Monday, 30 June 2014

Make Me, Bake Me, Flake Me!

Pasta Filo con Ripieno di Melanzane, Pomodoro, Olive, Capperi & FetaFilo Pastry with Eggplant, Tomato, Olive, Caper & Feta Cheese Filling 

Something nice and light for supper this evening. Yes. This. You are thinking... What?!? But those filo pastry dishes are always soaked in butter! Well not this one!

I decided to try making a lighter version of one of those great, crispy and flaky pastries... With a nice Mediterranean filling and good Summer flavors... And be Jove! I think I did it!

Super- light and flaky filo pastry and a fruity, fresh and vibrant filling, with savory Feta cheese and plenty of fresh herbs... Just the thing for a Summer's evening! Or lunch the next day for that matter! (If there is any left, that is!) 

To make one small pie that would be enough for 4, appetizers-sized servings you will need, 1 eggplant, 1 Spring onion, 6 cherry tomatoes, a handful of feta cheese, a tablespoon each of green olives and capers and plenty of fresh parsley, mint and marjoram... Or whichever fresh herbs you may prefer... Nice Mediterranean favors would work best though.

There was very little fat involved in the making of this dish... It really isn't necessary! Sure, those traditional dishes are made that way and yes they do taste delicious... But I like to do things my way, I like to make things healthier and if I can manage to make them tasty and delicious, I think I am ahead of the game  - but that's just me!

Obviously, there is a little chopping involved... The eggplant and the onion into a chunky dice and the cherry tomatoes, simply cut in half... There! That didn't hurt now, did it?

I salted the eggplant and let it sit for 10 minutes, then wrung it out, popped it into a non-stick frying pan with the onion and dry- fried them for 4-5 minutes... That's right- no oil! It works, don't you worry! The eggplant will turn nice and golden brown and the onion will gently cook through... There in enough moisture in the vegetables to get them cooked without having to soak them in oil... Plus, it maximizes the flavor and keeps it all right in there, getting more intense as the vegetables cook.

After 4-5 minutes, add the olives and capers, season with pepper and continue stirring away for another 4-5 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Once they are added, just 3-4 more minutes and you are ready to set the pan to one side to cool off whilst you prepare the pastry...

I first lightly oiled my baking dish and then laid out 3 sheets of pastry, brushing them very lightly with olive oil instead of melted butter... I preferred to have the flavor of olive to give a more Mediterranean taste.

I then added the cooled-off filling, spreading it out nice and evenly and making sure it got right into the edges.

Next came a layer of crumbled Feta cheese and plenty of finely chopped, fresh herbs on top.

And then of course, all I needed to do was to fold the pastry back over... Don't worry that it might wrinkle and crumble a little... That's what this stuff is all about! But do work quickly, as the longer you take, the drier it will become!

Finally, fold over the LSAT layer, drizzle again with olive oil and brush it around, or use your hands, to get the top layer nicely coated, as this is what it going to become golden and crispy and delicious as it bakes!

Pop it into a moderate oven, around 160 *C and bake for 10-15 minutes...

...after which time it will look something a little like this!


That's pretty crispy, crunchy and flaky stuff going on right there!

Needless to say... Although it would taste just as delicious cold in the morning... I dug right in there!

That's a pretty little picture, don't you think?

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Totally Vegged-Out!

Fritto Misto Semplice Asiatico con Pepe Freschi & Galangal
Simple Vegetable Stir-Fry with Enoki Mushrooms, Baby Sweet Corn, Radisches, Fresh Pepper & Galangal

A stir-fry doesn't always have to be the same old thing, it doesn't have to be greasy and it can be a lot of fun... As I discovered this evening!

The main stars of the show here were the galangal root which I picked up yesterday and the fresh green pepper pods which gave a great, mild heat to go with the citrus-type note that the galangal gave... Pretty terrific stuff!

The other stars were of course the enoki mushrooms, which I always find are a lot of fun, the sugar snap peas which are always great and the baby sweet corn, which was a new ingredient to be able to buy fresh for me! I am not a fan of corn, and I do think those baby sweet corns out of a jar or can tastes artificially sweet... But the real thing? I have to say, yes! They were pretty yummy!

As you can see, I had one little bunch of enoki mushrooms, 2 Spring onions, 3-4 radishes, 1 carrot, a handful of sugar snap peas, the same of sweet corn, a small piece of galangal and 1 sprig of fresh, green pepper corns.

The fun thing was, that the enoki mushrooms almost took the place of noodles in this dish! Which made it perfect for a lighter meal, where you could do without rice or noodles on the side... If you felt that way inclined! lol!

The only real work is chopping up the galangal as finely as you can, slicing the radishes and the carrot and cutting the Spring onion into bite-sized pieces.... The rest is fun just the way it is!

As for the enoki mushrooms, you will need to pluck them apart a little, so that you can spread them out more evenly in the pan later.

Start off by frying the pepper corns and the finely chopped galangal until it begins to turn slightly brown. I decided to use peanut oil for frying, as it can be heated up to much higher temperatures before it starts to get smokey, but any neutral oil would be fine.

Next, add the corn, peas, carrots and radishes and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, then add a splash of water, put on the lid and let that steam cook into the vegetables for a minute or so.

Next, add the mushrooms and the Spring onion, stir them in well and keep on stirring until the mushrooms begin to wilt.

And there you have it, light, fresh vegetables with no other flavor than that of their own, the galangal and the fresh pepper... But that is all that you need... Well almost!

