring rolls any day!


Prep-work for this is minimal- the vegetables simply need to be cut into strips- as chunky or thin as you prefer- it's all good!


You can keep this dish totally healthy by boiling the shrimp as I did, keeping the whole thing fat-free. I simply halved and cleaned them, then boiled them for just 1-2 minutes until they became nice and pink.

As for the vermicelli for the filling, they also needed to boil for 1-2 minutes at the very most, then to be drained and rinsed with cold water to prevent them from cooking further.

And having done that- I was almost ready to get wrapping!


What makes these such a wonderful thing to eat is how light they are- with mild lettuce and fresh herbs, you have a lot in each roll- but it is all good and healthy stuff! I plucked the mint leaves off the stems and left them whole, but cut the coriander in half as I wanted to have those stems in the rolls, but they would be too long otherwise and could end up poking out of the wrappers.


To assemble the rolls, first dip the rice-paper circles into warm water until they soften and then lay them out on a flat surface. Lay the lettuce out first at one end of the circle and then lay a little of the vermicelli and assorted vegetables and herbs on top.

Set the shrimp out a little further in... then take a deep breath and get ready to try rolling these little babies up!


Bunch up the lettuce leaves, vermicelli and herbs as tightly as you can and roll over the wrapper until the rice paper overlaps and sticks together- then fold over each end to make sure the filling stays inside.


Next, continue rolling so that you enclose the shrimp and keep going until the rice paper sticks everything nicely together... it is pretty sticky stuff and it is a little tricky to do... but it is fun and it is worth it!

If things go wrong- and they did for me too- then pluck the roll apart, set your filling to one side and then try with another one- it's not the end of the world! It's also not the end of the world if they don't look as good as the ones you are used to eating at that restaurant... mine obviously didn't either- but they still tasted great and I had made them myself- and that is the main thing!


Dipped in a little each of those 2 yummy sauces- Hoisin and sweet chili... well, I was just as happy as can be! I am guessing you will be too! Go ahead and give them a try and enjoy!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Feeling Fulfilled :-)

Pomodoro "Cuore di Bue" Ripieno con Couscous & Mozzarella
"Beefsteak" Tomato, Stuffed with Couscous & Mozzarella

I got home late from work, I was hungry and tired and I had a nice head of lettuce and a beautiful beefheart tomato in the fridge, that I had bought anticipating sunnier weather. And that was reason enough to choose making a salad rather than slaving over a hot stove!

Still, I hadn't eaten a proper meal all day and so I decided to add a ball of mozzarella and a cupful of couscous, to make sure it would be a satisfying meal- and it soon became almost enough for two!


Basically, all I wanted to do, was to elaborate slightly on the tomato and mozzarella combo that we all love- nice and simple with fresh basil and good olive oil.

So I had a little look in my fridge and improvised this yummy combination- and in just 10 minutes I managed to whip-up a meal, fit for a king!


So, what do we have then here? We have 1 beefheart tomato, some fresh green lettuce, 1 cup of couscous,1 ball of mozzarella, plenty of cilantro, 1 Spring onion, the zest and juice of half a lemon, 1 Spring onion, fresh basil and a handful of radish sprouts- nice, fresh, Summer salad fare!


Yes indeed my friends- this is exactly what it looks like- a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad taken to the next level! So, what's not to love?


The only thing you need to do by way of preparation in this job, is to get that couscous ready!

So, finely slice the Spring onion and chop-up 2-3 strips of zest- add these to 1 cup of couscous together with salt and a good pinch of chili flakes and pour over 2 cups of boiling water and allow to sit and "cook" for the next 10 minutes whilst you prepare the other ingredients.

After 10 minutes, the couscous will look like this and have a lovely lemon aroma... which is great in itself- but we can go much, much further than that!


Whilst the filling cools down, hollow out the beautiful beefheart tomato, either using a melon-scooper as I did, or simply a teaspoon. Season the insides of the hollowed-out tomato with salt and pepper, and chop up the flesh you have removed to add to your couscous filling- it is all good food and as they say, "waste not- want not" :-)

Make the couscous for your filling complete by adding the chopped tomato, finely chopped cilantro, a teaspoon of Tahini, a teaspoon of honey, salt, pepper, the juice of half a lemon and a nice drizzle of olive oil... and yes! You are now ready to assemble your salad!

Set the hollowed-out tomato onto a nice large leaf of lettuce- whatever kind you happen to prefer and fill with the couscous mixture, then set a half slice of a ball of mozzarella on top of a couple of nice basil leaves and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Optional are the radish sprouts- but I just happened to have a last handful and decided they would add a bit of color and a light peppery crunch- but essential is the olive oil to give everything a nice, Mediterranean finishing touch... Buon appetito!


 Summer on a plate!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Small, Fresh and Beautiful!

Carciofini, Patate, Pisellini & Pancetta
Baby Artichokes, Potatoes, Sugarsnap Peas & Bacon


This, my friends, is another of those meals made from very few, very simple and very tasty ingredients, that is made with very little effort and which will still make a great impression!

Artichoke, potato and peas is a classic Italian combination- some things are just made for each other! Another thing that is made for all 3 of those main ingredients is mint- and something that goes without saying is that a little bacon is also a welcome guest in this little circle of friends! Together with lemon juice, oregano, parsley and a little nutmeg, these make for a great combination and a nice new twist on an ages-old favorite- enjoy!


This lovely dish of food will take you between 40-45 minutes to prepare and makes for a lovely Summer lunch or supper- although it might even make a nice, elegant side dish to a better grilled steak, fish or chicken.


This evening, for a nice, satisfying supper for one, I had 3 baby artichokes, 2 small potatoes, a handful of finely chopped bacon, a handful of sugar-snap peas, a Spring onion and plenty of fresh mint, oregano and parsley... yum, yum!


 When I see this picture it makes me want to eat this all over again! And how!!!


The first step in preparing this is to peel the potatoes and to trim the artichokes, then cut all of them into quarters.

Pluck off the outer leaves of the artichoke and peel the stalk, then cut away the tops and immediately rub with lemon juice to prevent them oxidizing. Scoop out any choke you may find in the center- I was lucky and had none in these, then rub all of the cut surfaces and boil, together with the potatoes for 15 minutes.


In the meantime, finely slice the Spring onion, finely chop the 3 herbs and trim away the ends from the peas.


 After 15 minutes of boiling, drain the potatoes and artichokes and put them into a frying pan together with the bacon bits and a little olive oil. Fry them together until the potatoes start to turn golden and then add the Spring onion and the peas.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and add a good squeeze of lemon juice. Continue frying until the potatoes are crispy and golden at the edges and then sprinkle generously with the finely chopped, mixed herbs, a little more pepper and toss to coat nicely before serving.


I would say that as far as food goes- this looks pretty irresistible! What do you say


Anyone for seconds?


Monday, 26 May 2014

Summertime Salad

Insalata di Radicchio, Arancia & Asparagi Selvatici
Radicchio, Orange & Wild Asparagus Salad


It has been a long, hard, dark and rainy day... ugh! Incredible to think that it is almost June already! But late as it is and tired as I am, I am still thinking I need a little treat and I refuse to have just spent a whole day without any sign of sun!

I will just have to make a little sunshine of my own!

 After discovering just how very tender, sweet and delicious this slender, wild asparagus is, I decided to set a little to one side to save for this evening and to use raw in a salad. Combined with bitter radicchio and sweet orange, with a dressing of orange juice, olive oil, cilantro and chili flakes... well, this was one Summery tasting salad here and that's for sure!


One radicchio, one orange, a handful of wild asparagus and some fresh cilantro was all I needed to make a great supper, brighten up my mood and end the day with at least a hint of a taste of Summer!


 Such a beautiful Summer salad! I just wish we had the weather to match!!!


There is minimal prep-work involved in this... but you will need to cut the orange segments out nicely with a good, sharp knife... Well, you don't HAVE to I suppose- but it will be much nicer if you do!

To make the dressing, I wrung-out the remaining part of the orange after cutting out the separate segments and used this juice together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a little salt, a pinch of chili flakes... well, two actually and about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh coriander.

I cut the asparagus into small bite-sized lengths, cut the radicchio into quarters and then plated it up with the asparagus and orange segments on top.

I then spooned the cilantro, orange and chili dressing generously on top and that my friends, was all there was to it! And the result was as delicious and it is bright and cheerful!

I hope you all give it a try- and I hope you all enjoy!