Yes, a little soy sauce is the perfect seasoning of course and it does bring out the best of all those varied flavors! You can add chili sauce if you feel that way inclined... But this evening, for a change, I decide to keep things fresh and light!

Coming Bake for More!

Fiocchi d'Avena Aromatiche con Pera, Mandorla, Uva Seccha & Zenzero al FornoBaked Oatmeal with Aromatic Spice, Peaches, Almonds, Raisins & Ginger 

You can't beat oatmeal at breakfast time, whether it is Winter or Summer, it will always give you a good start to the day and plenty of energy until lunchtime.

And if it is a German Summer's day, like it was here in Frankfurt today, cold and chilly... Maybe a more Wintery dish is just the thing you need! It was just the thing I needed this morning and that's for sure!

It was particularly nice this morning, this lovely dish of crispy-topped, baked oatmeal, with its spicy and fruity filling, but would be perfectly delicious served cold with some fresh yogurt as the weather hopefully gets warmer!

Or maybe even served as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream... Mmmm! Now, there's a thought!

My ingredients for one, good portion were: 1 cupful of good, chunky oats, 2 small peaches, a handful of raisins, a couple of handfuls of almonds, a few slices of candied ginger and spices... Coriander seeds, cardamom and a little star anise.

And considering it was actually pretty healthy with no added fat and very little sugar... Yep, it is a very enticing treat to start the day with! 

The first thing to do is to grind those spices! I had 2 cardamom pods, a half teaspoon of coriander seed and about a half of a star anise... Sure, cinnamon is delicious, but something a little bit different is a lot more fun!

Cut the peach into small bite-sized pieces, so that you are ready to go when the oatmeal gets going!

Prepare the oatmeal in the usual way, boiling it gently together with the spices and 2 slices of candied ginger which should be cut into very thin slices so that the flavor gets soaked up nicely into the milk. After around 10 minutes add the peach and turn on the oven/ broiler... In just 5 minutes time you will be needing it!

Once the oatmeal is good and soft and fluffy and the peach has bubbled away for a minute or two, add the almonds and raisins, stir them in well and and get ready to bake the top nice and brown in the oven, just to get it lovely and crunchy. Add another slice or two of candied ginger, cut into thin strips, and sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, just to give yourself a little treat!

Of course you could have sweetened the oatmeal whilst it was cooking, but I decided to leave it plain with just the sweetness and tanginess of the peach, the sweetness of the raisins and ginger... And to just have added sugar in the topping... Just my personal preference, so feel free to make it as plain or as sweet as you prefer!

And there you have it! There really isn't much more to say... Other than... Enjoy! 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Oriental Flowers

Cavolfiore Arrostito con Spezie Orientale "Chorba"
Baked Cauliflower with Oriental "Chorba" Spices

Cauliflower... nice, but hardly exciting, you might say. And you might well be right... But at the same time, it needn't be bland or boring either! This may not be a dish that will actually excite you, but it will please and satisfy and delight you! And that's saying something for a humble little veggie like this!

Having discovered and learned to live the way that roasted cauliflower tastes so much better than boiled, I decided to experiment with a new spice mix I had recently bought and see how much cooler a dish I could come up with rather than the typical same-old, same-old recipes... And behold! I got kinda lucky I guess, but the result was just wonderful!

The spices I used to flavor my cauliflower with were a blend, labelled "chorba", which I picked up out of curiosity at an ethnic supermarket a couple of weeks ago. I read the ingredients and thought, yep, that sounds good to me!

From what I can tell, "chorba's" tend to be soup or stew typed dishes in the orient and the spices are blends, similar to curries. The ingredients of my chorea powder were ginger, celery, oregano, bay leaf, nutmeg, turmeric and coriander... Which are all pretty harmless and all very delicious!And let me tell you... In this blend, they became much, much more than the sum of their parts... It was mild and exotic and really something special... You'll like it!

To prepare a half of a regular sized cauliflower, you will need 3 tablespoons of yogurt, 1 teaspoon of tahini, 1 heaped teaspoon of chorba powder, the juice of a lime, 1 tablespoon each of both pine nuts and raisins and some fresh marjoram to garnish and enhance the finished product... Yummy!

This would make a great side dish to any summer meal- grilled meat or fish, even meatballs or burgers, chicken or even shrimp... This would be perfect for almost every occasion as it is so mild but so delicious!

Start off by cutting the cauliflower into nice, thick slices, making sure not to chop out the main stalk... Which of course holds everything together!

And of course, you are going to need to stir up a little spicy marinade! Stir the 3 tablespoons of yogurt together with 1 tablespoon each of tahini and chorba powder.

Once everything is blended together add the lime juice little by little and soon enough you will have a nice smooth marinade, ready to go!

I decided to steam the cauliflower for 5-6 minutes prior to baking in order to speed things up a little, but you can blanch or boil yours too of course.

After 5 minutes of steaming I popped them into the oven with a good drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt for around 10 minutes at the top of the oven set to the highest temperature.

Once the cauliflower begins to change color, flip it over and add the marinade, before popping it back into the oven.

After 15-20 minutes at the highest setting, the cauliflower will look like this and smell amazing! Word!

Th finishing touch was a generous sprinkle of fresh marjoram which was SO aromatic and some toasted pine nuts... What a great combination!

The sweetness of both the cauliflower and the raisins, the crunch of the pine nuts and the fresh, tanginess of the marjoram were like the reunion of long-lost brothers... So terrific!